FANS of Scotland’s most famous ospreys have been left “devastated” after one of the pair vanished and caused at least one of their three chicks to die from starvation.
Conservationists have refused to intervene by delivering fish to the nest at Loch Garten in the Cairngorms, despite pleas from birdwatchers around the world.
The 12-year-old male osprey, known as Odin ,was last seen on Thursday, leaving its partner EJ alone on the nest with their three chicks.
Without a regular supply of fish from the male, the birds are starving and, after three days without food, at least one of the chicks was confirmed dead yeserday.
Staff at the visitor centre along with osprey fans watching around the globe via a nest-cam, were “heartbroken” when the female left the nest unguarded briefly to remove the carcass.
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Chris Tilbury, visitor experience manager at Loch Garten, said Odin may have been scared off following the arrival of up to four younger rivals, each trying to take over the territory.
He said: “There may have been a fight and he may have been injured. EJ’s instinct is to stay on the nest and protect the chicks. Only when it gets to the stage where she is absolutely starving herself will she go and fish for herself.
“But if she leaves the chicks at this stage they will be very vulnerable to predators.
“EJ was seen taking one dead chick away this morning – she was gone for less than a minute.
“We’ve seen some movement on the nest so we know at least one chick is still alive.”
The experienced pair have been breeding together on the nest since 2009, and have previously seen off rival suitors.
They produced three eggs this season following their return from their annual migration to West Africa.
The youngest chick was only hatched on Saturday, and could survive for a short time by eating the remaining contents of its shell.
Mr Tilbury said the centre had been inundated with calls from concerned birdwatchers.
He said: “It’s devastating to us – it’s killing all of us as well. It’s horrible to watch.”