“Five-star” nests built in treetops in bid for ospreys to move in

Justin Grant and Lewis Pate construct a new nest in Arkaig forest in an effort to attract more ospreys to the site. Picture:  WTML/Rare Breed Productions
Justin Grant and Lewis Pate construct a new nest in Arkaig forest in an effort to attract more ospreys to the site. Picture: WTML/Rare Breed Productions
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Intrepid climbers have been working 80ft up in the treetops in a Highland forest to build luxury accommodation for some of Scotland’s most iconic and eagerly awaited annual visitors – ospreys.

The climbers are creating two new nests in Loch Arkaig forest in Lochaber in the hope of attracting more ospreys to the site after the successful refurbishment of an old nest last year saw a pair of young birds move in and raise their first chick there.

The new nest platforms have been constructed in native Scots pine trees by weaving branches together with fence netting.

They need to be constructed in mature trees that can support the structures and solidly meshed with the branches in order to withstand high winds.

To create the nests, licensed raptor workers Lewis Pate and Justin Grant spent long hours in chilly temperatures at the top of some of the forest’s tallest trees.

They have been under pressure to complete the nests as the birds of prey are due to fly in from Africa any day soon, when they will search for a mate and choose a nest site.

The site was recently bought by the Woodland Trust environmental charity and local group Arkaig Community Forest.

“It is quite a tough job making a platform,” said Mr Pate, who works as a field contractor for the Woodland Trust.

“You spend a few hours up the tree, and it was particularly cold this week.

“We just hope our two new platforms are as enticing as the original one.

“This is five-star accommodation for ospreys. WTML/Rare Breed Productions

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Last year saw the first eggs being hatched in around a decade at Loch Arkaig after two novice birds settled in an old nest that had been revamped by the team after becoming increasingly unstable.

A nest cam was also set up, allowing people across the globe to watch the birds of prey in their treetop home.

The novice ospreys, named Louis and Aila, became an internet sensation as they brought up their chick Lachlan.

The nest cam has now been activated, ahead of the expected return of Louis around 10 April and Aila later.

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The first ospreys to return to Scotland this year have already landed at sites in Speyside and Perthshire this week.

The raptors were once extinct in the UK, but their revival has been hailed as one of the biggest conservation success stories of the 20th century.

The first chicks born here in around half a century hatched in Speyside in 1954.

Now there are more than 240 nesting pairs across the country, mostly north of the border.

The birds generally nest in the more remote areas of Scotland, where privacy, clean water, fish and big trees are plentiful and the summer daylight is longest.

Speyside, the Cairngorms and Perthshire are their heartlands in the UK.

A veteran female known as Lady nested for a record 24 years at Loch of the Lowes nature reserve near Dunkeld, where she successfully reared 50 chicks.

Loch Arkaig was home to the last known successful nest before the species was declared extinct in the UK in the early 1900s.

Prior to last year’s successful nesting, a pair of elderly birds had been returning to the site but failed to produce any young for several years.