LADY, the oldest breeding osprey ever recorded in the UK, is likely to be dead, according to rangers at the reserve where she spent 24 summers.
Scotland’s most famous bird of prey has failed to reappear at her nest at the Scottish Wildlife Trust’s Loch of the Lowes reserve, near Dunkeld, Perthshire.
“In all her years, she has never been this late”Jonathan Pinnick
The bird, which fledged a record 50 young in her remarkable life, would now be 29 years old – about three times the average lifespan for her species.
Staff at the reserve had hoped she would return for a 25th successive year and attempt to breed once again. But their hopes seem to have been dashed.
In 24 years, the latest she returned from her annual migration to West Africa was 7 April. They have now conceded the most likely explanation is that she has died.
Meanwhile another, younger female has settled on the nest with Lady’s five-year-old mate, Laddie.
Jonathan Pinnick, assistant manager at the reserve, said yesterday: “There is still no sign of Lady and we are now at the point where we have to accept that unfortunately she hasn’t made it back. In all her years, she has never been this late.
“There was a big influx of birds arriving late over the last couple of days due to weather conditions holding them up, but Lady is not one of them.
“We can’t say categorically that she has died, but it is likely. Generally speaking, birds will return to their nest if they can.”
Lady was never ringed or tagged, so it is unlikely staff will ever discover her fate.
Mr Pinnick added: “Some people believe older birds maybe reach a point where they decide it is too much bother to migrate, particularly if they are not breeding. It is possible Lady may have decided not to migrate this year, having not had any chicks last year and with her advancing age.”
Lady has been a wildlife phenomenon, producing a record-breaking 71 eggs and fledging 50 chicks in her lifetime.
Female ospreys live an average of eight years and produce about 20 chicks in that time.
More than a million fans around the world watched her annual dramas via the Scottish Wildlife Trust’s nest cam.
In 2010, she amazed everyone by coming back from the brink of death to successfully bring up chicks, and she has regularly had to oust female rivals.
The current resident male, Laddie, was Lady’s fourth partner and nearly six times her junior.
The pair successfully fledged two chicks at the nest. The most recent, a female named Blue YZ, hatched in 2013 but failed to survive her first year.
Laddie returned to the nest on 21 March and started to tidy up for the return of his annual mate. Thousands of birdwatchers became excited when a female landed on the nest on 31 March, but it wasn’t Lady.
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