I am fortunate that there is a place not far from my home in Staffordshire that is regularly used by Ospreys as a stopping off point on their annual migration to and from the United Kingdom. In particular, during their outward journey in September, up to three Ospreys have been known to hang around at this site for up to three weeks and have be seen fishing and feeding to stock up for their long journey south. On one memorial day, my wife and were walking near to the waters edge when an Osprey, that had been perched unseen in an old oak tree, flew from its perch and started to hunt over the water. Despite the unwanted attention of the local Gulls, who proceeded to mob it, we watched as the Osprey dived twice into the water. On the second dive the Osprey emerged from the water with a fish less than 50 metres from where we sat watching. Avoiding the Gulls, the Osprey flew to its perch and ate the fish. With the sun glinting off the fish’s scales, we continued to watch mesmerised by what we had just seen.
A few weeks ago, I drove the long road north to the Cairngorms National Park with the main aim of photographing Ospreys. Following their reintroduction at Loch Garten in the 1950s, Ospreys have successfully spread out and bred throughout Scotland. They are now also breeding in England, two sites at Rutland, one in the Lake District and one in Northumberland, and at two sites in Wales. The Cairngorms is, however, still one of the best places to see Ospreys and the fishery on the Rothiemurchus Estate one of the best places in Scotland to photograph them fishing.
Sadly, as a result of the bad weather that Scotland suffered this year during the early weeks of the breeding season, it has not been a good year for the Cairngorms’ Ospreys. It has been reported that up to fifty percent of the nests have failed this year with several being destroyed in the strong winds and rain.
Although there were less Ospreys coming to Rothiemurchus than in previous years, I was fortunate to watch and photograph one bird fishing on three out of the four mornings that I spent in the purpose built hides at the fishery.
On one morning, an inexperienced juvenile Osprey unwittingly dived for a fish in an area of the Loch where a female was swimming with her young. As the Osprey struggled with the fish it had caught, the female Mallard flew across the water and attacked the surprised Osprey. Having lost its fish, the Osprey emerged from the water to fight another day.
Whilst it is an offence to disturb Ospreys at their nest during the breeding season, there is one site where it is possible to photograph a nest from an area of public land without causing any disturbance. On several evenings I would wait with the hope of making an image of the nest silhouetted against the setting sun. Whilst the weather was generally dull, on one evening the clouds broke just before the sun set.
Whilst they have not, so far, bred on the site near to my home, I hope that it will not be too long before they do and that I am able to sit and watch Ospreys as the sun sets over Staffordshire.