The arrival of this female osprey, now estimated to be 26 years old, is said to have “baffled” bird experts and wildlife enthusiasts across the globe. Staff and volunteers of the Scottish Wildlife Trust will now launch a 24-hour protection watch, thanks to SITA Tayside Biodiversity Fund and People’s Postcode Lottery, to keep the bird safe from wildlife crime.
The osprey known as Lady landed back in her eyrie at a wildlife reserve near Dunkeld (lower left) on Monday after completing her 21st migration, ending a round trip of roughly 6,000 miles to and from her winter home in west Africa. And despite living three times as long as most breeding females, the 26-year-old bird of prey is again by her nest – now grown to the size of a double bed – preparing for her mate.
She is already a global celebrity after a crisis last June when she nearly died from dehydration and starvation after she failed to feed for several days. Tens of thousands of birdwatchers from around the world saw live pictures from the "nest cam" at the Loch of the Lowes reserve which showed Lady weak and listless. She survived and flew off for her 3,000-mile flight to the Gambia; staff at the Scottish Wildlife Trust reserve suspected it would be her last.
Robert Potter, the trust's regional manager, was delighted when her identity was confirmed on Monday by expert ornithologists, thanks to a close-up of one of the image of her iris taken with a camera hidden in her nest., which has a distinctive keyhole shape on its iris. "It's fantastic. It just shows what an amazing bird she is, to make that journey at this age," he said. "She's looking very healthy and is going about her business of tidying up her nest and getting everything ready."
Lady is already confirmed as the oldest wild osprey in Britain and probably the oldest known in the world. The species normally lives to about 10 in the wild, while the oldest recorded osprey in the world reached 32. Female ospreys live an average of eight years and produce about 20 chicks in that time. Lady has produced 56 eggs and has now seen 48 fledge.
Robert Potter, Scottish Wildlife Trust’s North East Reserve Manager, said:
“This bird is an incredible specimen of nature. The average osprey lifespan is 8 years, and this bird is now around 26. Last year, we thought this bird would die on her nest but, at the eleventh hour, it managed to regain its strength. Today, despite the odds, it looks healthy after just completing a 3,000 mile migration from West Africa.Her arrival home has again provoked worldwide interest. Viewings on Lady's nest cam have been five times higher than usual over the last 24 hours, with fans from as far away as Australia, Canada, Belize and Mauritius logging on.
“Having laid 58 eggs in its lifetime, with 48 chicks going on to hatch and successfully fledge the nest, this one individual has single-handedly made a significant contribution to boosting osprey numbers breeding in Scotland.
“With the female now back on the nest, the next event to watch out for is the return of a male, which we expect to happen within the next week. The big question on everyone’s lips however is whether our old osprey will be fertile enough to breed again this year. After mating, we would usually expect a female to lay between two to four eggs in early April, and six weeks later the eggs should hatch.
“A lot is hanging on a successful breeding season this year. If we have osprey chicks and can raise enough money, we hope to satellite tag the chicks to track them during their migration. This will allow us to collect valuable data, such as key resting points and obstacles, which could help us take action to make osprey migrations safer for the birds."
Bird experts and webcam viewers will now be watching keenly for the return of a male, which the trust hopes will happen within the next week.
Once a common sight in Britain, the osprey was all but extinct by 1916 due to persecution. Conservation efforts continue to re-establish the species as part of Scotland’s rich wildlife. Today, 200 pairs of osprey now breed in Scotland during summer months.
The Guardian,"Granny osprey flies back to Scotland from Africa for record 21st time ",by Severin Carrell, accessed April 1, 2011
BBC, "Osprey 'Lady' returns to Loch of the Lowes reserve", accessed April 1, 2011
WalkHighlands, "Experts Baffled by Osprey's return", accessed April 1, 2011