On hearing that the third egg had hatched at the Loch Garten osprey nest, it seemed time for the first visit of the year to see these iconic birds. So on a cool, cloudy day we drove through the pinewoods of Abernethy Forest, noting the bright green of the emerging blueberry bushes contrasting against the dull brown and green of the trees, to the Osprey Centre. There we watched through telescopes as the female osprey EJ shuffled around on the ungainly tangle of sticks that is the nest then took a short flight to stretch her wings. There was no sign of her mate, Odin, though the detailed diary on the wall said he had brought a fish earlier in the day. The young ospreys could only be seen via the CCTV footage displayed on screens inside the centre. Later in the season they will be visible peering above the rim of the nest and flapping their wings.
Happy to have seen one of the ospreys we then took a walk through the forest past Loch Garten to Loch Mallachie. The woods were quiet except for the occasional burst of bird song and there was the relaxing peaceful feeling often engendered by ancient forests, a sense of timelessness and tranquillity. The shores of the lochs were not so calm though, with a cold wind rippling the water and sweeping tattered clouds overhead. The weather was more like early March than late May and we were bundled up in cold weather clothing. But the reeds in the shallows were green with fresh growth and the first white water lilies were starting to flower. Patches of snow on distant Bynack More showed that winter is clinging on this year.
As we approached Loch Mallachie we came upon a cluster of bird watchers staring intently through telescopes and binoculars. In a hushed voice one of them told us there was a crested tit, one of the rare species found here, feeding a chick in a nearby tree. We looked but saw nothing. Chilled by the wind we eventually moved on to the shores of the loch. On the far side a flock of geese were swimming on the edge of a reed bed, too distant for the species to be identified. Again the wind moved us on and back into the shelter of the forest. It was not a day to linger. We’d seen the ospreys and felt the power of the forest. That was enough.
Update: May 30, 2.30pm. My feeling that winter is slow to depart this year is backed up by a report that 3 inches of snow fell on Cairn Gorm last night. At low levels there was just heavy rain and a cold wind.
Photo info: Loch Garten in late May. Canon EOS 450D, Canon 18-55 IS at 18mm, 1/160@f11, ISO 100, raw file converted to JPEG in Lightroom 2.7.