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Fears mount for survival of UK’s most famed osprey

22/06/2010 10:21:46
birds/2010 jan/osprey_male_swt

The old female osprey at the Loch of the Lowes. © Neil Macdonald

Oldest osprey on her last legs
June 2010. Fears are mounting survival of the UK's oldest breeding female osprey, which astounded wildlife experts when it returned to the Scottish Wildlife Trust's Loch of the Lowes wildlife reserve for the 20th consecutive year in March.

The 25-year-old bird, which has significantly outstripped the average eight-year lifespan of an osprey, began showing signs of poor health last Friday night (18 June) and continued to decline over the weekend. She became unable to open her eyes, stand over her chicks or even feed herself.

As the demise was watched by Scottish Wildlife Trust staff along with thousands of online followers of the Trust's live osprey nest cam at www.swt.org.uk, a policy of non-intervention is being followed by the wildlife charity as it is believed that the bird is finally succumbing naturally to old age.

Some improvement
It was feared that the bird's final moments were imminent on Sunday, however by Tuesday 21st June the bird famed for its record-breaking fortitude appears to be rallying its strength and shows signs of some improvement.

Update

  • Friday 25th - Fully recovered! Amazingly she seems to have recovered completely, and is now behaving as if there was nothing wrong at all. She has been flying, feeding the chicks and shouting at intruders The chicks will fledge in a couple of weeks time, and then, in a couple of months, the oonce again head for West Africa. It has hard to believe that she will return again, but she has proved everyone wrong many times before.
  • Wednesday 23rd - Further signs of improvement. She is not yet out of the woods but she has recovered strength in her legs and can be seen feeding her chicks once again. 

    Peter Ferns, Scottish Wildlife Trust's Loch of the Lowes Visitor Centre Manager, said: "While we still believe that the episode of ill-health we witnessed between Friday (18 June) and Sunday (20 June) is an ominous sign for the future survival of our ‘Lady' osprey, we are cautiously optimistic that she has might manage to recover and hope she can now see out the breeding season with us at Loch of the Lowes."
  • Tuesday 22nd - Amazingly the tough old bird has shown signs of improvement today, and has even managed a short flight. She still looks very poorly but, much to everyone's amazement, she is showing signs that she may pull through.

Peter Ferns, Scottish Wildlife Trust's Loch of the Lowes Visitor Centre Manager, said: "The last 72 hours has been a real emotional rollercoaster for our dedicated team of staff at Loch of the Lowes who have watched over this amazingly resilient female as she has returned each breeding season.

Raised 48 chicks
"Year after year, we watched the skies with baited breathe fearing that she would fail to complete her 3,000 mile migratory journey from West Africa. Now however, we could be watching her final days on the nest as she struggles to keep going and care for her latest two chicks - part of the amazing tally of 48 chicks she has raised during her lifetime.

"Today she seems to be rallying her strength and can once again be seen holding her head up and occasionally standing over her chicks to shade them from the sun, but sadly we anticipate that this show of strength will be short-lived. If she continues to reject the food brought to the nest by her mate, she risks dehydration and we estimate that by Wednesday or Thursday we could lose her.

Hope that the male will continue to feed the chicks
"Her fight for survival is showing her in all her glory as a magnificent bird capable of enduring life against all odds. If and when she does pass on, we will remove her body with minimal disturbance to her male mate and the remaining chicks in the nest. We hope that the male will continue to feed these chicks and that we will still see them successfully fledge from the nest next month."

The old lady laid her 56th egg at the Loch of the
Lowes this year. Credit SWT

Simon Milne, Scottish Wildlife Trust's Chief Executive, said: "Our policy of non-intervention is quite appropriate in this instance and while it is sad we must let nature take its course. The Scottish Wildlife Trust is dedicated to protecting Scotland's wildlife for the future and conserving our wildlife and wild places in a natural and healthy state. Life and death is part of this natural cycle.

Single handedly responsible for osprey recovery in Scotland
"Our individual female osprey, which has produced 48 chicks over 20 years, has played a phenomenal role in the recovery of Scotland's osprey population, which due to persecution was driven to extinction in Scotland in 1916. It was not until the 1950s that ospreys returned to breed. Since her appearance in Scotland around 1985, established breeding osprey pairs have increased from 50 to over 200 across Scotland. The protection and support of the revival of the osprey is an excellent example of how conservationists are striving to maintain and re-build Scottish biodiversity."

More about Loch of the Lowes wildlife reserve 

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