The Lady of Loch Lowes

“Loch lowes” by fuzzytnth3 is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

Loch of the Lowes is a loch near Dunkeld in Perth and Kinross, Scotland. The Osprey nests are part of the Scottish Wildlife Trust along with the forested area. There are hides and there is a shop.

The loch has been a perfect place for Ospreys to nest for over fifty years. There is a large number of mature trees for nests and many sources of fish. Some of the tree nests have artificial platforms attached at the top. It is relatively predator free and the many hours of sunshine allow the Ospreys a longer time for fishing. It is idyllic for the Osprey – or was. Besides other birds of prey, other predators of the Osprey are humans – those who simply want to disturb the Osprey, the continuing problem of the egg collectors. and helicopters.

“Osprey Nest Loch of Lowes” by martinrstone is licensed under CC BY 2.0

By 1916, the Ospreys were ‘extinct’ in Scotland. By 1954, there were four Osprey nests. In 1969 the area was designated as a site of special scientific interest and was purchased by the Scottish Wildlife Trust. That year Ospreys arrived late in the season, too late for breeding but they returned making the Loch Lowe nest only the fifth in Scotland at the time.

The most remarkable of the Ospreys at Loch Lowes is ‘The Lady of the Loch’ who arrived in 1990. Lady is the oldest breeding Osprey in the United Kingdom. In twenty-four years of breeding, Lady had four mates with whom she laid seventy-one eggs. She fledged fifty chicks! In 2005, Lady laid a clutch of four eggs – and she would go on before she became infertile to do that one more time in 2013. Incredible. I cannot even imagine trying to feed four Osplets!

Lady shows LM12 the fourth egg and lets him incubate while she takes a break.

Here is a video of Lady laying that fourth egg in 2013:

In 2010, Lady laid eggs for a record breaking twentieth time only to fall gravely ill. You have to realize that the average life expectancy of an Osprey is eight years and Lady is laying eggs for a twentieth time!!!!!!!!! The wildlife managers did not think she would live. Her new mate that year, ,her third, tagged Green 7Y, noticed that Lady was very sick and possibly dying. (Green 7Y was born in 2000 just twelve miles from Loch Lowe). He stepped up and did the fishing for her and the Osplets as well as the security. At one point, Lady quit eating. She was believed to be only hours away from dying when she watched her chicks fledge that year. Wildlife managers did not believe that Lady could undertake her migration to West Africa but she did and she returned in 2011 to lay eggs again with Green 7Y. Those eggs were not fertile. Sadly, Green 7Y did not return from his migration in 2012.

In 2012, Lady took her last and fourth mate, LM12 (unbanded but thought to be young). The pair remained together for three breeding seasons during which time their chicks were tagged with satellite transmitters. One, Blue 44, disappeared during migration in France and Spain while a 2013 female, Blue YZ, disappeared in Guinea Bisseau. Her body along with her tag were recovered in 2014. 2014 was the last year that Lady laid eggs with LM12. They were not fertile. Lady was thought to be at least twenty-eight years old (not banded and that would be the minimum age). She did not return to the nest for breeding and Roy Dennis says that he would like to imagine her in retirement sunning herself in Spain!

LM12 kept the nest with a new mate from 2015-2020. LM12’s current mate is a young female Blue Darvic tag NCO. She hatched at Loch Ness in 2016 and 2020 was believed to be her first breeding year. That spring a visitor to the loch broke the pandemic curfew riding in a kayak close enough for the nest’s microphone to pick up a cough. They so disturbed the Osprey for more than two hours that they did not return to the nest to lay their eggs. The nest had been in use constantly since 1991 – this was the first year that it was abandoned. We wait in 2021 to see if the mated pair will return.

It should be noted that the reserve area is always closed to the public, pandemic or not, during the breeding season. This was a major intrusion and sadly, it could have consequences for several years.

Vacant nest at Loch Lowes, end of April 2020. @Scottish Wildlife Trust

Here is a link to the live streaming camera at the Loch. Let us all hope that the person did not put the Ospreys off of this nest for good.

The Scottish Wildlife Trust has revised the estimate for the juveniles who migrated to Africa to return. From their experience they say that it is anywhere from 3-5 years. Perhaps there will be some sightings this year!

World Osprey Week is getting closer. It is the 22-26 of March, only nine days a way and counting. Thanks for joining me. I hope you liked the story of that remarkable female and her aerie. Just imagine all those Osplets! I hope that some of Lady’s DNA survives. I must check. Several years ago consideration was being given to some type of memorial for Lady. Will keep you posted if I find it.

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