Britain’s oldest breeding osprey lays record 69th egg at reserve
14 April 2014 11:23 BST
Britain’s oldest breeding osprey has flown her way into the record books by laying her 69th egg.
Lady, the 29-year-old raptor, excited twitchers at the Loch of Lowes reserve, in Perthshire, by displaying typical laying behaviour at around 12.30am on Sunday and emerging with a new egg 20 minutes later.
She broke her own record last year by laying four eggs, one of which hatched as audiences watched round the world on the Scottish Wildlife Trust’s webcam.
Ranger Emma Rawling, who co-ordinates the osprey watch, said: “This is really exciting. Everyone here is over the moon to have her back at Loch of Lowes.
“Lady is a very old girl now and we weren’t sure if she would be coming back.
“The staff and volunteers here are over the moon and we are so relieved that our beloved female is still breeding at her advanced age.”
She added: “She dug herself deep into the centre of the nest, flattened herself out and passed the egg.
“You could see her panting and pushing so it is quite like a human birth in some ways.
“It’s just as well the birds have such a deep, snug cup in the centre of the nest as it was so windy that the whole tree was rocking.”
Ms Rawling said that Lady‘s partner, nicknamed Laddie, has also taken his fatherly duties seriously and is taking his turn minding the egg.
She said: “Since it was laid, the egg has been carefully tended and both birds have taken a turn incubating.
“This is a fantastic sign that he is bonding with the egg and his instincts to provide and care for it are fully roused which bides well for it.
“Some male ospreys don’t get involved with the young much but Laddie is your typical ‘new man’. He is very much the besotted new dad and it is very sweet to watch them together.”
The next few weeks will be tense at the Scottish Wildlife Trust’s reserve as staff wait to see if more eggs arrive and if they are fertile.
On average, osprey incubation lasts between 37 and 39 days making the earliest hatching possible on May 20.
Lady has returned to the reserve, near Dunkeld, from Africa to breed every year for 24 years and thousands watch her on a specially set-up webcam.
Ms Rawling said: “Some people have been volunteering here since she first came 24 years ago so I think it is fair to say that we know her very well.
“She is an extremely experienced and capable Mum. Nothing ever gets past her. She is now onto her fourth partner so knows exactly what she wants. She trains Laddie well and nags him to get her fish.”
She added that her return to the reserve, year after year, showed the success of the osprey conservation project.
Ospreys were extinct in the British Isles between 1916 and 1954, but it’s estimated there are currently between 250 and 300 nesting pairs in the UK.
Ms Rawling said: “She is a very old bird and for her to undertake another successful migration is testament to just how special she is. However, it does demonstrate the conservation success story of the species as a whole.
“To think that ospreys were extinct in Britain just over a century ago really brings home how accomplished the concerted effort of conservation has been in that time.”