The return of Ospreys to Galloway is a story 50 years in the making, rooted in the pine trees of Abernethy Forest in the Highlands, barbed wire, CCTV monitors, SAS commandos and a vast network of volunteers have protected this species as it recolonised Scotland. The osprey story at Boat of Garten is primarily associated with RSPB, but the work to conserve and protect the birds relies on partnerships involving with many organisations. In Dumfries and Galloway the nest is conserved and protected by a partnership of local landowners, DGC, RSPB, SNH and the Police. Today, 150 breeding pairs is testament to half a century of protection and encouragement. The Galloway success story is the most southerly pair in Scotland, some 200 miles from Abernethy.
In the 18th Century Ospreys would have been common in Scotland, but ceased to breed in 1916 after many years of persecution through shooting and by stealing eggs. The main cause of persecution was because of supposed damage to salmon and trout fishing. It is thought that ospreys had not bred in Galloway for well over 100 years until recently. Between 1954 and 1990, about 9% of clutches were illegally taken. Egg thieves are still a serious threat to all osprey nests and many are protected by volunteers and conservation bodies and the Police.
A new nest can take ages to build from scratch, in some places the birds run out of time, and only breed the next year when they return. A pair will continue to use the same nest year after year. Black bags, baling twine and fishing net and hooks can all find their way into osprey nests Our site was naturally built by the birds, but had to be strengthened by humans as the sight was unsafe. A survey of 70 nests showed that 41 were natural, 14 were reinforced by humans, and 15 were artificially built in new areas. Our nest is unique in having both our Ospreys nesting in it, with tree sparrows using the space under the ospreys feet to nest as well.
The first birds to recolonise came from Scandinavian-born birds which had strayed west. They chose Speyside, a part of Scotland quite like Scandinavia, with pine forests and freshwater lochs. The expansion rate over the period 1954 to 1994 was only 3.4km per year. Although 90% of historical osprey nests were on Scotland’s western half, now 90% are in the eastern half. Our ospreys are doing their bit to change this with many chicks now having being hatched and raised. We had always hoped that the young from our Ospreys would come back when they were ready to breed to our area. We were rewarded in 2009 when AW from the XXXX hatching returned to Dumfries and Galloway to Caerlaverock Wetlands trust. He has succesfully found a mate and in 2009 our Female, H/D became a garnny as AW and his mate successfullyt hatched and rasied X chicks. This was true success in deed.
When the birds migrate south to Africa in September, the female usually leaves first and the male last. Some ospreys totally miss Scotland on their return; one was found on a fishing boat northwest of Iceland in 1978. Many young birds die naturally, and only a few return to Scotland as breeding adults.
Ospreys usually dive from 20-30m in stages keeping an eye on their chosen fish, they can catch fish up to 1m under the water, deeper than any other fish eating raptor sometimes the whole osprey is under the water, it can hold its breath! Characteristically having caught a fish the bird performs a mid air shake to dry off. Osprey feet are specially adapted, their talons with barbs for holding slippery fish and the reversible toe allows fish to be carried long-ways, reducing drag in the air. Fish species caught depends on the location; near the coast mainly flounders, bass and mullet. In freshwater mainly trout and pike. Only one in four dives results in a fish being caught. One successful catch will feed a bird for the day, and like many larger predators, much of the day is spent idle. As soon as the young hatch though, the rate of catching fish is doubled.
Copy of our Dumfries and Galloway Osprey leaflet
Osprey Picture Boards
These are the interpretation boards that we have displayed in our visitor centre. They contain key facts and information relating to Ospreys.
The 50th Anniversary leaflet of Ospreys returning to Scotland’s is viewable here. It tells you where it is possible to view and learn about these magnificent birds.