Eye to eye with ospreys

  • Osprey family at the nest, Tweed Valley

Ospreys have made quite the comeback in Scotland having been driven to the brink of extinction in the UK a century ago. And the Tweed Valley is one of the best places to view these incredible, fish-eating birds of prey

Like so many of our birds of prey, ospreys were once persecuted heavily by hunters and egg collectors to the point where the species was absent from Scotland for much of the first half of the 20th century. That all changed in 1954 when a pair settled under their own steam at Loch Garten in the Cairngorms. But it wasn’t until 1998 that the first nesting pair returned to the Borders – one of the osprey’s many old stomping grounds around Scotland.  

But with very real fears for their safety – be it from egg collectors or accidental human disturbance – they still needed a helping hand. As such, a project team involving Forestry Commission rangers, the local police wildlife liaison officer and the RSPB worked to encourage the birds to settle and breed here in the Tweed Valley.

To begin with it was very hush-hush, with artificial nest platforms erected in safe locations around the Tweed Valley Forest Park in the hope that ospreys might be tempted to breed here. And slowly they came. From April each year, when the birds return from their West African wintering grounds, the Tweed Valley began to see a growing population of breeding osprey and now has almost a dozen breeding sites.

Keen to share the birds’ story, but without revealing nest locations, the project team placed cameras at nest sites to provide live footage of the birds as they raised their young. A partnership between the Forestry Commission, Tweed Forum and Kailzie Gardens, the Tweed Valley Osprey Project was born with an aim of protecting the birds while providing fascinating interpretation for the public.

For the past decade and more, visitors to osprey watch centres at Glentress and Kailzie Gardens have been able to view footage of osprey families, with knowledgeable volunteers on hand to answer questions. Today, footage is better than ever and can include some truly spectacular moments – particularly when adult birds return to the nest with large fish still wriggling in their talons.

The osprey pair on the main Tweed Valley nest are currently incubating two eggs which are expected to hatch any day now. It’s a great time to come and see one of the wildlife wonders of the Tweed Valley!

Further info

The Tweed Valley Osprey Project has viewing facilities at both Kailzie Gardens and the Tweed Valley Wild Watch Centre at Glentress Forest, where the birds can be viewed live from Easter to the end of August. For much more on the area’s population of ospreys, check out the Tweed Valley Osprey Project diary here.

Photograph: Tweed Valley Osprey project 



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