Latin name: Pandion haliaetus Osprey

Length: 55 - 69cm Wingspan: 145 - 160cm

Where: Lake of Menteith; Loch Lomond NNR and the southern basin area of Loch Lomond area around Balmaha

When: April to October

It’s only in the last 20 years that we’ve been able to see ospreys in the National Park. Persecution drove them to extinction in the UK during the last century. They started returning to breed in the Highlands of Scotland in the 1950s, thanks to the efforts of a dedicated group of conservationists. The birds are now spreading out across other parts of the country where fish are plentiful and they can find undisturbed nesting sites.

Ospreys are summer visitors, flying from the heat of African spring to nest in our cool Scottish climate. Come autumn they fly south again to escape our cold Northern winters. They mate for life, returning with their mate year after year to the same nest site, mostly perched high in a pine, or other sturdy, tall, tree.

They are our only birds of prey that feed solely on fish. Although they are about the size of a buzzard, that’s where the similarities end. Ospreys are slim, elegant birds in flight, with long, narrow, almost gull-like wings. Hunting over a loch, they will hang on the air with slow, languid wingbeats, legs dangling ready to plummet into the water to snatch an unwary pike or trout. You may see one carrying a fish back to its nest – carefully holding it parallel to its body to reduce the drag as it flies. It’s mostly the male that does the hunting, especially when the chicks are small, while the female stays at the broad, twiggy nest to feed and protect her brood.

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Any natural place contains an infinite reservoir of information, and therefore the potential for inexhaustible new discoveries.

Richard Louv, Last Child in the Woods