I went this morning to check on a pair of ospreys nesting ten minutes from my house. I first checked the nest on 8 April and though the (presumably) female was on the nest it was not sitting and I drew the conclusion it had not yet layed. The nest is a huge structure right on the top of a tree in the middle of a grass field and just at a nice distance from a track from which the birds can be observed without causing any disturbance.
I returned two days later and the bird was down in the cup of the nest, with only the head showing. There was a good chance it was sitting on its first egg. The male flew in while I was there and perched on a branch, where it remained during the 15 minutes or so I was there.
On both occasions there were two hares in the field. Each time they were snuggled up close to one another. They tolerated me quite close, helped by the fact there was a drystane dyke between them and where I was. On the first occasion they eventually loped slowly off and settled again about 100 metres away. On the second day they sat tight despite me twice walking past them. Brown hares are fantastic creatures, and all the better when seen close up. Little wonder that I detest hare coursing.
On my latest visit (29 April) the hares were in longer in the field, possibly because there were now sheep and lambs in residence. These will have daily checks by the farmer or shepherd and no doubt the hares have moved to the grass field to the east or to the woodland to the west. The osprey was sitting, with its head visible above the nest even without the binoculars. No doubt it will be on its full clutch of three white eggs blotched with brown, or maybe even on a clutch of four eggs, which is much less common.
As I watched, the male came in over my head, followed by three jackdaws and either a rook or a carrion crow (probably the latter). It flew several times round the nest, banking and trying to shake them off, with the bird on the nest now standing up for a better view. Eventually the male landed on the edge of the nest and the entourage of corvids landed on nearby branches, their pestering still unfinished business. When the male landed the female sat down on the eggs again.
Five minutes later the male took off again, with only three irritating corvids in tow this time. He circled the tree again before landing on what I think will be his favourite perch halfway up the tree and to the left of the nest. This time what I am sure would be a bold carrion crow flew on to the edge of the nest, but was quickly frightened off by the sitting female.
It was an interesting morning, and we are lucky in this part of Perthshire to have upwards of a dozen osprey nests within a 30-minute drive, and – at a guess – at least 30 within an hour’s drive.