The future: Perhaps coming to a pylon near you........?

Loch Garten ospreys

Loch Garten ospreys
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Loch Garten osprey diary

The ospreys at Loch Garten have people across the world gripped in their tale of violence, adultery and... well... fishing.

The future: Perhaps coming to a pylon near you........?

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The picture below taken recently by my erstwhile colleague Stewart Taylor shows an osprey nesting on a purpose-added nesting tray to an electricity pylon. Is this the future for ospreys, or at least part of it?


There are a few such nests on pylons now and it can perhaps be assumed that young ospreys reared at these sites, will, when they are old enough to nest and breed themselves, have a "search-image" in their brains for a similar nesting location. Will or does pylon-nesting beget pylon-nesting? If so, we could see a developing pylon-nesting culture among future osprey populations throughout UK. No shortage of potential nesting sites for such predisposed birds eh? Think how many pylons there are throughout the UK, a proportion of which will be adjacent to suitable fishing grounds for ospreys.

Currently, all bar a handful of osprey nests UK-wide are in trees, albeit some on man-made nests in trees. A few others are on look-a-like trees, poles or similar.. The vast majority though are in trees. So is it that young ospreys reared from tree nests have a "search-image" for a tree in which to nest when their time comes? The few slightly "off-piste" nests like on pylons are a  relatively new thing. Are we beginning to see a gradual change in osprey nesting culture, or perhaps a breakdown in their innate "culture of fear" in which the returning and spreading osprey population of Scotland and the wider UK has been living all these years?

Historically, here in Scotland, some ospreys did nest in non-tree locations. For example the castle wall ruin on the island at Loch an Eilein, on Rothiemurchus, the last place they nested in Strathspey before their extirpation. Having been pushed over the brink into oblivion as nesting birds in UK, at the hand of man, through persecution and extermination, could it be that there exists a "culture" within the since returned osprey population that causes them to avoid nesting close to man and his activities? They are just too wary. For now.


In North America, and elsewhere in the world where ospreys nest, where they were perhaps not subject to, or at least to the level, of persecution that UK and European ospreys were way back, that ospreys in those parts of the world are less wary, have nothing (or less) to fear and are altogether less of a bunch of  "fearties" that UK ospreys were forced to become.

The two pictures below were taken at Fulford, Lake Kootenay, British Columbia. They were sent to me as photographic prints back in May 1994, which I thought I'd lost but I have just unearthed them. And with the advent of modern technology can now be scanned and shared with you. I cannot recall who sent them to me 20-odd years ago, but thank you again, and I hope you don't mind me posting them here now.

The first shows an osprey nesting on the wooden pilings of a lake quayside, a quay used on a daily basis by a ferry, back & forth and berthing right alongside the nest. I've added an arrow to show you quite where. This, despite the potential for tree nesting in the forest seen in the background.



This would surely be unheard of here, for now. But will we gradually see the breakdown of the "culture of fear" that perhaps our ospreys have? 

It never ceases to amaze me that the Loch Garten ospreys return every year to rear their family at what must be one of the closest osprey nests to man and his activities in the UK, the Osprey Centre at just about 160m from the nest. Other viewing sites too are relatively close. Have we contributed to a gradual breakdown of that "culture of fear"? In the future, hopefully, when Millicent, Seasca and Druie are on the lookout for a nest site, will they be that bit more predisposed to nesting close, or closer to man?

In Florida, in Australia and elsewhere, osprey nest in peoples' backyards, on poles, on purposely erected cartwheels and other man-made structure. Pylon-nesting ospreys here are a step in that direction too. Who knows, with our change in attitude towards ospreys, this their second time around, perhaps one day we too might get ospreys nesting in harbours, marinas and other such locations comfortably closer to us.  Be nice, eh?

  • just picked up your post, Richard, very interesting. Food for thought at what ospreys may do in the future.

  • A really interesting and thought provoking blog, Richard.  Thank you.  Great pics too.  As Noc says, my house roof is ready and waiting....

  • Some years ago I stayed with relatives in the Columbia Valley, British Columbia and could watch an osprey nest about 100 yards from my bedroom window.  Walking the family's little Lancashire Heeler could be quite exciting, as Mother Osprey would spot him at a distance and dive bomb us to ensure he didn't come anywhere near the nest.

  • The roof of my house is awaiting an osprey family. :-)

    Great blog, thank you.

  • What a wonderful experience. I have not been able to see as much this year due to ill health.Best wishes to you all.Richard,All Staff and Bloggers. If you want to see a sea eagle on her nest you can Google Sydney Olympic Park,SEA EAGLES CAM and see the bird on her nest 24/7. We are 10 hours ahead here in Australia.Kindest regards, Linda

  • Very interesting blog. some of us became familiar with Lake Kootenay in the saga of Nelson, Nellie and Nel at the end of June and early July this year.

  • It's a lovely thought, Richard.  On one hand we have a situation where a fair old number of nesting ospreys who have become accustomed to yearly visits to their nests so the chicks can be ringed - sadly on the other hand I notice that your ringer Ian is still obliged to wear protective gear when he goes up to the nest so there is plainly a fair amount of distrust still.  My fingers are crossed that in years down the road we can all become accustomed to the sight of these lovely birds nesting safely close to us.

  • I love the idea of making good use of the pylons, and the Ospreys obviously take to the nests on the platforms. Are you aware of any problems with the cables, or are they not an issue. Amazing nest on the wooden piling; you wouldn’t think the birds would tolerate the disturbance!

  • What a great blog Richard thank you , think this nest is on a tower of some sort , wonderful view :)