The Scottish Ospreys from extinction to survival by Philip Brown

Loch Garten ospreys

Loch Garten ospreys
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Loch Garten ospreys

The Scottish Ospreys from extinction to survival by Philip Brown

  • This is a wonderful book describing how the ospreys were first extirpated in Scotland around 1916 and then were found to return in 1954.

    A number of people on the forum now have a copy so we can have a discussion about it.

    Here is what the book looks like.  Its ISBN number is: 9780434089109

     

  • Yes indeed it is a great book Tiger, though I find reading the exploits of the likes of Lewis Dunbar horribly sad.

    Still at least the osprey came back despite it all and are now thriving with the help of dedicated people such as Philip Brown, George Waterson, Roy Dennis etc and organisations such as the RSPB and the various wildlife trusts throughout the country.

  • One of the things I like best about the book are maps which show Loch Garten and the various nesting sites. Actually it is only right now that I have appreciated how many different nesting sites there were in the late fifties. It had never occured to me that the 1956 eyrie was well removed from Loch Garten.

    I feel that these maps are so important in the history of the Loch Garten ospreys.

    Actually the author's note is fascinating too. Apparently he was commissioned to write the book in April 1976 with a contract to deliver the script by the end of the year. However within ten days he was laid low by shingles and was incapacitated for some months. However just as he recovered from that he had a coronary and was not allowed to work for several more months.

    Fortunately he recovered to write this wonderful book.

  • I love the bit on page 139 describing the simple lookout alarm system, consisting of binder twine between lookout and sleeper. I was going to say nowadays they could keep in touch by mobile phone but I am not sure the signal would be reliable enough in the forest.

  • JSB  I would love to hear your comments on this book.

     

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    This book stirred many memories of visits to the Aviemore area over the last fifty odd years. The year that interested me the most was 1955, which I think was my first, being my third Scout Summer Camp, held that year, at Glen More. The campsite was smaller in those days and hope this is correct, the area set aside for ‘organised groups’ was between the public campsite and the shores of Loch Morlich, behind the little shop. There was no mention of Ospreys at that time but the events described in the book, must have been taking place under our noses.

    I had from an early age formed an affinity with wildlife in general, from the experiences with my parents. Regarding the caring for birds, I witnessed an older cousin of mine, who had a cruel disregard for them, as he regularly shot them in his garden with an air rifle. I was horrified, but too young to do anything about it. Needless to say, I was not keen to go back there and it has had the effect that I have never owned a gun or air rifle, nor have I ever used a gun, except perhaps at fun-fairs.

    Further visits to Aviemore and all over the Highlands ensued, with an interest in hill-walking and rock-climbing. It was during that this time that my first visits to Loch Garten took place and I can post some scanned images of some information that I still have that have survived my clear-outs.

    Well, I learned a new word ‘extirpation’, the act of destroying something completely. The book describes in what I thought was a very balanced way, the acts that led to the extinction of the Osprey in Scotland. It would be very easy, with the benefit of hindsight to condemn and vilify those responsible. But ornithology developed, in the way it has and now at least it is going in the right direction. The book also describes in a way that the author is almost playing with the consciences of the gun toting ‘enthusiasts’, after having shot a bird, the gunman or ‘huntsman’, wishes he had not killed it, when he sees it down on the ground.

    Moving on to the re-establishment of the Osprey, the account of the 1949 period is OK, but I found that the somewhat confusing number of people involved and their different roles and responsibilities during the period, whilst the RSPB was getting a foothold in Scotland, during the years 1954 -1956, needed to be re-read a few times to fully understand it. It made me realise that while I was there in 1955, I would have had no chance of finding out what was going on within a few miles radius of where I was for a fortnight. For example the road or path to Sluggan Pass was not far away on the other side of the road.

    The ‘Operation Osprey’ section is a rather romantic recollection, very informative as it is, of what at times must have been quite unpleasant and certainly uncomfortable. It shows the real sacrifices and the potential risks that were endured during the guarding of the nests.

    It is thanks to those involved in the story in this book that we as admirers of the Osprey, as well as the birds themselves, of course, can benefit from their work.

                                                                       oooOOOooo

    Here is a RSPB leaflet printed in 1975.

     

     

  • JSB  Thank you for that. Those are two really nice pictures of the ospreys on your leaflet.

    I am not sure if I knew the word "extirpated" or not before I read the book. As you may know Roy Dennis now believes that ospreys were never extirpated in Scotland but hung on in a few places. There were accounts of ospreys being seen but they were not believed.

    I am always fascinated by the attempt of Captain C. W. R. Knight  (on page 59) to reintroduce ospreys in 1929. He brought four ospreys from the United States and released them at Loch Arkaig. I often wonder what became of these birds. Without tracking technology we will never know. However I cannot see any reason why they would die immediately.

    I find the description of finding the embryo eyrie (frustration nest) the Sluggan Pass in June 1955 very exciting. What is immediatly apparent is how little, not surprisingly, the participants knew about the behaviour of ospreys.

    We now know that when an osprey nest fails the birds build a frustration nest. One must ask if Henry and EJ built frustration nests in 2005 and 2007?  If they did no one seems to have noticed.

    The years 1956 to 1958 must have been very frustrating indeed with no great progress being made beyond the thunderbolt of the the letter to the Scotsman on March 26th 1956 that a pair of ospreys had nested successfully in 1954 and two young flew from the nest (page 76).

    I do love the picture of Loch an Eilean on page 78.

    Also I am very interested in the finding of the Loch Garten nest (page 73) and the realisation that this was such an enormous nest that it might have already been used many times.

    So many questions?

  • I have read this book several times now alongside Roy's "A life of Ospreys" and I cannot thank you enough for introducing it to me last year!

     

    Carol

     

    PS We are down near Fairford in September so will look out for passing Ospreys at the Water Park.

  • Wearing my genealogy hat, which is a winter hobby, I have long wished to make up a list of news reports to get from The Scotsman archives, which is a subscription service.....if I do get round to that job, I should be able to get a copy of the 1956 letter from the files. Just a thought, Tiger.

  • jsb

    Wearing my genealogy hat, which is a winter hobby, I have long wished to make up a list of news reports to get from The Scotsman archives, which is a subscription service.....if I do get round to that job, I should be able to get a copy of the 1956 letter from the files. Just a thought, Tiger.

    JSB That is a really great idea. Unfortunately the online Scotsman archive only goes up to 1950. However I think that there are other ways the latter could be found. I will turn my mind to it soon.

  • Carol

    I have read this book several times now alongside Roy's "A life of Ospreys" and I cannot thank you enough for introducing it to me last year!

     

    Carol

     

    PS We are down near Fairford in September so will look out for passing Ospreys at the Water Park.

    Ah Fairford. Now you and I know what conundrum  Fairford was the key to!  :)

  • Copied from the weekly chat, posted just now........

    Annette: You said above, 'Am I the only person who's sort of "let go" of this year's brood before they've even left?  I think the lack of rings or sat tags is part of it - not being able to stay in touch with them once they migrate, whereas when Rothes and maybe Mallachie come back, we'll be able to ID them. All a bit odd and unexpected'.

    Speaking for my own solution to the situation, which I acknowledge is a disincentive...........

    That's why I am following Tiger's lead and looking into the past as an interesting subject, following the 'extirpation', (fitting that new word in wherever I can , ;-0) and re-establishment of Osprey in Scotland.

    Also, when time permits, I shall produce 2008 stats.

    Lastly, there is still a chance that Nethy, the 2008 chick who is missing and ringed (white AY) will turn up.

  • In the mid'50's a book was published, showing the osprey absent from Scotland and the rest of the UK, Western Europe and only a summer resident in Scandinavia and Eastern Europe. The dotted line shows the limit in the Mediterranean area close to the sea for winter residents. The Osprey map is the bottom right.

    A Field Guide to the Birds of Britain and Europe. Collins. First Published 1954.

    These images are from the 2nd Revised Edition, 1956.

    Just when the discoveries, being discussed here were taking place.

    By courtesy of Collins.

  • I so like this map which gives the position of the various nests from 1954-1959

      

  • Tiger on your recommendation I  bought this book from Abebooks . It is coming from the  UK.  I don't know how long it will take to  get the the USA,  but I think about 10 days. 

    I have  Roy Dennis'  books " A Life of Ospreys" which I was able to  get from Amazon here. 

     I had never heard this book . It is not sold here  even in used book stores

    Thanks!!  

    Barbara