Prospects for a long summer of osprey action on our live stream from Loch Arkaig came to an abrupt end in the early hours of this morning. A pine marten scared Aila off the nest and despite her swoops and cries, carried off all three eggs.
While this was upsetting to see, it is part of the natural way of things and that is what we set out to show with this camera.
The pine marten should not be thought of as a villain.
Our camera looks at a very specific slice of Loch Arkaig life. We rejoice when a fish is brought in. Had we all been following the life of one of the Loch’s beautiful speckled trout would the osprey have been our villain when it swooped to end the show? Had we a camera in a pine marten den, would we have celebrated this morning to see father bringing in breakfast?
The big picture
The difference between being an animal lover and being a nature conservationist is that the animal lover dwells on the individual creature while the conservationist is concerned with how a whole species is doing and how it fits into the community of life. So while Louis and Aila have lost their precious eggs, there are other ospreys which will raise chicks across Scotland and Britain this year, and the species will continue its marvellous comeback. There are enough ospreys around Loch Arkaig for me to confidently predict that there will be chicks and some will get to Africa before the year is out.
While there are pine martens and ospreys there will always be pine martens taking osprey eggs. And remember both of these creatures were nearly wiped out, not by each other but by the persecution they suffered at the hands of people. As species they are well capable of coping with the threats of each other.
That is not to say that our hearts do not break for Louis and Aila – especially today as we watched Louis dutifully continue to sit on the nest, bewildered but still determined to soldier on.
What happens now?
The pair won’t breed again now this year. Louis and Aila may stay around the nest for a while and the camera will continue to operate while they are still there (thanks to support from players of People’s Postcode Lottery). But eventually they will drift off to roost and feed elsewhere before making an early start back for Africa.
Little triumphs and tragedies are constantly unfolding across the natural world. What is important is that places like Loch Arkaig pine forest continue to offer a stunning home for the wide range of plants, insects, birds, fish and other creatures that live there. We cannot save wild creatures from the hardships they face but we can make sure habitats are secure so that new life can constantly spring forth and the drama keeps rolling on.