Well, we woke this morning to a very sad sight at our Loch Arkaig osprey nest. An empty nest. And when we scrolled back, we discovered that a pine marten had actually been in the night and taken all three eggs away. Now this is very upsetting to see, but actually it’s part of the natural way of things and that’s what we set out to show when we put this camera in. We hope that people won’t think of the pine marten as any kind of a villain. This camera really gives a very specific slice of Loch Arkaig life and, you know, every time Louis has brought in a fish, we celebrate that but perhaps if we’d been following a fish this summer you know, we would have seen him as the villain for taking a trout and if we had a camera in our pine marten den, then we might be celebrating a good job this morning for dad bringing home some eggs.
I think the difference between being an animal lover and being a wildlife conservationist is that an animal lover tends to dwell on the individual creature and its prospects, but as wildlife conservationists we really have to look at the bigger picture and think of whole species and how they fit into the community of life. So, while we have every sympathy for their predicament, it’s important to realise that across Scotland and Britain ospreys are doing really well and there will be chicks raised this year and there will also be eggs predated. There will be chicks that don’t make it but somewhere along the line some of these birds will make it to Africa and then they’ll make it back to here and the whole thing will go round again. So, I think we’re really saying to people: grieve a little while for the loss of these eggs but remember that the wider picture is a lot more positive than that and that the important thing is that we look after these special places like Loch Arkaig where a whole multitude of wildlife can live its life and the cycle can go on. That’s the important thing. What we can provide for wildlife is the habitat for them to get on and do their things, face their challenges. We can’t help them through all the challenges of life, but we can give them the habitat to have a good crack at it and that’s what we, the Woodland Trust, are doing at Loch Arkaig by maintaining this amazing pine forest and it’s what we do at sites all over the UK.
Well, where there are pine martens and ospreys, there will always be pine martens taking osprey eggs. There always has been and there always will be as long as both of these creatures are around. And remember that both of these creatures have actually nearly been wiped out in the past, not by each other but by people, the persecution they suffer at the hands of people, so they’re well able to cope with each other as a threat. So, we’re not saying don’t grieve for these birds. We’ll be grieving at the Woodland Trust too – for Louis and Aila and the loss of their eggs – but I think we should reflect that they’ll get on with things, maybe not this year but they will try again and hopefully succeed next year, and they’ll throw themselves into being ospreys. It’ll be beautiful. It’ll be harsh. It’ll be cruel sometimes. But that’s the way it is with wild things – little triumphs and tragedies are constantly taking place across the natural world. What’s important is that places like Loch Arkaig Pine Forest continue to offer a stunning home for the wide range of plants and insects, birds, fish and other creatures that live there. Wild animals have it hard and I think our camera has shown that, but they are also tenacious, and they keep at it and they keep coming back, so we’ll keep coming back and we hope that Louis and Aila do as well, and whilst our season has been cut short at Loch Arkaig, it has always been a privilege to just have a peek into part of this wild heart of the forest.