The Woodland Trust hopes an osprey pair just returned to a Highland forest will provide a beneficial dose of nature during coronavirus lockdown.

Male osprey Louis arrived back at Loch Arkaig Pine Forest in Lochaber at 8.15am on Saturday. His mate Aila touched down on their nest today (Monday) at 9.25am.

A live nest camera, supported by players of People's Postcode Lottery, has been streaming footage of the family online since 2017. View it at www.woodlandtrust.org.uk/ospreycam

Woodland Trust Scotland director Carol Evans said:

“Many people who will never visit this special woodland helped to buy it four years ago by contributing to our fundraising appeal. The osprey camera was launched with them in mind. We wanted to offer a slice of wild forest life to people near and far. This year, with so many confined at home, this online experience becomes even more precious.”

Sanjay Singh, senior programme manager at People’s Postcode Lottery said:

“We are delighted that support from our players helps bring this wildlife spectacle to homes across the country, and indeed the world. Contact with the natural world is so important, and while we are staying at home to keep ourselves and each other safe, it’s fantastic that people will be able to continue to see nature in action.”

In 2016 Woodland Trust Scotland bought the spectacular 2,500 acre site in partnership with local group Arkaig Community Forest. It contains areas of magnificent but degraded ancient Caledonian pinewood, which has been planted with non-native conifers. A recently completed bridge and track upgrade will allow the extraction of huge quantities of non-native timber – freeing up Loch Arkaig’s ancient pine trees to recolonise the hillsides with their seedlings. The restoration aims to demonstrate that conservation management can provide social and economic benefits for local communities.

Teacher David Richey who used the webcam to teach pupils aged 11-16 at St Joseph’s School in Launceston, Cornwall said:

“Last year, having just discovered this site, I started using it in lessons. Each classroom has a computer, projector and screen. So, during lessons when the children were working on projects or revising for GCSE exams, I would put the live stream up on the screen, generally following a 5-minute update on the latest developments.

“Most of the children had never heard of an osprey before, but all became fascinated and completely hooked. This began around a week before the first hatching and went through the youngster stages of the chicks, so they were very exciting times.

“Aside from the enjoyment of following the family on a 6-foot square screen, they found it very conducive to study. Many of those revising for GCSEs said how much it helped them concentrate on their work to look up from their books every now and again to watch the nest for a minute or so. They found it therapeutic, not just to see the nest, but to follow the story. I made the mistake one day of turning off the sound and there was nearly a riot! I was told, in no uncertain terms, that it was so comforting to hear the sounds of the birds in the background while studying. Having a connection to nature filling one wall of the classroom seemed to help them feel more grounded and eased the stress.

“Sadly, due to exams being cancelled and schools closed, it doesn't look as though I'll be able to repeat it this year, but it's great to know that there should be many of those children tuning in this year at home. So, thank you so much to all concerned in enabling this wonderful experience and boosting the education of children in more ways than one.”  

Players of People’s Postcode Lottery are the lead funders of Loch Arkaig Pine Forest.

What we've achieved so far:

  • Sensitively upgraded and strengthened tracks and bridges to allow access to this remote site for restoration
  • Repaired deer-proof fencing to allow native plants to return and thrive
  • Cleared 880 acres of invasive non-native rhododendron which were stifling other plants.

Over the next five years we will:

  • Remove 70,000 tonnes of non-native trees using specialist equipment
  • Fight tree disease by taking out infected lodgepole pine
  • Restore up to 620 acres of degraded peatland habitats
  • Control invasive non-native species such as Japanese knotweed.

Commandos from various Allied armies trained at Loch Arkaig during World War II. The forest is home to sea eagles, golden eagles, ospreys, pine marten, otters and deer amongst many other species. 

Woodland Trust site access

Woodland Trust sites across the UK remain open for people living locally to take exercise, but in line with Government advice we discourage non-essential travel. Do not drive to visit our woods. Publicity for the Loch Arkaig osprey camera should not be taken as encouragement to visit the site. The osprey nest is in any case not accessible to visitors. The ospreys are best appreciated online, even in normal times.

Notes to editors

For further information contact George Anderson on 07770 700631.

The Woodland Trust is the largest woodland conservation charity in the UK. It has over 500,000 supporters. It wants to see a UK rich in native woods and trees for people and wildlife.

The Trust has three key aims:

  1. protect ancient woodland which is rare, unique and irreplaceable
  2. restoration of damaged ancient woodland, bringing precious pieces of our natural history back to life
  3. plant native trees and woods with the aim of creating resilient landscapes for people and wildlife.

Established in 1972, the Woodland Trust now has over 1,200 sites in its care covering approximately 29,000 hectares. Access to its woods is free so everyone can benefit from woods and trees.

Arkaig Community Forest is a local community-based charity, which shares ambitious plans to restore native woodland habitats across the entire forest and demonstrate the ecological, social and economic value of ancient woodland restoration. In particular, it aims to support the remote community living around the forest to benefit from active sustainable forest management activities such as woodfuel production, eco-tourism and adding value to timber.

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