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When will the chicks hatch? Thousands flock to see live feed of nesting ospreys in Alyth

The Ospreys in Alyth

Many thousands of people have flocked online to see a pair of nesting ospreys near Alyth.

A live webcam was installed and switched on earlier in the spring to observe the goings-on at a new nesting tower close to the new Alyth substation two miles south-east of the Perthshire town.

It has already had more than 9,000 views on YouTube ahead of the hatching of the chicks, which is expected to take place in May.

Here we answer all your questions about the Alyth ospreys and the public’s interest in viewing them.

Have the birds always nested here?

Ospreys have historically nested on the top of an SSEN Transmission 275kV electricity tower on the site, which has been the ‘T’ junction between the main transmission line for the east coast and Tealing substation since 1990.

In 2014 a 25m osprey tower and two nearby 8.5m resting perches were erected and have been successfully used by the ospreys ever since.

The nesting tower
The nesting tower. Picture: Alan Crane.

In summer last year, work began on a new £86m substation on the site, which is on track for completion by winter 2023.

The work required a new nest, which was installed with help from osprey expert Roy Dennis.

The nesting tower has been set 320.6 metres from the ‘red line’ boundary of the new substation and met agreement from Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH), now Nature Scot.

Why are so many people viewing the live feed?

This is the first year that a webcam has been capturing the ospreys and already it has generated a sizeable audience.

Despite limited publicity, at any one time during the day there are usually more than half a dozen watchers on the live YouTube feed.

The ospreys captured on the webcam.
The ospreys captured on the webcam.

So far there have been more than 9,000 views and the figure is sure to increase as the year goes on and chicks are hatched.

Seeing birds in their natural habitat can be relaxing and educational, offering the opportunity to learn about migration and nesting habits. Northward views of the Perthshire and Angus hills, including Cat Law, aren’t bad either.

“Cameras give you an insight into wildlife that you can’t really see any other way,” says Jason Fathers of Wildlife Windows, which installed the webcam.

“You tend to get followers of particular cameras and hopefully over time more people will watch the Alyth birds.

“We install cameras across the UK and we have also installed a camera on a white-tailed eagle nest showing at the RSPB Loch Garten Visitor Centre, near Aviemore.”

SSEN Transmission’s lead project manager, Archie Munro, says: “To help share the experience of watching one of Scotland’s iconic species with a wider audience, we recently introduced a live webcam to provide a birds-eye view of this stunning bird and we are delighted this osprey webcam is already attracting a lot of interest.”

When will the chicks hatch?

It is thought that the first egg was laid on Thursday, April 21, so the female parent will be more present than in previous weeks.

The eggs usually incubate for about five weeks so chicks may begin to hatch at the end of May.

“The camera angle could be a little bit higher but they have built the nest up so we should be able to see the tops of eggs and chicks in about five or six weeks’ time,” says Jason.

“Then the parents will come and go feeding them.”

How long will the birds stay for?

The chicks should learn to fly by the end of July but will continue to be fed by the adults until they leave, which will be anytime in the first two weeks of September.

Ospreys are migratory and they will head to West Africa in early September before returning to the UK in early April.

View from above the nesting area
View from above the nesting area. Picture: Alan Crane.

“Since the installation of our purpose-built nesting platform back in 2014, the ospreys have become synonymous with our work in the area,” says SSEN’s Mr Munro.

“It’s been an absolute joy to see them return to nest each year and re-join the local team before migrating south again for the winter.”

Will the webcam stay on during the winter?

The camera will be left in the same location over the winter but streaming will cease from the middle to end of October.

“The resident birds will migrate in September but we will keep the camera streaming until the middle or end of October because there will be stragglers landing on it,” adds Jason.

“We will come back in February to early March, do maintenance and switch it back on for the whole process to begin again.”

How is the live feed powered?

The Alyth system is completely autonomous. It is powered by solar panels and is live-streamed by 4G using the sun’s energy to power infra-red cameras.

Jason Fathers at the top of the nesting tower in Alyth
Jason Fathers at the top of the nesting tower. Picture: by Alan Crane.

Jason says: “The solar panels collect energy and store it in batteries that carry on powering it overnight.

“It can stand three or four days of not much sun but beyond then it might switch off.

“But the sun is getting a lot higher now so a lot more energy is coming in so it is unlikely to do that.”

How rare are ospreys?

Ospreys formerly inhabited much of Britain but heavy persecution, mainly by Victorian egg and skin collectors, led to their extinctions in England in 1840 and largely in Scotland from 1916 to 1954.

They then colonised naturally in the late 1950s in Lake Garten and their numbers have been building ever since.

There are currently an estimated 300 pairs in the UK, with most in Scotland.

“They are what we would call an uncommon species,” says Jason.

“Because they are an apex predator their numbers will never be very very high because they exclusively feed on fish that are very high up the food chain.

“You can’t have loads of apex predators because everything below it would disappear.

“British ospreys like open spaces and fishing areas. They feed on fish exclusively so need to be relatively close to water and in Scotland there are a lot of lochs and fish.”

Which is the best link to watch the live feed?

The YouTube URL may change if there are technical issues so this is the fail-safe master link.

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