Demonstrating just how hardy wildlife can be, EJ, the famous female osprey at RSPB Loch Garten, is proud mum once again to a newly hatched osprey chick.
Just three weeks ago, nest followers were horrified to see EJ the osprey faithfully incubating her three eggs, blanketed in snow and surrounded by a five inch deep "snow doughnut".
However, her devotion and dedication has paid off and staff, volunteers and osprey followers are celebrating the arrival of chick number one from the clutch of three.
EJ, 20 this year, had seemed a little restless throughout the day and dedicated Loch Garten webcam watchers first noticed a telltale "cheep" at around 7.30pm on the evening of Tuesday May 16, after the Osprey Centre had closed for the day. Sure enough, EJ stood up to reveal the newly hatched chick later on that night, much to the delight of fans across the globe.
RSPB Loch Garten’s Chris Tilbury said: "After the horrendous weather conditions at the end of April, plus EJ’s ripe-old-age, it’s been a nerve-wracking wait to see if these eggs would hatch. Everyone’s just delighted and there’s a real buzz about the centre – we’re all desperate to get a view of the chick and to see it being fed by EJ. We’re hoping that the remaining two eggs will also hatch over the next couple of days.
"The hatching of an osprey chick is always cause for celebration, but each year that EJ returns, our delight is mixed with a little apprehension.
"She’s the most successful female osprey ever at this nest, but this is her 14th breeding season here and her fertility may well be waning. But she’s come up trumps yet again – this is her 26th chick to hatch at this nest and we have high hopes that by the end of the week she’ll have chicks 27 and 28."
Visitors to the Osprey Centre have been treated to views of dad, Odin, returning to the nest with fish and EJ tearing off tiny chunks to gently feed to the chick.
Chris added: "It’s the best time to visit the Loch Garten Osprey Centre, especially if we get two more chicks, as there’ll be plenty of action with Odin having to bring in enough fish to feed his growing family. His record catch in one day is nine fish, so there should be plenty to see."
Loch Garten is famous as being the home of breeding ospreys since the 1950s and was where they first returned after becoming extinct as a breeding species in the early twentieth century. The RSPB has been protecting ospreys at Loch Garten since 1958 and 2017 will mark the 59th season of "Operation Osprey".