At our October meeting Ralph Todd, with technical assistance from his wife Brenda, imparted his knowledge and enthusiasm for Ospreys in an illustrated talk entitled ‘Operation Osprey’. In the 1970’s Ralph and Brenda would at weekends regularly drive from the South East to Loch Garten in Scotland to act as volunteers to help protect and observe Ospreys that had chosen this beautiful and serene area in the Cairngorms to breed and raise their young. Although their accommodation consisted of only a few caravans and tents they revelled in the camaraderie this tight knit community shared (a bath in a local hotel by prior arrangement was the only luxury in those days). On a rota with fellow volunteers they recorded the activities of the Ospreys day and night and became familiar with these birds as well as other wildlife in the vicinity.
Ralph explained that Ospreys were at one time plentiful in this country but during medieval times their numbers were decimated by shooting and egg collecting, which makes the protection of these birds such an important project. The Osprey nest site at Loch Garten has been active since the 1950’s when Osprey first returned to Scotland with the nest site being continually monitored and protected by volunteers throughout the breeding season ever since 1958.
After their early retirement from the BBC World Service, Ralph and Brenda have been able to spend more time at Loch Garten which has now become the RSPB Loch Garten Osprey Centre. They have been heartened by the advanced technology and other facilities at this site, including hi-definition CCTV which is able to give clear close up views of the birds on the nest, a new reception area, visitor centre and hide, where it is now possible to accommodate a large number of people in comfortable surroundings. Thankfully Ospreys now breed across the UK – a real conservation success story, which all started at Loch Garten.
After a break for refreshments, Ed Miller advised us that there are currently over 100 letters of objection to the proposals laid out in the planning application for the Bluebird Café expansion, with over a week to go to the deadline for comments.
Tricia Hall concluded the meeting with news of the successful walk to view Autumn Fruits at Highdown Hill and commented on the wonderful sunsets we have been fortunate to experience over the last few days. Also she reported that although late in the season she had spotted a Clouded Yellow butterfly when walking on the Village Green.