Osprey nest believed destroyed is found intact
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Bird lovers in the far north are delighted over news that the osprey nest believed destroyed in Brawlbin Forest, near Loch Calder, is not only still intact but another has been found in the same area.
In a Groat article from last month, it was reported that tree-felling contractors had seemingly destroyed the protected bird's nest not longer after the chicks had fledged and the matter was investigated as a possible wildlife crime.
However, after reading the article Matthew Thompson, director of Munro Harvesting Ltd based in Dingwall which carried out the Brawlbin Forest work, contacted the paper to say that his firm was well "aware of the very important Osprey nest before this harvesting job commenced".
Mr Thompson, who is a keen bird enthusiast himself, said: "We are a locally and family owned business with keen outdoor interests and always treat wildlife and the environment in a respectful and professional manner. We are working hard at improving the public image and knowledge on forestry operations so we are delighted that we can report back with a very positive outcome on the original article."
The osprey is listed as an Amber List species by the RSPB because of its historical decline – due to illegal killing – and low breeding numbers. They are listed as a Schedule 1 species in the Wildlife and Countryside Act.
It is believed that there may be only four breeding pairs left in Caithness. Ospreys also return to previously existing nest structures each year.
Mr Thompson had even better information to reveal, however, with the announcement of another "active" nest in the same area from which osprey chicks had successfully hatched this year.
"We are delighted to announce that this nest, and another that was built on the edge of the site at the start of the year, were both successful with their broods," he said. "We are still treating the nests as being active and will not be tampering with them even though the birds have long left."
Mr Thompson said the nests are still intact and have survived some of the recent stormy weather conditions in the area.
He made it clear that his company had "liaised with the relevant authorities and took the necessary steps" to avoid disturbing the birds during the nesting season.
Michael Thain, a trained zoologist and keen birdwatcher who lives close to Brawlbin Forest, had watched the trees being felled there and was one of the first to draw attention to the perceived "act of vandalism".
On learning that the nest was still intact, Mr Thain said he was "delighted" by the news. He added that he had sent apologies to Matthew Thompson and also Thurso and northwest Caithness councillor Matthew Reiss who he had urged to pursue the perceived wildlife crime.
He said he would go to the area to check on both nests along with fellow birder Roy Dennis. "I’m delighted, of course – although Roy Dennis will be able to size up the likelihood of ospreys returning to trees that no longer have neighbours."
"It's extraordinary that the contractor knows his birds," said Mr Thain.
Councillor Reiss said: "There are a very dedicated group of ornithologists and birdwatchers in the county who strive to look after the many rare species we are privileged to have in Caithness.
"On this occasion there's been a false alarm with good intent, or an honest mistake, and I am delighted to hear that not only has the original nest not been cut down but there is a second pair of ospreys that have successfully raised young in the same general area."
He thinks there may be three breeding pairs in the area now and has been "encouraged by conversations with the contractor responsible for felling the trees".
"He [Matthew Thompson] went out of his way to assure me that he is well aware of these valuable and protected birds and will do his best to avoid disturbing them."
Retired Thurso vet and keen ornithologist Sinclair Manson also expressed his delight over the "good news".
"The contractor is the son of a ringer from the Dingwall area and is familiar with breeding ospreys and has left both nests alone," he said.
"I had a look this afternoon and yes the first nest appears to be still there and surrounded by wind throw. Roy Dennis is planning coming up in February and checking the state of the trees and give some support if necessary."