Wednesday, 19 April 2017

More than one way to catch a fish

Even before we went, one of the highlights we were looking forward to was a day at the Rothiemurchus fish farm. Not to do any fishing but to spend a day in a hide photographing the ospreys which come in to feed there. The farm have worked out it is worth a few fish a day to offset against the fee they can charge for the hide. So, at 5.30am, just as it was getting light, we rocked up at the fish farm to be met by Neil, our osprey spotter, and taken to the hides.

There are 5 hides in all, surrounding a small pool. We were the only people here that day so we had the choice of which one to use. After getting our gear set up we settled down. Neil gave us a walkie-talkie and he headed off a few hundred yards away. If an osprey came near he would alert us to get ready and prime us it was diving as our eye-lines were pretty restricted.
Within no more than 30 minutes our first osprey came in, circling first then having a couple of abortive dives.

Finally, it seemed to give up and sat in a tree opposite for a bit before flying off.
Another period of quiet then ensued before the walkie-talkie crackled not life with an alert for an incoming osprey. This time it was successful.

Three things surprised us: the speed with which it arrived, how far under the water it went, and the size of the fish it caught. It certainly helped to have Neil give us the heads up that it was coming in, but it was still a frantic few seconds trying to rack and focus on it, especially as it was still really quite dark.
For the rest of the morning though we had no further osprey visits. There was action from gulls, goosanders, ducks and herons but no ospreys.

One pair of pheasants did their best to keep us amused though.

About 10 we called a break and went for breakfast and a stroll around Rothiemurchus wood. This proved a good trip on it's own with cracking sightings of crested tit

several treecreepers and lots of crossbills, though too high to photograph,

and a bonus of a male capercaillie flying across our path.

After lunch, about 3, we went back to the fish farm for another go, this time without Neil though, so we would have to concentrate a bit more.
Initially it was a bit quiet. The main interest was from a heron, which after talking the edge of the pond for a few minutes caught and proceeded to eat a most enormous trout.

Quit amazing and grotesque at the same time.
After that things started to hot up. In quite quick succession we had three ospreys come in to fish, all successfully. Two came straight in and grabbed their meal, one circled a few times but all got a fish on their first dive. The photos below are a montage from the two of us of the action.
Osprey 1:

Osprey 2:

Osprey 3:

We left as it was getting dark and other ospreys were still hovering around waiting their turn to grab tea. A brilliant day and a true privilege to get to see them that well.