The many happy returns of the world's oldest osprey

Record-breaking bird completes 3,000-mile flight from Africa to Scotland – for 20th time


She's the Grand Old Lady of the Loch – a female osprey who has now returned for a record 20th consecutive year to her Scottish nesting site.

The bird has again completed the 3,000-mile migration from her wintering grounds in West Africa to her summer breeding territory at Loch of the Lowes in Perthshire, confounding wildlife experts in the process.

At the ripe old age of 25 years old, she has lived more than three times the average lifespan of an osprey. The fish hawks began breeding again in Scotland in the 1950s after being driven to near extinction.

The bird is thought to be the oldest breeding female of her kind ever recorded in the UK. Ospreys' lives are often cut short by one of the numerous hazards they face on their long migrations to and from West Africa. The total distance she has travelling during her yearly migrations could have taken her more than half way to the Moon.

"We are truly amazed at the tenacity and endurance of this particular female osprey," said Emma Rawling, Perthshire ranger of the Scottish Wildlife Trust. "Defying her age, she has made it back to us again, and from initial sightings she looks like she is in remarkably good condition. She is now waiting for her mate to arrive to begin her 20th breeding season."

Over the years, Ms Rawling said, this one bird has laid 55 eggs, 46 of which hatched into chicks which have now left the nest. "She is a hardy old bird, that's for sure, and I can't wait to watch her progress over the next few months," she said.

The osprey was spotted landing on her usual tree-top nesting site, known as an eyrie, at 2pm on Tuesday. It is expected that her regular breeding partner, a male osprey identified with a green leg ring, will arrive within a week. This resident male will then chase away any other interloping males before initiating the breeding process.

"Usually after mating, we would expect the female to lay between two to four eggs in early April, and six weeks later the eggs should hatch," Ms Rawling said. "However, as a very old bird, her fertility is now in doubt. We will be watching the nest with bated breath to see if our female can hatch any chicks again this year."

Once the first egg is laid, Scottish Wildlife Trust staff, aided by nearly 70 volunteers, will stage a round-the-clock watch to safeguard the ospreys and their eggs from threats including thieves and poachers who steal unhatched eggs for private collections.

Using a camera hidden in the bird's nest, live footage of the events within will be aired over the course of the season, both in the Loch of the Lowes visitor centre, near Dunkeld on Tayside, and on the Scottish Wildlife Trust website.

"More than 20,000 visitors come to Loch of the Lowes each year to enjoy watching the osprey, and our high definition nest camera makes viewing the action a far more exciting and intimate experience," said Peter Ferns, the visitor centre manager.

Once a common sight in Britain, the osprey was all but extinct by 1916 because of persecution. After receiving a renewed foothold in the Scottish Highlands in the 1950s, the species has slowly spread back across Scotland and there are now an estimated 200 breeding pairs. In recent years, ospreys have also recolonised England and Wales.

High life: The Old Lady of the Loch

6,000 miles

Distance travelled by the Old Lady of the Loch every year during her migration. She has flown an estimated 150,000 miles in her lifetime.

25 years

The bird's probable age.

55 eggs

The number of eggs she has laid, 46 of which have hatched.

peopleFrankie Boyle responds to referendum result in characteristically offensive style
Arts and Entertainment
Highs and lows of the cast's careers since 2004
New Articles
i100... with this review
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Cover Supervisor

£75 - £90 per day + negotiable: Randstad Education Group: Are you a cover supe...

Marketing Manager - Leicestershire - £35,000

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager (CIM, B2B, MS Offi...

Marketing Executive (B2B and B2C) - Rugby, Warwickshire

£22000 - £25000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A highly successful organisation wit...

SEN Coordinator + Teacher (SENCO)

£1 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Job Purpose To work closely with the he...

Day In a Page

Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam