Highlands & Islands

Famous Cairngorms osprey may have died of old age

EJ's nest Image copyright RSPB Scotland/Carnyx
Image caption EJ's nest is empty and overgrown with grass and weeds

Conservationists suspect one of Scotland's best-known ospreys has died.

EJ is the most successful breeding female osprey at Loch Garten, an RSPB Scotland reserve near Boat of Garten in the Cairngorms.

Ospreys migrate to Scotland from west Africa to breed. Until now, 21-year-old EJ has always returned to Loch Garten by 4 April.

Reserve staff now hope her nest, which is empty and overgrown with grass will be used by another pair of ospreys.

Last month, RSPB Scotland raised concerns for EJ after her late return for a 16th season. Reserve staff, who have written a tribute to the osprey, said 21 was "an amazing age for an osprey.

Over previous seasons, 25 of EJ's chicks have fledged.

But the raptor is not only known for her breeding success. She has also gained fame for the adversities she has overcome in previous seasons.

Image copyright RSPB Loch Garten/CarnyxWild
Image caption EJ at her nest in the Cairngorms last year

In 2017, she refused to leave her clutch of eggs after they were buried under snow.

Another season saw EJ forced to defend her nest against a rival female.

Reserve staff monitoring CCTV images watched as EJ's eggs rolled around the nest while the pair scuffled.

EJ has also had to defend her nest from crows, buzzards, a white-tailed sea eagle and a hungry pine marten.

Back in 2007, she incubated two separate clutches to rival males but they all perished.

And in 2015, a jealous mate kicked eggs that EJ had laid after breeding with another male bird out of the nest.

Image copyright RSPB Scotland/Carnyx Wild
Image caption EJ defending her nest against a pine marten

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