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Ospreys return after lightning strike and pine marten raid

Louis and Aila have arrived back at their nest at Loch Arkaig near Lochaber for 2019.

An osprey nest which was struck by lightning and raided by a pine marten last year has welcomed back its resident pair for the 2019 season.

Louis and Aila arrived at the Loch Arkaig nest, near Lochaber together around 7pm on Thursday night, and began mating attempts within moments.

Louis was seen delivering his first fish of the season to Aila on Friday.

In 2018, three eggs were taken by a pine marten. The birds stayed around despite this but then the camera went dark after being struck by lightning.

Now Woodland Trust Scotland hope to see eggs laid before the end of the month.

George Anderson of Woodland Trust Scotland said: "It is such an emotional moment to see the birds back on the nest. They look in fantastic shape. Fingers crossed they will have a more successful year."

Camera equipment used to monitor the nest has been refurbished over the winter, with a second back-up camera installed in case the first one fails.

While the tree had previously been proofed against pine martens, a large branch had blown over in high winds, which appears to have been how the animal gained access to the canopy and the ospreys eggs.

Branches nearby have now been removed and electrical tape fitted higher up the trunk to deter pine martens with a mild shock if they reach that far.

Mr Anderson added: "Pine marten predation is totally natural and we can't guarantee the nest won't be raided again.

"We take a few reasonable steps to give this nest added protection as we want people to be able to see the osprey family successfully raise some youngsters, but martens are not a threat to the survival of ospreys as a species.

"It is important to remember that both martens and ospreys were nearly wiped out by people, but are well able to cope with each other. It may be that the best protection is Aila's hard won experience. Last time a marten came she flew off the nest. Sitting tight is often a better tactic."

Loch Arkaig is the most challenging nest camera site in the UK, as there is no visitor centre, electricity supply or internet connection onsite. Everything is solar powered and the signal is beamed across the loch before it can enter the Lochielnet system and then out to the world.

The live stream will run until the autumn when it is hoped some chicks will be fledged.

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