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Last Updated: Tuesday, 3 July 2007, 08:17 GMT 09:17 UK
No chicks impacts on bird centre
An osprey heads for its nest. Picture by Chris Gomersall/RSPB Images
The ospreys will begin leaving to winter in west Africa during August
Visitor numbers to a bird of prey centre have been affected by the abrupt end to its breeding season.

Osprey EJ had incubated two separate clutches to rival males at Loch Garten, near Aviemore, but they all perished.

Site manager Richard Thaxton conceded that this and bad weather had impacted on visits to the centre, but said it remained open as usual.

A male called Henry kicked the eggs fathered by rival from a nest before his own clutch failed.

It was thought that he accidently trampled on one of his three offspring while trying to free himself from a piece of fishing line.

Days later the two remaining chicks also died.

Mr Thaxton said visitors will still see plenty of activity at the nest.

He said: "Visitor numbers are down a little, but I don't know whether that is down to disappointment or terrible weather.

"We had a quiet weekend, but the weather was pretty poor."

Mr Thaxton said he has not had a chance to study visitors numbers, but said the many twists and turns of this year and had captured a great deal of interest locally and worldwide.

The feathered soap opera began when EJ mated with a male called VS and not her long-term partner Henry, who arrived at Loch Garten from wintering in west Africa later than expected.

Henry is still providing fish for EJ and answering her calls, so she's keeping him well trained
Richard Thaxton
Site manager

Jealous Henry destroyed VS's before he went on to father a fresh three eggs with EJ.

Mr Thaxton said: "There was a lot of interest. Visitors were hanging on our every word and people visited our website.

"This year has seen an incredible and amazing sequence of events. I'm just sorry it didn't have a fairytale ending."

The deaths of the chicks had local and wide reaching affect with messages of commiseration e-mailed coming from as far as New Zealand.

Mr Thaxton said: "Locally, people are very aware of what is happening with the osprey. I was in the local garage and the lady there said she was sorry to hear about the chicks."

Meanwhile, life goes on at the nest site.

"There is still lots of activity," said Mr Thaxton. "Henry is still providing fish for EJ and answering her calls, so she's keeping him well trained.

"There is something happening every day. We've got a fantastic story here."

EJ is expected to migrate to west Africa in early-mid August, while Henry will be the last to go at the end of August.

Grantown on Spey
Many people come here to see a whole range of wildlife. The ospreys are one they want to tick off, but they also want to see other wildlife such as capercaillie
Chris Hirst
Grantown Business Association

It takes a month for the raptors to reach their wintering sites.

Mystery surrounds why Henry was so late in returning to Loch Garten, but it is suspected he may have spent the winter somewhere further away than usual.

His antics, meanwhile, may end in more tears.

Mr Thaxton said: "Ospreys are suspected to pair for life, but I have heard of instances where birds fail there is a sort of divorce and new partners are sought.

"That is just speculation and is something we hope won't happen here.

"EJ and Henry have come through a lot and seem to be pretty strong."

Chris Hirst, of Grantown Business Association, said crowds drawn to the area by the Loch Garten ospreys benefited the local economy.

However, he said the lack of chicks was unlikely to affect business.

He said: "Many people come here to see a whole range of wildlife. The ospreys are one they want to tick off, but they also want to see other wildlife such as capercaillie."

Loch's last two osprey chicks die
21 Jun 07 |  Highlands and Islands
Osprey stands on and kills chick
15 Jun 07 |  Highlands and Islands
Staff ecstatic as chick hatches
14 Jun 07 |  Highlands and Islands
Close watch on osprey's egg feat
21 May 07 |  Highlands and Islands
Jealous osprey's eggs incubating
15 May 07 |  Highlands and Islands
Jealous osprey makes up with mate
11 May 07 |  Highlands and Islands
Bird kicks rival's eggs from nest
24 Apr 07 |  Highlands and Islands


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