Loch Arkaig ospreys give Cornwall’s coronavirus lockdown youth a boost

Loch Arkaig ospreys Louis and Aila, arrived back at the nest site on Saturday and Monday, respectively. NO F15 ospreys
Loch Arkaig ospreys Louis and Aila, arrived back at the nest site on Saturday and Monday, respectively. NO F15 ospreys

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Some of Lochaber’s most exotic annual visitors are set to help schoolchildren in Cornwall get through the lockdown imposed to help tackle the coronavirus pandemic.

Osprey pair Louis and Aila returned to their nest site on Loch Arkaig just in the last few days after the long journey northwards from their wintering grounds in West Africa.

A live nest camera, supported by players of People’s Postcode Lottery and operated by Woodland Trust Scotland, has been streaming footage of the family online since 2017. (View at www.woodlandtrust.org.uk/ospreycam)

The antics of Loch Arkaig’s ospreys have enthralled people around the world in recent years and last year was no exception.

Teacher David Richey used the webcam to teach pupils aged 11-16 at St Joseph’s School in Launceston, in Cornwall.

Mr Richey informed Woodland Trust Scotland: ‘Last year, having just discovered this site, I started using it in lessons. Each classroom has a computer, projector and screen. So, during lessons when the children were working on projects or revising for GCSE exams, I would put the live stream up on the screen, generally following a five-minute update on the latest developments.

‘Most of the children had never heard of an osprey before, but all became fascinated and completely hooked. This began around a week before the first hatching and went through the youngster stages of the chicks, so they were very exciting times.

‘Aside from the enjoyment of following the family on a six-foot square screen, they found it very conducive to study. Many of those revising for GCSEs said how much it helped them concentrate on their work to look up from their books every now and again to watch the nest for a minute or so.

‘They found it therapeutic, not just to see the nest, but to follow the story. I made the mistake one day of turning off the sound and there was nearly a riot!

‘I was told, in no uncertain terms, that it was so comforting to hear the sounds of the birds in the background while studying. Having a connection to nature filling one wall of the classroom seemed to help them feel more grounded and eased the stress.

‘Sadly, due to exams being cancelled and schools closed, it doesn’t look as though I’ll be able to repeat it this year, but it’s great to know that there should be many of those children tuning in this year at home.

‘So, thank you so much to all concerned in enabling this wonderful experience and boosting the education of children in more ways than one.’

St Joseph’s school in Cornwall where pupils have watched the antics of the Loch Arkaig ospreys.

Woodland Trust Scotland director Carol Evans said: ‘Many people who will never visit this special woodland helped to buy it four years ago by contributing to our fundraising appeal.

‘The osprey camera was launched with them in mind. We wanted to offer a slice of wild forest life to people near and far. This year, with so many confined at home, this online experience becomes even more precious.’

Sanjay Singh, senior programme manager at People’s Postcode Lottery added: ‘We are delighted that support from our players helps bring this wildlife spectacle to homes across the country, and indeed the world.

‘Contact with the natural world is so important, and while we are staying at home to keep ourselves and each other safe, it’s fantastic that people will be able to continue to see nature in action.’

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Loch Arkaig ospreys Louis and Aila, arrived back at the nest site on Saturday and Monday, respectively.

NO F15 ospreys