Out of this world experience for Loch Arkaig ospreys

From left, Mallie, Rannoch, Aila and Louis.

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Loch Arkaig ospreys Louis and Aila along with their 2019 chicks Mallie and Rannoch have achieved universal fame after having their names engraved on chips carried by the NASA 2020 Rover Perseverance which landed on Mars last Thursday.

Over the past few years viewers world wide have been tuning in to the Woodland Trust’s live webcam to watch the antics of ospreys Louis and Aila and their offspring, and one dedicated viewer, Linda Keene from Cumbernauld, decided that the feathered family deserved wider recognition.

Dedicated webcam viewer Linda Keene registered the ospreys for the flight to Mars in 2019.

Back in 2019 Linda took part in the NASA scheme to put names on the Mars Rover 2020 mission which departed from Cape Canaveral on July 20 last year. At the time of the nomination Louis and Aila were looking after chicks Mallie and Rannoch on the nest.

‘I am am a big fan of our beloved Aila and Louis,’ said Linda.

‘They go through all kinds of adversity and I worry about the chicks surviving and Aila getting attacked on the nest and the eggs being eaten etc.

‘Like lots of ardent fans I put in night shifts watching. I thought of the Mars Rover going through so much to achieve its goals at that time and thought our wonderful ospreys have such amazing goals to achieve in their lives just to survive. They are simply amazing and their names deserved to be onboard together with their weans.’

Perseverance launched to the Red Planet on a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket on July 30, 2020, and successfully touched down in Jezero Crater last week. The rover will explore Mars to search for signs of life, study the planet’s geology and much more.

George Anderson, from the Woodland Trust, said: ‘The Loch Arkaig ospreys became very famous last year when they became a lockdown hit with people stuck at home desperate to connect with nature. I never thought their fame would stretch this far though!’

The nestcam at Loch Arkaig Pine Forest is supported by players of People’s Postcode Lottery and is due to be switched on again in mid March in time for the expected return of Louis and Aila in early April.

The pair raised their first chick, Lachlan in 2017. In 2018 the nest failed after a pine marten raided the eggs. In 2019 they raised Mallie and Rannoch and in 2020 chicks Doddie, Vera and Captain attracted an online audience of nearly 400,000.