Loch Arkaig nestcam Osprey sighted in Senegal

Rannoch was photographed by Senegal-based French ornithologist Jean-Marie Dupart on January 23.

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A Lochaber osprey whose name went to Mars thanks to NASA has been spotted and photographed in Senegal, West Africa.

The bird, named Rannoch, fledged at Loch Arkaig Pine Forest in 2019 along with its sibling Mallie.

A live webcam has operated from the nest since 2017 with support from players of People’s Postcode Lottery. Hundreds of thousands of fans around the world have watched a total of six chicks raised on the nest over the years, but this is the first sighting of one in its wintering grounds.

The bird was identified by its blue leg ring bearing the number JJ2. Senegal-based French ornithologist Jean-Marie Dupart photographed it on January 23 at the Sine-Saloum Delta national park and UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The photographer reported his sighting to Dr Tim Mackrill of Roy Dennis Wildlife Foundation who collates information on tagged British ospreys and word was sent back from there to Woodland Trust Scotland.

Rannoch was named in honour of Woodland Trust Scotland volunteer Liz Bracken who watches the nest via telescope from the other side of the loch and reports on the ospreys’ activity.

‘I am delighted to see Rannoch is doing well in Africa,’ said Liz.

‘How extraordinary to see our osprey 3,000 miles away in Senegal. You cannot be anything other than in awe of these birds and the lives they lead. This will whet everyone’s appetite for the start of the 2022 breeding season.’

The Loch Arkaig nest camera will be online again from mid-March, with ospreys expected back around the start of April.

Woodland Trust Scotland and charity Arkaig Community Forest bought the spectacular 2,500 acre site in 2016. Their aim is to restore native woodland habitats; re-connect local people with the management and stewardship of the site and use the woods to underpin sustainable rural development in the nearby communities of Achnacarry, Bunarkaig and Clunes.

When NASA invited the public to submit names to fly aboard the Mars mission, it caught the eye of one of the fans of the Loch Arkaig webcam. She nominated the names of the 2019 osprey family – Louis, Aila, Mallie and Rannoch. The mission blasted off in summer 2020 and the Perseverance Rover with the names on board reached the surface of Mars last year.

Louis and Aila 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. In 2020, they raised Doddie, Vera and Captain with an audience of nearly 400,000 watching online.

In 2021, Aila failed to return and Louis followed a new female to another tree. Hopes are high that a new young pair, who occupied the nest for a little while last year, will return and breed this year.

Felling and extraction of 70,000 tonnes of non-native timber is currently under way at the forest while the ospreys are away. The mammoth effort will free remaining native trees to take back the site in one of the biggest Caledonian pinewood restorations ever attempted.

Photograph: Rannoch was photographed by Senegal-based French ornithologist Jean-Marie Dupart on January 23. NO_F06_ArkaigOsprey_JJ2inSenegalCreditJean-MarieDupart