Wildlife enthusiasts are on tenterhooks to see if an osprey nest in the Scottish Highlands which became an online hit during the 2020 lockdown will host a family this year after a pair mated on it then flew away.
The resident pair, Louis and Aila, usually return to the nest at Loch Arkaig in Lochaber in early April, but high winds held up many migrating birds this year.
Fans watching the nest on the osprey cam feared it would remain empty after only the male Louis returned from migration and then followed a new female off to another nest several kilometres away when there was no sign of Aila.
New hope emerged on Tuesday afternoon when two ospreys touched down and mated on the nest, though they flew off after an hour or so.
They have not yet returned, but Woodland Trust Scotland hopes they will come back and settle on the nest.
George Anderson, of the trust, said: “Louis was busy on the nest for a couple of weeks but eventually he followed a new female off to another tree in the forest.
“It is clear they have settled down to breed and we think there could be eggs. We have been waiting to see if other birds would take up residence on the camera tree but had given up hope when this new pair arrived.
“It has been something of a rollercoaster of hope and despair. With no signs of ospreys for over a week and time marching on, we thought the camera’s season was over.
“Then a pair arrived on Tuesday afternoon spending over an hour on the nest before disappearing again. The online following will be glued to their screens this week to see if this new pair comes back. They are likely our last chance of family life on the nest this year.”
It is not known what happened to Aila.
It is possible she may have perished on migration, been taken by a predator in West Africa or been blown off course.
Local group Arkaig Community Forest bought Loch Arkaig Pine Forest in partnership with the Woodland Trust in 2016.
The live nest camera, supported by players of People’s Postcode Lottery, has been streaming footage of breeding ospreys from the forest since 2017.
Last year the osprey cam drew an audience of more than 400,000 who watched as Louis and Aila raised their chicks Doddie, Vera and Captain.