Locheilnet brings the World Wide Web to Lochaber, but it also takes Lochaber out to the world. Nothing illustrates this better than Woodland Trust Scotland’s osprey nest camera at Loch Arkaig.
Statistics in for the 2018 season reveal the live stream was watched right across the globe. After the UK the most avid osprey-watchers were in France, USA and Denmark but the camera reached as far afield as Peru, New Zealand and Australia.
The nest camera accounts for a remarkable 80% of the comments made on the Woodland Trust website since 2013!
The Loch Arkaig osprey camera, supported by players of People’s Postcode Lottery, first ran in 2017 when novice parents Louis and Aila raised their first chick, Lachlan. The 2018 season has gone less smoothly. Louis and Aila lost all three of their eggs to a pine marten in early May. Then later in the month a lightning strike cooked the circuits in the camera. Sadly the camera remained dark for the rest of the season, but the birds stayed around bonding with each other and the nest. The world-wide audience was kept up to speed by reports from Woodland Trust volunteer Liz Bracken who can see the nest by telescope from her home across the loch.
The live stream will be back for the 2019 season from mid-March. Fingers crossed for fewer problems – biological or electrical!
It is a huge technical challenge to get the pictures from the nest out to the world. Unlike some other nest cameras there is not a handy visitor centre with electrical supply nearby. The camera operation at the nest is all powered by a solar panel. The signal is then beamed across the loch to enter the Locheilnet systems. A detailed background on the camera can be viewed here: http://stories.woodlandtrust.org.uk/ospreys/index.html
The camera itself is supplied by a company in the south of England. It has great expertise but is not terribly handy for quick fixed on site if something goes wrong. So the system being fitted for 2019 will be put in as modules that can be taken apart and reassembled easily without cutting wires. Both a Locheilnet volunteer and Woodland Trust’s osprey contractor will be trained in handling various potential problems at the camera. They do say lighting never strikes twice in the same place, but just in case extra efforts have been made to ground all the equipment.
Woodland Trust loves working in partnership with Locheilnet to make this project happen. Loch Arkaig Pine Forest was bought with money from countless people who will never be able to visit the site – so it is great to be able to share a slice of the wild forest with the world.