LONDON – Birders are waxing poetic over a female osprey named Lady — she's lived three times longer than average and has faithfully returned to the same Scottish loch for over two decades.
Over 130,000 people watched the imposing bird of prey on a webcam the day after she returned to the banks of the Loch of the Lowes, a lake in Perthshire, Scotland last week. Lady had completed an annual 3,000-mile (5,000-kilometer) migration from west Africa to the banks of the same Scottish lake for the 21st consecutive year.
Most ospreys have an average life span of around eight years, but Lady is estimated to be 26. The raptor dines on fish and can reach nearly 2-feet (60-centimeters) tall with a wingspan up to 6 feet (2 meters).
On Sunday, Lady's most recent mate — an 11-year-old male who first appeared at the Loch of the Lowes last year — came back and settled himself into her nest. Ospreys usually mate for life, but Lady's long lifespan means she has outlived most of her partners.
"She's the most incredible sight, and it's been amazing to see her mate return today too," said Jonathan Pinnick, assistant manager of the Loch of the Lowes visitor center. "She's a real draw for the center."
This year's sighting of Lady, who has a unique lightning bolt-shaped defect on the iris of her right eye, was even more special as she appeared unwell last year and rangers had feared she would not survive the migration.
Lady hatched two fledgling osprey last year and rangers are watching to see if she is still fertile this year.
Her return has captured the imagination of bird lovers around the world, who follow her movements through a webcam and blog set up by The Scottish Wildlife Trust that runs the Loch of the Lowes nature reserve.
Ospreys were once a common sight in Britain but almost became extinct in the 19th century after people collected their eggs.
"Fashionable Victorian gentlemen used to go for walks and pick up osprey eggs as a hobby, without really thinking through the consequences," said Pinnick.
Osprey numbers are now increasing slowly but there are still only around 250 pairs of osprey in Scotland.
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