In 1959, the Loch Garten ospreys became overnight stars, when the decision was taken to open up the only UK osprey nest to public viewing. That first year, in just seven weeks, 14,000 people made the journey to witness first-hand the life of the young osprey family and history was made.

But it had been a long and sometimes arduous journey to get to that point – the result of the meticulously planned Operation Osprey. The team of RSPB staff, local residents and many volunteers was characterised by steely determination, unwavering commitment, admirable tenacity and above all, a dedicated passion to see these magnificent fish-eating raptors re-establish in the Highlands of Scotland. Featuring Top Secret memos, emergency dashes north, sleepless nights in make-shift hides, encounters with bullish egg-thieves, a caravan kitchen, microphones, midgies, barbed-wire, bikes and binoculars – this story has all the hallmarks of a classic Sunday afternoon thriller.

The legacy of those foreword-thinking pioneers, led from the front by George Waterston, is difficult to quantify; ospreys are now as much a part of a UK summer as swifts or swallows and thousands of people world-wide are captivated by the stories of our many pairs of breeding UK ospreys. The Loch Garten Osprey Centre still opens its doors every spring to welcome thousands of visitors to gaze out across the Caledonian bog woodland to the iconic Scots pine tree on which the world-famous osprey nest sits. It’s a powerful experience – one which can change lives, which unites families across generations and friends across continents.

And what of the next sixty years? As long as the ospreys continue to return to the Loch Garten nest, Operation Osprey will endure, but there’s another story of optimism to be told at this iconic RSPB nature reserve, one which holds as much hope for the future as the 1950s held for the UK ospreys.

Date(s) - 16/08/2019
4:30 pm - 4:50 pm

Merlin Lecture Theatre