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Osprey viewing centres open to public

24/05/2004

Visitors to the Tweed Valley Forest Park will soon be able to watch osprey chicks live as two viewing centres in the Borders open their doors this coming Saturday (29th May).

Thanks to an automatic camera close to a secret eyrie, live pictures with sound are to be beamed to centres in Glentress Forest and Kailzie Gardens, both just outside Peebles.

Both centres are expected to bring more tourists to the area, giving a boost to the local Borders economy. An increase in forest attractions in the Tweed Valley has resulted in 364,000 visitors flocking to the forest park, a rise of 130,000 on last year.

This year is also particularly important for the centres because they are celebrating a number of events under the 'Ospreys' 50th' - it is 50 years since ospreys returned to breed in Scotland. Another feather in the cap for Glentress and Kailzie Gardens is that they've been shortlisted as one of the top six Scottish places to go wildlife watching in the Forestry Commission's Wildwoods website campaign.

Launching the osprey centre at Kailzie Gardens, with the help of local children from Kingsland Primary School in Peebles, Scottish Forestry Minister Allan Wilson said:

"Ospreys are magnificent birds and are an important natural asset of Scotland. Not many people get a chance to see ospreys in the wild, and the viewing centres at Glentress and Kailzie Gardens are a superb way to bring this species closer to people.

"Last year, the osprey centres were a huge success and helped attract many more visitors to the Tweed Valley. The viewing facilities are making forest wildlife more accessible to all, and the increase in visitors eager to see them has positive spin-offs for the local economy.

"The more we understand about the birds the more we all want to protect them. Just recently the Nature Conservation Bill was approved and this is a major step in conservation efforts. The Bill will go a long way to helping protect our rarest birds, just like the osprey."

Forest rangers, together with the RSPB and police's wildlife officers, built and erected an artificial platform in an old Scots Pine tree a couple of years ago. This artificial home is successfully attracting the birds back each year. Currently, the birds are sitting on eggs but chicks are expected in a couple weeks time.

Ospreys mate for life and they have been known to nest on pylons, radio masts and even cranes. Ospreys were wiped from the Scottish skies 88 years ago by relentless human persecution. The last nesting pair were recorded in 1916, but in 1954 ospreys came back. The Scottish population is now an impressive 160 breeding pairs.

The osprey viewing centres are based in Kailzie Gardens, two miles south east of Peebles on the B7062, and in Glentress Forest, on the A72 one mile east of Peebles. Live viewing can be seen from 10am to 5pm each day of the week starting Saturday 29th May.

The Forestry Commission's Wild Woods campaign is highlighting 20 top wildlife viewing sites across Britain, with six of these being in Scotland. To find out more about all Scotland's creatures and the Wild Woods campaign, log on to www.forestry.gov.uk/wildwoods or phone 0845 367 3787 for a free leaflet.

Ospreys' 50th is a partnership project between the Forestry Commission Scotland, RSPB Scotland, the Scottish Wildlife Trust, the Scottish Raptor Study Groups, Highland Foundation for Wildlife and the Tweed Valley Osprey Project. There are other viewing areas for people to see these spectacular fish-eating birds of prey. They include the RSPB Loch Garten Osprey Centre near Aviemore, the Scottish Wildlife Trust's Loch of the Lowes Wildlife Reserve near Dunkeld, and the other Forestry Commission Scotland viewing centre at David Marshall Lodge near Aberfoyle in the Trossachs.

The Tweed Valley Osprey Project is a partnership between Forestry Commission Scotland and Kailzie Gardens and is supported by Scottish Natural Heritage, RSPB Scotland, Lothian and Borders Police, Scottish Borders Tourist Board, Tweed Forum and 'Making Tracks' which is funded by VisitScotland & EC's Leader+ Programme for the Scottish Borders.