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Lisa Trainer films the remarkable return of the 'Lady of the Loch'

For more than two decades an osprey known simply as 'Lady' has returned to Scotland, drawing attention to the country's role as a wildlife haven.

By Bryan KayCorrespondent / January 9, 2012

Lisa Trainer (on right, with a friend), a wildlife documentary maker from Dundee, Scotland, has captured the remarkable tale of 'Lady' the osprey on film, in an effort to raise greater awareness of the bird-of-prey's re-emergence in Scotland.

Courtesy of Lisa Trainer


Fife, Scotland

They call her "Lady of the Loch."

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For 21 years, she has been coming to the Loch of Lowes Nature Reserve near Dunkeld in Perthshire, Scotland. But recent times have seen doubt cast over whether or not this osprey afforded near-regal status – credited as the country's oldest and considered a savior of the species in the north of Britain – could go on much longer.

It is a story that has already garnered national media attention. Now Lisa Trainer, a wildlife documentary masters degree graduate from Dundee, Scotland, has captured the remarkable tale on film, bidding to raise greater awareness of the bird-of-prey's re-emergence in her home country.

 IN PICTURES: Endangered animals

Ms. Trainer, who studied at Salford University in Manchester, England, hopes to propagate not only Lady's back-from-the-brink-of-death story but also Scotland's reputation for being a wildlife haven.

"Lady the osprey had less than a 20 percent chance of returning for her 21st consecutive year to Loch of the Lowes at Dunkeld. But I like a challenge and I knew that if she did make it back then it would be very emotive," explains Trainer, who took inspiration from a meeting with Sir David Attenborough, the man regarded as Britain's best-known natural history filmmaker.

"Her story writes itself and has a natural sense of drama and many questions to be answered," Trainer says. "Will she return? Can she still breed? Will she survive to make a return flight? There's more mystery surrounding Lady's journey, too, since she's not tagged – no-one really knows where she goes each year.

"She has a distinctive mark in her eye, like a lightning bolt, which reveals that it is the same bird returning each year. Thanks to the webcam on the nest you can get a good look at her eye. Scottish Wildlife Trust bloggers have named her Lady and her new partner  – who is her third and whom she first mated with in 2010 – have named him Laird."

The 27-year-old osprey returned to Dunkeld last year from her winter retreat in Africa after surviving a mystery illness in 2010. During the course of her visits to the area, she has produced 49 chicks, doing "more than most," Ms. Trainer says, to lift Scotland's once-faltering osprey population.

Hopes are now high Lady will make an incredible 22nd visit this year – despite the eggs she laid last year failing to produce a chick.

"She's defied predictions so far, and there's no reason why she can't continue her reputation as Britain's oldest breeding osprey," Trainer explains. "The osprey is a species that was once persecuted to extinction in Britain. But Lady's contribution alone has played a significant part in boosting their numbers north of the border."

Trainer, now volunteering with the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds and the Scottish Wildlife Trust, made the short film, titled "Lady of the Loch," as part of her masters course. She spent five months traveling between her apartment in Dundee and the Loch of Lewes in order to complete it.

The location posed only minor challenges to filming, she notes, while the enlistment of a local micro-light aircraft pilot enabled the type of atmospheric aerial shooting evident in the documentary.

However, the fact the chances of Lady returning at all were so low meant even pitching the idea to her professors – there were no signs of the osprey beforehand – was an idea fraught with an element of risk.

"Just the simple fact she came back was worthy of a short film," adds the former journalist, "and I hoped it would raise awareness of how amazing these raptors are."

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