BIRD watchers are being advised to keep their distance from an osprey nest in Lochaber in a bid to avoid the iconic birds becoming stressed.
The warning has come from RSPB Scotland after growing numbers of people began gathering at the remote lochside site, about seven miles from Spean Bridge, in the hope of catching a glimpse of the adult pair and their chicks.
Officers from the conservation charity say the birds can be stressed by enthusiasts venturing too close to their nest and this can affect their behaviour towards their offspring.
Stuart Benn, RSPB conservation manager for the north of Scotland, said: “It’s always a fine balance to strike between wanting people to enjoy the countryside and wildlife and asking people to keep clear of certain areas.
“This is a relatively well-known site and we certainly don’t want to give the impression that only the ‘chosen few’ should be allowed to admire these magnificent birds, but we do have to highlight the possible threats.
“There are signs in the area warning that if people go near or climb up to the nest, the chicks may jump out before they’re ready. In that case there’s a chance they won’t survive.
“There is also a risk that if the adults feel in danger they may think it is better that they get away.
“If there is any suggestion that the birds are uncomfortable they will tell you in their distinct yipping and yelping noise. If you hear that noise, get back immediately.”
Mr Benn said the threat was comparatively low at this late stage in the breeding season.
“By now, if the young haven’t flown the nest they’ll be on the point of flying.
Ospreys generally lay their eggs in late April or early May. By the time you get to this stage the adults don’t tend to abandon large chicks because they have invested so much in them.
“In a few weeks’ time they will be heading off to Africa.”