Thoughts on a third egg

vlcsnap-2014-04-29-10h23m3eggsAs we had hoped but had not liked to count on, KL produced her third egg during the night of Monday 28th and Tuesday 29th. It is as beautifully marked as the others, and although they are all different it is quite difficult to tell now the sequence of their lay. Of course, it was their variability of pattern and diversity of colour that made them such a prize for egg collectors in the past. (and still is for a minority of criminals). Multiple full clutches were gathered and egg collectors often employed others to collect for them, such as the notorious Lewis Dunbar, who not only robbed two of the only remaining Scottish nests 5 years consecutively, (1848 1852) but like his brother William, routinely shot the adult birds. This is a shortened account of one of his forays published in a collector’s journal:
After walking all night he reached the spot at 3 o’clock in the morning, in the midst of a snowstorm and having tied a cord to his life preserver he swam off. On the island he tied the rope to a stone and climbed up the ruins to the nest. He then found he had left his cap behind and tried to carry one egg in his mouth, but could not breath. At last he swam back with an egg in each hand. He blew the eggs in the boathouse, washing out the insides with whisky.
By the 1870’s in England and early 1900’s in Scotland there were no ospreys left to predate.
Looking at KL’s eggs, we can hardly imagine the motives that drove those past collectors or the value they placed on obtaining lifeless egg shells. For the majority of people looking at KL’s eggs today their value is now perceived to lie in the growth that is happening inside the shell and their viability to produced new ospreys. A change of heart that affects the entire natural world.

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