Despite the cold he was sweating. Still they didn't talk. They knew the routine. Get away from the nest, hide the canister and collect it later. Rucksacks packed, they moved off. They entered the wood six minutes later and at last they spoke. "Round here somewhere?" said the one holding the canister. "Yeah, I think-" Suddenly they were bathed in light. Two men stood in front of them with torches. "Ah, Peter, I thought it might be you" said one of them. "Well, as they say, you're nicked". The two men from the dark blue car were nest protection volunteers. One was a Wildlife Liaison Officer from the police. He knew the two egg collectors from previous nest robberies and had been trailing them for three days, ever since their car had been spotted in the district. From their movements he had guessed they had targeted this nest. He took the canister and handed it to his colleague. "Call up the climbing team, we've just about got enough time to get these eggs back in the nest before daylight"
Later, back at the police station the Wildlife Liaison Officer examined the egg collectors map. It had nine Osprey eyries marked on it. Two had small pencil ticks next to them, the ones they'd checked out. This was the first nest they'd actually climbed. Ozzie's nest would have been next.

The nest routine was about to change. On day 38 of incubation the first egg hatched. Over the next four days the other  two hatched. BEL stayed at the nest continually brooding the chicks. Ozzie brought in fish that BEL carefully tore into tiny morsels to feed the chicks. The chicks were small with big heads, covered in thick down, their eyes closed. She fed each in turn until they stopped raising their heads. She ate the rest herself. For the first nine days BEL never left the nest. Ozzie brought in three or four fish a day. After  the first ten days Ozzie had to increase his provision of fish, averaging five a day as the chicks grew. They developed a second coat of down, much like the first. After around 20 days the wing feathers began to grow and the three chicks needed more and more food. Still BEL took all the fish from Ozzie and tore it into tiny pieces for the  growing chicks; he was bringing in six or seven a day. The chicks still couldn't manage to tear it up themselves, their legs were too weak to hold the fish firmly

Egg collecting was a common pastime but, thankfully, it is now illegal. Sadly some people still collect eggs, and their activities threaten the existence of some of our rarest birds. The threat of nest robbery forces conservation bodies to spend huge amounts of money on nest protection, money much needed for reserves, research or education.