Hope flies high

Hope has left the United Kingdom!

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At last, some good news! Hope, the third young osprey from the main nest in Tweed Valley has started her migration, and safely made it out of the UK.

In our first update from Hope, we learned she had crossed France, and reached Spain on 9 September. At 9.43am Hope was flying at an altitude of 810m, at a leisurely speed of 8.72knots. Her journey took her over the major route of the A-15 south of Lekunberri, in the Basque Country of Spain.

High hopes for Hope!

Hope left the main Tweed Valley nest site at 5.50am on 5 September, where she was last seen on the nest. The day before, her dad, SS, had been bringing fish for her. The rest of the family had already gone, and tragically, her sister Luna had died in Dorset by the time Hope decided to migrate.

On her first day, she travelled a huge distance of 450km, followed by a shorter 31km journey on her second day, and then another epic 410km to leave the UK and travel down through France. It is very interesting that the route that she took through UK was so similar to her sister Luna’s, except that on reaching the south coast she went directly across the channel, where Luna had turned went west along the coast into Dorset.

Luna’s hesitance to leave the coast and cross the channel was probably weather driven. Fortune has favoured Hope, and she has made swift progress. We have everything crossed for her safe journey, and it will be really exciting to see where she spends her winter, if she can successfully complete this first migration journey.

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Hope’s journey so far (up to 9th September)

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A fast migration for Hope so far to Spain

Tweeddale ospreys have flown

All the ospreys have now left from the new nest site, which has been monitored by volunteer Stuart Blaik this season. They stayed as late as the main nest adult SS and his daughter Hope.

Loch Doon and the Tweed Valley grandsons

I was fortunate to visit the osprey site at Loch Doon at the weekend, where I saw one of our Tweed Valley ospreys’ great grandsons on the nest.

The poor young osprey was having a hard time, being harassed by two crows after his dad had delivered a fine fish for him. He never got to eat it though, as the two clever crows bombarded him so often that he lost his fight to defend it. He gave up, and gave chase, and even managed to steal back his fish from the crows. Nonetheless, they kept coming in and taking chunks of his meal.

It is a fantastic set up at Loch Doon in Dumfriesshire – they have a visitor centre with cameras on the nest for live viewing, and a lounge to sit in and drink good coffee whilst watching the nest, across the loch. Volunteers are on duty to tell visitors what is happening and to keep them informed, and the enthusiastic Roy, who was on duty when I visited, told us all about the birds and the osprey project there. It was really good to make links with sites to where Tweed Valley birds have dispersed, and are now breeding.

Another update from Hope!

This morning, we learned Hope has travelled down the west of Africa, having made a safe crossing over the Alboran Sea, leaving Spain yesterday.

Full details of her journey will follow soon!

1072-africa

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Tragedy for Luna

Very sad news

Luna never made it off English shores. She got as far as the Blandford Forum area of Dorset, where she roosted overnight. On her flight the next morning, tragically, she struck overhead power lines. She broke her wing and was taken to the vet, but was put to sleep as they couldn’t save her.

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Luna was recovered close to the power line shown in the google image . The red dot was her last tracked point.

Luna reaches the Big Smoke

Migration progress

Luna stopped overnight in the wooded valley beside the coast near to Lythe on 20 August, and the next day moved on again, continuing her way south to Lincolnshire. She flew 151 km, and stopped overnight near to Ulceby Cross, close to the A1104 road, in a woodland belt.

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Overnight roost for Luna in Yorkshire near to Lythe 19th August

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Heading south

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Crossing the Humber into Grimsby

On 21 August Luna left her latest roost and travelled a further 100km. She reached Fenton in Cambridgeshire where she spent the night in a tree near to the roundabout between the A141 and the B1040.

By 6.30 am on 22 August she was on the move again, heading to  St. Ives. She proceeded south east, crossing the Cambridgeshire countryside, down to Southend on Sea. At 4pm she crossed the Thames estuary and reached the Isle of Grain. She stopped beside the power station at Wallend on the Isle of Grain at 4pm on 22 August, having flown another 133 km of her first migration journey.

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Along the Wash and Cambridgeshire route

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Roost near to Ulceby Cross

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overnight roost 21st August

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To Southend On Sea

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Luna reaches the Isle of Grain

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Luna stops near to the power station close to Wallend , Isle Of Grain

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Last data point on 22nd August at 4pm by the power station

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Luna’s route through UK, not far to go before leaving us now

So far so good, and fingers crossed, she will be likely to leave the UK this weekend.

There has not been any news of Buzz, but it is likely that he has started his journey.  Although Hope’s tracker is not giving any information out, she was seen on the nest yesterday morning. SS was also there the day before, bringing a fish for her. Her solar-powered tracker is likely not getting charged up with enough sunlight, especially if she is just hanging around at the nest site .

More news as we get it!

Migration Starts

Luna flies south

The migration of the main nest’s young ospreys has begun.

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Luna left Tweed Valley, and her first stop was Minto

On 19 August at 3.15pm approximately, Luna, one of the main nest young ospreys left Tweed Valley and set off in a south easterly direction.

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Overnight in a tree north of Minto, in the Scottish Borders

The first part of her journey was a flight of 32.84 km to north of Minto in the Scottish Borders. She spent the night in a tree there, in a small woodland. She stopped at 18.23pm and stayed in the wood until the next morning, then began to move on again at 6.30am. She flew at a speed of between 5 and 20 knots, at a height of 580m above sea level. She flew continuously for four hours,  then at 10.30am on 19 August she rested briefly in a tree at 157m above sea level, before continuing her journey towards Newcastle.

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A well-earned rest stop after 4 hours of flying

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Out to sea beyond Newcastle

Luna flew out to sea leaving the mainland behind her, and traversed across the bay at Middlesbrough. She re-joined the mainland at 14.45 north of Goldsborough in East Yorkshire, and headed up a wooded valley above the coast to roost for the rest of the day and overnight. She had covered a distance of 168 km altogether on 19 August.

She stopped in the wooded area from about 15.46pm to 6am the following morning. From the image on Google Earth, the wood appears to flank a river where she may have fished as she moved around the area, before settling for the night.

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Luna re-joined the mainland and roosted in wooded riverline near Lythe

Her journey continued the next morning, and she had reached Newholm by 8am. She carried on going, heading steadily south east. The last GPS point for her migration received so far was on 20 August at 8.59am, north of Langdale End in Yorkshire.

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On to Newholm!

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The full journey so far

The other tagged young osprey is Luna’s sister Hope. Her data has not updated since 16 August, when it showed that she was still at the nest site in Tweed Valley. By now she could well be on her way, but we will have to wait for the data lag to catch up. Buzz, their brother may well have left by now too.

Season finale!

Sadly, this week is my last week for the summer osprey season… but it has been a great year at the main nest, and the three young ospreys are doing really well. They give the impression of feistiness and strength, especially when compared with last years young ones.

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The youngsters hanging out

There have been some superb name suggestions sent to us, and eventually, we decided on a lunar theme. Willie Mair and Rhona Young thought that it would be fitting to mark the anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing anniversary, as we had already celebrated a 20th anniversary for SS this year.

We have chosen the name Luna for osprey 301, to mark the lunar landing. Hope will be the name for 303, from Lorna’s suggestion, while the male osprey 302 will be called Buzz, in honour of Buzz Aldrin (not Buzz Lightyear!). Thank you to all those who took the time to offer suggestions, as that was much appreciated!

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Luna, Hope and Buzz

As the season draws to a close, we haven’t seen Mrs O for a few days. We think that she may have left for southern winter skies already. She has done an absolutely brilliant job raising three young with her partner, white leg SS. He is definitely still around, and his visits to the nest involve only the briefest touchdown to deposit a fish for one of his offspring, then he alights and is away again in the blink of an eye. We hope, very much, that we will see him back next year, partnered with Mrs O for another successful season.

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Mrs O with feathers sticking up and Hope on the nest, both eating fish

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Mrs O shows off her feather spoilers

As for the three young ospreys, they are still hanging out at the nest to feed. The last view of Mrs O at the nest was 7 August, when she arrived with a fish. 303 (Hope) was already eating fish on the nest. They both sat there eating, Mrs O up on the perch and Hope on the nest. Mrs O had two feathers on either side sticking right up, looking like the spoilers on a sporty car. Is this the tail end of her summer moult before she takes flight?

Later that day, 302 (Buzz) was sitting alone on the post when a jay decided to visit. The little jay hopped about while Buzz watched, and then both sat at opposite sides of the nest on the perches quite contentedly.

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Buzz has the fish, Hope  and Luna stare upwards, watching SS in case he has more fish.

On 8 August all three young birds were seen at the nest together, tracking a bird flying in the sky above them. They were dropping their wings and flicking them and calling excitedly. A fish was brought in and dropped off to them, we think by SS, but as it happened in a flash, it was hard to see and then he was gone again.

Buzz grabbed the fish, which was only small but very much still alive and flapping about. He was unsure what to do, and tried to hold it down to keep his sister Hope, from making a steal. The fish had smudge markings down its flanks and was possibly a parr. It looked golden in colour, as the light caught it. Buzz was definitely not up for sharing, especially when Luna made an appearance at the nest with a flying swoop as she dropped in.

Luna landing

Luna landing

Buzz kept walking around the edge of the nest, keeping the fish away from his sisters. His strategy was to hold it down in his talons until it weakened before he attempted to eat it.

The adult bird was flying around the nest above them, and they kept looking skyward, the sisters undecided as to whether they should keep watching dad in case he had some more fish, or to keep watch on their brother, in case he let go of his.

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Buzz with the parr

The centres will remain open until the end of August, allowing visitors to catch a few last glimpses of the family before they leave. This week’s highlight from the nest are over on YouTube – click the image below to play.

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This week’s highlights

There is a lovely film which shows the whole summer season, from Mrs O and SS arriving in the spring, to the laying of the eggs, incubation, hatching, and the patient rearing of the three chicks, showing how they developed week by week until fledging.

Thank you to all the volunteers for the Tweed Valley Osprey Project, and our project supporters. The volunteers do a fantastic job keeping a watch on the nest and recording everything that is happening. They greet all the visitors to the centres, and make a visit so pleasant with tales of what the birds have been up to, always ready with a cheery smile and such enthusiasm.

Once the birds begin their migration, I will send in some updates to let everyone know how they are doing. We all wish them a safe journey and a long and happy life. Bye bye until next year!

– Diane Bennett

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The  SS birthday cake by Emma’s Cakes of Kelso and left to right: Diane Bennett, Lady Angela Buchan Hepburn, Tony Lightley, Lynne Mitchell, Eve Schulte, Iain Coates and Norma Coates (Photo Courtesy of Peeblesshire news)

 

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TVOP fabulous osprey volunteers and supporters (photo courtesy of Peeblesshire news)

 

All about survival…

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Mrs O and her three young but very grown up ospreys.

All three young ospreys from the main nest are now flying, and the good news is that they are returning to the nest to feed. Mrs O and SS are still here, and SS is still bringing fish back for the young offspring, but there is a definite shift in the attitudes and personalities of the three young birds. By far the most assertive is now 302, the young male. He was the underdog of the brood while growing up, but he is most certainly making up for lost time now.

SS looks to camera as his son takes the fish

302 takes the fish as SS looks straight into the camera, Mrs O is in the foreground with her back to camera and 301 is on the perch. 303 is not at the nest.

Each fish delivery from SS is swooped upon by his son, as he claims it for himself, mantling over the prey and turning his back on his sisters. The two sisters are very much at odds with each other as well, and the rivalry tips over into all-out battle at times, as we witnessed on 1 August.

Male osprey 302 had seized the advantage and was feeding on a fish, with his sisters in the background, when an almighty barney broke out between them all. It started when 303 made a move towards 302’s side of the nest. This ignited a furious reaction from 301, who flew at her and with wings outstretched and talons flying, as she tried to push her sister from the nest.

She fought back admirably and the two birds tussled back and forth, teetering on the edge of the nest for quite some time. Then 303 pushed the advantage and started to force her way back into the nest area, wings outstretched, jumping up as they pushed and shoved each other. Meanwhile young 302 kept his head down, stayed out of the trouble and ate the fish. Like father like son!

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Most often, we see 302 and 301 sitting at the nest together waiting for food. Attempts to join them by 303 are thwarted with clumsy landings, aborted at the last minute, as she overflies the nest.

There is a very definite air of fighting for survival between the young birds. Time is drawing near for their mother to leave them, and soon they will be alone to fend for themselves. The feisty attitude of 302 and 301 stands them in good stead but 303 needs to up her game if she is to survive. She needs to deal with rivalry, defend herself and feed herself. With a little more experience, and the sharp edge of hunger gnawing at her core, she will no doubt learn fast as her survival instinct kicks in. She had it easy on the nest while growing up, with fish delivery by her dad, followed by Mrs O gently feeding her, but there is no such luxury now. If fish is brought in, it is a race to be the first to grab it. So far, 302 has used this to his advantage and 303 has been a bit slow.

All three birds are not always present on the nest together as they are flying and exploring their surroundings, so it was good to see that SS delivered a fish to the nest when 303 was the only young bird there on Monday 4 August. She got to handle the whole fish without competition as Mrs O sat up on the perch above her.

Each meal time is now a contest when all three are present, and there is an element of survival of the fittest. Overall they seem to be very feisty, fit and healthy, and hopefully will do well when the time comes for them to leave.

Encountering rivalry, competition and territory battles at this young stage is not a bad thing on their journey to adulthood, because all too soon, once they are adult birds, they will have to deal with contests to win a mate and nest sites, if they are to be successful and breed in future years.

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Mrs O and her young chips off the old block – just look at those facial expressions! Reminiscent of Mrs O and her squawking days.

The satellite tags so far have illustrated that although both sisters have flown from the nest site, neither have ventured outside of the protective environs of their forest home. The greatest distance achieved from the nest so far has been 800m. But both have taken little forays in all directions around the area, not too far from the safety of the nest location.

A cheeky little jay popped onto Mrs O’s favourite perch on Sunday to see if there may be any scraps to eat, it was a short visit and he soon left.

The osprey nest tree is a Scots pine, and the pine needles have turned brown, with the crown showing signs of die back. The tree doesn’t look in very good condition, and it has held this nest for 22 years. At the end of this season the environment team will take a look at it to assess its condition for next year. It may require some struts and support but at some point, it looks like a new site may have to be created for the main nest pair.

dying nest tree

The pine needles on the nest tree are yellowed and it looks like the tree is dying.

We’ve made a short film of the highlights from the 2019 season. Take a look here, or click the image below. Thank you for following the journey of our young osprey family!

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Tweed Valley Ospreys 2019

 

We have lift off!

First flight

The first successful flights have been achieved by the main nest’s young ospreys this week, with the young male making his first flight, with his sisters following his lead over the next two days.

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302 takes to the air for the first time from his elevated position on the branch

On a scorching day, the hottest day of the year, 25 July, the three young ospreys were on the nest without their parents. The male bird, 302, was wing stretching and flapping quite a lot. He used the branch leading from the right side of the nest to gain some elevation. The whole time he was looking about curiously, while below him on the nest platform, 301 was also trying out her flight muscles, hopping with short lifts from one side of the nest to the other, wings outstretched. The third youngster was less keen, and kept to the side, away from her siblings.

302 nearly flying from the branch

302 almost takes off

Feeling brave

At 15.50pm on Thursday afternoon, 302 took a step higher up onto the branch and made a tentative wing stretch, followed by some open-winged test stretches, and some left-to-right head sweeps as he scanned the area. All of a sudden he was airborne, flying straight across the nest to the left. In a second, he was gone.  301 gazed skywards as though tracking his movements, but 303, not feeling brave, hunkered down into the nest. It seems she does not fancy her chances of a successful flight just yet.

303 hunkers down and 301 watched her brother fly

The sisters watch their brother fly above the nest, 303 hunkers down but 301 looks on

Shortly after 301’s take off, Mrs O swooped in to see her two daughters at the nest. She was alert and watchful; perhaps she too was watching her son’s first flight.

The imitation game

301 follows in her brothers steps to first flight

301 follows her brother’s flight strategy the following day

The following day revealed 303, on camera, copying her brothers strategy and using the right hand branch to gain elevation. There was some energetic wing flapping, but eventually she retreated back down to the nest.

Mrs O returned to the nest with a large mossy stick, which the two sisters inspected with intense curiosity. Flying attempts were on hold for the time being. Finally, on Saturday at 4pm, 301 took to the air for the fist time, leaving only 303 behind in the nest. By Sunday morning she too had joined the ranks of the fully-fledged and flighted Young Osprey Air Team. SS and Mrs O have done a wonderful job raising their brood this year and now the final stage of their work is almost done for this season.

More successful flights

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First liftoff for one of the new nest’s young ospreys. Photo by Stuart Blaik

We have more fantastic news! The new nest site where two chicks were ringed last week also has two successfully-flying young ospreys. Their amazing first take-offs and soaring arcs above the nest were caught on camera by Stuart, our (very lucky!) volunteer, who was viewing the whole scene from his home.

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Flying higher and higher, while mum watches from the top of the tree, and the other young osprey watches from the nest. Photo by Stuart Blaik

Mixed blessings for the season

In all, this season has been one of mixed blessings. There have been a few disappointments at some of the sites we monitor. Out of a total of 14 osprey nesting sites checked this year, only 7 sites were found to be successful. A total of 15 young ospreys have been raised and successfully fledged. At three sites, the adult birds were present but they failed to raise young. At two of the sites, the ospreys had moved and left the site altogether.

Three of the nest sites had three chicks per nest, two sites had two per nest and two sites raised single chicks. One of the sites which has also been consistently productive, with two chicks for the first time 4 years ago, and then three chicks per year for the past 6 years, only raised one chick this year. This leads us to believe that there has been a change in one of the adult birds. The adult male bird from this site used to be a particularly feisty bird, which was not apparent at ringing time this year. Perhaps it is a new male bird, given that only one was chick raised, and different behaviour observed.

The birds which moved from backup nest no 2 to a new site of their own making were successful in raising two chicks. Unfortunately, we don’t have a camera on the new nest, so we cannot confirm the identity of the parents.

A sad failure

Sadly, one of the failures was the site where the ospreys chose the spindly larch tree to nest in, as opposed to the artificial platform built specially for them. The nest was found to be in a sorry state of disrepair, possibly due to storm damage, and egg fragments were found below. Three adult birds were present at the site. Most alarming, though, was the discovery of many tyre tracks from unauthorised motorised trial bikes, which undoubtedly would cause disturbance. This has been reported to both the local police and the SSPCA, but illegal motorbike riding remains an ongoing problem within our forests.

Names for the three main nest’s young ospreys

This is the final week for name suggestions for the main nest’s young ospreys, two females and one male. Please send your suggestions to tweedvalleyospreys@gmail.com!

We will announce the names selected next week.

Take a look at the first flights from our terrific trio on this week’s highlights from the live camera feed. Click the image below to play, or follow this link.

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This week’s highlights from the live feed – click to watch