On Sunday, after the disappearance of the female bird, there was plenty of osprey drama at the main nest. Volunteers reported that the female bird had returned to the nest and she seemed well. Although we had lost this years’ chicks, there was now hope for the slim chance that further egg laying and a very late brood could be a possibility.
New female moves in
However, on examining the footage taken over the past week the story seems to be unraveling further and we now believe that it is a second unringed female. She was on the nest with the male and his behaviour suggested a defensive posture, not the welcome homecoming for his partner that we would expect. This leads us to believe that this bird is a stranger. The male has appeared threatened by the bird’s presence at the nest site since Sunday and does not appear to welcome her at all. He was seen with wings dropped and moving away from her at each approach.
Over the past few days, the male has brought in sticks to tidy the nest, the dead chicks have gone and he is staying at the site. However, the new female is staying there too. There has been little interaction between them, both occupying perches either side of the nest. It almost looks like a stand-off, a non-contact contest over territory.
After a further few days at the nest, the female started calling repeatedly and the male SS has perched beside her but there is something about the way that they are, that seems to suggest that they are unfamiliar with each other.
A blue ringed bird has also been seen trying to come down onto the nest.
Has the original partner died?
Re-examining footage it would appear that perhaps the original female bird was not quite well. The male was seen feeding her repeatedly, during the really wet weather. On 4th June he fed her and she lay across the chicks and, at one point, looks exhausted. Her back looks sodden as the rain is bouncing down on her and yet he is dry, standing next to her, with the rain not penetrating his feathers. If she was out of condition and not preening effectively then she would have been getting cold and drawing on valuable energy reserves as she tried to shield the chicks.
She flew off and the male fed the chicks and settled on them, which is very unusual at this early stage in the chicks life. The female looked in poor condition and we wonder if she has died.
The other birds hanging around the nest site have been waiting in the wings to usurp her position for this site, as it is a good site. So it is very likely that the new female is taking over now that there is a vacancy.
We will have to continue to watch to see how this drama unfolds. Will SS hold the territory and take her as a new partner or will he lose this site to new birds?
This is a sad time for the project and a cruel reminder of how vulnerable the chicks are at an early age. They can perish so easily if they get cold and wet. It seems likely we will have a season without chicks and we hope that SS will hold the territory and return next season. If our original female has perished, which seems likely, then that is a very sad loss. She has been a fantastic mum and a delight to watch for over 10 years and she will be so very sadly missed by all.
We will have to wait and see…