Monthly Archives: July 2014

First Borders osprey satellite tagged

This week’s been a very special one for the ospreys of Tweed Valley. The female chick on the back up nest being monitored on camera has been fitted with a GPS satellite transmitter. Roy Dennis from the Highland Foundation for Wildlife and Dave Anderson from Forestry Commission Scotland, based at Aberfoyle, travelled to the Borders to carry out the task of fitting this specialised tracking kit to the young bird.

Tony Lightley, the Heritage and Conservation Manager for FCS, South of Scotland District had organised for this to be carried out, as well as for fitting the young birds with the alpha numeric Darvic rings for identification in the field.

satellite tagging the female osprey

Follow the bird

The small transmitter was fitted like a small back pack to be carried between her shoulders. The device is held in place by webbing stitched together by cotton which should hold for the length of the satellite transmitter battery lifetime of 4 years. The battery itself is solar powered and transmits a GPS location of the bird anywhere in the world. Roy Dennis, the leading authority on ospreys in the UK, will receive the details of all of the bird’s movements and present the findings in regular updates on his Highland Foundation for Wildlife website, where we will all be able to follow this very special bird’s journey.

The website also has details of all the other satellite tagged birds currently being monitored, including a Golden Eagle named Roxy that originated in Galloway but has chosen territory in the Borders to range in for the past few years, but has not successfully bred yet.

Colour Darvics

The ‘back up’ nest chicks have been fitted with the BTO rings on their right legs and Darvic rings on their left legs. The female with the satellite tag has leg ring FK8 and the male is leg ring FK7 in white lettering on a blue background.

fk 8 again

Fledged and exploring

The chicks have fledged but are still using the nest site to feed. The latest footage retrieved from the camera revealed the male chick doing comedy bounces and wing flaps prior to his first trip from the nest. The most amazing information has been transmitted back from FK8’s transmitter that she’s made a maiden flight trip to check out the River Tweed.

It‘ll be fascinating to follow her journey and to find out for the first time ever, exactly where an osprey from Tweed Valley goes to on her migration and the route that she takes. We’ll find out where she stops over for breaks and fishing trips and how long it takes for her to reach her over-wintering destination.

Migration

It’ll be a few weeks yet before the ospreys migrate to Africa for the winter. In the meantime it’ll be interesting to see just how far the young female osprey goes to explore her surroundings and to learn to hunt before the big trip.

Holding on

The camera link to the main nest is still live and is being checked regularly for any signs of osprey activity there. This has revealed that white leg SS is still around and the new female is still sticking close by him. Both where briefly at the nest on Monday, he was in the nest and she was on the perch. He was still displaying mantling behaviour and seems very unsettled by her presence but undeterred, when he flew off, she followed him in hot pursuit!

The visitor centres

Both centres at Glentress Forest and Kailzie Gardens have the latest footage from the new ‘back up’ nest on the screens so that visitors can see the chicks before they fledged and being fed by mum (green ring N0) after Dad, (yellow ring 8C) drops in a good sized fish.

Close observation will reveal the small aerial sticking up from the satellite transmitter back pack on the female chick. This is a very fine and flexible wire which bends and flips back into place so that it cannot become snagged on anything as the bird dives into water and flies about.

Thanks for reading!

Diane Bennett

tweedvalleyospreys@gmail.com

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New screen stars are a hit

The new osprey pair are proving to be a real hit with visitors to the centres, and footage from the new ‘back up’ nest site shows the two handsome chicks are growing up fast. The ringed adult birds are absolutely, stunningly beautiful. The male bird is a powerful and proficient hunter and he is bringing in good sized fish which he passes straight over to the female which she uses to feed the hungry young ospreys straight away.

Family of ospreys

Home grown borders boy

We now have confirmation about the leg ring on the male bird and have discovered that yellow 8C is a bird which fledged from our number 1 ‘back up nest’ in 2004, in the Tweed Valley Project Area.
This is great news to know that birds born in the Scottish Borders are returning to breed in the area, and another proven success for the Tweed Valley Osprey Project.
We are still waiting to hear where the green ringed partner of yellow 8C has come from. We believe that the green rings date from the year 2005, but records so far reveal that she is not a Borderer! Maybe she is a Highlander, an English or Welsh bird. It will be interesting to find out and also it’s a good thing to strengthen the gene pool, to have local birds breeding with birds from outside the area too.

Blue ringed osprey

Buenos dias

We ’ve had delightful news that one of the osprey chicks ringed at the ‘Back up 1’, nest site last year has been photographed on a sunny beach on the River Tinto, Huelva in Spain this summer.
The juvenile osprey has been fitted with a blue Darvic ring bearing the digits CL9 in white lettering. He is now a fully grown and magnificent looking adult, and – as can be seen from the photograph – is looking very fit and healthy while enjoying a summer break as a one year old bird. Next summer he may well look for territory for breeding and so it will be interesting to find out if he returns to Spain or heads back to the Borders.
Another Borders bred osprey has been spotted this summer over in County Wicklow in Ireland. This bird, bearing the blue Darvic ring CL1, was ringed in 2012 and his safe migration to Ireland really is very good news.

Egg science

A few weeks ago I reported that a failed egg on the ‘back up 2’ nest site had been analysed and revealed a second shell layer over the top of the egg which it would seem prevented the osprey chick from breaking out. We had never encountered anything like this before but one of the volunteers within the osprey project, John Savory, has a science background and revealed that research into egg abnormalities shows that eggs can sometimes have double layers due to prolonged delay in laying of the egg. This, as far as we know has not been encountered in wild birds before.

Heron siesta

The heron nest has become something of a sunny afternoon hammock for a sleepy heron taking afternoon siestas. It looks like it’s one of the adult birds as it has the distinct long, black head plumes and feathery chest finery which the young bird hasn’t grown yet.

Thanks for reading!
Diane Bennett
Tweedvalleyospreys@gmail.com

An exciting new discovery

ospreyfishingangusblackburn

Photograph courtesy of Angus Blackburn

At last we have some exciting and happy news from the Tweed Valley Osprey Project. One of the monitored ‘back up’ nests within the project area has had its camera switched on and we are able to extract footage from it to check the progress of the family of ospreys at this nest site.

Ringed adult birds

Both of the adult birds at this site are ringed birds, the male has a yellow Darvic ring 8C and the female has a green ring with letters NO. The yellow Darvic ring is very clear from the filming but the green ring is harder to read, so the lettering will need to be confirmed once we have more footage from the site. There are two lovely healthy and large chicks, and the footage has been installed on the screens at the two centres of Kailzie Gardens and Glentress Wildwatch Room.

Yellow ringed osprey

Over the next few weeks we will be able to monitor the progress and bring regular updated film footage for the centres, until the chicks fledge. This is a very exciting twist for this year’s season, following the tragedy of losing our female and the chicks from the main nest. We now have some positive osprey breeding, a chance to watch this family and to find out where the parents originated from and how old they are.

Borders regulars

This pair of birds has been recorded in the Borders before, but it was not known that they were paired together or that they were the parents present at this nest site, so it’s fantastic information to find out. Yellow 8C was photographed fishing in the Yarrow Valley around five years ago by professional photographer Angus Blackburn. Angus took this remarkable photograph which was published in the Daily Mail, and we also used the photograph in the new Tweed Valley Osprey Book called Osprey Time Flies along with lots of other super photographs that he took for the osprey project. It’s great that we now know where yellow 8C is nesting and can confirm that he’s a successful breeding bird. The green ringed bird has also previously been photographed while fishing in the Yarrow Valley by Willie McCulloch in 2008 and this photograph was donated to the Tweed Valley Osprey Project . It’s framed for people to see it at Kailzie Osprey and Nature Watch Centre.

Green ringed osprey

Osprey Time Flies

The Osprey Time Flies book has been distributed to all of the primary schools in the Tweeddale area so that every child has a copy and can find out about the remarkable ospreys living in the Tweed Valley at secret nest locations.
Copies are available from Kailzie Gardens Osprey and Nature Watch and from Glentress Wildwatch, when there is a volunteer on duty. We would like to thank those that have so generously made donations to the Tweed Valley Osprey Project for a copy of the book. All money raised is used for the upkeep of this project, which is a not for profit partnership.
More wildlife news
The buzzards have now fledged at Glentress and are away from the nest site now. The herons at Kailzie are using the nest site as a base from time to time and we have seen both adults and the young bird loafing at the site and preening. A very delighted volunteer, Lynn Walker, witnessed a little red squirrel checking out the nest and then taking a snooze in the middle of the nest in the sunshine! It stayed for quite a while until a disgruntled heron trundled along and disturbed it.

Over the coming weeks more footage from the osprey ‘back up’ nest will be brought in to the centres and both centres will be open daily for viewing. We hope to see many visitors to come and enjoy viewing the new osprey family.

Thanks for reading!
Diane Bennett
Tweedvalleyospreys@gmail.com

Chicks once more!

We have watched in dismay at the sad sight of the main nest standing empty and although occasional visits have been made by white leg SS and the new female, it hasn’t made for riveting viewing. There’s no chance of any osprey chicks at this site this year now.

It was decided to use the camera in place at what we call the ‘back up’ nest for the rest of this season. The birds at this site have been faithful for many years, but to our surprise and disappointment, there are no ospreys present at this nest this season. We are very concerned as it looks like there haven’t even been ospreys checking the site out, as there has been no nesting material added this year. This is worrying because it’s such a good site and we are concerned that at the crucial early stage when the ospreys return from Africa (in April) something may have disturbed them and they abandoned the site.

A new family

A further Tweed Valley Osprey Project ‘back up’ nest was checked out and the team from Forestry Commission Scotland; Tony, Robin and Bill, were able to connect up a security camera system. The camera records bursts of footage and this can be downloaded and played back at the viewing centres. This means if all goes to plan and the system in operation works properly with the technology that we have, then we will be able to follow the family being raised at this nest site.

During a visit close by (although still at a safe distance away) great film footage of the parents flying in the area was recorded. This will be put together to display back at the centres. It’s not clear from the filming yet whether the parent birds are ringed, but as soon as we can download the recorded footage we’ll be able to check this out. It’ll be really good news if they are ringed and we can find out where they’ve come from. One of the chicks raised at this site a few years ago, was photographed in the Gambia later that winter.
Tony Lightley, the licensed ringer from Forestry Commission Scotland, checked the nest site out and found that there are two chicks plus an unhatched egg. Tony removed the dud egg for examination and we were amazed to discover that it was an egg within an egg shell. Somehow the empty egg shell of a hatched chick had become encased around the yet to hatch egg and completely enclosed it, so that the chick inside had been unable to break out of the shell.
outer shell removed to reveal egg egg1
It’s something that had never been seen before. The egg was broken open to reveal the dead chick had been fully formed and the egg tooth at the tip of the beak was clearly visible, it had been prevented from hatching by the outer egg layer. A terrible freak thing to have happened and we hope that this is the final tragedy for this year’s osprey season. The two chicks in the nest are about four weeks old and appear to be in good health. Hopefully we will be able to harvest film footage at regular intervals to watch their progress through to fledging.

The camera can be accessed to get footage from a good distance away from the site so that the birds are not disturbed in any way.
This is great news for the project and we will look forward to watching this families’ progress. The footage hopefully will be ready to watch in the centres from Monday onwards.

Thanks for reading!
Diane Bennett
Tweed Valley Project Officer
Tweedvalleyospreys@gmail.com