Monthly Archives: August 2014

Water ahoy!

Last week I reported that satellite tagged bird FK8 had not managed to find any large water bodies and didn’t really appear to be following any river courses yet on her travels, as she explores the Tweed Valley area. She must have taken the hint because on 19th August she took herself on a tour of the Yarrow Valley along to St. Mary’s Loch and then she checked out Megget Reservoir.

The red dots show different points along her journey where satellite data was recorded from her transmitter.

The red dots show different points along her journey where satellite data was recorded from her transmitter.

She tends to fly across the hill tops at a good altitude which will give her a great panoramic view of the landscape and from here she will be able to pinpoint water courses and landmarks as she makes a mental map of the region for future reference.
Her next notable journey was a larger circular flight than her previous trip last week around Windlestraw Law and Caberston Forest. This time she took a wider circle extending further north on 24th August above Peatrig Hill in the Moorfoots. From up there, she was a mere osprey wing flap away from Gladhouse Reservoir to the northwest and she could even possibly make out the coastline to the east. She must be comfortably getting her bearings about the neighbourhood now and her confidence for flight trips must surely be increasing.

The map image shows the furthest point of her journey on 24th August up the Moorfoot hills beyond Peatrig Hill. The blue line is the route of her earlier journey circumnavigating Caberston Forest.

The map image shows the furthest point of her journey on 24th August up the Moorfoot hills beyond Peatrig Hill. The blue line is the route of her earlier journey circumnavigating Caberston Forest.

Has mum gone?

Has the sudden interest in checking out water bodies coincided with the departure of her mum? We assume she must have left by now and if Dad is still around, he will be providing less fish for his offspring as they strive towards independence.

End of season 2014

The 2014 osprey season is drawing to a close and it has been a very eventful soap opera. There have been many sightings of Tweed Valley birds,  tragedy for the main nest, absentee parents from our normal back up nest, new parents on the ‘back up nest number 2’ and the superb tracking of the newly fledged FK8. The season always goes by so fast and it seems like only yesterday we were getting excited awaiting the return of the ospreys for spring.
It is with great fondness that we will always remember the unringed partner of white leg SS that raised 26 chicks in the main nest site. Here is a superb photo of the happy couple taken by Angus Blackburn two years ago. We celebrated their tenth anniversary with the children of St. Ronan’s Primary School by writing their story in the Osprey Time Flies Book, so at least she won’t be forgotten for the part she played in expanding the Borders osprey population.

ospreys at Tweed Valley
Flight of FK8

We will continue to bring updates about where our tracked bird is throughout the rest of the year and tell her story as she journeys south and spends the winter in Africa. We hope that she makes her first migration successfully, it is a hazardous journey and we wish her well.

Thank you

Thank you to all the wonderful volunteers that make this project so interesting for all of the visitors to the centres as they recount the tales of the Tweed Valley Osprey sagas. We hope that you will all return next year just like the ospreys.

Thank you for reading!

Diane Bennett
Tweedvalleyospreys@gmail.com

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Forest ventures

The Tweed Valley satellite tracked young osprey FK8, has expanded her home ranging to check out other forests in the Tweed Valley. Most of the time she wanders not too far from her eyrie but every now and then she takes herself off for a trip further afield.
On 14th August she visited the Kirkhouse Forest and was tracked there at 7.53am, then she ventured across to Cardrona Forest where her transmitter recorded her as being there at 8.50am.

eagle's journey

On 15th August she went on a big circular loop, east of Walkerburn, at 11.32am venturing across the River Tweed and then north to north east almost as far as Windlestraw Law in the Moorfoot hills, before taking a south westerly direction across the top of Caberston Forest, returning to cross the Tweed again just west of Walkerburn at 11.55am. The next data record gives her as being up in the hills above Yarrow Kirk at 13.24pm which is south of the River Tweed and into the next valley.

map of eagle's journey

It’s interesting to consider her motivation for these trips. She doesn’t apparently seem to be seeking out water courses or lochs from what the data is showing. So is she sitting at the eyrie feeling rather hungry and in the absence of her parents, deciding to wander around and explore her surroundings to familiarise herself with the terrain? Does she go looking for her Dad when he is off hunting and has her mum left already? We just don’t know.

Tough love

Tough love is the order of the day for motivating the young ospreys to move beyond the home zone as fish are brought in less frequently by the male and hunger will drive them off the nest. However, it seems that she has not found St Mary’s Loch or Megget Water in the Yarrow Valley yet. There have been no significant trips along the River Tweed. Does this mean that she is not following Dad to learn how to hunt as we always have considered in the past and she is still relying on free dinners being brought in from him at the moment? So when will she begin learning the necessary skills for life in hunting and catching fish at big water bodies and rivers?

For the first time ever, we are getting an insight into how a young osprey in the Tweed Valley behaves once she has fledged. We will be able to establish the exact date that she begins her journey south to migrate to Africa and we will be able to follow her across the world for the next 4 years providing she survives the hazardous migration that she will soon embark upon.

main eagle nest site

Main nest site

Our usual Tweed Valley osprey star, white leg ring SS, has remained in the area all summer and has regularly been spotted on the main nest site where tragically he lost his three young chicks and his lifelong mate this year.

Hot property

This site has become hot property and there have been siting’s of other prospecting ospreys throughout the summer. The most exciting visit was the blue ringed male osprey with letters LT. He was hatched from the nest we call the ‘back up’ nest in 2009 and sadly, for the first time in over 10 years, his parents did not return.

injured eagle

LT returned from Africa in 2011 and got into difficulty, which resulted in a visit to Two Rivers vets in Peebles followed by a fortnight in South of Scotland Wildlife Hospital, and was released from his original nest site in September 2011. He has returned this year and although he hasn’t got a territory of his own yet, he seems to have made the Scottish Borders his preferred summer residence.

Frustration nest

Another osprey nest has been built within 2km of the main nest site. This has been built by birds in the area and it could either be what is known as a ‘frustration nest’ built by white leg SS or a new site built by LT. It has not been used for raising a family as the season was far too late by the time it was built, but it will be interesting to see what happens next year.

Thanks for reading!
Diane Bennett
Tweedvalleyospreys@gmail.com

Adventurous osprey

The satellite tagged osprey FK8, has been stretching her wings and taking further adventurous flights as she explores her freedom since fledging from her Tweed Valley nest site. Most of her journeys have been trips around the locality of the nest site, but as she flexes her muscles and gains strength and stamina she is beginning to venture further afield.

Her most exciting journey so far took her north and she flew right out of the Borders and over to the Firth of Forth estuary where the transmitter picked her up in the bay, offshore from Leven. Her altitude was given as 1m above sea level so she must have been fishing.

satellite picture leven

The red dot on the satellite picture taken from Google earth shows the location of FK8 on her exploratory trip on the 22nd July at 14.38pm.

The next major excursion was on 25th July and took our bird across Elibank and Traquair Forest, crossing the Yarrow Valley and into the Ettrick Valley on the course of the Ettrick Water, a journey which seems to have taken only five minutes. Four minutes later she visited the Glen House Estate in Traquair.

eagle map central scotland
Picture of the Satellite map with red dots showing the two journeys south to Ettrick Bridge and North to Leven on 25th and 22nd July.

eagle satellite map
FK8 checks out the Ettrick Water on 25th July late in the morning.

The satellite tracker recorded that she was back at the nest site at 9pm but it is not known where or how she spent the rest of the day between then and her trip south.
Most of her other journeys are around the immediate location of the eyrie from which she fledged and she has explored that region extensively. She is returning to the nest site and receiving fish from her parents we presume.

Interestingly, the last recorded footage of her at the site was being fed by her mum which is very unusual at this stage in the young bird’s life, as usually dad takes over once they have fledged. We presume her brother is making similar safaris around the Borders and returning to the nest site too but he does not have a satellite tracker.

Migration

We don’t know if any of the Tweed Valley ospreys have begun their trip south yet.  Beatrice, which is an adult osprey up in Moray has left for her migration already. She is satellite tracked and she successfully raised three chicks this season. You can follow her story on the Highland Foundation for Wildlife website. She left on 6th August, leaving her young ospreys behind with their father to finish training them to be skilled hunters.

Thanks for reading.
Diane Bennett
Tweedvalleyospreys@gmail.com

Mother and daughter bonding

flight-of-fk8

Both of the chicks at ‘Back up nest 2’ have now fledged and are exploring the area around their eyrie home, and venturing further afield as they become emboldened and more experienced at mastering their flying technique.

The birds will use the nest site as a waiting point and feeding area, as they’re not fully independent yet and rely on their parents for fish to be brought in.

The latest downloaded footage taken from the nest camera brought delightful images of the female chick FK8, with the satellite tag, at the nest site with her mum. Mum (green ring NO) had a fish and was gently tearing off strips and feeding the oversized youngster as though she was still a tiny nestling. It was a stark contrast to the main nest family that we’ve watched for the past ten years. Usually, at the main nest site, once the chicks were fully fledged we witnessed their mum retreating from feeding times and their dad doing most of the work.

So far at this site we’ve only ever seen a quick visit from dad as he drops off a fish and then mum proceeds to feed the brood. It was nice to see a spot of mother and daughter bonding. Once the young adult was full, mum ate the rest of the fish herself – she will be building her reserves up ready for her impending migration.

Housework and nest tidying

Once both birds were full and satisfied, a spot of housework seemed to preoccupy them. The nest is a masterpiece of artwork, a patchwork of meadow grasses, moss, bark, sticks and lichens on top of the platform of flattened sticks. FK8 followed her mum around the nest and appeared to mirror her behaviour, learning nest skills which she will one day hopefully put into good practice when she has a brood of her own.

Readiness for migration

Mum eventually began to get restless and took to the sky leaving FK8 behind. After she had gone, FK8 seemed to grow tired and took a nap. It was a short period to catch up on a bit of rest, since life is now very tiring as she flies around the territory, using her muscles and building up her strength. Her fitness levels must increase as she does more exercise, having spent eight flightless weeks in the nest being fed and rapidly growing. The ‘puppy fat’ will turn to muscle and she will reach her peak condition to make her first migration journey. It’s going to be an exciting time for this project to be able to follow her journey as her transmitter relays signals which we can follow on Google Earth.

She soon became restless and began wing stretching and hopping around the nest and then she took off in the direction of the camera, giving a lovely view of just how magnificent she has become. She is a beautiful bird with an impressive head crest, bright yellow eyes, dark eye stripe and white head streaked with brown markings.

Injured osprey returns

While on duty at the osprey centre in Kailzie, volunteer Robert Jamieson checked out the camera on the main nest on 16th July. This camera was still live, although there have not been birds there much since the tragic loss of the female and the three small chicks earlier this season.

injured-osprey

He witnessed two ospreys dropping in to the site, one was ringed and the other was an unringed female. The ringed bird had a blue leg ring, LT and this was fantastic news, as this is the injured osprey that was rescued in 2011 and spent two weeks in rehabilitation at South of Scotland Wildlife Hospital. He was released later that season from the nest site where he had been raised back in 2009 and he took off with purposeful flight across the valley. It was a lump in the throat moment to see him fully recovered. He obviously, successfully made it to Africa at the end of that year and he is now back in the Borders and paired with a female bird. We do not know if he has a nest site or whether he is trying to take over the main nest site now that it is vacant.

The new pair were not there long when a very disgruntled white leg SS returned and began his mantling and defensive behaviour to display his displeasure at their presence. A third osprey appeared and proceeded to dive bomb SS with aerial swoops. Poor SS is not having a good year at all.

Diane Bennett
Tweedvalleyospreys@gmail.com