Monthly Archives: June 2015

Best fed osprey

osprey one chick fed 21st june

The osprey chick being fed

It has been a tense week watching the Tweed Valley Osprey main nest camera, as with only one remaining chick we have been worried that the inexperienced new mum may not give the young developing bird the attention and care needed to see it through this vulnerable stage of its development. Thankfully, the advantage this little one has is that when dad brings a fish in, the meal no longer has to be shared with two other siblings and that has made mealtimes a gorging fest! I don’t think we have ever seen an osprey chick fed to the point where food is hanging out of its beak before now. Struggling to swallow the last bits because its belly was just full up!

This is good news because lots of rich protein packed, raw fish will ensure growth and as the chick matures the grey fluffy down will be gradually covered by weatherproof feathers and this will help to give some protection from the elements. The female bird did protect her youngster from a torrential downpour at the weekend which was another good sign that she is doing her job properly now. She will hopefully shield her youngster from the midday sun should we ever see it again, through the veil of grey clouds that have appeared this week.

Blue tits starve

Sadly, the little family of blue tits have all perished. The cold wet weather has persisted long enough to cause a distinct lack of caterpillars which are needed to raise a brood of blue tits. Seven hatched out and one by one they have died as they have not had enough food and even one of the pretty little adult birds has died in the nest, probably worn out from its efforts to find food.

Heronry news

22nd june 2015 heron

An adult heron at Kailzie

The empty heron nest at Kailzie has been receiving visits from one of the adult herons and the bird has been doing some nest tidying. They will hold the territory until it is time to breed again but they will not attempt a second brood this year. They nest colonially in a heronry and this is a small one which consists of only five nest sites on this site.

Volunteers, buzzards and goshawks

On Tuesday 17th June, some of the volunteers were treated to a visit to watch the buzzard chicks being ringed and some impressive goshawk chicks, deep in the Tweed Valley Forest.
Licensed bird ringers from Forestry Commission Scotland, Tony Lightley and Eve Schulte carried out the task and were able to show the enthusiastic volunteers from the Tweed Valley Osprey Project these truly wonderful birds. It was an emotional experience to engage with these wild creatures of the forest and a real privilege.

The buzzard chicks were really vocal and super raptors to observe at close quarters but they were totally overshadowed by the far superior and impressive goshawk. These chicks were large, feisty and very vocal with reflexes in their talons of lightning speed. Their sturdy thick legs made the buzzard legs seem like matchsticks by comparison.

buzzard chicks

The buzzard chicks

The familiar buzzard is seen regularly throughout the Borders and feeds on carrion, earthworms, rabbits, mice, voles and birds while the goshawk which looks almost identical to a sparrowhawk but is as big as a buzzard, is a secretive, stealthy hunter which glides silently through the forest and can wheel and flip vertically in fast flight, to negotiate branches when giving chase to prey such as a woodpigeon.

goshawk chicks

The goshawk chicks

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Tragic news for Tweed Valley Ospreys

Two chicks in the nest have succumbed to what appears to be overheating exposure on the hottest days of the year so far. On Thursday 11th June – a really hot sunny day which is a rare occasion here in the Scottish Borders – the male bird was away from the nest leaving the female with the chicks and despite the hot weather, she was not shielding her young chicks from the sun.

Three vulnerable chicks exposed to the heat of the midday sun

Three vulnerable chicks exposed to the heat of the midday sun

When the male brought a fish in, she took it from him and fed herself, ignoring the chicks and leaving them exposed to the heat. Later in the afternoon, the male bird returned to the nest with another fish, with the head removed which he had already eaten and presented this to his partner. She was then seen to be feeding one of the chicks and the others could not be seen.

At 12.15pm the female flew off the nest and the male fed a chick. Only one chick could be seen at this point with the other two thought to be still in the nest. The next time any conclusive footage was recorded was on Friday 12th June, when one chick is seen to be active and two chicks were not moving in the nest. At this point the male brought in a fish and the female was up on the perch and she was not interested in the fish and the male then flew off with it. No interest was shown in feeding the remaining chick. It was not until 15.25pm when the male returned with fish again that the female took the fish and fed the remaining chick.

At this point many flies could be seen in the nest and the two chicks were now presumed to have died. We do not know if the bodies of the chicks have been removed as they cannot be seen but there is definitely only one remaining active chick.

On Sunday 14th June, the remaining chick was then left alone and vulnerable in the nest as both parents flew off and eventually the female returned and settled down on the nest to brood it.

home alone chick

Home alone chick

On Monday 15th June, both ospreys were at the nest and paying no attention to the one chick, the female was on the left hand perch and spent hours preening and the male took off only to return with a stick for the nest, both parents then spent considerable time moving the sticks around while the hapless youngster trundled about the nest and kept trying to get underneath mum. After their spell of nest adornment, the male flew off and the female resumed her position on the perch leaving a lonely and probably fairly hungry chick in the nest. There were so many flies around it and landing on it and at times it seemed quite feeble and then would have an energy spurt and begin waddling about. At this stage it would seem like a miracle if it survives.

15th June sticks and chick

Survival chances

With only one chick, the chances of its survival should be good, as all of the fish brought in would not have to be shared meaning good growth, but what is of concern is the lack of attention that the parents are paying to their surviving offspring. We can only watch helplessly and hope that the parent birds will resume their duties for their only one. It does further confirm our suspicions that this female is not experienced and is possibly a first time mum, as she doesn’t seem to know how to look after the young or know what she is doing.
Things went so well at this nest site for 10 years, that it is a bitter pill to swallow having two tragic years consecutively. Fingers crossed that over the next couple of weeks, the osprey pair get their mojo back after losing two chicks and put their all into rearing the one.

Blue tits

In the camera box with the blue tit family there are now only four chicks. Struggling to find any green caterpillars due to the cool spring means essential food for the growing youngsters is not available, and so one of the chicks has not made it. The parents removed the body from the nest and are concentrating their efforts on the remaining brood. The hot weather of last week would have brought about a sudden boost to the caterpillar population hopefully and this will be good news for blue tits.

Barn owls

Volunteers for the Tweed Valley Osprey Project were given a treat to visit a family of barn owls being fitted with BTO rings by Eve Schulte, Conservation Ranger for Forestry Commission Scotland.

Barn owls are another schedule one species from the Wildlife and Countryside Act which makes them a species of serious conservation concern. Their numbers in the region crashed considerably after two very severe winters in 2009 and 2010, and only now are they beginning to pick up. It was lovely to observe in close up, a brood of 3 owlets with their wizened faces, ranging in size from the large, eldest chick to the tiny, fluffy youngest. Hopefully, if the bank vole population and field mice are in good numbers this year then this little family will successfully fledge shortly. Their parents are a beautiful sight to see hunting at dusk, floating across the sky like ghostly images with their beady, black eyes peering out of their white disc faces and shrieking out their eerie banshee like calls.

small chick 2small chick 1

Thanks for reading,
Diane

Three chicks hatched

On Thursday 4th June, two tiny chick heads were spotted for the first time in the nest. It is uncertain whether they had both hatched on the same day or more likely one came a day earlier. The proud parents were very attentive and the male, white leg SS, brought in a fish which the female took and tore off small strips of meat which she offered down to each little osprey in turn to feed.

3 chicks days old with mum and Dad

Later that afternoon the male brought in a second fish and was very attentive towards his partner as he fed her.

On 6th June at 1.25pm, the female stood up and it was noticed that her brood had increased to three as the third little tiny head could be seen.

SS feeds Mrs June 8th 2015

Alive and flapping

The family are doing very well so far and white leg SS, has been bringing in good sized fish. He hasn’t taken any for himself prior to delivery as he has passed over the entire fish to his partner which must have only just been caught as it was still flapping. In fact the tail end of the large trout caught on Sunday 7th June was thrashing about so much it was bouncing off the chicks’ heads.

fish tails

Visitations

A cheeky jay has been seen frequently perched on the side of the nest, but both parents have seemed not in the slightest perturbed by their visitor.

The jay was picking up items from the back of the nest and eating them and then flew off with a chunk in its beak. We can only assume it must be some leftover fish. Fish supper at the jay residence must be a welcome break from acorns then! The ospreys are not concerned that these morsels have been taken from the nest and clearly don’t perceive the jay as a threat, which is strange, as the jay is certainly capable of taking the tiny osprey chicks at this stage of their life. Maybe, the clean-up operation to remove fish debris discarded by the osprey family is welcomed for now, particularly as the chicks would never intentionally be left alone while they so small.

8th June Jay visit

Hatching expectations

swap over main nest

We are expecting the osprey chicks to hatch this week, after a long incubation period of 35 to 40 days, little chicks should break their way out of the eggs were they have developed. They have a small tip on their beaks called the egg tooth; this is a tool that they use to chip the eggshell open from inside of the egg. They lose the egg tooth soon after hatching and begin to feed on raw strips of fish presented to them by their mother.

Intruder alarm

There was a bit of a shock this week as there was the unexpected appearance of a third osprey at the nest on Monday, this cheeky intruder briefly flew down into the nest, next to the incubating female but thankfully, white leg SS, was close by and immediately did his job and came straight down into the nest and then chased off the intruder. It happened so fast that we couldn’t see if it was a male or female bird. SS was away for about 10 minutes and for the whole time, the female looked very unsettled and alarmed. She was very alert and with her head up, looking skyward – presumably there was a bit of sky chasing above her that we were unable to see.

He returned to the nest and landed beside her and then was quickly off again and the female was alarm calling once more. He must have been successful in chasing the intruder away, as he returned and things settled again. Later he left the nest once more but the female looked content and so he had presumably gone off to hunt for fish.

Vulnerable chicks

Being so close to hatching, this week and the first couple of weeks after the chicks have hatched, is the very worst time for upsets, such as intruder birds, as the chicks will be at their most vulnerable stage. When they first hatch they can barely hold their heads up and are very wobbly until their muscles begin to develop and they gain in strength as they quickly grow on the protein rich diet of fish.
We are apparently due a bit of warm weather which will be a help for the young family, so that feeding can take place. The female has to stand up and away to the side of the chicks to feed them, which would be an impossible task in the high winds and torrential downpours of late.

CL6 after ringing

Return of anniversary young osprey

In 2013, we celebrated the 10th anniversary of the main nest pairing between white leg SS and the unringed female. As part of that celebration we worked with the children of St. Ronan’s Primary School in Innerleithen, to produce the book ‘Time Flies’, to tell the story of the Tweed Valley Ospreys.

The children were treated to a visit to the main nest site to see the young ospreys being fitted with their Darvic rings and the ringed birds were CL4, CL5 and CL6. The rings were chosen to correspond to their class name P4/5 and the following term they were to move to P6

This week we received a report from Joanna Dailey from Kielder Osprey Project that CL6 was photographed at Bothal Pond in Northumberland on 30th May 2015. Here is a photo of the bird taken by Frank Golding and published on Bird Guides.
The bird was watched for about 10 minutes, getting mobbed by crows and oystercatchers and then headed off to the east.
The school has been informed about the birds progress and hopefully the children will be really pleased to know that this bird that they saw as a young fledgling, is now a migrating adult and is fit, looking good and back in the UK.

CK2curtesy osprey safari

CK2 Esthwaite safari

More news has been received from Dave Coleman about the Tweed Valley bird CK2, at Esthwaite in the Lake District. She is in fact breeding and a photograph of her with a male ringed bird was sent to us. The picture is not clear enough to make out the identity of the male but more news about the birds there can be found on the Osprey Safari Facebook page.

FK8 is scouting in Portugal

FK8, the year old Tweed Valley satellite tagged osprey, has moved from her winter quarters in Portimao in Portugal, to a more northerly part of Portugal close to Sines. She is ranging across long distances and scouting and exploring the area. With summer well on its way, the Portuguese river levels will have dropped significantly and fish will have moved to deeper waters and maybe it is this reason that she is now seemingly fishing reservoirs and deeper waters.

Blue tits hatch

The blue tits in the camera box have hatched at Kailzie and the tiny bald nestlings are simply gorgeous. Mum and dad are working hard and delivering green caterpillars to them.
The mystery, slowest nest builder ever, seems to be adding a bit of moss regularly to the other nest box camera but it may be too late in the season for it to be a viable nest for raising a family.

Goshawk family

Fantastic new footage of a goshawk family has been added to the Glentress viewing facilities in the Wildwatch Room. This is a real treat to observe this shy and impressive rare predator.

Thanks for reading!

Diane