The chick in the main nest is growing at an astonishing rate. In one week, the change in this young raptor is very noticeable, as it is so much larger than last week, with a fine covering of feathers. There is very real hope now that this osprey will definitely make it to survive and fledge. There are times when the male brings a fish into the nest and the female shows little or no interest in taking it from him. This is possibly because he is doing so well to provide for his family that sometimes when he presents a fish, the female is not hungry and so doesn’t assume that the chick is hungry.
Sometimes he will fly off with his catch only to return with a portion of it later, having eaten a good meal for himself from it.
Shelter from the storm
The female osprey did a good job to shield the chick during torrential downpours at the weekend and was seen covering three quarters of the chicks body with her own, as the onslaught of raindrops, reminiscent of stair rods pelted down on them.
Predator versus predator
On Sunday, white leg SS brought in a pike, the pale stripes down the olive green body were clearly visible, marking it as a juvenile or Jack Pike. Even so, the length of the fish was considerable and was at least the same length as the osprey body and must have weighed practically the same as an osprey almost. With incredible skill the osprey had managed to capture a tremendous predator and not only catch it without coming to any harm but to then lift it clear of the water and carry it in his talons all the way back to the nest.
It would have made a spectacular performance to watch SS catch this fish, as pike are ferocious predators which are incredibly powerful. When in shallower areas of lochs, amongst vegetation they are ever watchful for anything which they could prey upon. They predate on smaller fish, amphibians, even waterfowl such as ducklings and are not averse to cannibalism!
The long snout of a pike houses rows of very sharp, backward pointing teeth which make it impossible for anything within their jaws to escape. Their method of hunting, particularly in the summer months, is to lurk in the shallows and then burst forward at phenomenal speed to give chase to their victims. Ducklings’ little webbed feet would be seen from below and then the pike would strike and pull the hapless youngster into the deep. Jaws springs to mind – a very scary film about a great white shark grabbing its victims from the depths below. In a similar fashion, pike can be likened to the ‘Jaws’ of the freshwater loch!
The osprey hunting method is to fly above a body of water, scanning the water below with their fantastic eyesight and then ‘plunge dive’ from a great height, talons outstretched, as they drop into the water and lock on to the target fish. The curved talons would sink into the flesh of the fish like an angler’s hook and then the osprey must heave its body on outstretched wings, out of the water and become airborne again. Once it has gained height it gives a mid-air shake to remove some excess water and then arranges its toes around the body of the fish, gripping it with its talons and the Velcro-like spicules on the underside of the feet help to lock the fish securely from dropping, as it carries it away like a torpedo.
At this point, the fish would still be alive and as anglers who have ever landed a pike will know, an angry, threatened pike can deliver a nasty bite. White leg SS must have perched somewhere on his return at some point, to kill the fish before delivering it to his family, as the lower jaw was missing. That must have been quite a battle to overpower it and using its strong hooked beak to attack the fish from the head to remove the lower jaw and render it powerless.
This is raw nature, where two top apex predators meet and only one can survive. Thankfully, it was osprey that was the victor and the experience and skill of white leg SS once again is demonstrated and we can only admire him as the true champion that he is. A slight slip or misjudgement in his technique could cause him considerable danger from a pike bite. What a privilege it is to have this mighty bird spend his summers here in Peeblesshire.