Monthly Archives: June 2016

Tragedy strikes Tweed Valley ospreys

parents with dead chick and egg

Parents at the nest with tiny dead chick and un-hatched, never to hatch egg.

This week, when we should have been celebrating the arrival of a second new addition to the Tweed Valley osprey main nest, we are instead grieving for the loss of both the little chick and the egg, which never hatched out.

It is heartbreaking and tragic news and for a third season running, poor SS has lost his family. We had high expectations for this season, as all looked set for success. The female, although a bit unsure of what to do, was given a gentle demonstration of how to feed the little one by SS. She managed to get into the swing of things and the tiny chick looked as though it was going to thrive. She had been continuing to incubate the second egg, which was expected to hatch up to five days later than the first egg.

However, since the death of the chick and the unsettling effect this has had on the birds, the egg has been neglected and haphazardly incubated, meaning that it has had long periods to chill and is unlikely to hatch at all.

Jay sees an opportunity

AS6 launches herself at jay

AS6 launches herself at the cheeky jay trying to take the body of her dead chick.

The tiny dead chick was left in the nest to the right of the egg and an opportunistic jay popped down to try and steal it for a free meal. The jay was firmly seen off in a blur of wings by the female AS6, as she launched herself from the perch at the jay in the nest, while SS remained on the perch where they had been sitting together. On Monday at around 10am the adult male removed the lifeless body of his offspring. The female didn’t seem to know how to behave and brought sticks and moss onto the nest and fussed about. She was occasionally sitting on the egg and rolling it but then giving up and flying off, or sitting to the side and preening her feathers.

Why did the chick die?

SS and dead chick

SS with the tiny lifeless form of his offspring.

We do not have any conclusive reasons why the chick died, but most worryingly the volunteer on duty heard and recorded the sound of somebody moving about near to the nest on Sunday on the live camera, after the chick had died. The adult birds were spooked and very distressed. Any disturbance that may have occurred when the chick was alive would have resulted in the adults leaving the nest and the helpless youngster would have succumbed to the cold or damp due to the weather. This would also have factored in the egg chilling at a crucial point too. The chicks are utterly defenseless when they are very young and have no way of keeping warm or dry without the protection of a parent. Disturbance remains the biggest threat to their survival during the most vulnerable stage of their lives.

We have narrowed down the time of when the chick died on the Saturday evening or early Sunday morning and there will be a thorough investigation, to piece together what happened.

It may be that the cause of death was due to natural circumstances as she was a first time mother and it can take time before she gains experience of how to defend and care for a family. However her partner SS is very experienced and has raised many chicks in his lifetime.

Disturbance of ospreys and the law

Disturbance of breeding ospreys is a criminal offence and offenders will be prosecuted.

The legal status of ospreys in the UK is a schedule 1 species under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981; this affords it the highest degree of protection.

It is an offence to intentionally take, injure or kill an osprey or to take, damage or destroy its nest, eggs or young. It is also an offence to intentionally or recklessly disturb the birds close to their nest during the breeding season. Violation of the law can attract fines up to £5,000 per offence and/or a prison sentence of up to six months.

The Nature Conservation (Scotland) Act 2004 widens this protection and provides additional protection for the osprey in Scotland.

Back-up nest ospreys

We hope to bring happier news about the back-up nest osprey family and how their two chicks are doing soon.

FK8’s grand tour of Scotland

fk8 Fochabers and River Spey 15th JUNE

FK8 on 15th June in a plantation east of the mighty River Spey south of Fochabers

FK8 is still making her grand tour of the UK and has moved from the area of Thurso that she seemed to take a shine to and has now moved further south. She spent some time in the area near to Bonar Bridge and the last data set that we have shows her travelling just south of Fochabers. She will certainly have a good knowledge of the UK landscape and good places to roost, feed or find other ospreys in Scotland, which all bodes well for when she will be ready to breed next year.

Watch the recent footage

 

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First chick hatched today

mum and just hatched

First glimpse of the new chick with mum

When the camera came on today a restless mum was seen fidgeting in the nest and there appeared to be some egg shell to the left side of her. She stood up and turned herself around and briefly revealed the tiny, hatched, new-born chick before she quickly nestled down again. She then began calling loudly and stood up properly just as her partner white leg SS came onto the nest with a rainbow trout. She took the whole fish from him and stood with her back to the camera, obscuring the chick and she began to feed herself by taking great gulps as though she was really hungry.

We noticed yesterday that she only ate a small amount very quickly before calling to him to leave as she settled back down on to the eggs, so perhaps she had not had much to eat since then as she eagerly awaited hatching.

Female feeds herself and attempts first feed for chick

Between her legs we could catch glimpses of the little new-born reaching up, open beaked, waiting for food. Its little body and head is weak and wobbly as it is so young. She offered a morsel down to it a couple of times but then seemed to swallow it herself when the chick didn’t grasp it immediately. She ate about a third of the fish and then settled on top of the young chick and the unhatched second egg.

mum and dad just hatched plus one egg

Proud mum and dad with new chick and un-hatched egg

The male flew off and took the fish.

Male takes over feeding the little one

He returned with it later on and this time he fed himself in the nest and began feeding the chick as she looked on. I don’t think she has quite got the gist of feeding a tiny nestling yet, this is her first born after all.

The family settled down for about an hour and dad left the nest again. On returning a second time she moved right off the chick and egg to the left side of the nest, and dad fed the little one before finishing the rest of the fish for himself. Mum merely preened her feathers and left dad to get on with it. I hope she gets to grips with motherhood duties quickly and also continues to incubate the second egg.

dad feeds little one in front of mum

Dad feeds little one infront of mum

In previous years when SS was with his established and experienced mate he never fed the chicks when they were tiny; he would deliver the whole fish and she would feed them. He has enough work to do already with all the hunting for the family, which is a huge responsibility feeding two adults and young ones.

dad feeds little one mum preens

Dad takes over feeding and mum preens her feathers

Ant swarm

On Thursday prior to hatching, both birds were at the nest when they were surprised by swarming wood ants. Thousands of insects covered the nest and were crawling all over the birds and eggs too. The female became most unsettled and flew off and the male kept trying to cover the eggs with some lichen. The swarming of the nest continued for up to two hours before they were finally free of the tiny marauders. Wood ants swarm and climb pine trees in search of aphids to milk the honeydew from them. They are most useful in the forest ecological system as they predate on nuisance insects such as looper moth caterpillars and sawfly larvae, but I am pretty sure the ospreys were not appreciative of their ecological benefits as they stormed their nest!

Buzzard chicks

There is a ‘live’ camera at Glentress on the local buzzard nest and they have three chicks. There are lots of crow feathers to the side of the nest and it looks like they have been feeding on crow or jackdaws. The nest has a topping of fresh pine which helps to keep it clean as the food remains attract flies and insects.

buzzard and 3 chicks

Buzzard and three chicks, crow feathers and pine needles

Back-up nest chicks

The back-up nest has two chicks and a third egg as yet unhatched. We have just found out that the female is an unringed bird and we do not know if the male is the same bird from last year yet, yellow 8C , or whether it is a completely new pair.

back up 2 chicks and mum

Back-up nest mum and two chicks

 Take a look at the latest exciting footage

 

 

 

Nearly time to hatch

This has been a week of glorious sunshine and warm temperatures for the ospreys up at the main nest. It must be a welcome break from the hailstorms and rainy weather that they have experienced recently. They are no strangers to hot weather as they migrate away from our harsh winter climate to regions as far south as western Africa.

Hatching due at the weekend

careful with eggs AS6

It is a blessing that the chicks on the main nest have not hatched just yet, as unlike the adult birds they are not able to regulate their temperature. The chicks will hatch with just a light covering of fluffy down and be totally dependent on their parents to shield them from both hot or cold temperatures during the first couple of weeks of their lives until their own set of insulating feathers grow.

The parents-to-be are careful to raise up off the eggs to prevent them getting too warm and shade them with their bodies, blocking the sun but at the same time ensuring that just the right amount of incubation time occurs as the final days approach prior to hatching. I hope they cope well with the thunderstorms which are looming, accompanied by fierce downpours of rain akin to a monsoon!

We are hoping to see the first chick emerge from its shell on either Saturday or Sunday, fingers crossed!

Sightings of Tweed Valley birds

It is always lovely to hear from people who have spotted our ospreys when they are out and about. This week we heard that someone had seen an osprey fishing along the Tweed from as far as Cornhill. It is great to hear that someone has had such a wonderful experience, witnessing this magnificent bird as it is hunting along the river.

One of SS’ daughters from 2007 nests in Stirlingshire

We had further news from dedicated osprey follower Pete Dee, who heard from a fisherman up in Stirlingshire that a bird who originated from the main Tweed Valley nest from 2007 is now nesting there. The female bird is white leg HA. This is great news as she is one of white leg SS’ daughters. She has partnered with an unringed male bird and they are awaiting the arrival of chicks.

This clearly illustrates the benefits of ringing the birds with the largely visible Darvic rings. This is the first news we have received about this female since leaving Tweed Valley in 2007. It is nice to hear that she is doing so well in the week that her dad is expecting another brood of young to hatch at the very same nest site that she fledged from.

unglamourous HA 2007 with brother HB

Rained on and unglamorous HA at ringing 2007

white HA as a nestling 2007

HA and HB returned to their nest after ringing 2007

Pete runs a website dedicated to collating information about all of the UK osprey sites and links to their live cameras at ukospreys.uk.

Three year old CL6 nesting with 25 year old partner

Even more good news has been received about one of the chicks who was ringed from the main nest in 2013, when pupils from St. Ronan’s Primary School were allowed to watch the ringing. He has found a partner and is nesting up in the highlands with a 25 year old female.

returned ringed CL6 2013

CL6 in the nest after ringing 2013

FK8 explores Orkney Isles and east of Scotland

FK8 has set off on her travels again. She spent a restful period at lochs south of Thurso before taking a trip across to the Orkney Isles on 28th May where she spent the day . She then returned south of Thurso where a number of people got in touch to report sightings of her and other ospreys in the area. Since then she has travelled down the east coast of Scotland where she spent the day on 2nd June exploring the countryside north and south of the A839 near to Pittentrail and Loch Buidhe.

orkney isles

FK8 takes a trip to Orkney. Up the eastern side and returning along the west

east coast to Pittentrail 2nd JUne with pinpoints

FK8 heads south down the coast to Pittentrail and Loch Buidhe 2nd June

Thurso to Golspie 2nd JUne

Thurso to Golspie area for FK8

pittentrail june 2nd close up with pinpoints

Pittentrail visit with timed pinpoints

  Watch the latest footage

The long wait

The main nest pair of ospreys in Tweed Valley have established a domestic regime, whereby he goes fishing and returns to eat his catch nearby, certainly close enough for his partner to know he is about. She squawks, pips and generally makes a fair bit of noise to let him know that she is hungry. He then delivers the leftover fish to her, after he has taken off the head and a good portion of the body depending on how hungry he is, or how generous he is feeling towards his partner. As soon as he brings the fish in to the nest, she raises herself up off the eggs and takes the fish from him. There is little or no exchange between them as she flies off with it, sometimes to the perch above the nest or away from the nest entirely. Once she is away and feeding, he takes his turn to sit on the eggs.

I will take that thanks

I’ll take that thanks.

This morning, the female was sitting on the right hand perch above the nest and was busy preening when he began to call excitedly to her as he sat in the nest. She flew down beside him and he took off. There didn’t appear to be any intruder birds about but he certainly left in a hurry. She did not appear concerned and gently began to rearrange the soft bedding material to hunker down onto the eggs again.

Handle with care

It is good that she is now showing considerable care and attention when moving around the nest so that her razor sharp talons do not pierce the eggs. She very carefully curls her talons away from the eggs and bunches up her knuckles. She uses her knuckles and beak to turn them carefully so that they incubate evenly and don’t addle. She has learnt to do this recently as initially she was a bit rough and when moving nest material around on 15th May, she was so intent on moving the stick that was annoying her she nearly squashed her eggs. Thankfully, she is most probably learning to be more careful by the example that her partner ‘white leg SS’ has shown. He has raised a total of 27 chicks in his lifetime with his previous partners, so hopefully his experience will help her to become a good parent.

mind those talons

The waiting game

All we can do now is wait for those eggs to hatch! There is at least another two weeks to go for this pair. There is good news for other hatching ospreys around the country: the Tweed Valley osprey white EB has just become a mum in Kielder. Her first chick hatched on 29th May and the proud parents can be seen on camera there. She was raised in Tweeddale and nested here originally, but for some reason has chosen to move to Kielder this year and take over a nest there with the resident male 37.

Family history

The Tweed Valley ‘back up’ nest birds will have also hatched by now, and we hope to retrieve the footage from their camera soon. It will be interesting to find out which birds are the parents at this site now. Did yellow 8C hold the territory after his partner green DN died last year or have another pair moved in?

Yellow 8C is FK8’s father, who has delighted us so far with her travels this spring as her satellite tracker has been transmitting data detailing her every journey. She has travelled far and wide and for the past couple of weeks, seems to have found a spot that she likes up in the far north of Scotland. She is spending her days leisurely visiting the myriad moorland lochs and then roosting in a local forest plantation in the evenings. It will be interesting to see if she remains in that area for the rest of the summer. Has she taken up territory or even met a likely future partner? Whatever the reason, she seems to like it there and has stopped further exploration for a while.

Northern Scotland 26th May

North west of Scotland where FK8 has made home lately.

Birds and badgers

With incubation lasting so long and a sitting osprey not always doing anything very entertaining to watch, we aim to make the visitor centres’ wildlife offering more diverse by including other wildlife too. At Glentress there is some fantastic footage of badgers playing outside their artificial sett complete with a good supply of food left for them. There are also cameras on the bird feeders to watch the forest birds close up.

At Kailzie osprey watch, there are cameras in the blue tit and great tit boxes and both birds have hatched out all of their nestlings. They are delightful to watch as they grow at a phenomenally fast rate. They were little squirming, bald, reptilian creatures last week but now they are cute, open beaked and spikey feathered; proper little birds. Their parents are working hard to bring in caterpillars and flies to give them their protein building blocks to ensure that they develop swiftly into adulthood.

blue tits great tits

Blue tit nest above. Great tit nest below.

vlcsnap-2016-04-26-18h56m27s167

Otter caught on camera at Kailzie

Spotting fairies

The trail camera at Kailzie has picked up fantastic footage of otters, foxes, a badger, rabbits, heron and much more. The camera was set up over the fishing ponds and there was an awesome emergence of mayflies which in turn attracted bats. The camera perspective means it is hard at times to judge the distance and size of creatures, so we captured some images which look like fairies flying over the water. While Kailzie has always been described as a magical place perhaps we now have proof, or are they merely mayflies?

fairy over ponds circled

mayfly or fairy?

mayfly fairy

mayflies or fairies?

 Have a look at the recent wildlife footage