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
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?
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 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