Monthly Archives: July 2016

Osprey journeys

AS6 visits Kielder 24th July

Tweed Valley bird AS6 visits Kielder nest 1A. Photo courtesy of Kielder Osprey Project

On Sunday 24th July both ospreys were sitting at the main nest until 11am, then AS6 took off and SS left soon after. The nest remained empty for the rest of the afternoon until a lonely SS returned just before 4 pm with a fish, but there was no sign of AS6 to share it with.

A day trip to Kielder

The reason she was not around was because she had taken herself off on a day trip to Kielder! At just after 4pm she swooped into their ‘1A’, nest and made a brief touch down before a very disgruntled male YA, the resident bird, aggressively chased her off. The whole dramatic episode including the aerial chase was caught on camera at Kielder and can be seen on their blog site here.

We are very grateful to Joanna Dailey at Kielder for letting us know and fully expected an empty nest at Tweed Valley on Monday morning. It was a lovely surprise to see that both SS and AS6 were sitting peacefully up on their perches beside the nest at 11am on Monday.

FS2 visits the main nest pair

Hello stranger FS2

FS2 in the nest with SS and AS6 up on the perch


FS2 in the Tweed Valley main nest, making herself at home.

The peace didn’t last long as an intruding osprey startled the pair, landing in the middle of their nest while they were both sitting there on the perches. SS dropped down beside the bird and mantled his wings briefly before taking off, leaving a slightly upset AS6 squawking and dropping her wings in agitation on the perch, while the intruder bird took a good look around the nest. As she did so, we were able to capture a good image of her ring number from the live streaming: blue FS2. This is the same bird that appeared 10 days ago. We had originally thought the ring number was ES2 as we didn’t get a decent look at it then. We will definitely be able to find out who she is and where she has come from now that we know the number for sure.

Birds who have been  unsuccessful in breeding begin to roam at this time of year, and it is an exciting time, as they drop in and check out other nest sites. This is often the time when we get to hear of sightings of ringed birds and we can really appreciate their long ranging dispersal throughout the UK. We would consider a trip across to Kielder as quite a journey but to an osprey it is just a fairly effortless jaunt, an afternoon wander.

FK8 stops hunting for fish and gives us a fright


Thanks to Derry for sending this image of FK8 alive and well. When zoomed in you can see the aerial sticking up on her satellite tag


FK8’s blue ring can just about be made out in the shot.

Fears for FK8 were raised when the data from her satellite tag revealed that she had not strayed from roughly a 15 metre diameter within a forest plantation in the north east of Scotland for a number of days. The first worry was that if she was not leaving the forest, then how was she feeding? This caused concern because at first we thought she could have died or the tag had failed in some way and was only transmitting from the one spot.

Tony Lightley, Environment and Heritage Manager from Forestry Commission Scotland, got in touch with a local ranger who lives near to the area where she was last known to be. Thankfully, due to the accuracy of the device, the ranger managed to locate the spot and the good news is that he spotted her and was able to see the tag and blue ring on the bird, and in fact she has built a nest!

A preoccupation with nest building

It is far too late to have young this year and FK8 is too young to breed anyway but she must have a partner that is bringing fish to her, which is why she is not leaving the forest and is defending her new territory. Perhaps this is her investment for next season and it is interesting that courtship with ospreys occurs so far in advance. She may return with the same partner to this site next year when she is ready to breed, we will have to wait and see. It may just be a practice nest but she certainly has not done any fishing for herself for six days.

The osprey nest is such a big structure and takes time to be constructed, so getting a head start the season before is a good investment. Artificial nesting platforms are so attractive to ospreys because it too allows them that head start at the beginning of a season, when courtship and territory defending also have to be prioritised.

Flight for back up nest birds

Back up nest birds ringed and tagged

The back up nest birds PX1 and PX2.

PX1 best quality

PX1 from the back up nest

PX1 and PX2 tagged

PX1 and PX2 after they had been fitted with their satellite tags. Feathers hide PX1’s tag. PX2 will preen his feathers which will soon hide his tag too.

px1 alone

This years’ Tweed Valley back up nest birds have successfully fledged and will embark on their exploration of the area as soon as they can brave journeys further afield than the immediate nest area. They have been fitted with rings, blue PX1 and PX2, and we are waiting for their satellite tags to be activated so that we can begin to receive data to find out how far their early flying ventures take them, as they test their flight skills prior to their impending first migration.

 Watch the latest footage

Summertime for ospreys

side by side feeding

SS and AS6 side by side for dinner

The main nest pair of ospreys, SS and AS6, are enjoying a stress free summer without offspring to rear. They have held the territory without any drama, spending their time at the eyrie eating and preening their feathers. AS6 is still quite a demanding partner when it comes to food though and her shrill cries when she is hungry seems to fall on deaf ears, as SS doesn’t react but merely sits on until he flies off to fish when he feels that he wants to.

They have established a closer bond having been given this extra time to cement the relationship without the pressure of rearing young and can often be seen sitting together on the perch above the nest, sometimes both of them eating together.

An intruder osprey visits

blue ringed intruder

blue ringed intruder ES2 possibly

A blue ringed intruder with SS

intruder in nest with SS and AS6 on perch

On Saturday the male SS was sharing the left over portion of fish that AS6 was eating and they seemed very contented. Later their blissfulness was disrupted by the arrival of an intruder osprey that cheekily flew down into the nest. She was a blue ringed bird and the volunteer on duty managed to get a few photos from the live streaming. The lettering on the blue ring was not seen clearly enough but could possibly have been ES2 or FS2. We will try to get a clearer image and find out if this is the correct number and who this snoopy osprey is and where she has come from. The resident female stayed up on the perch while SS dealt with the situation by flying down into the nest and mantling his wings, posturing in a way to make the intruder certain that she was quite unwelcome.

Back-up birds are ringed and tagged

back up all at home

back- up nest family together

The back–up nest birds have had an eventful week as a team of experts from Forestry Commission Scotland, under conditions of the permitted licence, carried out the ringing of the nestlings and fitted them with satellite tagging devices. Both chicks are thought to be male even though one is much larger than the other. There was a few days between them at hatching stage and the oldest chick is clearly very well developed and a magnificent bird.

The satellite tagging devices are different to ones used previously: the aerial for the satellite is internal and therefore cannot be seen sticking up out of the back of the bird like the one which FK8 currently has. It makes for a more streamlined little back pack for the birds to carry and they were fitted just like a rucksack with Teflon tapes then sewn together to hold it in place and prevent it from falling off.

They are solar powered and will last up to four years hopefully before the batteries are spent and the cotton stitching falls away to release the tag from the bird. The data that the devices send back will mean we can follow their every movement once they fledge and keep tabs on their lives should they be lucky enough to survive. The time span will allow for us to gain information about where the birds migrate to and where they settle before returning to the UK to explore, eventually taking up territories of their own and becoming part of the breeding population of ospreys in the future.

Gruesome dinner habits

two buzzards one dinner vole

Not going to share that vole

The young buzzards are often seen flying over Glentress now they have successfully fledged and they pop back to the nest for an occasional feed which is brought in by mum or dad. We have superb footage of their family life at the centre at Glentress Wildwatch room and many clips of their antics at the nest and in particular the gruesome feeding times. The latest footage revealed the adult bird arrive onto the empty nest with a dead vole and within moments two greedy and hungry fledglings swooped down into the nest to take the prey. The most aggressive of the two, seized it and mantled its wings, to block its sibling from having any and proceeded to devour the vole in great torn off chunks.

More wildlife and things to see

otter looks to camera

Otter passing by

ish supper for black socks

Fish supper for black socks fox

More otter and fox antics can be seen at Kailzie Osprey and Nature Watch Centre which have been filmed on the motion activated camera, with a brief appearance of a stoat running up the tree.

common blue female  2

Blue female butterfly on yellow rattle outside the Wildwatch room at Glentress

The whole of the Glentress site is swathed in glorious wildflowers at the moment which is good news for the newly installed bee hive. It can be watched as the bees come in to the indoor viewing hive laden with pollen. The flowers are attracting many butterflies and day flying moth species too, such as cinnabar moth and common blue butterflies.

Holding their territory


red squirrel with main nest pair

A red squirrel visits AS6 and SS

The main nest birds are still very much together and are occupying their eyrie regularly. We did wonder if they may drift apart and stay absent from the nest site since losing their family but it is a very good sign that they are still there and holding the territory together.

The behaviour of the female bird AS6 is almost like that of a young bird begging for food from a parent rather than from a partner. She is so vocal and demanding, continuing persistently until SS flies off and goes fishing. We have not seen her bring fish into the nest alone, but we see her eating and SS sitting close by and have made the assumption that he is still giving the fish to her.

A red squirrel visit

red squirrel close up

Red squirrel visit

Both birds were relaxing on the nest on Sunday  when a surprise visitor popped up. A little red squirrel hopped onto the side of the nest and began to run around. The ospreys seemed oblivious to this at first, but as the little squirrel’s antics escalated to running up the side branch and swinging about, their attention was caught. The squirrel then ran around to the front of the nest and into the dense pine needles, watched by two pairs of curious yellow osprey eyes.

Some good news in Stirlingshire

Earlier this spring we received news that a Tweed Valley osprey, one of the birds from the main nest reared in 2007 by white leg SS and his original partner, has found a mate and was nesting in Stirlingshire. We received an update of news this week to say that the season had been successful and that they have reared three male chicks which have been ringed by the RSPB.

Back-up nest update

mum and two chicks back up nest 2016

Mum and two chicks

The Tweed Valley ‘back-up’ nest birds are thriving and the recorded footage which we are collecting is most revealing about their family life. It seems that yellow 8C spends very little time at the nest and merely delivers the fish, taking off immediately. We know that he doesn’t go far and is ever watchful and alert but it is his strategy to deliver fish and then sit as guard at close quarters and not involve himself in the domestic feeding scenes. The female bird is a most attentive mother and even though the young ospreys are well covered by true feathers, she has still stretched herself over them during some heavy downpours of rain to shield them.

They are clearly enjoying a bountiful supply of fish and she has been seen feeding the young chicks and still offering them food long after the point when they have had enough. Their crops were bulging full of food and they were looking sleepy eyed and ready to rest but mum was still seen offering little titbits of fish.

She is mostly always present on the nest with her young, even when the camera shows only the chicks in the nest. As clouds sweep by allowing the sun to appear, a large shadow of mum sitting on the perch above the chicks can be seen cast onto the nest. Each time she leaves the nest she stares straight into the camera as she flies straight at it onto the camera pole which has become her favourite perch, directly above her family. It provides a great view for us on film too!

the Shadow mum

The shadow

Lazy stretches

When they are not being fed, the chicks spend their time preening, stretching, resting and then wing flapping. Sometimes they appear so relaxed that they don’t bother to stand up for a stretch and just push out a wing across the nest. We can see that the shaft of their flight feathers is almost broken all the way down, releasing their newly created full feathers. This means they are almost ready for flight.

lazy wing stretch

Lazy wing stretch

All of the back-up nest film recordings have been added to the screen at Glentress Wildwatch and Kailzie Osprey & Nature Watch Centre for visitors to be able to watch the family.

FK8 happy up north

FK8 is still enjoying her time in the north of Scotland. She travelled down to the Firth of Durnoch between the 6th and 9th July and explored the area of estuary and over to Skibo castle lochs. She then headed back up north to her favourite area around the lochs near to Halkirk.

Eve Schulte talks to Friends of Kailzie Wildlife

eve  talks to FKW


Eve with Jo from Peeblesshire News and Norma from Friends of Kailzie Wildlife at the buzzard ringing

Friends of Kailzie Wildlife were treated to an inspiring talk at the Osprey and Nature Watch centre at Kailzie Gardens by Forestry Commission Conservation and Heritage Manager Eve Schulte on Sunday. Eve’s enthusiasm talking about what her job entails was inspiring and it was fascinating to hear all about her work: monitoring species, ringing raptors and checking all the forest areas prior to harvesting works, licensing, habitat creation and so much more.

Buzzards all ready to go

buzzards ready to go

Buzzards ready to go

All three buzzards have now fledged successfully and have been filmed at their nest for the last month which can be seen when there is a volunteer on duty at Glentress Wildwatch.

Watch the new footage

A lonely egg

The main Tweed Valley nest site stands empty for long periods now, with just the dud egg lying in the middle of the vast structure. The adult birds have been coming to the nest less often, and on Monday afternoon the female cut a lonely figure sitting by herself up on the perch to the left of the nest in the pouring rain. The male bird has been seen too, and has brought moss and sticks to dress the nest even though there is absolutely no chance of them raising a family for this season now.

We hope that the pair continue to bond throughout the summer and return next year to try again. So far we have not seen any other ospreys checking out the empty site which is what has happened in previous years when ospreys have failed to breed. The spare non breeders in the population do sometimes hang around successful sites and check in on occasion, looking for a cheeky steal when a site comes up for grabs. We could speculate that the spare birds that were often seen last year have successfully moved onto territories of their own this year.

Sometimes when an osprey pair fails to breed, they build a new nest structure nearby. This has been named a frustration nest, as it is not used but remains a spare. The reason for this is unclear, perhaps it is done to ensure that they have a site for the next season should anything happen to their own nest site. It would be a useful starter home for new pairs moving into the area though, so perhaps this again ensures a degree of security for their own nest site as new pairs may choose the new and vacant one instead of trying to oust them from the main nest.

The backup chicks

mum returns to chicks 5th July

Mum returning to her big chicks

mum flies towards camera

The backup nest chicks are doing incredibly well. They are now well developed and the eldest chick is probably only about ten days away from fledging. The younger chick will take possibly up to five days longer.

There was a noticeable age difference between the chicks. Originally there were four eggs in the nest (at first we thought there were only three): two of these eggs did not hatch out and we wondered if perhaps the age difference was due to egg 1 hatching, followed by egg 3, and that eggs 2 and 4 didn’t make it. Or perhaps even that a clutch of two were laid followed by a second clutch if they were chilled due to periods of prolonged rain.

These chicks will be fitted with satellite tracking devices and it will be very exciting to find out where they go to and follow them for the next three to four years if they are lucky enough to survive.

Their father, Yellow 8C, is also the father of FK8. Her satellite data this week has revealed that she has moved back to the north east of Scotland again and is exploring the area of lochs and tree plantations near to Halkirk. She seems to like to spend a few days there and then have exploration journeys further afield before returning.

Buzzard fledging

three ready to go

The buzzard family live on camera at Glentress have grown so much and will be leaving the nest site soon. Certainly two of the youngsters have fledged already and today there was only one of them in the nest. It was eating the remains of what looked like rabbit and was so full it fell asleep on top of it.

The three young birds have been seen hopping about the branches as they flap their soon to be tested wings. They didn’t appear to be sincere attempts to fly but more like wing exercises while tightly gripping on to the branch with talons to avoid the wind giving them lift off before they were ready to go. They are impressive looking raptors and their plumage markings are beautiful, particularly the contrasting stripes of dark brown/ black and white on the under wings.

Oystercatchers outwit the crows

Good news for our oystercatcher family, as they were all spotted together on the island at the Kailzie fishery. When the chicks were tiny they were hounded by crows and the parents had to lead them away. They hadn’t been seen for a while, so it was pleasing to hear that mum, dad and all three chicks were seen together safe and well.

Suspicious foxes

fox and fish

The foxes have been regularly coming to an area were we have been leaving fish scraps for them, and we have used the motion activated camera to capture their suspicious and cautious behaviour to check out the free meal before grabbing and running off with it. There seems to be two or maybe three individual foxes: one is really quite small with very clear markings of black ear tips and black socks. Another one is very skinny looking and long legged, and a third one looks in really good condition with a beautiful coat.

Take a look at some of the recent footage

Staying together

a fish to quieten his partner

A fish to keep his partner quiet as she stands over the egg that will not hatch now

The adult ospreys at the main nest have remained together since the tragic loss of their little chick last week. We have witnessed scenes of pair bonding which is encouraging as the couple cope with a summer without a family. The female is incredibly demanding and very vocal when she is hungry. Even though the male is not obligated any longer because there are no young to feed, he is continuing to provide for her. Not surprising though, as she creates such a racket that it seems the only way to quieten her is to give her some fish.

He has reverted back to his old practices of eating the head first and letting her have the rest. She snatches it from him as eagerly as a young nestling and takes it up to the perch to feed herself. The good thing is that he then sits next to her while she feeds. This is evidence that the bond has remained strong between them, so hopefully they will hold the territory together and try again next year.

Back-up nest chicks

little and large chick

Little and Large 5th June.

8C at the back up with unringed

8C is the daddy!

The ‘back-up’ nest pair of ospreys are doing very well and we now have the recorded footage taken so far this summer, which reveals that they have two healthy chicks in the nest. The recordings have shown that the male bird is yellow leg 8C and he is with his new mate, an unringed female.

There is a considerable size difference between the two chicks. One appears to be as much as five days older than the other chick judging by the size and the covering of feathers. The recording for the 5th June shows a very young osprey still covered in white down with the sibling almost double the size, with a covering of grey down and with feathering coming through. Since that date the chicks have grown well and the smallest chick is now a good size. It is still smaller than the other nestling, but the size difference is not quite as obvious as when they were younger. The film footage can be seen at both osprey centres at Glentress and Kailzie Gardens.

back up chicks size on  27th june

They have grown so much! Chicks on 27th June

FK8 up north

It is good to find out that the male bird is 8C and although he lost his partner last year, he has managed to hold onto the territory and find a new partner, the unringed female. His daughter, FK8, is still amazing us with her travels in the north of Scotland which we know from the data we receive from her satellite transmitter. She has certainly taken a liking to the north east of Scotland and is still ranging across the land exploring lochs and forest plantations.

Buzzard tea party

buxxard delivers a toad for tea

Special delivery – a tea time toad for chick

The buzzard nest at Glentress has three big healthy chicks. They were ringed by Eve Schulte from Forestry Commission Scotland, during an event held by Eve, Tony Lightley and Ronnie Graham. Volunteers for the osprey project and guests were invited to come along and see the buzzard chicks fitted with their identity rings. It was a special treat to see these beautiful young birds up close.

Each chick had a metal BTO leg ring with a unique identity number fitted. They were not fitted with coloured Darvic rings so cannot be identified at a distance, but at the end of the birds lifetime, should the carcass be discovered, it is traceable to where it fledged from. This record is useful to gain data for the dispersal of the species and individuals longevity. The buzzard nest is currently live on camera at Glentress and they are interesting to watch as they deal with prey items brought in by mum such as a mouse and a toad. They are wing flapping and getting ready to fledge. Sometimes it seems that it is more difficult to stay in the nest than to take flight as they teeter around the overcrowded space trying not to get blown over the edge.

Kailzie night shift


Fantastic Mr. Fox

We have been taking recordings from a trail camera in the grounds of Kailzie Estate and adding the footage to the screens at the osprey centre. This has resulted in some great footage as the night shift animals captured by the motion activated camera are lovely to watch. We have enjoyed the antics of foxes taking advantage of fish scraps from the fishery, otters sneaking along the trails and a trundling badger. The latest film clip showed the madcap antics of a family of four stoats wreaking havoc near to a wren nest, as the tiny angry bird hails her protest at the roguish marauders.

 Watch the latest footage