All is quiet

Triumphant squawking Mrs.O

There have been no major developments at the main nest site this week and white leg SS has not been spending much time there. A solitary Mrs. O has spent a few lonely days and her frequent calling seems to be lessening to a degree. We feel sorry for her despite light heartedly making fun of her demands for fish and her behaviour in general towards SS.

Holding on

The given facts about her current position are that despite her imperative to breed she has failed this year while valiantly holding on to a territory, nest site and an available male osprey who has been providing her with fish. Her unwillingness to leave to fish for herself is most probably in defense of the territory and not to leave the site vacant.  The absence of SS from the site does provoke thoughts that he may be with FS2 at another location and she may have chicks, but that is purely speculation.

Osprey fatality

We have had news of an osprey found dead with a blue darvic ring on the left leg. CX3 was a bird from the Dumfriesshire area, ringed at a nest site on 6th July 2014. This male bird was of mature breeding age and was found in the Tweed Valley project area on 18th May, thought to have drowned sometime previously.

It is probably just coincidence but it was 18th May when Mrs. O first appeared at the main nest site, and we did speculate that the male osprey that died potentially could have left a family without a male to provide for them. We have also discussed different reasons why Mrs. O has not been able to produce any eggs since mating with SS, and that maybe she failed at egg stage before coming to the main nest. This would mean not being able to produce any further eggs this year if her resources were depleted from an earlier attempt.

Could Mrs. O be the partner of CX3 from a failed nest? There are not that many spare ospreys in the area so it is plausible, but there is no evidence, just another possible explanation for her sudden appearance and her behaviour.

Tweed Valley osprey sightings

Tweed Valley osprey FK4 has been spotted up at Loch Doon in Dumfriesshire where he caused an upset by taking over an occupied nest and kicking the eggs out.

A male osprey with leg ring FX0 who fledged from a nest in Tweed Valley in 2015 has been photographed on 7th June at Venus Ponds in Shropshire by local photographer Alan Williams.

Osprey 2

Alan said “The osprey came in from the southern end of the lake which means it must have come over Cound Lake on its way.  It took us all by surprise; the first we knew was all the water fowl scattering in panic, then someone in the hide shouted –‘Osprey!’.”

I was sat at the far end of the hide nearest to where the bird came in.  It swooped down trying for one of the carp basking in the weed near the surface to the right of the hide.”

Osprey 5

For a full account and technical details of how Alan got such good shots of the osprey and what equipment he used please see below.

Satellite tracked round up

FK8, the satellite tracked female from Tweed Valley, has made the north of Scotland her home for the second summer running. We had high hopes that she may find a partner and breed this year as she is now three years old, but her movements suggest a semi nomadic existence. She has travelled from the area around Loch Slethill in the Forsinard Flows National Nature reserve south to Burnfoot and back up north towards Thurso, all in a days flight on 11th June. She is wandering the open landscape with myriad lochs and stretches of open water and rivers, and it’s certainly a good area for fishing for her.

PX1 is still in the gold mines area in Southern Mali in Africa as far as we know and seems to be leading a sedentary existence with only occasional longer flights. The last data update from his tag was 22nd May, so it will be good to get some new fixes on his activity if the lag in data catches up.

Tweed Valley bird at Kielder

EB, the Tweed Valley osprey who has nested in Kielder, is a mum of two lovely chicks with a third egg that has not hatched. The family are doing really well despite the recent heavy downpours of rain. There are four Kielder Osprey nests on camera and they are enjoying a very productive year of osprey chicks.

School visit

We had a visit to Kailzie Osprey Centre from two classes from Priorsford Primary school in Peebles. Following a talk about the Tweed Valley Ospreys, it was a total pleasure to chat with the children who were brimming with questions and enthusiasm about the ospreys.

They sent some lovely pictures and thank you letters too after their visit and we hope they will continue to follow the Tweed Valley Ospreys progress and come back to visit again soon.

Alan’s account of taking great osprey photos

Os[rey 6Osprey 3

I was sat at the far end of the hide nearest to where the bird came in. It swooped down trying for one of the carp basking in the weed near the surface to the right of the hide.  Panic ensued I’m afraid, my lens was zoomed out at 600mm and the bird was little more than 20 metres away so it filled the viewfinder and then some. The bird passed from right to left going right past the front of the hide; my camera lens was poking out of the end window and I collided with the window frame as I tried to pan the shots.

Osprey 4

I had to quickly withdraw the camera from the end window and re-position it through the front to carry on taking pictures of the bird as it passed through. There was very little skill involved; everything happened so quickly I had little time to setup the camera properly but that is usually the case with wildlife. The Osprey made a second attempt to take a fish as it passed by flying low over the water. It then lifted to about 50 feet above the lake and started hovering searching the water for signs of prey. It shifted position several times continuing with this hovering until it sighted something and making another attempt to capture one of the many carp present in the lake. It was unsuccessful during this shoot although it did return later and another lucky person captured the bird carrying off one of the carp.

Osprey 9

I do photograph birds regularly having recently taken up the hobby again after years of not having the time and pursuing other things. I am now building up my skill with the digital camera but I am far from anything bar a keen amateur. I use a Nikon D500 partnered with a Sigma 150-600mm Contemporary zoom lens for most of my wildlife work. When the Osprey first appeared the lens was fully extended to 600mm and the bird overfilled the frame.

I took the shot with the camera set to shutter priority so that I controlled the shutter speed so as to freeze the action and increase the detail. Settings were: Exposure 1/2500 sec; f9; ISO Auto Pattern metering. As the bird closed on our position I was desperately trying to reduce the zoom to frame the bird fully. The third picture in the fly by I had managed to decrease the focal length to 460mm at f8. The Osprey is still not fully framed but this was more due to me not being able to keep up with the birds speed and my panning proved to be too slow. When the Osprey was directly in front I managed to catch up and capture the full bird with the lens at 450mm f7.1 and the subject was less than 15 metres away.

Osprey

As the bird climbed I fully extended the lens to 600mm but with the camera being of DX type the true length would be 900mm. This was further extended by putting the camera into 1.3 crop mode. With the sky now being the backdrop I increased the ev to 1.3 to prevent the bird being a silhouette. My tips for action shots is try to freeze the action.  With a big lens you need to combat movement of the subject and camera shake.

Any form of VR is great for reducing the risk of camera shake especially when panning a hand held camera with a big lens.  Setting the camera to shutter priority gives you the control of the shutter speed and varying the speed will either freeze any movement or give the subject a certain amount of controlled blur giving the impression of movement but not too much.

Osprey 7

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