Monthly Archives: July 2017

Osprey breeding season success

whole family 8c in middlePY2 being fed all presentSeason round up

This year the Tweed Valley Osprey Project has had a total of eleven nest sites with pairs of ospreys in residence and of these nests, nine of the sites were successful with osprey parents raising young this year. A total of 18 young ospreys have fledged: there were two broods with three chicks, five broods with two chicks and two broods of single chicks.

All of them were fitted with identity rings apart from the one that flew off last week and another that was too small for the ring to be fitted at the time and so was just fitted with a BTO ring.

This is the highest number of chicks fledged since 2011 when a total of 20 chicks fledged, so in all it has been a really productive season for breeding ospreys in the Scottish Borders, despite the disappointing result for the main nest on ‘live’ camera where our most well-known osprey, SS and his latest partner Mrs. O, have failed to breed.

The Darvic rings used for the Tweed Valley birds this year were all blue with white lettering of PX6 and PX9, PY0, PY1, PY2, PY3, PY4, PY8, PY9, LK0, LK1, LK2, LK3, LK4, LK5 and LK6.


The Tweed Valley Osprey Project area stretches from the source of the Tweed in upper Tweeddale to the mouth of the Tweed in Berwick. The main concentration of ospreys in the upper Tweed Valley has produced a minimum of 207 osprey chicks to date. The total is given as a minimum as there could well be more birds fledged from the area from undiscovered sites.

Fledging at nest 2

py1 being fed

The satellite tagged birds from the back up nest 2 have successfully fledged and data from their trackers has revealed that they have not ventured very far from their nest site yet. The first to fledge was the female bird PY1 on the 13th July where she took a few flights each about a distance of between 50m to 200m around the nest site. She then found a good spot to the south of the nest on higher ground where she was presumably watching for her parents bringing fish in.

Each morning on 13th, 14th, 17th and 18th July she headed across to the same spot and sat in a tree there waiting. She became more adventurous and flew in a triangle around the site 200 metres south of the nest perched for a while, then flew 220m across the valley from the nest and perched there and stayed for an hour before flying 350m directly in a straight line back to the nest site. Checking the time of recorded film footage at the site we can see that her flight to the nest corresponded with Dad bringing a fish in as we filmed the whole family together feeding on that date at that time.

The volunteer on duty noted that the female adult concentrated more on feeding the young male bird but this didn’t cause concern at this stage in their development as the female chick (PY1) is more advanced and later footage revealed that she was feeding herself quite proficiently.

The male chick, PY2, fledged a couple of days later than his sister. He has made flights of varying lengths from 400m, 500m and his most adventurous 800m from the nest site. Each journeys end coincides with a flight back to the nest and presumably to receive fish from a parent.

PY1 Feeding herself

On 25th July PY1, the young female, was sitting in the nest feeding herself. She had half a trout that she was tucking into when the camera shook indicating that a bird was sitting on it, she looked up towards the camera and let go of the fish and moved to the side as her mum dropped into the nest and took the remaining fish and she began to feed. After a few minutes cleaning her beak in the nesting material, PY1 ruffled her feathers and took off leaving mum behind to finish her meal in peace.  8C and PY2, (Dad and son) were nowhere to be seen.

8C gives fish to mum

Tracked birds

FK8 is still further north and is regularly visiting the Dornoch Estuary and then travelling north to the Forsinard Flows and she seems to be splitting her time between the two areas on a regular basis.

PX1, is still in Southern Mali at the Morila gold mines near Sanso, fishing in lagoons there and not venturing far from the location much at all.

Watch the latest nest videos:

We celebrate 200th chick of the project


Lucky the 200th Tweed valley Osprey Chick

This week celebrates the 200th chick for the Tweed Valley Osprey Project since the first chick was raised here in 1998. Tony Lightley and Eve Schulte from Forestry Commission Scotland and Malcolm Henderson from the Lothian and Borders Raptor Study Group were at the celebrated nest site to carry out the ringing of the two chicks in the nest.

This nest site is unusual in that the parent birds are quite feisty for ospreys and over the years have given Tony a bit of a fright when he has climbed the tree to bring the chicks down for ringing, by flying directly at him and dive bombing him, only to swoop away at the last minute like an osprey version of the children’s danger game ‘chicken’.  The adult pulls out of the dive a split second before making physical contact but the threat and the message is clear – to keep off this nest site.

Fish Bomb

True to form, this year was no different and when the team arrived for the ringing of the chicks this time, Tony was treated to a fish bomb!

While he was up in the tree, the adult actually dropped a fish missile onto him, in an attempt to drive him away and it bounced and fell to the ground. There were three chicks in the brood and they were really big and close to fledging, so close in fact that chick no.3 (a male), flew off before it could be removed to be ringed. The bird had clearly been flying for a few days, as it was a well-executed launch and flight from the nest, not the faltering first attempt flights that we have witnessed when the birds are testing out their wings for the first time.

Lucky and Lucky1

The disturbance was only short lived as the remaining two chicks were quickly weighed, measured and given a health check prior to being fitted with their identity Darvic rings and BTO rings. The two chicks were fitted with Darvics LK0 and LK1. Tony christened female LK0 as Lucky, the 200th chick. We hope the name bodes well for this bird and that she does indeed have a lucky life and survives migration, returning one day to the Borders to breed. Her brother LK1, was a really big chick too and very healthy, so he too will hopefully prove to be a ‘Lucky1’.

The chicks along with the jettisoned fish were returned to the nest and as the team left the site the family regrouped and settled. A grumpy parent presumably picked up the fish bomb and they shared a family meal together with it.

Osprey season productivity

In total so far, 15 osprey chicks have been ringed in the project area this year and it is proving to be a good breeding season for ospreys in the Scottish Borders despite the fact that our main nest failed with SS and his twosome of females.

Three in a nest

Three in a nest

SS with Mrs. O and FS2

Curiously, there was another occasion of three birds occupying a site this year for the second year running and this seems to be becoming more common. One of the sites successfully raised three chicks where three adult birds were continually being seen together. The third bird or spare bird was being tolerated in the nest area and sitting at the nest and not being chased away by the adult pair.

We do not have ring numbers or camera pictures to determine the identity of the adults but information was gleaned during observations made during monitoring of the site. A similar situation of a further three birds at a site was witnessed two years ago and that makes the main nest occupation by Mrs. O and SS with the incomer FS2 less unusual than we at first believed.

FS2 and Mrs O

Mrs. O and FS2

Ups and downs

The original back up nest for the project remains unoccupied and we do not know what happened to the birds from this site, we presume that they have moved to a new site which is likely to be somewhere in the near locality but as yet undiscovered. There have been a couple of other sites that failed to produce young this year also and this was thought to be due to hatching time corresponding to the heavy rainfall period during June causing the demise of chicks.

There were chicks raised on a new nest site too, which was great news for the project, these were the smallest chicks so far this season indicating a late start for the breeding pair but young were healthy and a good weight. It is thought that this pair may actually be the pair from another site which was unoccupied this year and they may have switched to the better nesting area which is less prone to disturbance.

Nest 2 news

first lift off forPY2 nearly flying

Almost flying

dad 8c takes fish from mum

Mum wants that fish back from 8C

dad 8c gets a chance to feed

8c gets a chance to feed

The satellite tagged youngsters at nest 2, PY1 and PY2, are thriving and the new satellite derived images are proving a hit as we can watch them live on camera as they race towards fledging. They are really big birds, particularly the female PY1. They are fully feathered now and wing flapping with a steely determination which can only mean that any day soon they will be taking some flights around the area.

The whole family was seen gathered together on the nest on Monday. Mum fed the chicks and when they were full, Dad grabbed the remaining fish from her to have a bite to eat as he was hungry. We have seen him do this before but he was a bit premature and she wrestled it back off him. Don’t mess with a mum osprey that wants to feed her young 8C!

This time though she let him have it and he got to have a tail end of fish to eat before she tentatively requested it back for a bite to eat for her too. A blissful domestic scene of a satisfied osprey family, all with full crops of fish to digest, while sitting high up in their lofty nest overlooking the splendid Tweed Valley swathed in beautiful summer sunshine.

a wonderful view from up here

Lovely view from up here

Catch up with latest videos

Chicks fitted with tracking devices

Back up no. 2 nest


Volunteers and guests were invited to join the team to watch the ringing and satellite tagging of the two osprey chicks in back up nest no. 2 this week. It was a real privilege for all those involved to see these magnificent wild birds up close for the first time and watch them as they were fitted with their identification rings and satellite tagging devices.

Ringing PY1 and PY2

PY2PY 1 close

Tony Lightley, the Forest Enterprise Scotland Environment and Heritage Manager for Dumfries & Borders forest district who holds the licence for all the osprey nests in the project area, led the team and guests up to the nest site. He then had the arduous task of scaling to the top of the tall larch tree and taking the ropes up to the nest for lowering the chicks down to the forest floor. BTO licenced ringers Ronnie Graham and Malcolm Henderson then carried out the bird health checks, measurements, weighed them, and fitted them with BTO unique identity rings on their right legs and blue alpha numeric darvic rings on their left legs, indicating that they are Scottish bred birds.

The darvic ring identities for these birds are PY1 a female and PY2 a male. Both chicks were found to be healthy and robust which is a good indication that they are being provided with a plentiful food supply from mum and dad and bodes well for their survival.

Fitting their trackers

tag close upPY1 getting fittedPY1 stitching tag

After all the ringing and measurements were taken, the birds were then carefully fitted with the satellite tracking devices. These small solar powered back packs were attached to their backs, one at a time and then the teflon straps made by NASA were connected across a plastic template on the chest, while the straps were stitched together with hemp thread to hold the back pack securely and comfortably in place.

After the stitching was done they were checked for a good fit all the way around the bird and under the wings. This is to make sure there was enough room for growth and movement and to allow for a full crop of fish once the bird would be fishing for itself. The straps are made from state of the art material which is incredibly smooth and slippery, so that the feathers just groom over the top of them and there would be no chafing or rubbing against the skin.

The devices are so well designed so that they do not impede the osprey way of life in any way and flying and fishing are unaffected. Once all the checks were carried out the template was removed and the ends of the tapes cut off neatly and some glue applied to the ends to prevent fraying.

The birds were then ready to go back into their nest and await the return of mum and dad. They were hauled back up individually in a rucksack to a patiently waiting Tony, who was up in the top of the tree, so that he could release them and settle them back down into their cosy home.

More work for the dedicated team

For the volunteers and guests at the site it was time to leave and everybody was so pleased to have been able to witness this great event. For the team it was back to work and onto the next site, with twelve nests in the total project area now.

This time of year involves working seven days a week to make sure all the sites are monitored and ringed at the correct time. We are so grateful to them for all the hard work and effort involved to ensure this vital conservation work is done for the magnificent ospreys. The satellite tags will provide superb research data about their migration and distribution.

Home life at the main nest

Meanwhile back at the main nest, Mrs. O holds the crown as the female most tolerated by SS. He still shares fish with her despite their chick-less state, even though the portions he saves her could be said to be on the side of miserly!

However, FS2 came in for a brief visit and was given a frosty reception and chased off by SS. So, could it be that he and Mrs. O have now bonded enough to come back next year and try again? SS regularly sits on the nest and tidies sticks and rearranges the interior while Mrs. O keeps up her loud squawks. Maybe her behaviour proves dominance over the territory that has made SS stay with her instead of FS2.

Mrs O makes a face

What are you thinking Mrs. O?

Best nest photo of the season was taken by a volunteer on duty when Mrs. O didn’t get any fish from SS on his return; the expression on her face speaks volumes!! Any suitable witty captions will be gratefully received.

Watch the latest video clips

Satellite tagging

Migration Routes

The satellite tagged Tweed Valley ospreys have brought us revealing data about the routes the birds have taken when on migration. We have FK8 who favours taking a south westerly route and finishes her journey in Portugal where she has overwintered in the same quarters twice now. Her second migration to arrive in Portugal was a more direct route down the centre of the UK and over the Bay of Biscay to Spain and onto Portugal.

PX1 and PX2 had a different tactic of heading east to mainland Europe and then heading south westerly. PX1 made it to Southern Mali and is still there.


Scottish Migration journeys autumn 2016

Pink migration routes autumn 2016 Scottish Ospreys

These journeys are interesting in themselves but when the data from all the central and south Scottish tagged birds from last year are used to populate the data map we begin to see trends appear.

Some head in a general south westerly direction but more have taken a route into mainland Europe and then France and the coast of Spain on the western Mediterranean before making the crossing into Morocco and south westerly through Africa.

All the data together

Swedish and Scottish osprey Migrations autumn 2016

All Scottish and Swedish ospreys migration routes shown gives a broad pink band

If we then populate the data map with all the Swedish ospreys migrating also, this trend shows a broad pink band of all the osprey movement on the autumn migration moving in a south westerly direction through France and Spain and on to western Africa.

The UK birds’ paths seem to orientate to join the clear flyway route down through Europe, the route that is favoured as it seems by the majority of ospreys.

Features along this route which are generally helpful towards migration are likely to be the uplift they experience from mountainous regions and from the Mediterranean Sea prevailing winds making the flight less arduous possibly.

This data is a snapshot of all the journeys, all made on different dates and doesn’t take into consideration the weather at the time. It is interesting to see the trend in routes which the majority favour. On an international scale this reveals osprey hotspots in terms of importance for migration.

PW9 migration

PW9 Isle of Man look to Wales

Another individual journey made by a Dumfriesshire bird PW9 who fledged from Caerlaverock was surprising, as he headed to the Isle of Man where he spent a couple of days. He then re-orientating himself and turned 360 degrees to cross into Wales and on to France and Spain. His data stopped in Spain and there have been no further records since 20th September 2016.

Another bird from the Loch Lomond region who took a westerly route ended up in Ireland before re-orientating and taking a journey to Portugal where he stayed for winter.

Back up nest 2

nest 2 chicks wing

Wing feathers almost fully developed

fine young osps

Waiting for mum

This year’s chicks on Back up nest 2 will be fitted with their satellite tags and identity rings this week as they are almost at the point of fledging. The chicks’ race towards independence has begun and we have seen them left for a long period of time by their parents when they are away fishing.

They can regulate their own temperature now that they have almost the full complement of feathers. The final breaking through of split feather shafts shows the full wings and tail feathers have almost fully emerged which we can see clearly when they are preening and stretching in the nest. It will only be a matter of a few days before they begin to test their wings for flight.

Main nest

Lonely Mrs.O

Lonely Mrs. O

On the main nest Mrs. O cuts a lonely figure most of the time as she waits for SS who still brings her the occasional fish. When he returns with empty talons he gets a loud osprey row and a display of fluffing of feathers and wing mantling to express her displeasure at being left hungry. FS2 has not been seen since last week so perhaps she, as a younger female, is wandering and checking out other areas, much like FK8 is doing in the north of Scotland, regularly surveying Tain, Dornoch and then north to Loch Slethill.

SS has no fish for MrsO

SS has no fish for Mrs. O

FK8 Tain dornoch slethill

A wander for FK8

Wildlife about

Meanwhile, other wildlife happenings this week have been the regular sightings of red squirrel kits at Kailzie Gardens, the stealth camera caught ‘bent tail’ the fox and the otter checking the area at the same time and in the conservatory in the walled garden, there are some fantastic exotic moths from Africa and Asia to try and spot.

Over at Glentress, the return of the bees in their viewing hive is great to watch as the workers tend to Queen Bee, she is easy to spot with a splodge of white tippex on her thorax.

bent tail fox gets a visit from otter

Otter sneaks up behind fox. See the eyes to the right of the fox ear.