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.
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
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.
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
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.