Monthly Archives: April 2018

A Game of (Osprey) Thrones

Mrs O and SS 17th April

Mrs O and SS on the main nest

A Misbelief that osprey pairs are settled

We were beginning to relax into the osprey season, safe in the belief that after the upset of losing the wonderful male osprey 8C, that at last things were beginning to settle down. We were led to believe that we had two pairs now settled onto both of the nests, with cameras on them – we had seen pairings of Mrs O with SS, her partner from last year, on the main nest and they had been mating. We believed that the widow of 8C had paired with the newly arrived (and much welcomed) bird CL1, a Borders-bred bird, in the ‘back-up’ nest.

However, it seems we have been led up the garden path by our ospreys here in Tweed Valley so far this year, because just about all we thought was true, we now find out is not at all. It is difficult when watching the live streaming of footage to discern the exact ospreys on screen, in particular the females without Darvic rings.

Footage from our osprey cameras, recorded this week

So after a week of film footage (see above) and new sightings of birds, it was time to watch the footage back in a painstaking frame by frame analysis to find out exactly who’s who in the Tweed Valley pairings!

Such a surprise was in store…

It appeared that SS had settled with Mrs O on the main nest as they had both been there, and although we couldn’t even begin to describe it as a beautiful reunion, we were at least pleased that a firm bond must exist if they were beginning a second season together and were hopeful that this bond would grow in time. They have been mating and SS has been providing fish, perhaps a little grudgingly. Then the cameras went down due to the mast link, so we haven’t been able to watch the main nest all week.

Mrs O gets fish from SS

Mrs O taking a fish from SS on the main nest

Mrs O leads the game of thrones

Meanwhile, the ‘back up’ nest camera has been working fine. We were a little disappointed to find that the nest was mostly empty, with no further sightings of the female with CL1 as reported last week. Instead a male bird arrived with a blue Darvic ring with white letters, which was believed to be FK0. He was with a female. This female was large and seemed very vocal on our camera. A BTO ring was spotted on the right leg, but no Darvic ring.

Mrs O!!!

Mrs O and mystery FX0or FK0 takes fish

Mrs O and FK0 on the back up nest no.2

The enterprising Mrs O demanded a fish from the diminutive young FK0. He obliged and he scraped the nest out, mated with her. We wrongly thought that Mrs O was the female widow of 8C – a case of mistaken identity. So after that shocker, the footage from the previous week was then checked frame by frame, to see if we could find out which bird CL1 had, in fact, been with… and surprise, surprise…

It was Mrs O!

Mrs O and CL1 on 13th April

Mrs O on the back up nest no.2 with CL1

We know this because she only has a BTO ring on her right leg. She squawks constantly, and is a very large female with quite a distinctive forehead pattern of chocolate coloured feathering.

Drama dating

So now we find ourselves in the midst of an intriguing osprey drama, whereby both nests at this stage are really up for grabs, in terms of who settles down where. SS will definitely hold territory on the main nest if he is able to do so, but will he be with Mrs O? Or has she decided to flit further down the valley and hitch up with one of the younger male birds that are checking out the vacant back up nest site?

Where has she gone?

And what has happened to the poor widow of the late 8C? It looks as though she has been toppled from the nest by the very dominant Mrs.O, and yet the throne is still fair game, and open to any available male osprey that wants to take the title. But would that title include the right to take Mrs O for a bride? That could be a formidable option.

Queen making

Males seem intimidated by her and adopt a defensive posture, and mostly get mobbed for fish, but will she settle at a site with a bird that can provide for her? She is checking out all the available males, and will no doubt (given that she has lots more choice now with a vacant site) choose the best male bird and nest site. She is in a very prominent position in osprey society just now.

We thought that Mrs O was a bit on the deranged side given all the squawking she does, perhaps attributing this trait to too many heavy metals present in fish she feeds on, but maybe now we are seeing a true strategy of ‘survival of the fittest’, whereby a dominant female bird has the choice of sites and the pick of the males available to her. How wrong and misjudged we can be. Mrs O is the osprey Queen of Tweed Valley just now.

What will the situation be next week?

We shall have to wait and see….

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Two pairs for the nests

Celebrating good news

Mrs O looks up and SS

SS keeps his back to Mrs O

So many things can change in just a matter of a week within the Tweed Valley Osprey Project. This week is all about celebration, as we have good news from both of the osprey nests with live cameras.

The unlikely couple SS and Mrs.O

SS and Mrs O squawks

Mrs O squawking and SS looks defensive

On the main nest, Tweed Valley’s star of the osprey show for the past 14 years, male osprey white leg SS, has returned. His partner Mrs O has also returned. Mrs O does not have a Darvic ring, but she has a silver BTO ring on her right leg, and her distinctive squawking could be heard long before she was spotted actually flying down onto the nest. It is an odd pairing for this couple as they met last season but didn’t have time to raise a family, but she ensured that SS fed her and they remained together. He adopts a defensive posture on the nest whenever she is around and she repeatedly calls loudly, following him around the nest. They have mated, and hopefully they will grow a more relaxed and gentle connection over the course of the summer, especially if they have chicks. There have been signs of another osprey dive bombing the nest too, but we can’t see who the raider is.

A Borders bird takes the place of 8C

CL1 and female

Blue CL1 and unringed female at nest 2

The recently widowed unringed osprey partner of 8C has paired up with a new male. This is superb news, as this is a very productive nest site and the female is an experienced bird, mother to PX1 and PY1. The new male bird is one of the Borders’ own – he is a blue ringed bird, CL1, from a nest in 2012. As one of a brood of two, his sister was a large bird, about 200g heavier than he was as a fledgling. He has come to our attention a few times previously in his six years of life so far, because as a young fledgling he travelled to Ireland, to County Wicklow, where he was spotted. He has also been photographed in Senegal, and made a brief appearance to visit the Dyfed ospreys on camera a few years ago too. Perhaps he enjoys the notoriety and fame, because the nest site he has claimed as his own this year has live camera viewing too!

Technical glitches

This is going to be an exciting time to watch two pairs of ospreys at their nest sites in Tweed Valley at the same time and be able to compare their progress simultaneously.

We have had a few teething problems with the technology to begin with but this is about to be rectified shortly and the birds will be able to be seen on the live webcam too on the Tweed Valley Osprey official blog site for Forestry Commission. They are also on camera seven days a week at the Glentress Wildwatch room and at Kailzie Gardens Osprey and Wildlife Watch centre.

It is an incredible feat of technical wizardry that allows us to view these birds, involving large distances of wireless data transmission over hills and valleys. Several masts on the hilltops need to be aligned to send signals point to point, while a power supply using solar and wind, because of the remoteness of the nest sites, adds to the difficulty of maintaining constant images. So, occasionally technical hitches require us to be patient until they can be resolved. But thankfully, we can have the pleasure of viewing these osprey nests and seeing their lives pan out as they raise their families this season.

Satellite tracked birds

FK8 and PX1 17th April

We have news of satellite tracked bird FK8 and are thrilled that she has safely made it on migration back from Portugal to Scotland. For now, she has settled in the area around the Dornoch Estuary.

flight through Scotland

FK8’s flight through Scotland to reach Dornoch

 

The Paxman osprey, PX1, has travelled safely to France and is having a break from his journey along the Garonne River in Bordeax . He has been there since 12 April and was still there on 17 April, fishing the river and roosting in nearby trees north of the river. Once the weather changes to high pressure in the next few days, that should allow him to push on further north and hopefully into the UK.

Bordeaux PX1

PX1 in Bordeaux from 12th April to 17th

PX1 17th April

PX1 Fishing and roosting  along the Garonne River in Bordeaux

Sad news about osprey 8C

A tragic start to the season…

Osprey fishing, Scottish Borders.

8C with fish photographed by Angus Blackburn

We received very sad news that the adult male osprey from the ‘back up’ no. 2 nest was found dead at the weekend. It was a very tragic accident, as yellow 8C dived into a pond that was netted to prevent predators such as herons taking the fish. Unfortunately, he got caught up in the netting and drowned.

Prevent ospreys flying into netting

For any land owners that have ponds which are stocked with fish and have netting to protect them, please try to discourage any diving bird such as ospreys from attempting to make a dive by creating a visual deterrent, such as bright coloured netting and tapes or flags that flap in the wind, making movement which should deter the osprey from entering.

What next for 8C’s partner?

It is so sad to lose this magnificent male bird when only last week we were celebrating his return with his partner. They had taken up their old territory and had been filmed mating at the nest site. The nest had been scraped out in readiness for egg laying. This year for the first time we have cameras on this nest, relaying live streaming of images in real time back to the visitor centres at Glentress Wildwatch Room and Kailzie Gardens. His lonesome female partner has been seen sitting at the nest with a very uncertain future ahead of her.

Satellites tracked 8C’s Offspring

His legacy will live on through his satellite tagged offspring FK8, PY1 and Jeremy Paxman’s bird PX1, and thankfully we will be able to follow their progress.

Time to find a new partner

At least the tragedy has happened right at the start of the season before there were any chicks, and it does give his partner time to meet another male this season, as birds are still arriving. We hope that she finds a partner and that the nest site remains productive. It will be an interesting few weeks to watch the nest and hope for an arrival of a new suitable male. He will have a lot to live up to, as 8C was an awesome male, a large bird with a distinctive chocolate colour, patterned, with feathering on the neck which from a distance made him look like a female.

The main nest definitely has one occupant but the osprey has only been seen with his back to the camera so far. Although we are really hoping that it is white leg SS, we cannot say for certain at this point.

Web camera

We are sorry that the web camera is not yet up and running on the Tweed Valley Osprey Forestry Commission web site but we have been assured that all technical hitches will be sorted soon and there will be live pictures from both nests for the first time this year, which will be really exciting. So at this point in the season we have no idea how the ospreys pairings will turn out at the two nest sites on camera, but we just hope that they are both occupied and our birds find good partners.

Migration updates

We now know that FK8 has started her migration journey and the last data we had for her showed that she was on the move northwards through Portugal.

PX1 migration almost in france

PX1’s route this spring up to 10th April

The Paxman osprey, PX1, has made amazing progress. Since the data lag in March has now been resolved, we now have tracking points to show his journey north through Morocco. He then crossed the Alboran Sea, headed east of Gibraltar and onwards into mainland Spain. Next, he flew parallel to his original southward migration route, up into the mountains of the Sierra Nevada, making use of the uplift from the thermal air currents as he continued parallel to the Spanish coast, until finally veering off in a northwards direction. He was last tracked just south of the border of France, near to a small town in Spain called Cuarte at 11.56 am on 10 April. He will no doubt reach the UK very soon and it will be really exciting to see where 8C’s son, PX1, will explore.

10th April track point PX1

10th April close to the french Border at the Spanish town of Cuarte

Will he come to the Tweed Valley?

We sincerely hope so!

Jeremy Paxman’s osprey has started to head north – PX1

Close up of the head of an osprey chickTweed Valley birds are back

Great news from Tweed Valley Osprey Project in 2018 – birds have started to return to their territories. We have the cameras set up and ready for watching ospreys at the two centres at Glentress Forest Wildwatch Room and at Kailzie Gardens Osprey and Wildlife Watch Centre.

Has SS returned?

So far, we think that the ‘back up’ nest 2 pair (8C and unringed) have returned safe and well. Birds were seen up at the nest but we have no confirmation of ring numbers yet. Ospreys have been seen at the main nest but, we have no confirmation which birds they were. We are hoping that it is SS with his partner but will have to be patient to find out for certain.

If he is back, then this would bode well for him, as a good early return could signify better luck for a successful breeding season after his disastrous season last year. Poor weather over the Easter weekend and more snow has meant nests are covered in the white stuff yet again, and no birds were seen at either nest, presumably because of this.

Jeremy Paxman’s osprey – PX1 migrating north

PX1at ringing time 2016

We are delighted to find out that PX1 the bird that was filmed being ringed on Jeremy Paxman’s programme, ‘The River’ (and hence given the ring number PX1 as Paxmans bird) has started his northward migration and is on his way back to the UK. He has spent two winters in Southern Mali, near to the gold mines at Sanso. He has barely moved from the region in that time, finding all his needs met by the landscape, which provided good roosts and plentiful fish in the lagoons and river systems.

We have contacted Jeremy to let him know the good news that his bird is on his way to return to the UK, and Jeremy said:

How wonderful to have such an insight into the life of another creature. I’m thrilled. What magnificent birds they are!”

Jeremy will be following his bird’s progress closely, and we will send him the details of PX1’s journey as he progresses on his first return migration as a two year-old osprey.

He set off on 28 March at just after 10am and flew 271 km to roost in a remote and arid landscape with clumps of trees and bushes dotted about. He set off again just after 6am on 29 March and flew 10km further north, then he circled the area for a while before pressing on to cross the Mauritanian border and into a more lush vegetative landscape about 20km from Adel Bagrou.

We have not received any further data since then, but we can expect a lag due to there being few phone masts in the remote region from which to pick up signal. We are now very excited waiting for an update of data transmissions to find out how he is progressing.

journey 28th to 29th march leaving sanso fullmap

Leaving Sanso 28th March and heading North

last data 29th March map

An overnight roost on 28th and continues north on 29th March

Last tracked point 29th March near buildings

Last known area he was tracked at on 29th March

Waiting for news of FK8

We are also waiting for an update from FK8, the female osprey in Portugal, as we would expect her to be travelling to her summer grounds in the north of Scotland too. She will be 4 years old this year, and fingers crossed will find a mate and raise her first brood.