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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