Monthly Archives: May 2018

Sunshine on Tweed… but PX1, where have you gone?

20180525_13-03-07 stick moving shady eggs

Mrs O, are you building a sunshade?

Sun brollies needed!

The weather has been fantastic in Tweed Valley for the past fortnight, and while we have all been basking in the glorious sunshine in high temperatures, we should spare a thought for the ospreys. Sitting at the top of the tree, their nest is totally exposed to the harshest of sun rays, with no shade at all.

Mrs O has tried to make herself useful, moving sticks around the nest – it looked as though she possibly had ideas of building a sun screen at one point, but never quite followed through on the construction. SS was seen panting, with an open beak, sitting over the eggs to shield them from cooking in the sun. They have both dutifully turned the eggs regularly and scraped the nest cup to rotate the mossy lining, keeping them at the right temperature.

The adult birds overwinter as far as Africa, so this hot weather is something that they are well equipped to deal with. The insulation that their feathers provide shields them from the harshest of conditions, hot or cold. They can fluff up their feathers to expel heat, or pant.

It is the eggs that must be protected because overheating can be as problematic as chilling to the development of the chick inside its protective shell, mostly due to excessive moisture loss.

SS is an experienced bird when it comes to looking after eggs, and he was very careful to maintain cover over them, shielding them from too much exposure to direct sunshine for any lengthy periods. Mrs O appeared slightly clumsier around the eggs, and at one point looked as though she might stand on them. Thankfully, they don’t have too long to go until the full incubation period is over. They will soon be welcoming the little chicks to the world!

20180526_14-28-34 SS panting inheat

SS hot and panting in the heat

Has anyone seen PX1?

We are still worried about PX1, aka Jeremy Paxman’s osprey. His transmitter has not sent any further data since he was spotted fishing along the Helmsdale River, on the Badanloch Estate in the north of Scotland on 17 May. We are still hoping this is a transmission fault, and the tracker is not sending data – but it is a shame, because we were beginning to see just how much a young male osprey travels and roams while exploring the land, especially when he has no territory to defend.

PX1 north of Scotland

The far north of Scotland where PX1 is roaming. He could turn up anywhere. Has anyone seen him?

Peebles holidaymakers may have seen PX1

comp osprey Durness

Peebles couple on holiday in Durness photograph this osprey and it looks like there could be a tag on his back. Is it PX1?

We received some photos from a Peebles couple returning from holiday in Durness on 20 May which may shed some light on PX1’s whereabouts. The couple had been walking and watching wildlife when they spotted an osprey at the Kyle of Durness, while they were travelling back to Peebles. It flew off and was chased by some oystercatchers, but they managed to capture a few shots of him and sent them to us, having heard that PX1 had been in Durness the week before.

We have no way of being certain but from the pictures, it does appear that the osprey has something on its back which could well be a satellite tag. It is quite feasible that PX1 headed back up north to the coast, and that this bird could be him. We just have to hope that we get a confirmed sighting or that his tracking device wakes up and begins to send data again. If anyone is heading to the north of Scotland please keep a look out for him and let us know if you see him. A photograph to confirm his identity would be a bonus!

Nest cams full house

At the osprey watch centre in Kailzie Gardens both nest cams have got a full complement of hatched chicks now, with the blue tits well on the way to becoming fledglings. The great tit chicks are still small, squirming, open- beaked hunger machines being fed by a busy mum and dad.

Rhona captures pine martens in the valley

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Wildlife photographer Rhona Anderson from Peeblesshire managed to capture some stunning film footage of a local pine marten in Tweed Valley this week. You can view her films and see the rest of her amazing wildlife photographs over at her Flickr page.

Waiting for news

Where is PX1?

Google earth Map Badanloch Estate PX1

Last position of PX1 on 17th May

The satellite tracked osprey PX1, the Jeremy Paxman osprey, has spent a few days at Forsinard enjoying good fishing in the many lochans in the area. He travelled further south from Forsinard on 16 May to the Badanloch Estate where he discovered the Helmsdale River and the tributaries, the Strath of Kildonan and the Kinbrace Burn.

Unfortunately the track data has ceased from updating from 17 May at 9pm, showing the last point where PX1 left the burnside and flew across the road, headed towards the Helmsdale River.  We are hoping that it is a temporary blip in data, and that this will just be a lag before the tag starts to transmit again. Battery strength was good, and there were satellites in the area, but it is a very remote landscape with few mobile masts, so this could lead to poor signal transmission. Prior to it stopping, good and frequent data was being transmitted to show his whereabouts along the burn.

It is a worrying time waiting for data to update again – in the meantime we do not know if he is still safe and well. We shall have to wait and see. The last track points data will be analysed closely for any clues as to why it has stopped.

Heading to Helmsdale River PX1 with arrow

Last track crossing the ground towards the River Helmsdale

Strah of Kildronan PX1 17th May

PX1’s Last tracks on 17th May flying along the burn beside the forest.

Is FK8 nesting?

FK8 has remained in a very static location, and we now believe that she must be making her first nesting attempt. We are waiting for news to confirm this. She is in the Dornoch area and we are hoping that she will breed successfully this year.

FK0 still hanging around the back up nest…

20180516_11-04-46 FK0 at back up

The ever hopeful FK0

The back up no.2 nest in Tweed Valley remains unoccupied by a resident breeding pair, but the site is still being visited occasionally by FK0, the male osprey. He has been seen at the nest site with another bird on occasion, but we have not managed to capture footage of the two birds together to find out which female bird he is now with. They are too late  to attempt to breed, but it is a good sign that he is holding this site as territory and has another osprey with him, which means they may attempt breeding there next summer.

New build – no thank you

Another ungrateful pair of ospreys have returned to their site to breed this year, where their choice of tree for the nest is so poor that the nest fell apart over the winter with the weight of snow. Tony Lightley put up a platform for them on a nearby sturdier tree which they could use instead. Tonys’ heart sank when he witnessed the birds carrying sticks not to adorn the new penthouse quality platform, but to rebuild in the spindly larch where the original nest was.

Domesticity for Mrs O and SS

20180518_14-34-29 swap over time

Mrs O and SS at swap over time

SS and Mrs O have become very settled, like a married couple, both taking turns to sit on the eggs. SS has been providing fish for Mrs O, and she seems to be more contented this year.  We have witnessed the eggs being rotated in the nest, and incubation time so far has proved to be (thankfully) uneventful.

The earliest date for hatching of the eggs will be the week beginning 11 June. Fingers crossed that this will be a happy year of fatherhood for SS, a role which he excels at. Mrs O is the unproven mother to-be, but hopefully she will be a good mum when the time comes.

wing stretch Mrs O

Resting in the sun Mrs O

Visitor centre news

In the osprey visitor centre at Kailzie Gardens, the blue tits have all hatched in the nest camera box and can be seen on screen. They grow very fast and it will only take two weeks before they will fledge and leave the nest.

Hedgehog wars

Trail cameras have been set up to capture other wildlife in the area and we have some wonderful garden footage of hedgehog wars, showing dining etiquette amongst three hedgehogs visiting a local garden where bowls of food are provided for them on a nightly basis. A greedy hedgehog sits in the bowl to prevent any other hedgehogs sharing. He manages to hog all the food until ram raider hedgehog tips him out of the bowl. Who would have thought the humble hedgehog could be so beastly? The hedgehog wars film clip can be viewed on You Tube, on the Kailzie Wildlife channel.


Mrs O’s hat trick of eggs

Mrs O and SS proud of eggs 9th May

The happy couple

haoot couple 3eggs

3 eggs seals their partnership bond

Main nest now home to 3 eggs

SS and three eggs

SS proud dad to be with the three eggs

The happy osprey couple at the main nest, Mrs O and SS, are now very settled and content with a clutch of three prize eggs having been laid. The first was laid on 3rd May, the second on 7th May and the third egg was laid on 11th May.

With a full clutch in the nest, the two birds have quickly settled into the routine of incubating and swapping over duties. There is no guarantee that all of the eggs are fertilised by SS though, as Mrs O was up to her old tricks, frequently popping along to the back -up nest where attempted mating was witnessed with another male bird, FK0. She had mated with at least both of the males and then eggs were laid in the main nest.

Choosing the main nest and the very experienced SS is a good call for Mrs O, as he has raised 26 chicks in total and knows all there is to know about fatherhood. He will be more than able to provide food for his hungry partner and the chicks when they come. FK0, on the other hand, is an inexperienced young male, and potentially has not raised a family before. FK0 may have found himself a vacant nest site, but he hasn’t found a wife to occupy his nest with him and raise a family, and so now nest 2 sits empty. Time is running out for a female osprey to join him at this late stage in spring, so sadly this nest looks likely to remain unproductive this year.

In the Tweed Valley this year, all of our hopes are pinned on Mrs O and SS for success. Thankfully, we are seeing a reformed character in Mrs O. The demanding and squawking has stopped, and she seems so much more relaxed and settled, her sole focus now being the incubation of the eggs, which will take up to 42 days.

It will be an interesting brood, as the time gaps between the egg laying means that the chicks will be born a few days apart, and there should be quite noticeable size differences between them as they begin to grow. Fish are plentiful and SS is highly skilled as a hunter, so he will surely be able to provide fish enough for all of his family. We at the Tweed Valley Osprey Project are hoping for an uneventful incubation period and safe hatching when the time comes.

both and 3 eggs

Has FK8 found a partner?

Our satellite-tracked female bird FK8 is 4 years old now. She left Portugal, her winter roost, in the spring and returned to Scotland. She went to Forsinard Flows and Loch Slethill, her favoured summer haunt from the past two summers, but has since left the area and moved further south to the Dornoch area, where she has been staying in the same locality consistently. We are hoping that this means that she has found a partner and is going to nest. Tony Lightley has friends in the area who are looking out for her, and we are keeping fingers crossed for happy news.

The Paxman wild rover

tour of Scotland PX1

tour of north Scotland

Meanwhile, Jeremy Paxman’s bird is living the life of Riley up north! This young, free and single male osprey, PX1 made it up to Findhorn Bay on 8 May  but has continued his travels across to the west coast of Scotland, along to Ullapool, and then to the top of the landscape at Durness, moving right across the top of Scotland from west to east before coming inland to investigate the River Borgie and the River Halladale.

On 10 May he completed his tour of the top of Scotland, taking in Wick, but he eventually made the decision to return back to the Halladale River and River Dyke near to Forsinain. This is an area which has beautiful, fish-filled rivers and plenty of lochans for fishing in, plus a few conifer plantations nearby in which to roost and rest.

As he travels he will be making a mental map of the landscape and storing information about fishing spots, roost sites, other ospreys in the area and their nest sites. He now knows the limit of the landscape bounded by the sea, and he can choose to either find a place to have a restful summer, or continue to explore.

Halladale PX1

Halladale River and River Dyke, good fishing and forests nearby to roost in.

He has no responsibilities yet, with no chicks to raise or fish for, so life really is a breeze for him at the moment. It is astonishing the way he has been so active, touring widely throughout Britain. When he arrived in Africa, he found the gold mines at Sanso, but never moved from the area for nearly 18 months. It seems he is making up for his extended rest period.

Eggs and Homecomings

Jeremy Paxman with PX1

Jeremy Paxman with PX1 during the filming of The River 2016 (photo courtesy of Tern TV)

A time to celebrate

There is plenty to celebrate in Tweed Valley this week – we have fantastic news! Mrs O has laid two eggs, and also PX1 has flown into the UK and travelled to the far north, currently residing in Findhorn.

Paxman Osprey PX1 returns

Tony and Jeremy

Tony Lightley and Jeremy Paxman measuring the wing length of PX1 during the ringing. (Photo courtesy of tern TV)

The migration of PX1, (Jeremy Paxman’s osprey) suddenly resumed on 3 May. He had been taking time out from the journey in the Dordogne in France, and his data stopped updating after 26 April. It suddenly began to transmit again on 3 May, and we could see that he had left the area and headed into Normandy, where he spent a couple of nights. He teetered on the edge of the coast for a while, before making the crossing of the English Channel.

PX1 arrived in Dorset on 5 May at Tyneham, and flew over the Brandy Bay cliffs at 11.45am. He then proceeded northwards to the Bristol Channel and to Newport at 4pm, going on to cross Wales, flying on into Shropshire and finally Herefordshire, where he spent a night in the plantation forestry behind the village of Combe.

The next morning he left the area and flew westwards over Welsh countryside to Anglesey, where he changed course from Benllech, heading out into the Irish Sea. After an epic three hour sea crossing, he arrived at Barrow-in-Furness in Cumbria at 3.40pm. He spent time in the estuary and presumably caught fish to keep him going, then from Ulverston he made an overnight stop in Roudseawood Nature Reserve. On 7 May he left the area at 7am, headed to Keswick and then Carlisle.

Now in Scotland

PX1 was on course for his northward mission. Flying high, he entered his original homeland of Scotland in brilliant sunshine and high temperatures which must have been a pleasant homecoming. He flew over Hawick and Galashiels at a high altitude of over 900m, so there wasn’t much chance of anyone spotting him.

He headed for Aberlady Bay and crossed the Firth of Forth, dropping to 187m over the sea and down to 119m over East Wemyss. He never broke his journey, continuing on to Perth and then east of Pitlochry where he spent the night not far from Knockando. He was on the move at 5am on 8 May for a lochside fish breakfast, before flying up the Spey Valley and into Findhorn Bay by 8am. It is great to see that this bird has returned safe and well back to Scotland.

Mrs O – a mum to be

The other great news from Tweed Valley this week is that Mrs O has made her choice and settled down in the main nest with partner SS, and has now laid two eggs. The first one was laid on Thursday 3 May and the second on Monday 7 May.

She is a changed personality – motherhood-to-be obviously suits her because she is quiet! No more squawking from Mrs O – instead, she has been incubating the eggs. Mrs O and SS make a handsome pair, periodically looking down into the nest to observe their prize eggs.

Please note: Repairs to the Tweed Valley Osprey Project’s live web feed are currently being carried out – we will have more news for you next week. Thanks for your patience.

Mrs O keeps options open

20180430_10-56-20 Mrs O and SS

Mrs O and SS at the main nest

Hedging her bets

The intriguing antics of the ospreys at the main nest and the back- up nest no.2  continue this week. No pairs have settled down yet, as we would have expected by now. Mrs O is merrily stringing along two male ospreys, visiting both nest sites and being fed by both males. There have been multiple mating attempts by SS with Mrs O at the main nest site and most of the time she appears unreceptive. Since last weekend, she seems to have accepted the advances of SS, and if this has been a successful pairing, we could expect an egg to be laid any day now.

Mrs O is hedging her bets though, as she was over at the back up nest no.2 on Sunday when an eager male bird (FK0) flew down on to the nest. He was so keen to mate with her that he dropped his fish. She dipped down into the nest, making his attempt futile, so he flew off leaving the fish behind. Mrs O was not one to be ungrateful, immediately tucked in.

Hopeful homemaker FK0

FKo drops fish to attempt mating

Mrs O not receptive to mating with FK0 – he drops his fish.

FK0 gives up and leaves

Unsuccessful FK0 leaves Mrs O

Might as well have the fish Mrs O

No point in wasting that fish, Mrs O!

Mrs O leaves with fish

Mrs O leaves the back up nest with the fish

Throughout the rest of the week Mrs O has spent more of her time at the main nest site with SS. The ‘back up’ nest has been frequently visited by FK0, who has been nest-tidying and removing moss from the centre, perhaps hopeful that his home-making will show his readiness to a potential partner for egg laying. If he is expecting Mrs O to be his settled partner, it’s likely he has been duped. Her infrequent visits to the nest with him amount to far less than the time she spends at the main nest with SS. She did not raise young with SS last year, and is keeping her options open for a fertile pairing. By flitting between nests and partners, she has the option of laying an egg in either nest, and pairing up in a summer partnership with either bird. It would take a Mystic Meg prediction to foresee which nest and male she will choose.

The third male, CL1, who was also seen with Mrs O on the back up nest has not been seen since, so perhaps he has moved on. Both CL1 and FK0 are Borders-bred ospreys, and it is good to see them both back on home turf and eager to breed in this area.

Tweed birds elsewhere

Further afield we have news of other Tweed Valley ospreys starting a successful breeding season for this year. FK4 has taken up residence with a female bird called Angel at Loch Doon and he has become known by the name Frankie.

White ringed EB (another Tweed Valley female) has returned to Kielder again this year and is back at her nest site with her partner. She has already settled down to incubate her eggs.

With settled pairings and news of eggs from Tweed Valley birds further afield, we are eagerly anticipating some domestic settlement with the nesting birds presently in Tweed Valley this year. While Mrs O is holding court and driving other females away, we could have to wait a little longer.

Migration journey’s end for FK8

FK8 map Loch Slethill 25th April

25th April FK8 at Loch Slethill North Scotland

We have good news of the migrating bird FK8, a four year old female. She has returned from Portugal and migrated to the far north of Scotland, taking up residence in the area near to Loch Slethill where she has spent the past two summers. This is part of the RSPB reserve on the Forsinard Flows, and we did send a request to the RSPB that they might assist her by putting up a nesting platform in a suitable location, but sadly they declined. She is old enough to breed this year and should she find a mate in the area – they would have to build a nest themselves, and often fail at their first attempt due to poorly constructed nests blowing out, or due to picking unsuitable locations.

Paxman osprey ‘en vacances’

PX1 River Isle Dordogne France

PX1 on the River Isle roosted in a riverside tree and last tracked moving north on 26th April

The Paxman osprey, PX1, has remained in France – which was unexpected because his migration journey from Southern Mali and up through Spain and across into France looked to be typical of a bird making its way back to the UK. He landed in the Bordeaux region on 14 April and has remained there since.

The whole area where he is residing forms part of the Aquitaine basin, which drains via the Dordogne and Garonne to the Atlantic Ocean. He is currently staying on the tributary of the Dordogne, the River Isle – a 255km river which is tree-lined and in lush countryside, offering perfect fishing conditions for a young osprey. He doesn’t appear to be in any hurry to come to the UK any time soon. He is exploring the region, fishing in good rivers and roosting in trees along the river system. Seems pretty good for a non-breeding osprey to be ’en vacances’ in such an inviting environment.