The reformed character of mum-in-the making, Mrs O
The sunshine and high temperatures over the past few weeks gave way to dramatic thunderstorms with forked lightning and torrential rain on Friday 1 June. The storm rolled around the hilltops, hit localised areas and released torrents of rain, leading to flash floods in the towns.
The storm raged on, and we may wonder whether the birds at the osprey nest would have been alarmed by the loud thunderclaps and flashes. Observation revealed that although Mrs O looked startled a couple of times, actually they weren’t really that bothered. It is only weather, and they have seen it all before!
Mrs O sat tight with her eggs and the water dripped off her back. All in a day’s work for an osprey incubating eggs, and nothing to make any fuss about. In fact, lately Mrs O seems to have adopted an almost Zen-like attitude. Nothing is troubling her – she sits calmly on the eggs and waits patiently for her partner SS to return with fish.
She is a reformed character now – the squawking and demanding behaviour exhibited a few weeks back, which saw her snatching fish from SS, seems to be a thing of the past.
On Saturday 2 June, SS flew onto the nest carrying a headless fish for Mrs O (he had already eaten the head). She stood up off the eggs, took the fish in her talons and flew onto the perch to eat.
She was only away from her precious eggs for 10 minutes before she returned, and persuaded a reluctant SS to get up, allowing her to sit back down and resume incubation.
Her careful way of moving around the nest and curling her talons before sitting on the eggs is another change in behaviour, as she had often been quite clumsy around the nest and almost stood on the eggs with open talons a few times.
Mrs O appears to be fully immersed in the mission of egg incubation now and doesn’t like to be away from them for any length of time. She made an unexpected exit from the nest at one point – she got up suddenly and left the nest when SS was not there, leaving the eggs without cover or protection.
However, she returned within sixty seconds, having flown off very quickly, only to return and get straight back down onto the eggs. We did wonder if she left for a quick toilet break, as we have never seen the adult birds soil the nest site. Perhaps she popped off to relieve herself, or maybe just went for a quick stretch of the wings… or maybe even ospreys get cramp too after they sit still for so long!
In the centre at Kailzie Gardens, the blue tits are about to fledge. They have now been hatched for 18 days, and the nest box looks overcrowded. The birds look just about ready to go, and most likely will leave early in the morning.
The great tits are a week behind the blue tits, but they are growing fast. The diet of raw caterpillar protein which fast-tracks the growth within these birds; from bald, reptilian-looking creatures, to fully-feathered adult birds is speedy, and remarkable to witness within the camera nest boxes.
May tree flowers in June
It has been an unusual spring this season, and there are some signs that we are almost lagging a month behind, compared to previous years. The May tree or Hawthorn, which is usually in full blossom in May, has only just come into its full glory now that we are in June. Cuckoos are calling on the Tweed Valley hillside, and the nesting season is also quite late for some species.
Mysterious caterpillar invasion
In the Tweed Valley Forest an infestation of caterpillars within silken web tents have decked the crabapple trees in ghostly fashion. Only a couple of weeks ago, they were in full blossom and leaf but now they have been stripped bare and skeletal by the army of grey/black moth caterpillars. No other trees around them have been affected apart from the crabapples.
Photographer Bill Farmer also spotted these strange webs in Fortmonthills, near Glenrothes in Fife, identifying the species as an Ermine moth. You can see his pictures, along with lots more taken across Scotland this Spring, over at the Forestry Commission’s Facebook page this week. They’re running a photo competition called the Spring Photo Jam – find out all about it at bit.ly/springphotojam.