Monthly Archives: August 2018

Osprey season 2018

Families begin to break up

20180817_14-52-11SS and Tweedledee

SS and Tweedledee

The osprey breeding season is now drawing to a close. The birds that have successfully managed to rear young this year are beginning to separate as couples, with the females departing first from the family group, while the males tend to the offspring for the final stage.

The young have all fledged now and are at various stages of development. Most are still staying within close range of their natal sites, occasionally taking short jaunts to practice flight, following the adult male to fishing grounds, and maybe even attempting to hunt for themselves. Young ospreys will rely on their father to keep bringing fish until they are literally starved out of their comfort zone, and forced to move when the fish supply and visits from Dad cease.

Lonesome tweedledee

Tweedledee at the nest site alone

At the main nest, Mrs O has not been seen for quite a while but SS has still been bringing in fish to the nest. LL6 (Tweedledee) has been seen feeding herself, at one point consuming a whole trout that he has given to her.

FK8 takes a well-earned break

nothward trips for FK8

Further north in the Dornoch area, we have evidence of the female leaving the family early. FK8 (a female osprey raised in Tweed Valley from the back up nest in 2014) has successfully raised her first chick this year, and she has been fitted with a tracker just like her mum.  Although she fledged on 14 August, she has not moved far from the nest site, apart from a few trips along the edge of the estuary and into a forest plantation.

Her mother FK8 however took an amazing ‘motherhood away day’ on 16 August. She left her daughter and headed north, back to her previous summer haunts and her favourite lochs in the Flow Country.  She was away from the nest site for 8.5 hours and covered a distance of 180km.

She travelled fast on a northward-bound journey, riding the tail wind, then caught the southbound tailwind to return along the scenic coastal route back to Dornoch. She averaged a flight speed of 21km per hour, and flew at varying altitudes from as low as 25m to as high as 626m.

She visited two lochs, and then retreated to some higher ground where she stopped for an hour. Presumably she was feeding, and perhaps sitting on top of a fence, post because the google earth image showed no visible landscape features such as trees to perch on.  She then made the long, leisurely coastal flight home to her nest. She spent 17 August at home, and will have been able to see that her daughter was doing well on her own.

The next morning, 18 August, she was off again at 4.25am with the first light of dawn. She took a direct flight back to her northern haunts, arriving at Loch an Ruathair by 6.13am. This was followed by a trip across to the east coast, returning to Dornoch by 6pm. On 19 August, it looked like she was going to stay fairly close to her nest site, but she diverted by late morning to Loch Migdale, and then on to Invercharron Woods and the loch below.

By 2.30pm she had again ventured north to her old territories, going all the way up to Loch Tuim Ghlais, 82 km north from the Firth of Dornoch. Her daughter has not ventured far from the nest site in all that time, and FK8 is away all day, only to return in the evenings. It would seem that she is keeping brief contact with the nest site, partner and her daughter, but is not providing any other support for her offspring at all.

Soon, both of these birds will migrate. FK8 spends her winters in Portugal. It will be interesting to find out where her daughter ends up, and if they have any further interaction with each other.

north trip on 16th and return along the coast

FK8 leaves Dornoch to travel to favourite haunts up north

Tweed Valley Project Area Summary

This season has been reported as the worst year of the project since 2007, when only 9 chicks fledged in the Tweed Valley Osprey Project area. Three of the sites had birds arriving very late in the spring this year, and their partners didn’t arrive. Although later on in the season they were joined by new partners, they were too late to breed. In total, 15 nest sites were checked this year, with 11 sites occupied by 1 or more birds, but only 5 sites were successful in raising chicks, with a total of 10 chicks raised this year in the Borders.

At two of the sites, the nests and contents were blown out by Storm Desmond, and the chicks lost. One site was a constructed nest on a telegraph pole supplied and erected by Scottish Power to replace a fallen tree, but only the male returned. Later in the season he did meet a new mate, and hopefully they will breed next season.

Before the start of 2019’s season, there will be repairs made to nests damaged by storms, as well as some newly-erected nest platforms in suitable locations. Hopefully we can look forward to a better season next year.

The Darvic ring numbers that were used for this year’s osprey young for the Tweed Valley project area are LK7, LK8, LK9, LL0, LL4, LL5, LL6, LL7, LL8, and LL9. All are blue with white lettering. We will continue to update the news with details of the tracked ospreys once they start migration.

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Last to go

Tweedledee fledges

20180806_11-20-32 LL6 with fish

Tweedledee with a fish

The main nest osprey juveniles have fledged. LL7 (Tweedledum) was the first to brave a flight attempt last week, while his sister was slower and more reluctant to go. The time leading up to her first flight was spent on her own in the nest, followed by a gentle feeding session with her dad SS, as he very carefully pulled off fish morsels and passed them from his beak to hers.

Once she was full, she stepped back. Mrs O quickly proclaimed her hunger and dropped down from the perch into the nest, calling loudly as she took the remaining fish from SS.  Then daughter and father pottered about for a while, cleaning their beaks by rubbing them on sticks in the nest. LL7 was absent, and missed out on a meal while the rest of his family dined. Once all the food was gone, SS left the nest and flew off, leaving LL6 at home with Mrs O.

For the rest of the afternoon LL6 (Tweedledee) undertook some serious wing flapping, with small hops and jumps across the nest. Mrs O called and squawked from the left hand perch, perhaps encouraging her to try to fly.  LL6 attempted a wing-flapping, side-stepping manoeuvre down the side branch of the perch, and a few moments later she took off at last, with mum following behind.

Mrs O is mean to Tweedledum

20180808_10-58-03 Mrs O attacks LL7

Mrs O attacks her son Tweedledum

Tweedledum (LL7) managed to return to the nest to feed, but his attempts can best be described as clumsy. On 8 August he was in the nest, with Mrs O on the left hand perch. She suddenly flew down and pecked at him, quite viciously and without warning.

He dropped down flat in defence and then she lunged at him, forcing him towards the edge of the nest. It seemed such an aggressive act towards her son, especially as up to now she has been such a good mum. Was she encouraging him to fly again? Or was he holding on to a bit of fish, while she was hungry too?

A visitor

20180808_10-42-32 red squirrel circled

A red squirrel visitor

Just below the nest on a lower branch a sneaky red squirrel popped along to make a cameo appearance, but soon hopped off again when it realised who held the lofty upper tree abode!

Balancing act

20180809_10-30-37 balancing

Tweedledum balances on his fish

The next day after his mean encounter with his mum, Tweedledum was seen in the nest with a fish in his talons but he was clearly not accustomed to dealing with prey by himself. He held onto it with both feet, while doing a balancing act like an amateur skateboarder, wobbling from side to side trying to maintain an upright position whilst bending his head forward and down to take bites with his beak.

He spread his wings and tail to help his balance and to protect his meal from having to be shared with mum. SS and Mrs O sat together on the left hand perch watching him while he ate and occasionally glancing skyward, as though watching something – not with alarm, or because they were unsettled. They just seemed watchful, so perhaps their daughter was close by, or flying overhead.

Fit to burst

20180810_11-53-21 balloon boy

A bulging crop on Tweedledum

On Friday 10 August, Tweedledum was at the nest with his Dad. He was feeding himself, and when he had finished he looked a most peculiar shape as seen from the front, with a bulging crop like a twisted balloon made animal. We’re not quite sure what happened there!

Fk8’s daughter fledges

Firth of Dornoch

Firth of Dornoch

FK8, the Tweed Valley Osprey from 2014’s back up nest, nested in the Dornoch area this summer and her daughter fledged on 14 August. The young female osprey had been making a few movements locally around the nest site, and the tracking data indicated that there was some movement around the trees nearby. On 14 August she left the nest site at just after 9am and flew to the shore of the estuary. She stayed for an hour before making another short flight and another stop, then turned to the west along the shore, finally heading into the forest plantation, flying northwards. She stopped there at 4.15pm.

LK8 fledges

LK8
LK8, another osprey from the Tweed Valley Osprey Project Area has now fledged, his tracker shows that he has discovered Talla and Fruid Reservoirs so far and is doing very well.

Ready, Steady, Go!

Contented family life

The osprey family at the main nest seemed to be very relaxed and contented for most of the time this week. There is a very definite sense that the season is coming to an end. The young adult ospreys Tweedledum and Tweedledee are fully grown, and are ready to fledge at any time. Their proud parents have been seen sitting close together on the left hand perch above the nest. Looking like a two-headed osprey at one point, they were so close together, a scene we never would have believed possible with Mrs O, given how territorial she used to be. There is now a very close bond between the two adult birds, and SS is the accomplished dad once again, guiding his young offspring through the final stages before they spread their wings and fly.

ss and mrs o sitting close

Mrs O and SS sitting close together

Flight ready

flight ready

Getting ready to fly

The young birds have been wing flapping and catching up on lost time during the heat wave. In particular, Tweedledum, the male bird, seemed determined that he was going to take to the skies. His sister was slightly more reluctant. She vigorously flapped her wings and teetered on the edge of the nest, looking like she was determined to go, but her feet gave her away. She was clinging on to a big stick in the hopes that it would anchor her down until she was really ready.

Her more adventurous brother really got the whole flying activity figured out, making little practice flights from one side of the nest to the other, and short, open-winged jumps to and from the perches. Before he finally attempted to leave the nest, there was a lot of balancing on the edge and peering down to the ground. The two young birds watched the scene below them intently, building up the nerve to go, and perhaps realising for the first time just how high up their nest is.

Tweedledum its a long way down

Tweedledum loooks down

LL6 Tweedledee

Tweedledee sits on the edge

Feeding or flying

Feeding time has also been more relaxed. SS has been seen bringing fish to the nest and feeding both the young birds himself. Occasionally, feeding has ended abruptly for LL7 (Tweedledum), as he focused his attention on his wing-flapping practice instead, and left his food.

Fish must be in plentiful supply, as SS has also brought fish for Mrs O, which she shared with the young after taking the head for herself. The whole of the body of the fish was eaten by the young birds, with Tweedledee taking control of the meal before leaving a portion for her brother to finish.

Lift off for Tweedledum

Take off

Up, up and away

Finally, towards the end of the week, the serious business of flight dominated Tweedledum’s schedule, and eventually he plucked up the courage to go. His tracker showed that he left the nest at 6am on Sunday morning on 5 August. He was away, flying off above the forest and across to the edge of the plantation before coming to rest. He remained there for the rest of the day.

When volunteers came into the osprey centre on duty on Sunday they were concerned that there was no sign of him, especially when Dad brought fish back to the nest for Tweedledee and she fed herself. Perhaps the first flight was a bit daunting, and even hunger hadn’t convinced him to return to the nest until he was willing to try out his flight technique again. Those aerodynamic wings will give the bird great lift off and flight with little effort, but the tricky bit is learning to steer into landing sites, such as the nest or a tree top.

Meanwhile, back at the main nest without Tweedledum, the parents and his sister seemed unconcerned. This could have been because they knew where he was and could hear him calling close by.

No return

dad and daughter

SS and daughter Tweedledee waiting for Tweedledum to return

By Monday morning Tweedledum had still not returned to the nest site, and this was becoming worrying. His tracker had not updated and so he couldn’t be traced from his location at the edge of the forest. A quick search nearby was made, and three airborne ospreys were seen flying overhead. Knowing that Tweedledee was still in the nest, the conclusion was drawn that mum and dad were flying with their airborne son Tweedledum, and that thankfully all was well.

Right at the end of the day on Monday, Tweedledee also made her first flight, and a very brief visit back to the nest was made by Tweedledum. Since then, the young have stayed off the nest and only the parents were seen on there with a fish on Tuesday. Hopefully, they will use the nest for meal times, and we will be able to watch them for a while longer on the live camera before they leave us.

In memory of Robert

Sadly, one of our dear osprey volunteers Robert Jamieson has died. He was a great member of the volunteer team and loved the osprey project. He always gave his time so generously and made visitors to the centres welcome, telling them all the latest osprey news and updates. He will be greatly missed by all of us.

Getting ready for flight

Not long to go

20180728_13-09-57 parent perch preen

Proud parents with their young sitting in the nest

The chicks at the main nest are now in their seventh week. They are fully feathered, and look chunky and healthy. With only a week to go before they are ready for flight, we might have expected to see a lot more wing-stretching and flapping to test the wings out in recent days, while they have been sitting in the nest. However, with the recent very hot weather, they have been conserving their energy until it was needed.

The weather took a dramatic change, bringing us thunderstorms with lightning and torrential rain, which gave the chicks, Tweedledum and Tweedledee, something else to contend with. Mrs O no longer has to do the motherly umbrella over her young, as their own set of feathers are waterproof now too. They just had to sit it out and wait for the rain to stop, and for Dad to bring some fish in. Fishing must have been tricky for Dad (SS), with rain dappling the surface of the water and making visibility very difficult.

20180725_10-50-03 wingstretch

A wing stretch for the young osprey

20180726_15-57-43 resting in the shade

Resting in the shade

20180729_14-09-58 sodden family

Sitting in a stormy downpour

SS feeds his son and daughter

SS not only brought a good fish in for his family, but he also fed the young birds himself. Mrs O is reaching the stage were her work is almost done, and she can relax her efforts a bit, as the chicks race towards adulthood and independence. SS still has a lot of work to do, and must continue to provide for his family even when the young birds fledge. He will bring fish back to the nest for them to return to and feed.

Once they are flying, the young birds will soon need to learn to find fish for themselves and master the most difficult part- actually catching them. This will all take time, and fortunately they will have back up from their Dad. It is usually the female bird that will leave the family more quickly. Mrs O will need to begin to prepare her own body for migration by building up her reserves, and getting into tip top condition ahead of her partner. SS has been continually hunting and fishing all summer, and must be very fit already, so his readiness for migration should take less time.

FK8, first time mum

FK8, the female tagged osprey from Tweed Valley that has nested in the Dornoch area has successfully raised one of her chicks. The other chick didn’t survive, but we don’t know what happened. The remaining youngster will be ringed and fitted with a tracker this week. The nest site that she has occupied is a very established site and has been productive for many years. FK8 is the new female at this monitored site.

Nobody knows what happened to the original bird but she never returned this year, and FK8 jumped in to take her place. She is possibly with the original resident male, or it could be a totally new pairing. As a first time mum, she has done well to raise one of her young to adulthood. We should hopefully have more news about her next week, and photos of her ringed offspring.

Return of PW3

20180625-Blue-PW3Bakethin-Weirjeff-teasdale

PW3 photographed in Kielder June 2018 courtesy of Mitch Teasdale

We have received some backdated news about a bird from Tweed Valley that has returned this year. PW3 is a male osprey raised here at one of the original nest sites, one that has been occupied since 1998. To date 34 ospreys have fledged from this nest location, making it one of the most productive nests in the area. PW3  fledged in 2016 and was one of a brood of three, with two sisters in the nest with him.

He was spotted on his migration in 2016, 45km south west of Paris, fishing at some lakes on his way south, but hadn’t been seen since. This summer, he was spotted and photographed at Bakethin Weir, Kielder Water by Mrs Mitch Teasdale on 25 June at 6.13pm, and her husband got a great photo of him. We know that he didn’t stay at Kielder though, because on 28 June he was again spotted back on home turf in the Borders, flying and fishing at St. Mary’s Loch in the Yarrow Valley. As a two year-old male he will be looking for territory for next year. That may well be in the Tweed Valley Osprey Project area, seeing as he is spending the summer here.

balbuzardpecheurhight8663 2016 France

PW3 photographed in France in 2016 on his first migration.