Families begin to break up
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.
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
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.
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.