Monthly Archives: June 2019

Growing up so fast

This week at the osprey nest we have witnessed the family feasting on fish until they look like they are about to burst. Father SS is bringing fish in with such regularity that the chicks are being fed to the point of being stuffed, and have needed to back off half way through. Their mum, Mrs O, will then finish a meal herself, until even she has had enough. Finally, SS takes the remainder, and finishes the fish. After a good family meal, all of them seem satisfied, and with nothing else to do but have an afternoon nap in the sunshine.

fed to bursting

SS is certainly a good provider, and the chicks are progressing really well. They have changed so much in just a week. The drab grey down has now been replaced by a brown colour with a spangling of cream, as their mature feathers have begun to grow. They have doubled in size and are much stronger.

Their wings had a noticeable growth spurt too. They are more like long arms, and less like the stubby wing-buds of just over a week ago. The chicks’ heads look different too, with feathers, still bearing the dark eye-stripes but with a ginger coloured patch at the back of the heads and chocolate markings amongst the white on the crown.

were full mum

The nest frequently has remains of uneaten fish lying around, and this attracts flies. Humid weather brings a host of midges too, which can be seen clouding around the nest. They must be hard to cope with, as the young cannot escape from them. Mrs O has been seen bringing in large clumps of fresh moss and what looks to be the fresh growth tips from pine or spruce. It would be interesting to see how they obtain these pine leaves as they grow at the very end of the branches. The ospreys must fly past and snatch them in their talons from the pine trees. It is thought that pine needles are used to freshen the nest and reduce the attraction to flies.

lazy Sunday

Fathers’ Day was a peaceful looking scene, with the three youngsters sprawled out in the nest,  wings outstretched, one chick resting its head over another and all with full bellies, their legs sprawled out behind them. Dad snoozed, off to the side of his young, while Mrs O was to the right of them.

Suddenly, she began looking skywards and calling in alarm. SS snapped out of his dreamy daze and launched himself skyward to patrol the skies and keep the security intact for his territory, while Mrs O remained with the young. Luckily, there were no predators to fight off. After the panic settled down, Mrs O and the young settled back into their Sunday afternoon slumber, drama over for the day, but SS stayed away, keeping a protective eye on their territory.

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Want a closer look at the ospreys? Visit our live feed, and check out our highlights from 2019 so far on YouTube.

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Party time

The birthday party

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Lady Angela Buchan -Hepburn, Iain and Norma Coates and Tony Lightley cutting the cake

Saturday 8 June was a truly nostalgic day for the Tweed Valley Osprey project, as we celebrated the 20th birthday of our male osprey, white leg SS. It was a lovely time to reminisce and reflect on the achievements of the osprey project over the past two decades.

The day was filled with much laughter and warmth, as stories were told and Tony Lightley shared some of his experiences with the birds, including the time he got a spattering of osprey splat during a ringing session one year.

Emma from Emma’s cakes of Kelso made an amazing cake, in the form of a sculpture of SS sitting on the nest with a half- eaten fish and three eggs. It was a work of art. Tony Lightley and Lady Angela Buchan- Hepburn from Kailzie Gardens cut the cake for all to share as we gathered round, as the party carried on with the warm hearted banter of like- minded volunteers from across the duration of the project.

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SS birthday cake by Emma’s Cakes from KelsoVal and hat

Val Barnes with the osprey hat

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Val Barnes with the felted osprey of SS

us at the cake

cutting the cake

group cake

cutting the cake

We joined together with Tweeddale Folk Group to sing the Tweed Valley osprey song called The Return, written by Rhona Anderson and Diane Bennett, telling the tale of ospreys returning to the Tweed Valley.

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Tweeddale Folk Group (TFG) perform the Tweed Valley Osprey Song – The Return

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The Return Lyrics

The artistic talents of many osprey volunteers were on display too, with a fantastic painting of white leg SS by Patrick Corley Jackson, and a felted sculpture of SS by Su Bennett. Lovely poems and pictures, and written research done by volunteers, were all recorded and displayed in the centre. It was a really great day, and so nice to see so many people there to share the success of the project, and chat about the days gone by.

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Su Bennett and the Kailzie Crafters

Meanwhile, back at the nest…

On the screen in the centre while the celebrations took place, it was business as usual on the nest. Oblivious to the partying going on in his name, SS and his family provided the backdrop to the scene in the centre. They were busy with their offspring and their daily duties, feeding and looking after them.

The eldest chick was 10 days old and all three were in the nest being fed by their mum when SS came to take the remaining fish away to feed himself. The chicks were visibly full. They were toppling around the nest like skittles, bulging crops at the top of their throats and fat rounded full bellies at the other end.

The next thing one of the chicks fell over and couldn’t get back up. It lay upside down kicking its legs out like a stranded turtle, just as the rain began in earnest again. Mrs O, sprang into action, not to right the poor thing but to sit on top, in an attempt to shield it from the rain.

One of the other chicks cuddled in almost on top of the flattened one, and then the third chick dived under mum to further complicate the muddle. Mrs O shuffled and wriggled about, which was not surprising, as the little one beneath her had kicked its legs up into her side. She held firm, and they all stayed below in a warm huddle, with their mum straddled across them to keep them warm and dry.

We were seriously worried that the upside down chick would come to harm, particularly as Mrs O seems so clumsy around her delicate, newly-hatched young. She had curled her talons out of harm’s way, but she wasn’t exactly gentle in manoeuvring them underneath her. Perhaps she was in a panic to keep the almost naked chicks from getting wet, as they only have a smattering of down covering their little bodies, and are not waterproof yet.

The next day revealed that all chicks were alive and well, and in upright positions, as they formed a queue to be fed. As they lined up, we noticed that there is a size difference that can be seen from the youngest chick to the eldest chick at this stage.

Although the three were hatched on consecutive days, one of the chicks is a fraction smaller than the other two, and weaker. Time will tell if it catches up with its brothers or sisters once it begins to grow.

They are very cute to watch, with their dumpy bodies which can barely be supported on their skinny legs. They use their wing buds as little arms to help as they clamber about. They all have the trademark osprey eye-stripe already, with the smallest chick having the most prominent stripe.

10 days old

Change happens rapidly as they begin to grow, and next week we can expect to see tiny feathers to begin to cover their bodies, and giving them some colour to depart from the drab grey uniforms of down at the moment.

Snuggling under mum to keep warm and dry is a far nicer experience for these chicks than last year’s young, who were suffering in the scorching heat of the hot summer sun at this point. So, despite the rain, this cooler summer that we are having is not all bad if you’re an osprey!

Watch the latest highlights from the nest at the Forestry & Land Scotland Channel.

Double Celebration

A 20th birthday and 3 chicks

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Proud parents watch their first chick hatch 29th May 4pm.

The first of SS and Mrs O’s brood for 2019 hatched on 29 May at 4pm. The hatching was witnessed by Lorna Corley-Jackson, the volunteer on duty, who was delighted and very moved by the event. As we reported last week, she said “I’m thrilled, it was one of the most special events of my life. It will live with me forever.”

That’s the thing about watching the ospreys — they really touch your heart, and it is impossible not to develop a real sense of attachment to them when studying their lives so closely on a daily basis, via the camera link to their nest.

The privilege of watching the miracle of a new life beginning is something that the osprey project has brought to the public viewer each year since we began, as we follow these magnificent birds during their summer months here with us.

To be able to share that moment when the chick fist hatches and new life is brought forth as the parent birds look on is a real treasure. Particularly when it’s the hatching of chicks whose father is white leg SS, now 20 years old, and nesting here in the Tweed Valley since 2004.

Watch the latest highlights from the nest below:

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The latest highlights – including feeding time with 3 baby chicks! Click to play.

Join us for some osprey cake!

Osprey  nesting in Scottish borders near Peebles.

SS is 20 years old . Photo of SS taken a few years ago by Angus Blackburn

We are having a 20th birthday celebration for this special bird, with past and present volunteers for the Tweed Valley Osprey Project, at Kailzie Gardens on Saturday June 8 at 2pm.  This is a reminder to any volunteers who would like to come along, and share some fantastic osprey cake (not made with real ospreys!) that will be there on the day. The cake will be created by Emma’s Cakes of Kelso, courtesy of funding from Awards for All, for the ‘bringing communities together’ theme, awarded to the Friends of Kailzie Wildlife.

We will be sharing our osprey-related talents too, in poems, songs and artwork. In the background, there will of course be the family of ospreys, on screen with their now completed brood — 3 perfectly healthy, newly hatched chicks (hatched on 29, 30 and 31 May consecutively).

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Mrs O feeding the 3 newly hatched

The latest news from the nest

It has been a challenging week for the new-borns, with some rough weather. Mrs O has been a super-mum, and sometimes passed over the chance of fish from SS because she had decided that it was too risky to expose them to the cold and rain during her feeding time. New chicks are very vulnerable at this newly-hatched stage.

During our glimpses of feeding time, when the weather briefly returned to more favourable conditions, we have been rewarded with the delightful sight of this little family bonding together. The very hungry chicks strain and reach their heads up as high as they can towards mum, begging for food. She tenderly puts little fish morsels into their beaks, after fiercely ripping them from the fish. It is such a contrast, from fierce to tender in one swift motion.

SS watches as Mrs O feeds the chicks

Dad SS looks on as Mrs O feed the little ones

Mrs O on the hunt

We have seen SS taking a turn at feeding the little ones too, when Mrs O has taken a brief fly from the nest to have a stretch and answer the call of nature. On one such return, she brought a fish herself — a first this season, as far as we know. She has not had to do any hunting throughout the incubation period of her eggs, thanks to her partner. Even though SS is a great provider and she had no need to hunt, the opportunity must have presented itself and she couldn’t resist snatching the fish from the water and bringing it in, still flapping, to the nest.

She fed herself for a few minutes and until the fish was dead, and then began to feed her youngsters, while SS stood to the side of the nest calling. Eventually, he went up on to the left hand perch and once the young were full, Mrs O settled them in, all cosy, beneath her.

It’s hard work for the adult ospreys to raise their young, and on 3 June this became even more apparent when two sleepy ospreys, Mrs O and SS, were both seen to be nodding off and taking a brief  moment of rest, with eyes closed — just like any new parents, seeking rest whenever they can from a busy schedule of keeping their young safe, dry, warm and well fed.