25 days old
On 24 June, the osprey chicks in the main nest were 25 days old (based on the eldest chick, as they were born a day apart). The transformation from helpless grey downy chicks, which could barely stand or hold their heads up, to these strapping youngsters in such a brief period of time is an amazing sight to see.
Development is both subtle but rapid. All body parts seem to lengthen daily. Even their beaks are taking on the adult shape, with the curved tip present, ready for cutting through raw fish. Their legs are getting longer, although much of the time they hunker down, their lower legs jutting out in front of them, with their talons sticking out and curled up out of harm’s way.
Although their wings do not bear any flight feathers yet, they look almost out of place and too long for their body size at the moment. The shafts of the feather quills can be seen as they break open along their length, as the feathers develop. The down is now getting a covering of the colourful, blonde-tipped brown feathers of the juvenile osprey. Their heads now resemble true little osprey heads, and their eyes have turned yellow, like their parents.
This year, we have witnessed the transformation of Mrs O into a dedicated and efficient mother to her brood. It is a huge contrast with last year, when she had to be shown how to feed her young by her partner SS. Now, she dispatches fish with expediency and rapidly tears off flesh to feed the young in turn, in an orderly manner, until they are so full that they cannot stand any longer and rest down in the nest, laid out on their sides, legs sticking out or draped over each other as they digest a good meal.
Sometimes the family have to deal with challenging conditions due to the weather, as witnessed on Sunday 24 June. Torrential rain took the family by surprise and the chicks darted beneath Mrs O. She spread herself over them as best she could, as the rain came down hard and bounced off her back.
SS was away from the nest, and she did her very best to shelter the young. The rivers were in spate as thunder-y, hard-hitting showers shook the landscape. Once it was all over, the sun came out, the humid conditions resumed, and flies could be seen swarming around the nest.
SS returned sometime near to midday with a young pike, stripy in colour and a fair size. It was freshly caught, and still very much alive. Mrs O had her talons full trying to hold it down as she proceeded to feed it to her brood, its tail fin flapping in the nest.
The chicks had separated out, with two to the left of her and one teetering on the edge, to sit almost beneath her as she was feeding them. It was a dangerous spot for the one at the edge, but the advantage of having mums’ attention meant food was delivered faster.
Soon the chicks were so full that they had to take a nap and thankfully the one at the edge moved back into the centre of the nest in to a safer spot. Mrs O fed herself for a while, but even she was quite full, and so SS left with the remaining pike dinner.
Two hours later he returned, and the brood rose to feed once more. SS brought back the same pike, now down to about half the size, but they were not really interested in feeding as they were still rather full.
They took turns to move away from the centre of the nest and point their rear ends out to the side, sending a stream of white waste out of the nest. Their aim is not so great, and they keep hitting the tree stump on the left side of the nest, which is now completely whitewashed. Not a great result, with even more flies appearing shortly after. Hopefully they will get the hang of shooting clear of the family home soon.
SS had done really well to provide such a good fish, it served two meals for his family and himself. By 4pm, three very well-fed chicks were sprawled out in the centre of the nest once again, having a lazy nap and a stretch. They looked very contented and satisfied, while mum did some tidying up and dad took off, probably to have a roost before his next hunting trip of the day.