Author Archives: dianetweedvalleyospreys

We celebrate 200th chick of the project

Lucky

Lucky the 200th Tweed valley Osprey Chick

This week celebrates the 200th chick for the Tweed Valley Osprey Project since the first chick was raised here in 1998. Tony Lightley and Eve Schulte from Forestry Commission Scotland and Malcolm Henderson from the Lothian and Borders Raptor Study Group were at the celebrated nest site to carry out the ringing of the two chicks in the nest.

This nest site is unusual in that the parent birds are quite feisty for ospreys and over the years have given Tony a bit of a fright when he has climbed the tree to bring the chicks down for ringing, by flying directly at him and dive bombing him, only to swoop away at the last minute like an osprey version of the children’s danger game ‘chicken’.  The adult pulls out of the dive a split second before making physical contact but the threat and the message is clear – to keep off this nest site.

Fish Bomb

True to form, this year was no different and when the team arrived for the ringing of the chicks this time, Tony was treated to a fish bomb!

While he was up in the tree, the adult actually dropped a fish missile onto him, in an attempt to drive him away and it bounced and fell to the ground. There were three chicks in the brood and they were really big and close to fledging, so close in fact that chick no.3 (a male), flew off before it could be removed to be ringed. The bird had clearly been flying for a few days, as it was a well-executed launch and flight from the nest, not the faltering first attempt flights that we have witnessed when the birds are testing out their wings for the first time.

Lucky and Lucky1

The disturbance was only short lived as the remaining two chicks were quickly weighed, measured and given a health check prior to being fitted with their identity Darvic rings and BTO rings. The two chicks were fitted with Darvics LK0 and LK1. Tony christened female LK0 as Lucky, the 200th chick. We hope the name bodes well for this bird and that she does indeed have a lucky life and survives migration, returning one day to the Borders to breed. Her brother LK1, was a really big chick too and very healthy, so he too will hopefully prove to be a ‘Lucky1’.

The chicks along with the jettisoned fish were returned to the nest and as the team left the site the family regrouped and settled. A grumpy parent presumably picked up the fish bomb and they shared a family meal together with it.

Osprey season productivity

In total so far, 15 osprey chicks have been ringed in the project area this year and it is proving to be a good breeding season for ospreys in the Scottish Borders despite the fact that our main nest failed with SS and his twosome of females.

Three in a nest

Three in a nest

SS with Mrs. O and FS2

Curiously, there was another occasion of three birds occupying a site this year for the second year running and this seems to be becoming more common. One of the sites successfully raised three chicks where three adult birds were continually being seen together. The third bird or spare bird was being tolerated in the nest area and sitting at the nest and not being chased away by the adult pair.

We do not have ring numbers or camera pictures to determine the identity of the adults but information was gleaned during observations made during monitoring of the site. A similar situation of a further three birds at a site was witnessed two years ago and that makes the main nest occupation by Mrs. O and SS with the incomer FS2 less unusual than we at first believed.

FS2 and Mrs O

Mrs. O and FS2

Ups and downs

The original back up nest for the project remains unoccupied and we do not know what happened to the birds from this site, we presume that they have moved to a new site which is likely to be somewhere in the near locality but as yet undiscovered. There have been a couple of other sites that failed to produce young this year also and this was thought to be due to hatching time corresponding to the heavy rainfall period during June causing the demise of chicks.

There were chicks raised on a new nest site too, which was great news for the project, these were the smallest chicks so far this season indicating a late start for the breeding pair but young were healthy and a good weight. It is thought that this pair may actually be the pair from another site which was unoccupied this year and they may have switched to the better nesting area which is less prone to disturbance.

Nest 2 news

first lift off forPY2 nearly flying

Almost flying

dad 8c takes fish from mum

Mum wants that fish back from 8C

dad 8c gets a chance to feed

8c gets a chance to feed

The satellite tagged youngsters at nest 2, PY1 and PY2, are thriving and the new satellite derived images are proving a hit as we can watch them live on camera as they race towards fledging. They are really big birds, particularly the female PY1. They are fully feathered now and wing flapping with a steely determination which can only mean that any day soon they will be taking some flights around the area.

The whole family was seen gathered together on the nest on Monday. Mum fed the chicks and when they were full, Dad grabbed the remaining fish from her to have a bite to eat as he was hungry. We have seen him do this before but he was a bit premature and she wrestled it back off him. Don’t mess with a mum osprey that wants to feed her young 8C!

This time though she let him have it and he got to have a tail end of fish to eat before she tentatively requested it back for a bite to eat for her too. A blissful domestic scene of a satisfied osprey family, all with full crops of fish to digest, while sitting high up in their lofty nest overlooking the splendid Tweed Valley swathed in beautiful summer sunshine.

a wonderful view from up here

Lovely view from up here

Catch up with latest videos

Chicks fitted with tracking devices

Back up no. 2 nest

PY1

Volunteers and guests were invited to join the team to watch the ringing and satellite tagging of the two osprey chicks in back up nest no. 2 this week. It was a real privilege for all those involved to see these magnificent wild birds up close for the first time and watch them as they were fitted with their identification rings and satellite tagging devices.

Ringing PY1 and PY2

PY2PY 1 close

Tony Lightley, the Forest Enterprise Scotland Environment and Heritage Manager for Dumfries & Borders forest district who holds the licence for all the osprey nests in the project area, led the team and guests up to the nest site. He then had the arduous task of scaling to the top of the tall larch tree and taking the ropes up to the nest for lowering the chicks down to the forest floor. BTO licenced ringers Ronnie Graham and Malcolm Henderson then carried out the bird health checks, measurements, weighed them, and fitted them with BTO unique identity rings on their right legs and blue alpha numeric darvic rings on their left legs, indicating that they are Scottish bred birds.

The darvic ring identities for these birds are PY1 a female and PY2 a male. Both chicks were found to be healthy and robust which is a good indication that they are being provided with a plentiful food supply from mum and dad and bodes well for their survival.

Fitting their trackers

tag close upPY1 getting fittedPY1 stitching tag

After all the ringing and measurements were taken, the birds were then carefully fitted with the satellite tracking devices. These small solar powered back packs were attached to their backs, one at a time and then the teflon straps made by NASA were connected across a plastic template on the chest, while the straps were stitched together with hemp thread to hold the back pack securely and comfortably in place.

After the stitching was done they were checked for a good fit all the way around the bird and under the wings. This is to make sure there was enough room for growth and movement and to allow for a full crop of fish once the bird would be fishing for itself. The straps are made from state of the art material which is incredibly smooth and slippery, so that the feathers just groom over the top of them and there would be no chafing or rubbing against the skin.

The devices are so well designed so that they do not impede the osprey way of life in any way and flying and fishing are unaffected. Once all the checks were carried out the template was removed and the ends of the tapes cut off neatly and some glue applied to the ends to prevent fraying.

The birds were then ready to go back into their nest and await the return of mum and dad. They were hauled back up individually in a rucksack to a patiently waiting Tony, who was up in the top of the tree, so that he could release them and settle them back down into their cosy home.

More work for the dedicated team

For the volunteers and guests at the site it was time to leave and everybody was so pleased to have been able to witness this great event. For the team it was back to work and onto the next site, with twelve nests in the total project area now.

This time of year involves working seven days a week to make sure all the sites are monitored and ringed at the correct time. We are so grateful to them for all the hard work and effort involved to ensure this vital conservation work is done for the magnificent ospreys. The satellite tags will provide superb research data about their migration and distribution.

Home life at the main nest

Meanwhile back at the main nest, Mrs. O holds the crown as the female most tolerated by SS. He still shares fish with her despite their chick-less state, even though the portions he saves her could be said to be on the side of miserly!

However, FS2 came in for a brief visit and was given a frosty reception and chased off by SS. So, could it be that he and Mrs. O have now bonded enough to come back next year and try again? SS regularly sits on the nest and tidies sticks and rearranges the interior while Mrs. O keeps up her loud squawks. Maybe her behaviour proves dominance over the territory that has made SS stay with her instead of FS2.

Mrs O makes a face

What are you thinking Mrs. O?

Best nest photo of the season was taken by a volunteer on duty when Mrs. O didn’t get any fish from SS on his return; the expression on her face speaks volumes!! Any suitable witty captions will be gratefully received.

Watch the latest video clips

Satellite tagging

Migration Routes

The satellite tagged Tweed Valley ospreys have brought us revealing data about the routes the birds have taken when on migration. We have FK8 who favours taking a south westerly route and finishes her journey in Portugal where she has overwintered in the same quarters twice now. Her second migration to arrive in Portugal was a more direct route down the centre of the UK and over the Bay of Biscay to Spain and onto Portugal.

PX1 and PX2 had a different tactic of heading east to mainland Europe and then heading south westerly. PX1 made it to Southern Mali and is still there.

Trends

Scottish Migration journeys autumn 2016

Pink migration routes autumn 2016 Scottish Ospreys

These journeys are interesting in themselves but when the data from all the central and south Scottish tagged birds from last year are used to populate the data map we begin to see trends appear.

Some head in a general south westerly direction but more have taken a route into mainland Europe and then France and the coast of Spain on the western Mediterranean before making the crossing into Morocco and south westerly through Africa.

All the data together

Swedish and Scottish osprey Migrations autumn 2016

All Scottish and Swedish ospreys migration routes shown gives a broad pink band

If we then populate the data map with all the Swedish ospreys migrating also, this trend shows a broad pink band of all the osprey movement on the autumn migration moving in a south westerly direction through France and Spain and on to western Africa.

The UK birds’ paths seem to orientate to join the clear flyway route down through Europe, the route that is favoured as it seems by the majority of ospreys.

Features along this route which are generally helpful towards migration are likely to be the uplift they experience from mountainous regions and from the Mediterranean Sea prevailing winds making the flight less arduous possibly.

This data is a snapshot of all the journeys, all made on different dates and doesn’t take into consideration the weather at the time. It is interesting to see the trend in routes which the majority favour. On an international scale this reveals osprey hotspots in terms of importance for migration.

PW9 migration

PW9 Isle of Man look to Wales

Another individual journey made by a Dumfriesshire bird PW9 who fledged from Caerlaverock was surprising, as he headed to the Isle of Man where he spent a couple of days. He then re-orientating himself and turned 360 degrees to cross into Wales and on to France and Spain. His data stopped in Spain and there have been no further records since 20th September 2016.

Another bird from the Loch Lomond region who took a westerly route ended up in Ireland before re-orientating and taking a journey to Portugal where he stayed for winter.

Back up nest 2

nest 2 chicks wing

Wing feathers almost fully developed

fine young osps

Waiting for mum

This year’s chicks on Back up nest 2 will be fitted with their satellite tags and identity rings this week as they are almost at the point of fledging. The chicks’ race towards independence has begun and we have seen them left for a long period of time by their parents when they are away fishing.

They can regulate their own temperature now that they have almost the full complement of feathers. The final breaking through of split feather shafts shows the full wings and tail feathers have almost fully emerged which we can see clearly when they are preening and stretching in the nest. It will only be a matter of a few days before they begin to test their wings for flight.

Main nest

Lonely Mrs.O

Lonely Mrs. O

On the main nest Mrs. O cuts a lonely figure most of the time as she waits for SS who still brings her the occasional fish. When he returns with empty talons he gets a loud osprey row and a display of fluffing of feathers and wing mantling to express her displeasure at being left hungry. FS2 has not been seen since last week so perhaps she, as a younger female, is wandering and checking out other areas, much like FK8 is doing in the north of Scotland, regularly surveying Tain, Dornoch and then north to Loch Slethill.

SS has no fish for MrsO

SS has no fish for Mrs. O

FK8 Tain dornoch slethill

A wander for FK8

Wildlife about

Meanwhile, other wildlife happenings this week have been the regular sightings of red squirrel kits at Kailzie Gardens, the stealth camera caught ‘bent tail’ the fox and the otter checking the area at the same time and in the conservatory in the walled garden, there are some fantastic exotic moths from Africa and Asia to try and spot.

Over at Glentress, the return of the bees in their viewing hive is great to watch as the workers tend to Queen Bee, she is easy to spot with a splodge of white tippex on her thorax.

bent tail fox gets a visit from otter

Otter sneaks up behind fox. See the eyes to the right of the fox ear.

Live nest streaming

8C leaves after delivering fish

Yellow 8C and female with two chicks at back up nest 2

This week we have news from our back up nest no. 2, where parent birds yellow 8C and his unringed partner have two thriving chicks. Just like their young from last year, (PX1 and PX2), one is really big and the other is really much smaller. It could possibly be a male and female or that they have a few days age difference between them.

Not only do we have news but we now have the facility to view the nest ‘live’ via latest satellite technology at the Glentress Wildwatch Room, thanks to the technical genius and skill of Bill Irvine and Tony Lightley from Forestry Commission for Scotland. This is a truly exciting development for the project as the young birds from this nest are fitted with satellite tags so that we can track their progress for the first few years of their lives. This information is invaluable in revealing so much detail about osprey migration and survival.

Mum shields the young from torrential rain

Osp shields young

Mum shields young from the rain

Previously, we have only been able to download brief video clips from the camera at this nest once the season is underway, so it is a real treat, to now be able to follow this family on a daily basis. We watched them live for the first time in the torrential down pouring rain as their mum stoically shielded her young from the worst of the weather.

The chicks although well covered in feathers at this stage burrowed beneath their mum for warmth and shelter. Yellow 8C returned to his family briefly and dropped off a small fish for the female. She took it from him and she fed for a short while but the chicks were not very hungry and soon nestled back beneath her for warmth.

8C brings fish

8C delivers a small fish

Female osprey with 80’s hairstyle!

The female bird is a beauty with long strands of white crest feathers that she kept shaking to dispel the water droplets. It gave the back of her head a rather fetching look reminiscent of 80’s singer Limahl’s hairstyle at the peak of Kajagoogoo fame! This bird is not ‘too shy shy’ though as she is a brave mum battling the elements to defend her chicks from a deluge of Scottish weather doing it’s worst just now.

Limahl style 2

Rain gives osprey crest an 80’s hairstyle look!

We are really looking forward to seeing how this family progresses and soon they will be ringed and also fitted with tracking devices so that we can follow them as they grow up and leave us.

FK8 flits between Dornoch and Forsinard Flows

Dornoch trip 21st JuneLoch Ospisdale on Skibo Estate

Yellow 8C’s daughter, FK8, is still up in the north of Scotland and she has not settled to nest this year but is seemingly rather favouring two areas as she visits both. This week’s data has revealed that she was up in the Forsinard Flows RSPB Reserve where she has plenty of lochs to fish from. She perches up for long periods on fence posts where presumably she eats her fish and rests and she roosted in plantation forestry by night.

She took a journey back down to the Dornoch estuary on 21st June and she visited Skibo Estate and Loch Ospisdale, where she possibly caught a fish as she rested a while after her visit and then, later on in the evening she re-visited the same loch, before returning to a forest area where she spent 10 days at a nest site last year.

She is likely to be prospecting for a nest site for next summer, as she will be ready for breeding then. So, it is a good thing that she is keeping her options open across two very good potential areas. All she needs to do next is find a good mate.

SS and the two females meanwhile….

FS2 made to feel unwelcome

A frosty reception for FS2

Meanwhile, back at the main nest SS is still having a troublesome time keeping two females happy. Mrs. O seems to be emerging as the more dominant female of the two, for when FS2 visited the main nest while Mrs. O was present with SS they both mantled and turned their backs to her, adopting a defensive posture to give her the message that she wasn’t welcome. If she is present at the nest alone with SS he is more accepting of her presence and will even share fish but don’t tell Mrs. O!

Free fish noooo

Did somebody mention free fish?

Three ospreys, one summer

Hi Honey Im home! FS2 appears to SS

Hi Honey I’m home! FS2 appears on the nest with SS

We’ve witnessed a fascinating couple of days at the Tweed Valley nest site this week. Having watched an empty nest for a few days we had begun to despair that the season was over for all of us ardent osprey watchers and followers, but all changed on Monday 19th. SS appeared at the nest and was joined soon after by female blue FS2.  Just as we make a prediction about what we think may be happening it gets quashed by a new turn of events.

SS mantles and FS2

SS mantles at the appearance of FS2

No family

We had speculated that having mated with FS2 and her subsequent disappearance afterwards for weeks, she may have nested elsewhere. With the increasing absence of SS we wondered if perhaps he was away from his site raising a family with her, but both turning up together on the main nest has dispelled that little theory! If they had a family they would not have been together on this nest leaving the young exposed elsewhere. It just wouldn’t happen.

FS2 flies on to the perch

Fish sharing

FS2 takes fish from SS

SS lets FS2 take his fish

SS had a fish in his talons and at her first appearance he didn’t seem too happy, turning away from her, dropping his wings and mantling in characteristic fashion. Is that the osprey equivalent of talk to the hand? However, after a settling period, a more relaxed SS allowed FS2 to come forward and take the remaining fish from his talons and to eat it herself.

Bonding and nest tidying

After feeding for ten minutes SS took the fish back from FS2. She then flew up on to the perch and SS fed on the remains. That is quite a bonding situation between the two birds and there was no sign of Mrs. O about anywhere – she hadn’t been seen for a few days.

FS2 feeds and SS flies off

SS flies off as FS2 eats the fish

SS then flew off leaving FS2 alone at the nest. He returned 40 minutes later and landed beside FS2 and they did some nest tidying, moving sticks around. They stayed together for a further 20 minutes until SS flew off and then much later FS2 left the nest.

Look who’s back now!

Mrs O and SS

Mrs O and SS

Just when we were beginning to think that SS and FS2 have formed a partnership, who should appear on the nest the next day but Mrs. O. Firstly, she was alone and calling loudly and doing some nest tidying, when SS flew in and joined her. She was on the perch and he was in the nest and she dropped down to sit beside him. They seemed fairly amicable and no mantling of wings.

Mrs. O was persistently calling out with high pitched squawks and this continued for some time. When SS didn’t seem to pay any attention, her tone softened and pitch lessened to a degree. Unfortunately this didn’t last and she soon pumped up the volume again.

Nest scraping

SS nest scrape and tidy

SS nest scraping and tidying

SS squatted down into the nest and began digging out a scrape with his legs into the mossy material on the floor of the nest. Mrs. O kept up her constant calling and he flew off leaving her alone. She then dropped into the main nest and squatted down into a prone position, bobbing her head up and down and calling.

She remained like that for a while until he returned. After a few minutes he joined her in the nest but positioned himself with his back to her. She stood back up into normal posture and continued to call persistently and on they continued like that.

Mrs O squatting and head bobbing and SS watches

SS looks at Mrs O as she squats and bobs her head

Good guy or cad?

So is SS really a nice bird who just can’t make his mind up between the two females and gives fish to both or is he a cad? With no eggs or family to defend, and being part of a small population of available breeding ospreys, is this the best thing to do? Any osprey advice lines, for sure, should they exist, would be advising to “keep your options open SS”!

FS2 and SS togetherSS tidying the nest

Next year if all three return, it would no doubt be a race between the females to get to breed on this site with SS. Then serious battle lines would need to be drawn to defend the site in order to raise a family. No sharing would be tolerated; it would be a case of the best female wins. Unless of course another male turns up too, to really upset the order of things!

Adult behaviour insight

So, the season is not over and we are witnessing some incredible behaviour that we have never seen before. In previous years we have just watched ospreys raising a family and it has been quite idyllic. This year we are gaining real insight into some behaviour between adults and how they conduct themselves in this situation and the dynamics of their relationships with each other.

Watch the latest videos of the nest

All is quiet

Triumphant squawking Mrs.O

There have been no major developments at the main nest site this week and white leg SS has not been spending much time there. A solitary Mrs. O has spent a few lonely days and her frequent calling seems to be lessening to a degree. We feel sorry for her despite light heartedly making fun of her demands for fish and her behaviour in general towards SS.

Holding on

The given facts about her current position are that despite her imperative to breed she has failed this year while valiantly holding on to a territory, nest site and an available male osprey who has been providing her with fish. Her unwillingness to leave to fish for herself is most probably in defense of the territory and not to leave the site vacant.  The absence of SS from the site does provoke thoughts that he may be with FS2 at another location and she may have chicks, but that is purely speculation.

Osprey fatality

We have had news of an osprey found dead with a blue darvic ring on the left leg. CX3 was a bird from the Dumfriesshire area, ringed at a nest site on 6th July 2014. This male bird was of mature breeding age and was found in the Tweed Valley project area on 18th May, thought to have drowned sometime previously.

It is probably just coincidence but it was 18th May when Mrs. O first appeared at the main nest site, and we did speculate that the male osprey that died potentially could have left a family without a male to provide for them. We have also discussed different reasons why Mrs. O has not been able to produce any eggs since mating with SS, and that maybe she failed at egg stage before coming to the main nest. This would mean not being able to produce any further eggs this year if her resources were depleted from an earlier attempt.

Could Mrs. O be the partner of CX3 from a failed nest? There are not that many spare ospreys in the area so it is plausible, but there is no evidence, just another possible explanation for her sudden appearance and her behaviour.

Tweed Valley osprey sightings

Tweed Valley osprey FK4 has been spotted up at Loch Doon in Dumfriesshire where he caused an upset by taking over an occupied nest and kicking the eggs out.

A male osprey with leg ring FX0 who fledged from a nest in Tweed Valley in 2015 has been photographed on 7th June at Venus Ponds in Shropshire by local photographer Alan Williams.

Osprey 2

Alan said “The osprey came in from the southern end of the lake which means it must have come over Cound Lake on its way.  It took us all by surprise; the first we knew was all the water fowl scattering in panic, then someone in the hide shouted –‘Osprey!’.”

I was sat at the far end of the hide nearest to where the bird came in.  It swooped down trying for one of the carp basking in the weed near the surface to the right of the hide.”

Osprey 5

For a full account and technical details of how Alan got such good shots of the osprey and what equipment he used please see below.

Satellite tracked round up

FK8, the satellite tracked female from Tweed Valley, has made the north of Scotland her home for the second summer running. We had high hopes that she may find a partner and breed this year as she is now three years old, but her movements suggest a semi nomadic existence. She has travelled from the area around Loch Slethill in the Forsinard Flows National Nature reserve south to Burnfoot and back up north towards Thurso, all in a days flight on 11th June. She is wandering the open landscape with myriad lochs and stretches of open water and rivers, and it’s certainly a good area for fishing for her.

PX1 is still in the gold mines area in Southern Mali in Africa as far as we know and seems to be leading a sedentary existence with only occasional longer flights. The last data update from his tag was 22nd May, so it will be good to get some new fixes on his activity if the lag in data catches up.

Tweed Valley bird at Kielder

EB, the Tweed Valley osprey who has nested in Kielder, is a mum of two lovely chicks with a third egg that has not hatched. The family are doing really well despite the recent heavy downpours of rain. There are four Kielder Osprey nests on camera and they are enjoying a very productive year of osprey chicks.

School visit

We had a visit to Kailzie Osprey Centre from two classes from Priorsford Primary school in Peebles. Following a talk about the Tweed Valley Ospreys, it was a total pleasure to chat with the children who were brimming with questions and enthusiasm about the ospreys.

They sent some lovely pictures and thank you letters too after their visit and we hope they will continue to follow the Tweed Valley Ospreys progress and come back to visit again soon.

Alan’s account of taking great osprey photos

Os[rey 6Osprey 3

I was sat at the far end of the hide nearest to where the bird came in. It swooped down trying for one of the carp basking in the weed near the surface to the right of the hide.  Panic ensued I’m afraid, my lens was zoomed out at 600mm and the bird was little more than 20 metres away so it filled the viewfinder and then some. The bird passed from right to left going right past the front of the hide; my camera lens was poking out of the end window and I collided with the window frame as I tried to pan the shots.

Osprey 4

I had to quickly withdraw the camera from the end window and re-position it through the front to carry on taking pictures of the bird as it passed through. There was very little skill involved; everything happened so quickly I had little time to setup the camera properly but that is usually the case with wildlife. The Osprey made a second attempt to take a fish as it passed by flying low over the water. It then lifted to about 50 feet above the lake and started hovering searching the water for signs of prey. It shifted position several times continuing with this hovering until it sighted something and making another attempt to capture one of the many carp present in the lake. It was unsuccessful during this shoot although it did return later and another lucky person captured the bird carrying off one of the carp.

Osprey 9

I do photograph birds regularly having recently taken up the hobby again after years of not having the time and pursuing other things. I am now building up my skill with the digital camera but I am far from anything bar a keen amateur. I use a Nikon D500 partnered with a Sigma 150-600mm Contemporary zoom lens for most of my wildlife work. When the Osprey first appeared the lens was fully extended to 600mm and the bird overfilled the frame.

I took the shot with the camera set to shutter priority so that I controlled the shutter speed so as to freeze the action and increase the detail. Settings were: Exposure 1/2500 sec; f9; ISO Auto Pattern metering. As the bird closed on our position I was desperately trying to reduce the zoom to frame the bird fully. The third picture in the fly by I had managed to decrease the focal length to 460mm at f8. The Osprey is still not fully framed but this was more due to me not being able to keep up with the birds speed and my panning proved to be too slow. When the Osprey was directly in front I managed to catch up and capture the full bird with the lens at 450mm f7.1 and the subject was less than 15 metres away.

Osprey

As the bird climbed I fully extended the lens to 600mm but with the camera being of DX type the true length would be 900mm. This was further extended by putting the camera into 1.3 crop mode. With the sky now being the backdrop I increased the ev to 1.3 to prevent the bird being a silhouette. My tips for action shots is try to freeze the action.  With a big lens you need to combat movement of the subject and camera shake.

Any form of VR is great for reducing the risk of camera shake especially when panning a hand held camera with a big lens.  Setting the camera to shutter priority gives you the control of the shutter speed and varying the speed will either freeze any movement or give the subject a certain amount of controlled blur giving the impression of movement but not too much.

Osprey 7

The unhappy couple

The unhappy couple. Mrs O watches SS

Mrs. O watches SS

Main nest life for the unhappy coupling of SS and Mrs. O doesn’t seem to be getting any better. Mrs. O the ‘orrible osprey female is a demanding, bullying fish grabber and the hapless male, SS, looks a little down in the beak to say the least.

He was seen to arrive onto the nest without a fish and immediately Mrs. O began following him around and pecking at his toes. There was no fish to be had but still she had a nasty little peck away at him, all the while keeping up her shrill squawking demands.

Defensive SS

Occasionally, he tries to stand up for himself and he turns his back on her and drops his wings, adopting the usual posture that she presents towards him. He mantles his wings and tiptoes about the nest flicking his wings in a drop down pose; she just turns away and usually continues to belt out her shrill calls.

SS turns his back to Mrs O

The unhappy couple, SS turns his back to Mrs.O

Futile coupling

A further mating attempt was recorded on 1st June and then some nest tidying on 4th June but there is still no sign of any egg being laid in the nest. It is strange behaviour that we have witnessed this year between the pair and there doesn’t seem to be any affection or close bond developing at all.

Very sleepy SS

During torrential rain on 5th June both birds were at the nest with Mrs. O doing what she always does, squawking loudly, while SS was up on the left hand perch and appeared to be very tired. He actually tucked his head under his wing and fell asleep. Perhaps trying to muffle the demanding calls from Mrs. O. We have never seen him sleep at the nest before in all the years that he has held this territory. He is an 18 year old bird and so quite old in bird terms. He has been trying to keep two females happy and has been left with Mrs. O as the resident female at his territory.

sleepy SS

Sleepy SS

The other female, FS2, visits and then leaves which caused some speculation that he may have a nest with her as well elsewhere, or has she got a nest with another male? Will she be raising SS’ chicks this year but not at the main nest site because Mrs. O has taken over it?

Mrs. O has a plan

Mrs. O is no bird brain when it comes to conserving energy – she does not bother to go fishing because she has realised that sitting it out on the nest and making enough demands, results in a fish being brought to her. A ‘Jabba the Hutt’ in osprey guise, antagonistic in nature and with an insatiable appetite! We are not feeling the love for Mrs. O.

Where did last year’s female go?

Last year SS was with female AS6 from Muir of Ord and there have been no reports of her anywhere this year, so we wonder what happened to her. It is a pity that she never returned as she would be four years old now and more mature for raising a family of her own. They lost their young last year and her inexperience showed as she didn’t seem to know how to care for the chick at first and had to be shown by SS. He gently fed the young chick until she understood what she had to do but sadly, the chick didn’t survive.

Bad luck four years running

SS has had four years of bad luck at this nest site following on from 10 happy and productive years with his original partner who died. Here’s hoping he never smashed any mirrors to make it an unlucky seven years! Surely, things can only get better for him.

In theory, not having any chicks to rear should be a year’s holiday from all that fishing and parenting to youngsters but the demanding Mrs. O is ruining what potentially could have been a carefree summer for our boy SS.

Where is Mrs. O from?

We have no idea where she came from and why did she pitch up at the main nest site so late in the season? Was she usurped from a nest elsewhere which failed? If she was, then maybe she lost a clutch of eggs and that is why she is unable to lay again now. Again, it is just speculation for whatever we know about the ospreys there always seems more questions that could be answered.

If she stays around for the rest of this season perhaps we could commission the invention of little osprey ear defenders for poor SS before she drives him nuts.

Fledged nestlings

At the osprey centre at Kailzie Gardens, the great tits and the blue tits from the camera boxes have now fledged. The herons too have now left their nest but only the gruesome twosome survived to adulthood. The smallest and least fed never thrived and was driven from the nest by the robust and feistier siblings.

Camera trap success

The camera trap along the burn has been capturing some lovely footage of a lactating vixen, an otter cub feeding on a nice trout head treat and a beautiful roe deer buck. The film clips of all the animals caught on camera can be viewed at the centre.

Catch up with all the latest nest videos here: