Author Archives: dianetweedvalleyospreys

Mrs O eats her dead chick

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Mrs O feeds the young

Hunger Games

This has been the first week in the lives of the newly-hatched osprey chicks and it has been a case of mixed fortunes for them. The incredible Storm Hector brought down trees across the Borders, and lashing rain sent the Tweed into a raging muddy blur – not great for osprey fishing.  SS must have struggled to fish in the windy conditions and murky waters, and the chicks were visibly seen to be hungry at the nest, with a frustrated Mrs O mock-feeding at times with no fish.

20180615_13-00-41parents and chicks

Mrs O feeding the young chicks

Feeding time

mrs o eats dead chick from egg

When SS did arrive with fish, she took it from him and proceeded to feed in great gulps for herself, tearing off strips that were just too big for the little chicks to swallow. When she did master the portion size, she concentrated on the liveliest chick and the feeble one seemed to have only a tiny morsel by comparison. She seemed to be quite clumsy in her feeding attempts to begin with. She stood quite far back, staying apart from the youngsters and then lunged in to aim fish pieces into the open beak of the waiting chick.

Mrs O with dead chick watched by the two

Mrs O with the dead chick in her talons watched by the two chicks


After some time and when her own hunger had abated, she seemed to relax more and control the feeding with greater precision. The chick receiving most of the fish seemed to grow stronger as the mouthfuls began to fill the young osprey’s tummy. Mrs O then turned her attention to the other chick and began to feed the little one in earnest too.

The fate of egg number 3

Mrs O with dead chick watched by the two
Mrs O continued to incubate the third egg, and was seen settling over it with the two chicks beneath her after feeding. In one of the video clips, it looks as though the egg had a crack right down the shell, and there were lots of flies around the nest too. On Friday 15 June, Mrs O stood off the egg and peered down at it, in much the same way that she had done prior to the other two hatching. It was hoped that this was going to hatch but it didn’t.

Saturday morning started off with a very hungry Mrs O and two hungry chicks on the nest, and the only food there was the tail end of a fish. This was torn into stringy strips and offered to the youngsters but was barely satisfying. Mrs O was so hungry that she forced the tail fin down her own beak, struggling to swallow it. There can’t have been much nutritional value in the fin but she was obviously very hungry. SS was absent from the nest, presumably out hunting for his family.

Later, while volunteer Robert was on duty chatting to visitors in the osprey centre, a young girl watching the nest suddenly called out that the osprey was eating the egg. He quickly dashed to the screen to begin recording and was astonished to see Mrs O with her beak plunged into the cracked-open shell. She pulled the fully-formed dead chick out of the shell and proceeded to eat it. The two chicks saw that Mum was eating, and they crawled over to her and began begging for food but she didn’t comply. She eventually gave up on the lifeless form, went back over to her young, and settled them down beneath her.

Stoats about

That wasn’t the last excitement for the day in the centre. As soon as the cannibal episode was over, there was a visit from a very curious stoat, who decided to come in and run around the building, confronting Robert (who has had an exciting week).

Robert gave chase to ‘shoo’ it back outside but the canny mustelid darted under the big cupboards behind the wiring for the screens, and scurried out of sight. Robert went for help but no one was available, so he returned to the building. The cheeky stoat came out from his hiding place and made for the front door, and trotted towards the café “as if he owned the place,” according to Robert, before disappearing beneath it. A final word from Robert: “This must easily be my best ever day on duty!”

SS brings home some fish

A hungry Mrs O recommenced demolishing the corpse of the dead chick  later in the day, and this entertained the two chicks watching her. SS finally appeared with a headless fish, which Mrs O took from him, able to feed her two offspring at last. A  happy ending to a somewhat gruesome week in the Tweed Valley – talk about nature, red in tooth and claw!


Good news and bad news…

PX1 has died in Scotland

Jeremy Paxman with PX1

We have great news this week, but also some very sad news about the ospreys of Tweed Valley. The sad news is that we are certain that PX1, best known as Jeremy Paxman’s osprey, is dead. The data received since he was last tracked in the north of Scotland is consistent with a static bird on the ground.

He was doing so well previously, touring and exploring Scotland’s flow country. We are very sad to lose this bird, as he had spent two winters in residence at the gold mines in Sanso, Southern Mali after leaving the Tweed Valley nest site. He returned to Scotland this spring, but unfortunately, it seems he wasn’t destined to make it home.

The tale of his family is a sorry one, as the nest he was raised from stands empty this year. His father drowned on returning to Scotland this spring, while his mother (we think) was driven away from the nest site by the very dominant Mrs O.

PX1’s brother. meanwhile, died 100 miles south of Paris on his first migration trip. The male osprey reared by his parents last year died in Switzerland, and the female was last tracked in Spain. His nearest surviving close relative is FK8, who had the same father, yellow 8C, but a different mother, green DN. Both those adult birds are now dead.

FK8 is nesting

FK8 nesting

FK8 data reveals clusters of points where she is in one place for long periods of time presumably incubating eggs.

The known surviving family member, FK8, is believed to be nesting this year – the data that her tag is giving us shows that she remains in the same location with just short, brief trips away. This would indicate a bird at a nest site incubating eggs and just taking a few stretches away from the site. We hope that she does well. and can bring some genetic continuity to this branch of our osprey family.

Benefits of long term species monitoring

The revealing tracker data shows very clearly that the need for continued, robust, conservation of these magnificent birds is far from over. The breeding success of more than 200 chicks raised in Tweed Valley lulls us into a false sense of security, giving the impression that the species is beginning to thrive. It is only when we track the birds further and find out the survival rate of dispersing birds that we can see that numbers are not increasing as we would have liked or expected, and that fatalities are high.
The value of monitoring over the long term is vital to identify trends in their population dynamics, and to identify threats to their survival.

Mrs O and SS – Parents at last

vlcsnap-2018-06-12-22h25m30s103 Proudparents of two chicks

Two chicks hatched on 11 June

On to happier news! This week, Mrs O and SS became parents at last! The first chick hatched on 11 June after 39 days of incubation. Later the same morning, egg number two also hatched, after a period of only 35 days of incubation. The warm weather must have played a part in the advancement of the incubation period for the second egg.

Mrs O was very restless prior to hatching, and kept stepping away from the eggs and peering down at them, turning her head backwards and forwards as though listening. She could perhaps hear the tapping inside the eggs, and the cheeping of the little ones as they pecked their way out into the world. Some forage of the new arrivals can be seen below.

We are just waiting for news of the third egg now, and we are beginning to wonder if this will also hatch earlier than expected. Both adult birds are very settled – SS brought in fish for Mrs O and she fed the two little ones. She is currently moulting, and some of her feathers are on the side of the nest. A bold chaffinch hopped onto the nest and took a few of the downy feathers away for his own abode… Recycling at its best, avian style!

Mrs O… A reformed character?

The reformed character of mum-in-the making, Mrs O

contented MrsO

A contented Mrs O incubating her eggs

The sunshine and high temperatures over the past few weeks gave way to dramatic thunderstorms with forked lightning and torrential rain on Friday 1 June. The storm rolled around the hilltops, hit localised areas and released torrents of rain, leading to flash floods in the towns.

The storm raged on, and we may wonder whether the birds at the osprey nest would have been alarmed by the loud thunderclaps and flashes. Observation revealed that although Mrs O looked startled a couple of times, actually they weren’t really that bothered. It is only weather, and they have seen it all before!

20180529_13-45-39 Mrs O eggs sit

Mrs O sat tight with her eggs and the water dripped off her back. All in a day’s work for an osprey incubating eggs, and nothing to make any fuss about. In fact, lately Mrs O seems to have adopted an almost Zen-like attitude. Nothing is troubling her – she sits calmly on the eggs and waits patiently for her partner SS to return with fish.

She is a reformed character now – the squawking and demanding behaviour exhibited a few weeks back, which saw her snatching fish from SS, seems  to be a thing of the past.

20180531_12-43-45 SS with full fish

Mission: Incubation

On Saturday 2 June, SS flew onto the nest carrying a headless fish for Mrs O (he had already eaten the head).  She stood up off the eggs, took the fish in her talons and flew onto the perch to eat.

She was only away from her precious eggs for 10 minutes before she returned, and persuaded a reluctant SS to get up, allowing her to sit back down and resume incubation.

Mrs O wants to sit back down

Mrs O wants SS to get up and let her back down onto those eggs

Her careful way of moving around the nest and curling her talons before sitting on the eggs is another change in behaviour, as she had often been quite clumsy around the nest and almost stood on the eggs with open talons a few times.

Mrs O appears to be fully immersed in the mission of egg incubation now and doesn’t like to be away from them for any length of time. She made an unexpected exit from the nest at one point – she got up suddenly and left the nest when SS was not there, leaving the eggs without cover or protection.

However, she returned within sixty seconds, having flown off very quickly, only to return and get straight back down onto the eggs. We did wonder if she left for a quick toilet break, as we have never seen the adult birds soil the nest site. Perhaps she popped off to relieve herself, or maybe just went for a quick stretch of the wings… or maybe even ospreys get cramp too after they sit still for so long!


Nest cams

In the centre at Kailzie Gardens, the blue tits are about to fledge. They have now been hatched for 18 days, and the nest box looks overcrowded. The birds look just about ready to go, and most likely will leave early in the morning.

The great tits are a week behind the blue tits, but they are growing fast. The diet of raw caterpillar protein which fast-tracks the growth within these birds; from bald, reptilian-looking creatures, to fully-feathered adult birds is speedy, and remarkable to witness within the camera nest boxes.

May tree flowers in June

It has been an unusual spring this season, and there are some signs that we are almost lagging a month behind, compared to previous years. The May tree or Hawthorn, which is usually in full blossom in May, has only just come into its full glory now that we are in June. Cuckoos are calling on the Tweed Valley hillside, and the nesting season is also quite late for some species.

Mysterious caterpillar invasion

In the Tweed Valley Forest an infestation of caterpillars within silken web tents have decked the crabapple trees in ghostly fashion. Only a couple of weeks ago, they were in full blossom and leaf but now they have been stripped bare and skeletal by the army of grey/black moth caterpillars. No other trees around them have been affected apart from the crabapples.

Photographer Bill Farmer also spotted these strange webs in Fortmonthills, near Glenrothes in Fife, identifying the species as an Ermine moth. You can see his pictures, along with lots more taken across Scotland this Spring, over at the Forestry Commission’s Facebook page this week. They’re running a photo competition called the Spring Photo Jam – find out all about it at

Sunshine on Tweed… but PX1, where have you gone?

20180525_13-03-07 stick moving shady eggs

Mrs O, are you building a sunshade?

Sun brollies needed!

The weather has been fantastic in Tweed Valley for the past fortnight, and while we have all been basking in the glorious sunshine in high temperatures, we should spare a thought for the ospreys. Sitting at the top of the tree, their nest is totally exposed to the harshest of sun rays, with no shade at all.

Mrs O has tried to make herself useful, moving sticks around the nest – it looked as though she possibly had ideas of building a sun screen at one point, but never quite followed through on the construction. SS was seen panting, with an open beak, sitting over the eggs to shield them from cooking in the sun. They have both dutifully turned the eggs regularly and scraped the nest cup to rotate the mossy lining, keeping them at the right temperature.

The adult birds overwinter as far as Africa, so this hot weather is something that they are well equipped to deal with. The insulation that their feathers provide shields them from the harshest of conditions, hot or cold. They can fluff up their feathers to expel heat, or pant.

It is the eggs that must be protected because overheating can be as problematic as chilling to the development of the chick inside its protective shell, mostly due to excessive moisture loss.

SS is an experienced bird when it comes to looking after eggs, and he was very careful to maintain cover over them, shielding them from too much exposure to direct sunshine for any lengthy periods. Mrs O appeared slightly clumsier around the eggs, and at one point looked as though she might stand on them. Thankfully, they don’t have too long to go until the full incubation period is over. They will soon be welcoming the little chicks to the world!

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SS hot and panting in the heat

Has anyone seen PX1?

We are still worried about PX1, aka Jeremy Paxman’s osprey. His transmitter has not sent any further data since he was spotted fishing along the Helmsdale River, on the Badanloch Estate in the north of Scotland on 17 May. We are still hoping this is a transmission fault, and the tracker is not sending data – but it is a shame, because we were beginning to see just how much a young male osprey travels and roams while exploring the land, especially when he has no territory to defend.

PX1 north of Scotland

The far north of Scotland where PX1 is roaming. He could turn up anywhere. Has anyone seen him?

Peebles holidaymakers may have seen PX1

comp osprey Durness

Peebles couple on holiday in Durness photograph this osprey and it looks like there could be a tag on his back. Is it PX1?

We received some photos from a Peebles couple returning from holiday in Durness on 20 May which may shed some light on PX1’s whereabouts. The couple had been walking and watching wildlife when they spotted an osprey at the Kyle of Durness, while they were travelling back to Peebles. It flew off and was chased by some oystercatchers, but they managed to capture a few shots of him and sent them to us, having heard that PX1 had been in Durness the week before.

We have no way of being certain but from the pictures, it does appear that the osprey has something on its back which could well be a satellite tag. It is quite feasible that PX1 headed back up north to the coast, and that this bird could be him. We just have to hope that we get a confirmed sighting or that his tracking device wakes up and begins to send data again. If anyone is heading to the north of Scotland please keep a look out for him and let us know if you see him. A photograph to confirm his identity would be a bonus!

Nest cams full house

At the osprey watch centre in Kailzie Gardens both nest cams have got a full complement of hatched chicks now, with the blue tits well on the way to becoming fledglings. The great tit chicks are still small, squirming, open- beaked hunger machines being fed by a busy mum and dad.

Rhona captures pine martens in the valley

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Wildlife photographer Rhona Anderson from Peeblesshire managed to capture some stunning film footage of a local pine marten in Tweed Valley this week. You can view her films and see the rest of her amazing wildlife photographs over at her Flickr page.

Waiting for news

Where is PX1?

Google earth Map Badanloch Estate PX1

Last position of PX1 on 17th May

The satellite tracked osprey PX1, the Jeremy Paxman osprey, has spent a few days at Forsinard enjoying good fishing in the many lochans in the area. He travelled further south from Forsinard on 16 May to the Badanloch Estate where he discovered the Helmsdale River and the tributaries, the Strath of Kildonan and the Kinbrace Burn.

Unfortunately the track data has ceased from updating from 17 May at 9pm, showing the last point where PX1 left the burnside and flew across the road, headed towards the Helmsdale River.  We are hoping that it is a temporary blip in data, and that this will just be a lag before the tag starts to transmit again. Battery strength was good, and there were satellites in the area, but it is a very remote landscape with few mobile masts, so this could lead to poor signal transmission. Prior to it stopping, good and frequent data was being transmitted to show his whereabouts along the burn.

It is a worrying time waiting for data to update again – in the meantime we do not know if he is still safe and well. We shall have to wait and see. The last track points data will be analysed closely for any clues as to why it has stopped.

Heading to Helmsdale River PX1 with arrow

Last track crossing the ground towards the River Helmsdale

Strah of Kildronan PX1 17th May

PX1’s Last tracks on 17th May flying along the burn beside the forest.

Is FK8 nesting?

FK8 has remained in a very static location, and we now believe that she must be making her first nesting attempt. We are waiting for news to confirm this. She is in the Dornoch area and we are hoping that she will breed successfully this year.

FK0 still hanging around the back up nest…

20180516_11-04-46 FK0 at back up

The ever hopeful FK0

The back up no.2 nest in Tweed Valley remains unoccupied by a resident breeding pair, but the site is still being visited occasionally by FK0, the male osprey. He has been seen at the nest site with another bird on occasion, but we have not managed to capture footage of the two birds together to find out which female bird he is now with. They are too late  to attempt to breed, but it is a good sign that he is holding this site as territory and has another osprey with him, which means they may attempt breeding there next summer.

New build – no thank you

Another ungrateful pair of ospreys have returned to their site to breed this year, where their choice of tree for the nest is so poor that the nest fell apart over the winter with the weight of snow. Tony Lightley put up a platform for them on a nearby sturdier tree which they could use instead. Tonys’ heart sank when he witnessed the birds carrying sticks not to adorn the new penthouse quality platform, but to rebuild in the spindly larch where the original nest was.

Domesticity for Mrs O and SS

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Mrs O and SS at swap over time

SS and Mrs O have become very settled, like a married couple, both taking turns to sit on the eggs. SS has been providing fish for Mrs O, and she seems to be more contented this year.  We have witnessed the eggs being rotated in the nest, and incubation time so far has proved to be (thankfully) uneventful.

The earliest date for hatching of the eggs will be the week beginning 11 June. Fingers crossed that this will be a happy year of fatherhood for SS, a role which he excels at. Mrs O is the unproven mother to-be, but hopefully she will be a good mum when the time comes.

wing stretch Mrs O

Resting in the sun Mrs O

Visitor centre news

In the osprey visitor centre at Kailzie Gardens, the blue tits have all hatched in the nest camera box and can be seen on screen. They grow very fast and it will only take two weeks before they will fledge and leave the nest.

Hedgehog wars

Trail cameras have been set up to capture other wildlife in the area and we have some wonderful garden footage of hedgehog wars, showing dining etiquette amongst three hedgehogs visiting a local garden where bowls of food are provided for them on a nightly basis. A greedy hedgehog sits in the bowl to prevent any other hedgehogs sharing. He manages to hog all the food until ram raider hedgehog tips him out of the bowl. Who would have thought the humble hedgehog could be so beastly? The hedgehog wars film clip can be viewed on You Tube, on the Kailzie Wildlife channel.


Mrs O’s hat trick of eggs

Mrs O and SS proud of eggs 9th May

The happy couple

haoot couple 3eggs

3 eggs seals their partnership bond

Main nest now home to 3 eggs

SS and three eggs

SS proud dad to be with the three eggs

The happy osprey couple at the main nest, Mrs O and SS, are now very settled and content with a clutch of three prize eggs having been laid. The first was laid on 3rd May, the second on 7th May and the third egg was laid on 11th May.

With a full clutch in the nest, the two birds have quickly settled into the routine of incubating and swapping over duties. There is no guarantee that all of the eggs are fertilised by SS though, as Mrs O was up to her old tricks, frequently popping along to the back -up nest where attempted mating was witnessed with another male bird, FK0. She had mated with at least both of the males and then eggs were laid in the main nest.

Choosing the main nest and the very experienced SS is a good call for Mrs O, as he has raised 26 chicks in total and knows all there is to know about fatherhood. He will be more than able to provide food for his hungry partner and the chicks when they come. FK0, on the other hand, is an inexperienced young male, and potentially has not raised a family before. FK0 may have found himself a vacant nest site, but he hasn’t found a wife to occupy his nest with him and raise a family, and so now nest 2 sits empty. Time is running out for a female osprey to join him at this late stage in spring, so sadly this nest looks likely to remain unproductive this year.

In the Tweed Valley this year, all of our hopes are pinned on Mrs O and SS for success. Thankfully, we are seeing a reformed character in Mrs O. The demanding and squawking has stopped, and she seems so much more relaxed and settled, her sole focus now being the incubation of the eggs, which will take up to 42 days.

It will be an interesting brood, as the time gaps between the egg laying means that the chicks will be born a few days apart, and there should be quite noticeable size differences between them as they begin to grow. Fish are plentiful and SS is highly skilled as a hunter, so he will surely be able to provide fish enough for all of his family. We at the Tweed Valley Osprey Project are hoping for an uneventful incubation period and safe hatching when the time comes.

both and 3 eggs

Has FK8 found a partner?

Our satellite-tracked female bird FK8 is 4 years old now. She left Portugal, her winter roost, in the spring and returned to Scotland. She went to Forsinard Flows and Loch Slethill, her favoured summer haunt from the past two summers, but has since left the area and moved further south to the Dornoch area, where she has been staying in the same locality consistently. We are hoping that this means that she has found a partner and is going to nest. Tony Lightley has friends in the area who are looking out for her, and we are keeping fingers crossed for happy news.

The Paxman wild rover

tour of Scotland PX1

tour of north Scotland

Meanwhile, Jeremy Paxman’s bird is living the life of Riley up north! This young, free and single male osprey, PX1 made it up to Findhorn Bay on 8 May  but has continued his travels across to the west coast of Scotland, along to Ullapool, and then to the top of the landscape at Durness, moving right across the top of Scotland from west to east before coming inland to investigate the River Borgie and the River Halladale.

On 10 May he completed his tour of the top of Scotland, taking in Wick, but he eventually made the decision to return back to the Halladale River and River Dyke near to Forsinain. This is an area which has beautiful, fish-filled rivers and plenty of lochans for fishing in, plus a few conifer plantations nearby in which to roost and rest.

As he travels he will be making a mental map of the landscape and storing information about fishing spots, roost sites, other ospreys in the area and their nest sites. He now knows the limit of the landscape bounded by the sea, and he can choose to either find a place to have a restful summer, or continue to explore.

Halladale PX1

Halladale River and River Dyke, good fishing and forests nearby to roost in.

He has no responsibilities yet, with no chicks to raise or fish for, so life really is a breeze for him at the moment. It is astonishing the way he has been so active, touring widely throughout Britain. When he arrived in Africa, he found the gold mines at Sanso, but never moved from the area for nearly 18 months. It seems he is making up for his extended rest period.