Author Archives: dianetweedvalleyospreys

The story of SS

Our live camera feed is back up!

The live camera feed hosted by Forestry and Land Scotland is currently back up and running. The feed suffers from slow broadband issues, but we have people in the field working on a solution. Although intermittent at times, the feed is back. You can still see videos from the feed, updated every week, on our Osprey Playlist. Here are the highlights from this week!

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This week’s osprey highlights from the Tweed Valley. Click to play.

Where is SS?

20190519_14-01-37 Mrs O and SS with fish

SS returned with a fish for Mrs O

The main nest remains a place of quiet domesticity again this week. The pair are waiting for the eggs to incubate, but the process is a long wait. Mrs O also had a long wait for her partner, SS, to return to the nest at the weekend. Volunteers were concerned that SS had not been seen at the nest for two days during volunteer shifts, so it was with a sigh of relief that they saw SS finally fly in with a good-sized fish on Sunday.

Fish are messy meals

fluffy beak

A messy fish meal leaves sticky feathers on his beak

Judging by Mrs O’s attitude, he must have been back at other times with fish because her actions were not that of a ravenous, abandoned, damsel in distress, but rather a ‘lady who lunches’. She rose from her egg-sitting spot and took the headless trout from SS, carried it in her talons up to the perch above the nest and tucked in, devouring every morsel including the tail in a leisurely fashion.

The whole meal took 35 minutes, and she was a very contented, well-fed mother to be. Meanwhile, SS took a turn to keep the eggs warm while she was eating. The spoils of his catch, in the form of sections of fish head, were clearly sticking to his beak. The sticky blood caused some downy feathers to stick to his bill. He was most in need of a napkin to save his stately demeanour but needs must and a good scrub against some nest sticks brought him back to his usual well- groomed look.

The life story of SS

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A handsome SS photo taken in 2012 by Tony Lightley

Because white leg SS is 20 years old this year, a check back through the records to look at his life history and that of his offspring proved to be quite revealing.

SS fledged from a nest in Aberfoyle in 1999 and was fitted with his white leg ring, SS, on the right leg. He moved to Tweed Valley in 2004, and it has been his summer residence ever since. He was with his original partner until she died in 2014. They successfully raised 26 chicks between them.

We do not know where he spends his winters. Every year he leaves Tweed Valley in September and does not return until the following year in March or early April. We presume he goes to Senegal or Gambia, a popular osprey winter haunt, but he has never been spotted there or anywhere on his journey north or south.  An international bird of mystery, a regular James Bond hero, or just plain SS, an ordinary migrating bird doing what he does best.

When his partner died in 2014 we witnessed it all from the live camera and it was heart breaking to see the desolate figure of SS, at the nest and his 3 dead chicks. They died because they had not had a mum to keep them warm while SS went out to hunt.

We were absolutely thrilled when he returned in 2015 and found a new mate, and they raised one chick (FX9), which sadly disappeared a week after fledging. In 2016, another new partner arrived for SS. This was a young female from the Muir of Ord, but again the summer ended tragically with one egg unhatched. The one chick that did hatch died in the nest. AS6, the young female, never returned to nest with SS again.

Then, in 2017, the indomitable Mrs O arrived and they became a pair. They were too late in the season that year, and didn’t produce any eggs. Mrs O squawked her way through the summer and was quite aggressive towards SS at times. But in 2018, they cemented their partnership and raised Tweedledum and Tweedledee. Sadly, tragedy again struck, the two chicks never made it out of the UK on migration.

This year, Mrs O and SS have three eggs and we are hoping that they will have a happy season. We are looking forward to 3 little chicks soon.

The Offspring of SS

In total, SS, had 29 offspring which fledged from the main nest. We know that at least 4 of those successfully went on to breed. His son from 2006, yellow 80, nested at Caerlaverock in 2013 and 2014, and returned again this year. One of his daughters from 2007, white HA, nested in Stirlingshire from 2012 to 2016.

A daughter, CK2 , from the main nest in 2012 began to nest in Esthwaite in 2015. One of SS’s sons from 2013, CL6, moved to the Highlands and took up a nest site with a 25 year-old female bird.

One of his daughters from the 2010 nest, HF, was seen in Wales at the Dyfi nest in 2012. Another of his offspring , CL4, that fledged in 2013 visited her natal nest site in August 2015 while her father was not there, and was seen again in the Algarve in 2016.

SS birthday Party – you’re invited!

Another reminder for past volunteers to get in touch if they would like to celebrate SS being 20 years old this year on 8 June.

Contact Diane on  Tweedvalleyospreys@gmail.com to confirm your attendance. We would love to celebrate with all past and present volunteers and project supporters, and share a few stories. There’ll be a chance to show off your osprey-themed talents too, be they arty, crafty, wordy, ‘techy’, musical or just plain daft!

Volunteer with us

If you would like to be a volunteer at the osprey centres at Glentress Forest WildWatch Room and Kailzie Gardens, Nature and Osprey Watch, then please get in touch by email at tweedvalleyospreys@gmail.com, or you can phone Diane on 07908098026.

We really do need some more volunteers for this season to monitor the cameras and to keep a log diary of osprey activity, and to chat to visitors to tell them what is happening at the nest sites which are live on camera. Volunteers also play a vital role in recording footage from the live camera. Training will be given, so no previous experience is needed.

 

SS and Mrs O. enjoy domestic bliss

All is quiet

20190512_13-45-49 Mrs O moves to eggs

It has been a quiet and uneventful week on the main osprey nest, which is a good thing, as both birds are quite settled. Mrs O is sitting on her three eggs, while SS continues to brings fish for her. If she leaves her eggs to feed on the perch beside the nest, SS takes a turn looking after the eggs. It’s domestic bliss, for now at least! Have a look at the latest videos from the nest – click the image below to play.

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This week’s video from the nest – click to play in a new window.

 

Not bothered

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One day this week, SS and Mrs O were sitting together, both staring up into the sky, as if watching another bird flying over. They did not appear to be alarmed, and displayed no signs of anxious behaviour or distress, although the posture of SS could be considered protective; perched slightly above her with his tail over her back.

SS out on the loch

SS Male Osprey - 12 5 19

Our 20 year-old male SS was spotted on a fishing trip to St. Mary’s Loch on the evening of 12 May by John Wright, the Golden Eagle Officer for the South of Scotland Eagle Project. He managed to take a fantastic photograph of him as he flew by. This is the first time that he has ever been spotted and photographed flying and fishing at the loch, and we were delighted to receive the photograph of him. John also spotted another couple of ospreys in the area. One was un-ringed, but the other was PX5, a 3 year old male from the Solway area.

Moving house

We have news about the ‘back up nest no. 2’ birds, which is somewhat bittersweet. We were very disappointed that the birds that were holding the territory at the end of last summer hadn’t returned to the nest. Considering the remoteness of the area, Tony and Graham managed to set up a live camera viewing system via satellite, via masts running over numerous hills to beam into the Glentress Wildwatch Room and Kailzie Gardens Osprey Watch. We were convinced that this pair would return this spring, and when they failed to take up residence on the nest, we were left wondering why.

This week, one of the wildlife rangers spotted them, not at the camera nest (which has been occupied for about 10years) but at a new nest site that they have built for themselves nearby. The area that they have chosen is near to clear felled trees, where birds tried to nest previously. A nesting platform was put up to lure them away from tree harvesting areas about 10 years ago, and this became our ‘back up nest 2’.

Sadly, the original ‘back up no. 2’ nest birds have died. The good news is that we think the late partner of 8C, an un-ringed bird, is potentially with the new male from the end of last season at this new site. We may not find out, in the absence of a camera, but in terms of osprey nest sites, they have certainly chosen well for panoramic, elevated scenic views. We just have to hope they have selected a good enough tree to withstand the test of time.

New site

More very exciting news came from a former volunteer for the Tweed Valley Osprey Project this week. He got in touch to say that a pair of ospreys have built a nest about a mile from his house, and they can see the birds from their home. They are able to zoom in with good binoculars and cameras from a safe distance, without disturbing the nest. This is a brand new nest site, and great news. We think potentially it could be the birds that left the original back up nest site, or it could even be new birds that have taken to the area.

More raptor news

We have news that other raptors are also doing well and we now have 2 nesting pairs of red kites in the Scottish Borders, one pair in the Tweeddale area and worth looking out for and a pair of peregrines that have struggled to breed in their location previously, are now on a nest with eggs.

Goshawks that have been satellite tracked in the area of Tweeddale continue to be monitored, and data has revealed their regular haunts, showing where the mature birds which are ready to breed are taking up territory.

Golden eagles which were released as juveniles are thriving and ranging to explore the south of Scotland, and a sub-adult bird has also moved into the region too. It is hoped that territories will be established in the future, and that they will start to breed here.

SS birthday Party – you’re invited!

Another reminder for past volunteers to get in touch if they would like to celebrate SS being 20 years old this year on 8 June.

Contact Diane on  Tweedvalleyospreys@gmail.com to confirm your attendance. We would love to celebrate with all past and present volunteers and project supporters, and share a few stories. There’ll be a chance to show off your osprey-themed talents too, be they arty, crafty, wordy, ‘techy’, musical or just plain daft!

Volunteer with us

If you would like to be a volunteer at the osprey centres at Glentress Forest WildWatch Room and Kailzie Gardens, Nature and Osprey Watch, then please get in touch by email at tweedvalleyospreys@gmail.com, or you can phone Diane on 07908098026.

We really do need some more volunteers for this season to monitor the cameras and to keep a log diary of osprey activity, and to chat to visitors to tell them what is happening at the nest sites which are live on camera. Volunteers also play a vital role in recording footage from the live camera. Training will be given, so no previous experience is needed.

20190510_14-09-26 SS returns to Mrs O

Our live camera feed is still down, but we are working on a solution

Unfortunately, the live camera feed hosted by Forestry and Land Scotland is currently down due to ongoing technical issues. They have people in the field working on a solution, and they apologise for the inconvenience. We’ll have it back up and running as soon as possible – and you can see videos from the feed, updated every week, on our Osprey Playlist. Thanks for your understanding.

SS is 20, and we are celebrating!

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SS drops in with a fish for Mrs O

Birthday Celebration for SS 20th

The Friends of Kailzie Wildlife has successfully been awarded a grant for Tweed Valley Osprey Project to hold a celebration to mark the 20th birthday of white leg SS, the male osprey on the main nest since 2004.  To mark the occasion we are holding a celebration in the Osprey Centre at Kailzie Gardens on 8 June, and will be having a large sculpture cake of the birthday bird. Join us if you can!

Past and Present Volunteers and supporters of Tweed Valley Osprey Project Invited

We would like to invite all past and present volunteers and supporters of the Tweed Valley Osprey Project to come along. We will have some refreshments and cut the osprey cake and share it.

We would also like to invite volunteers and supporters to help celebrate by sharing memories, artwork, photos, or poems, and to showcase any osprey-related talents they might have, to display on the day. Any contributions will be photographed or digitised and used for the proposed production of a souvenir booklet about the life of SS, our most celebrated osprey.

Many volunteers have been contacted by email but many addresses are no longer in use, so please get in touch if you would like to come along and visitors will be most welcome also.

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This week’s YouTube playlist – click to play!

News from the nest

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Mrs O sitting on the eggs with SS looking on

This has been a good week at the main nest site for Mrs O and SS. They are proving to be a very settled couple. Fish are being delivered regularly by SS, and he is dutifully giving them to Mrs O. She moves up to the perch to feed, and he takes over for a stint of egg sitting. She then briefly leaves the nest site and has a stretch of her flight muscles, and a chance to excrete away from the nest.

Decorating the nest

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Mrs O moves that bark about

Time passes slowly for Mrs O, sitting on eggs for long periods of time. Focusing on something to occupy herself relieves the monotony. This week, the point of interest for Mrs O was a squared off piece of bark. She moved it about and fussed over it, and at one point even had it balanced above the eggs, before giving it a heave, along with a clump of moss that had attached itself. She positioned it towards the back of the nest, from where we can view it on the camera. A contemporary home often does have a feature wall, so we applaud Mrs O’s thoroughly modern take on the traditional osprey nest.

Scary appendage on SS

Film footage taken of the pair on the nest on 3 May gave a bit of a scare. It appeared that something was sticking up out of SS’ back. It looked like a twig, but it was perpendicular to his wing and we were worried that it was sticking into him. Footage from the next couple of days has been analysed since and it has gone, so presumably SS will have removed it from his feathers when preening.

All is well SS 20190505_10-34-36

All is well for SS

Son of SS success

One of the offspring of SS is a male bird with yellow leg ring 8O. He was fledged from the main Tweed Valley nest in 2006 when SS was with his original un-ringed partner. We know that he has been breeding and doing well over at the Wildlife and Wetlands Trust Reserve of Caerlaverock in Dumfriesshire, because the nest site had a camera to view the nest back in the visitor centre.

He first took up the territory in 2012 with an un-ringed female, but had no young. However, he bred successfully with his un-ringed partner in 2014 and 2015, rearing two chicks per year – two females, FK2 and FK3; and then the following year two more female chicks ringed as CN0 and CN1.

From 2016 to 2018 another two ospreys occupied the site, and 😯 didn’t return until this spring, when he paired up at the nest site again with an un-ringed partner. All looked good for breeding again. Sadly, the pair have abandoned the site and moved to a nearby nest site instead of the camera site, and although they are settled and hopefully with eggs, they cannot be viewed on the live screen.

We are certain that the other offspring of SS will be breeding and successful too, but we do not know anything about them as they will be on territory where there are no cameras.

FK8 update

26th and 27th April FK8

Another Tweed Valley favourite is FK8, the female osprey who nested up in the Dornoch area for the first time last year. She has a tracker and we know that she returned safely but didn’t directly settle down to nest. She was flitting back and forth to favourite hunting grounds further north to Loch Slethill and Forsinard area.

The last data that we have received shows that as late as 24 April she was staying overnight in forest land near to Loch an Cloiche, but returned to her nest site and spent two nights there on 25 and 26 April, showing the last tracked point on 27 April. Hopefully this means that she has paired up with her partner and is now on eggs, but we will wait to see if more data is returned.

Volunteer with us

If anybody would like to be a volunteer at the osprey centres at Glentress Forest WildWatch Room and Kailzie Gardens, Nature and Osprey Watch, then please get in touch by email at tweedvalleyospreys@gmail.com, or you can phone Diane on 07908098026.

We really do need some more volunteers for this season to monitor the cameras and to keep a log diary of osprey activity, and to chat to visitors to tell them what is happening at the nest sites which are live on camera. Volunteers also play a vital role in recording footage from the live camera. Training will be given, so no previous experience is needed.

A note about our live camera feed

Unfortunately, the live camera feed hosted by Forestry and Land Scotland is currently down due to ongoing technical issues. They have people in the field working on a solution, and they apologise for the inconvenience. We’ll have it back up and running as soon as possible – and will share some videos from the feed here on the blog. Thanks for your understanding.

Migration update

The osprey centres may have closed for the season but the Tweed Valley osprey saga continues, with the start of migration journeys, families parting company, and plenty of drama, with a helping hand for one of the main nest chicks.

Tweedledum rescued and taken to SSPCA

The Environment team for the Tweed Valley Osprey Project continued to monitor the main nest after the season closed. They were alarmed to discover that one of the main nest chicks, Tweedledum (LL7), was spending far too much time back at the nest site, was not feeding properly, and eventually was weakened to the state of being flightless. The decision was made to recover the bird and take him to the SSPCA at Fishcross for assessment and treatment. There, he was examined by a vet and given a full health scan. He was found to be underweight, with a few broken tail feathers. After a short period of TLC, and after being fed with lots of fish to gain strength and aid recovery, Tweedledum was released back at the nest site.

Tweedledum begins to migrate

He has since got his mojo back, and on 10 September left the nest area and moved over to Yarrow Valley to begin his migration. He spent the night there, before flying further across the Borders to Minto. He then roosted overnight in farmland before heading eastwards to the coast.

He spent 3 days in the area between Craster and Long Houghton and took a circular flight out to sea, then returned inland to roost on 14 September. Then on 15 September he headed south to Warkworth on the River Coquet, where he settled and seemed to have found a good fishing and roosting spot. He doesn’t appear to be in a hurry to leave the Northumberland area and progress his migration journey just yet.

LL6 and LL7 both routes together

Tweedledum and Tweedledee migrate as far as the east coast. Map shows roost sites for both

Tragedy for Tweedledee

His sister, Tweedledee, also migrated. What was so surprising is that she set off on a very similar route, starting on 8 September with a journey to the same area of Northumberland coast. She also spent 4 days in the area, and did not progress further south. The data has been scrutinised and there appears to have been no contact between them. They were never in the same place at the same time, but considering they did not leave together, the similarities in behaviour are interesting. She ventured quite a distance out into the north Sea, only to double back up to Bamburgh, and then back inland. The last data showed that she was at a business park in North Berwick at Windmill Way on 15 September. However, on 17 September we received the tragic news that she had been found dead and her carcass had been recovered in Wooler. She was emaciated and so had not been feeding. This perhaps explains why migration never progressed further once she reached the coast.

LK8’s strong migration journey

In contrast to the journeys made so far by the siblings from the main nest, LK8, another fledged bird from Tweed Valley Project area from a nest site just a few kilometres away from the main nest, has also migrated. His route couldn’t be more different to the other birds.

LK8 journey

LK8 ‘s migration route so far. He has almost made it to France on 17th Sept.

He left his nest area on 12 September and headed straight overland in a south easterly direction to Barnard Castle in County Durham, where he roosted overnight before continuing his journey to Yorkshire, then Bury St. Edmunds, and on to the coast of southern England, crossing Southend on Sea, and continuing down to finally roost near to Hastings on 15 September. In just four days, he reached the English Channel and was ready to make a crossing, whereas the main nest birds spent four days in Northumberland. It doesn’t seem that the journeys are distinct from each other due to any atmospheric conditions, but as we now know that Tweedledee has died, the delay in migration was likely due to the birds being in poor condition. Hopefully Tweedledum will do better beside the River Coquet in Warkworth before continuing his journey.

LK8 continued migration on 17 September and the last data received showed that he had almost reached the coast of France. Hopefully will have made it there in safety by now.

FK8 and Doros

Our final satellite tagged bird for the Tweed Valley Osprey Project this season is now known as Doros. It stands for Dornoch osprey, and the apt name was created by one of our volunteers, Marjorie. Doros is the daughter of FK8, one of the tracked ospreys from the back up nest in 2014. This is her first offspring but she will not be winning any great accolades for mother of the year.

Doros fledged on August 14 and after making her first flight, her mum left her at the nest and returned to her favourite hunting grounds in the Forsinard Flows. She made a 180km round trip for three consecutive days, popping back to check on her daughter, and then left for Portugal. She is now back on her territory at Sines in Portugal, yet her daughter, Doros, is still in Dornoch at the nest site and hasn’t ventured much further than the estuary or the forestry plantations nearby. Presumably her dad stayed with her to provide the final stages of parenting and hopefully any day now she will also make a move south.

Osprey season 2018

Families begin to break up

20180817_14-52-11SS and Tweedledee

SS and Tweedledee

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.

Lonesome tweedledee

Tweedledee at the nest site alone

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

nothward trips for FK8

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.

north trip on 16th and return along the coast

FK8 leaves Dornoch to travel to favourite haunts up north

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.

Last to go

Tweedledee fledges

20180806_11-20-32 LL6 with fish

Tweedledee with a fish

The main nest osprey juveniles have fledged. LL7 (Tweedledum) was the first to brave a flight attempt last week, while his sister was slower and more reluctant to go. The time leading up to her first flight was spent on her own in the nest, followed by a gentle feeding session with her dad SS, as he very carefully pulled off fish morsels and passed them from his beak to hers.

Once she was full, she stepped back. Mrs O quickly proclaimed her hunger and dropped down from the perch into the nest, calling loudly as she took the remaining fish from SS.  Then daughter and father pottered about for a while, cleaning their beaks by rubbing them on sticks in the nest. LL7 was absent, and missed out on a meal while the rest of his family dined. Once all the food was gone, SS left the nest and flew off, leaving LL6 at home with Mrs O.

For the rest of the afternoon LL6 (Tweedledee) undertook some serious wing flapping, with small hops and jumps across the nest. Mrs O called and squawked from the left hand perch, perhaps encouraging her to try to fly.  LL6 attempted a wing-flapping, side-stepping manoeuvre down the side branch of the perch, and a few moments later she took off at last, with mum following behind.

Mrs O is mean to Tweedledum

20180808_10-58-03 Mrs O attacks LL7

Mrs O attacks her son Tweedledum

Tweedledum (LL7) managed to return to the nest to feed, but his attempts can best be described as clumsy. On 8 August he was in the nest, with Mrs O on the left hand perch. She suddenly flew down and pecked at him, quite viciously and without warning.

He dropped down flat in defence and then she lunged at him, forcing him towards the edge of the nest. It seemed such an aggressive act towards her son, especially as up to now she has been such a good mum. Was she encouraging him to fly again? Or was he holding on to a bit of fish, while she was hungry too?

A visitor

20180808_10-42-32 red squirrel circled

A red squirrel visitor

Just below the nest on a lower branch a sneaky red squirrel popped along to make a cameo appearance, but soon hopped off again when it realised who held the lofty upper tree abode!

Balancing act

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Tweedledum balances on his fish

The next day after his mean encounter with his mum, Tweedledum was seen in the nest with a fish in his talons but he was clearly not accustomed to dealing with prey by himself. He held onto it with both feet, while doing a balancing act like an amateur skateboarder, wobbling from side to side trying to maintain an upright position whilst bending his head forward and down to take bites with his beak.

He spread his wings and tail to help his balance and to protect his meal from having to be shared with mum. SS and Mrs O sat together on the left hand perch watching him while he ate and occasionally glancing skyward, as though watching something – not with alarm, or because they were unsettled. They just seemed watchful, so perhaps their daughter was close by, or flying overhead.

Fit to burst

20180810_11-53-21 balloon boy

A bulging crop on Tweedledum

On Friday 10 August, Tweedledum was at the nest with his Dad. He was feeding himself, and when he had finished he looked a most peculiar shape as seen from the front, with a bulging crop like a twisted balloon made animal. We’re not quite sure what happened there!

Fk8’s daughter fledges

Firth of Dornoch

Firth of Dornoch

FK8, the Tweed Valley Osprey from 2014’s back up nest, nested in the Dornoch area this summer and her daughter fledged on 14 August. The young female osprey had been making a few movements locally around the nest site, and the tracking data indicated that there was some movement around the trees nearby. On 14 August she left the nest site at just after 9am and flew to the shore of the estuary. She stayed for an hour before making another short flight and another stop, then turned to the west along the shore, finally heading into the forest plantation, flying northwards. She stopped there at 4.15pm.

LK8 fledges

LK8
LK8, another osprey from the Tweed Valley Osprey Project Area has now fledged, his tracker shows that he has discovered Talla and Fruid Reservoirs so far and is doing very well.

Ready, Steady, Go!

Contented family life

The osprey family at the main nest seemed to be very relaxed and contented for most of the time this week. There is a very definite sense that the season is coming to an end. The young adult ospreys Tweedledum and Tweedledee are fully grown, and are ready to fledge at any time. Their proud parents have been seen sitting close together on the left hand perch above the nest. Looking like a two-headed osprey at one point, they were so close together, a scene we never would have believed possible with Mrs O, given how territorial she used to be. There is now a very close bond between the two adult birds, and SS is the accomplished dad once again, guiding his young offspring through the final stages before they spread their wings and fly.

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Mrs O and SS sitting close together

Flight ready

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Getting ready to fly

The young birds have been wing flapping and catching up on lost time during the heat wave. In particular, Tweedledum, the male bird, seemed determined that he was going to take to the skies. His sister was slightly more reluctant. She vigorously flapped her wings and teetered on the edge of the nest, looking like she was determined to go, but her feet gave her away. She was clinging on to a big stick in the hopes that it would anchor her down until she was really ready.

Her more adventurous brother really got the whole flying activity figured out, making little practice flights from one side of the nest to the other, and short, open-winged jumps to and from the perches. Before he finally attempted to leave the nest, there was a lot of balancing on the edge and peering down to the ground. The two young birds watched the scene below them intently, building up the nerve to go, and perhaps realising for the first time just how high up their nest is.

Tweedledum its a long way down

Tweedledum loooks down

LL6 Tweedledee

Tweedledee sits on the edge

Feeding or flying

Feeding time has also been more relaxed. SS has been seen bringing fish to the nest and feeding both the young birds himself. Occasionally, feeding has ended abruptly for LL7 (Tweedledum), as he focused his attention on his wing-flapping practice instead, and left his food.

Fish must be in plentiful supply, as SS has also brought fish for Mrs O, which she shared with the young after taking the head for herself. The whole of the body of the fish was eaten by the young birds, with Tweedledee taking control of the meal before leaving a portion for her brother to finish.

Lift off for Tweedledum

Take off

Up, up and away

Finally, towards the end of the week, the serious business of flight dominated Tweedledum’s schedule, and eventually he plucked up the courage to go. His tracker showed that he left the nest at 6am on Sunday morning on 5 August. He was away, flying off above the forest and across to the edge of the plantation before coming to rest. He remained there for the rest of the day.

When volunteers came into the osprey centre on duty on Sunday they were concerned that there was no sign of him, especially when Dad brought fish back to the nest for Tweedledee and she fed herself. Perhaps the first flight was a bit daunting, and even hunger hadn’t convinced him to return to the nest until he was willing to try out his flight technique again. Those aerodynamic wings will give the bird great lift off and flight with little effort, but the tricky bit is learning to steer into landing sites, such as the nest or a tree top.

Meanwhile, back at the main nest without Tweedledum, the parents and his sister seemed unconcerned. This could have been because they knew where he was and could hear him calling close by.

No return

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SS and daughter Tweedledee waiting for Tweedledum to return

By Monday morning Tweedledum had still not returned to the nest site, and this was becoming worrying. His tracker had not updated and so he couldn’t be traced from his location at the edge of the forest. A quick search nearby was made, and three airborne ospreys were seen flying overhead. Knowing that Tweedledee was still in the nest, the conclusion was drawn that mum and dad were flying with their airborne son Tweedledum, and that thankfully all was well.

Right at the end of the day on Monday, Tweedledee also made her first flight, and a very brief visit back to the nest was made by Tweedledum. Since then, the young have stayed off the nest and only the parents were seen on there with a fish on Tuesday. Hopefully, they will use the nest for meal times, and we will be able to watch them for a while longer on the live camera before they leave us.

In memory of Robert

Sadly, one of our dear osprey volunteers Robert Jamieson has died. He was a great member of the volunteer team and loved the osprey project. He always gave his time so generously and made visitors to the centres welcome, telling them all the latest osprey news and updates. He will be greatly missed by all of us.

Getting ready for flight

Not long to go

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Proud parents with their young sitting in the nest

The chicks at the main nest are now in their seventh week. They are fully feathered, and look chunky and healthy. With only a week to go before they are ready for flight, we might have expected to see a lot more wing-stretching and flapping to test the wings out in recent days, while they have been sitting in the nest. However, with the recent very hot weather, they have been conserving their energy until it was needed.

The weather took a dramatic change, bringing us thunderstorms with lightning and torrential rain, which gave the chicks, Tweedledum and Tweedledee, something else to contend with. Mrs O no longer has to do the motherly umbrella over her young, as their own set of feathers are waterproof now too. They just had to sit it out and wait for the rain to stop, and for Dad to bring some fish in. Fishing must have been tricky for Dad (SS), with rain dappling the surface of the water and making visibility very difficult.

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A wing stretch for the young osprey

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Resting in the shade

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Sitting in a stormy downpour

SS feeds his son and daughter

SS not only brought a good fish in for his family, but he also fed the young birds himself. Mrs O is reaching the stage were her work is almost done, and she can relax her efforts a bit, as the chicks race towards adulthood and independence. SS still has a lot of work to do, and must continue to provide for his family even when the young birds fledge. He will bring fish back to the nest for them to return to and feed.

Once they are flying, the young birds will soon need to learn to find fish for themselves and master the most difficult part- actually catching them. This will all take time, and fortunately they will have back up from their Dad. It is usually the female bird that will leave the family more quickly. Mrs O will need to begin to prepare her own body for migration by building up her reserves, and getting into tip top condition ahead of her partner. SS has been continually hunting and fishing all summer, and must be very fit already, so his readiness for migration should take less time.

FK8, first time mum

FK8, the female tagged osprey from Tweed Valley that has nested in the Dornoch area has successfully raised one of her chicks. The other chick didn’t survive, but we don’t know what happened. The remaining youngster will be ringed and fitted with a tracker this week. The nest site that she has occupied is a very established site and has been productive for many years. FK8 is the new female at this monitored site.

Nobody knows what happened to the original bird but she never returned this year, and FK8 jumped in to take her place. She is possibly with the original resident male, or it could be a totally new pairing. As a first time mum, she has done well to raise one of her young to adulthood. We should hopefully have more news about her next week, and photos of her ringed offspring.

Return of PW3

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PW3 photographed in Kielder June 2018 courtesy of Mitch Teasdale

We have received some backdated news about a bird from Tweed Valley that has returned this year. PW3 is a male osprey raised here at one of the original nest sites, one that has been occupied since 1998. To date 34 ospreys have fledged from this nest location, making it one of the most productive nests in the area. PW3  fledged in 2016 and was one of a brood of three, with two sisters in the nest with him.

He was spotted on his migration in 2016, 45km south west of Paris, fishing at some lakes on his way south, but hadn’t been seen since. This summer, he was spotted and photographed at Bakethin Weir, Kielder Water by Mrs Mitch Teasdale on 25 June at 6.13pm, and her husband got a great photo of him. We know that he didn’t stay at Kielder though, because on 28 June he was again spotted back on home turf in the Borders, flying and fishing at St. Mary’s Loch in the Yarrow Valley. As a two year-old male he will be looking for territory for next year. That may well be in the Tweed Valley Osprey Project area, seeing as he is spending the summer here.

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PW3 photographed in France in 2016 on his first migration.

 

Tweedledum and Tweedledee – Tagged and ringed

Tweed Valley’s favourite chicks are ringed and tagged

Eve and tagged main nest chicks

Eve climbing back down the tree after replacing the tagged and ringed ospreys LL7 and LL6, who will be known as Tweedledum and Tweedledee.

The main nest chicks were 6 weeks old last week and so it was time for them to be fitted with their leg rings and the GPS trackers. Of all the ospreys in the Tweed Valley Osprey Project area it is the main nest chicks that tug at the heart strings the most, due to the connection via the live camera link. These youngsters have been watched and their fortunes followed since they first broke out of their eggs, and their life stories link back even further. We have followed the relationship between the two parent birds, Mrs O and SS, since they first got together last year.

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SS has a fish for his family

A Proud Dad

They have proved to be fine parents/ SS, the proud dad, is now 19 years old and these two youngsters bring his total number of chicks raised to adulthood to date to 29. This is his first brood of chicks with first-time mum Mrs O. In 2015, one of his chicks FX9 was fitted with a tracker, but the bird vanished after only a week from fledging and the device never transmitted any further signal.

Tags sponsored by Forest Holidays

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Dave Anderson fits the GPS Tracker

This year’s two special chicks will be the first of his extensive osprey offspring that we will be able to track. Forest Holidays have very kindly sponsored the tracking of these two chicks, and have paid for the data subscription for the next three years. This will mean that we can follow their migration journeys and their lives up to the point where they settle and begin to breed as adult birds. Two representatives from Forest Holidays (Pauline Lynch and Margaret Turner) were invited to watch the juveniles being fitted with their rings and trackers.

Eve Schulte climbed the nest tree and lowered the chicks to the ground to Tony Lightley, who fitted the blue coloured Darvic rings with digits LL6 for the female chick and LL7 for the male. Then Dave Anderson fitted the GPS trackers. This team from Forest Enterprise carried out the procedures under special licence from SNH and BTO as part of the ongoing monitoring of the ospreys for Tweed Valley Osprey Project.

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The fitted tracking device – a GPS Tag

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Tony Lightley with Forest Holidays staff Pauline Lynch and Margaret Turner, with the osprey chicks

Naming the birds

Forest Holidays invited members of the public to name the two chicks via an online vote, and the names selected are Tweedledum (LL7) for the male and Tweedledee (LL6) for the female. The names reflect their origins within the Tweed Valley, while also bringing to mind the curious little characters from Lewis Carroll’s book ‘Alice Through the Looking Glass.’ In fact, Carroll did not come up with the names – they were first penned in a poem by John Byrom, highlighting the petty squabbles between musicians. We have witnessed some squabbles in the nest between the two siblings, and now as soon-to-be adults, we hope that this pair will make a smooth transition into adulthood. We await their first tentative flights soon.

Handsome young male also tagged

A further young osprey from Tweed Valley Osprey Project area has also been fitted with a tracking device. This single chick in the nest identified by leg ring LK8 has been reared by parents who had three eggs in total, but two didn’t hatch. The un-hatched eggs are most likely attributable to the very hot summer leading to dehydration. This is the first osprey from this nest site to be fitted with a tracker, and it will be interesting to follow his progress and compare his life story to the main nest chicks from the same year as him.

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Handsome LK8 will be tracked this year to monitor his progress

Releasing Tawny owls into the wild

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Eve releases a young tawny owl

Across the district, some young orphaned tawny owls have been released recently into vacant owl territories. The owls were rehabilitated by the SSPCA, Fishcross Centre, and Forest Enterprise staff Tony Lightley and Eve Schulte. They monitor the owls in the Forests, and were able to select sites for their safe release into the wild where previously occupied owl nest boxes had become vacant.

It was amazing to see these young birds make their first flights to freedom and into the wild. We hope that they manage to grow strong and establish themselves into their new territories, and maybe take up residence to breed in the boxes next year.

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Tony watches a young tawny owl fly to freedom

 

Ringing the chicks

Main nest chicks

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Twinnies – the osprey duo

This week has seen rapid development of the chicks in the main nest as they become more like little ospreys. Their plumage is now covering them in gorgeous spangled brown and white feathers over much of the body, head and wings. They have white bellies, whilst their head crest is white with brown streaks, and a ginger patch at the back, with a distinctive dark eye-stripe. Their plumage is really beautiful and much more attractive than the adult birds with their plainer colouration.

The chicks are noticeably stronger and can fully stand up on their sturdier legs, stretching their wings and flexing their muscles as they sit in the nest. Their parents have definitely done a good job rearing them so far! They will be six weeks old this week and will be capable of flight in another two-or-so weeks’ time.

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Testing out those wing muscles

Intruder alert

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Mrs O and SS on high alert berating an aerial intruder

The parents have protected them well, including from repeated intrusion by a nosey osprey. Mrs O called out in alarm and held her wings outstretched across her young offspring, while SS stood behind her also calling out in high pitched alarm. SS didn’t feel the need to give chase though, choosing to stand his ground and join in the slanging match between family and intruder. This was enough to send the invader packing and shows the experience of the older bird SS, who knew not to waste energy on an aerial attack – especially on a bird who was probably just being nosey!

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Mrs O shields those chicks and SS stands firmly behind his family

A so – so year

Further afield in the Tweed Valley Project Area, at least three nest sites have been unproductive, with birds not returning this year and others not finding a new partner.

Ringing the chicks at a Tweed Valley nest site

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Three juvenile female ospreys in premium condition

The successful sites which have produced chicks have been visited under license and the birds have been ringed with the unique BTO identification ring on the right leg and the large coloured Darvic ring with letters and numbers on the left leg. Volunteers from the osprey project were lucky enough to be invited to see the ringing take place at a nest site deep in the Tweed Valley Forest Park on 12 July.

The osprey parents have chosen to build their own nest and not use the artificial platform which was installed for them. They chose a really windswept and spindly larch tree for their home, and have built a substantial structure on the top, commanding a lovely clear view across the valley. Eve Schulte from Forest Enterprise had the daunting task of climbing the tree to lower the chicks to the ground to the waiting Tony Lightley and Malcolm Henderson, who hold the licence to ring birds and train the new members of the team for ringing in the future.

Trio of Females

DSC00078 3 females Lhpe cropThere were three superb large juveniles in the nest; all females. They were an impressive size and really beautiful birds. They were fitted with blue Darvic rings on their left legs, the fitted rings for each bird were LL0, LK7 and LK9. The birds were weighed and their wing lengths measured and recorded. This data is collected and used as an indicator of the sex of the birds.

Females tend to be over 1500 grammes with a wing length of more than 300mm, while the males are smaller and lighter. These females were a really good size and weight, with one being 1850 grammes, with a wing length of 340 mm. The other two were very similar. They were returned to their nest and soon settled back down. During the ringing procedure one of the parents had flown close by the site and would have returned to the young once the team left.

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It will be a very short time before all three of these magnificent lady ospreys take to the skies. It was a privilege and a joy to see them.