Author Archives: Forestry Commission Scotland

Osprey Update: We have hatchlings!

chicks1

A very quick update from the nest here in the Tweed Valley – Mrs O’s brood have broken free of their shells! We now have two young Osprey hatchlings in the nest. Although not visible on the picture above, at the time of writing Mrs O is still grooming the new-born chicks, while her partner stands sentry on the edge of the nest.

The birth of new chicks in the Tweed Valley is always something to celebrate – head over to the live camera feed now and see if you can catch a glimpse. We will be back soon with a full update and more pictures!

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The osprey waiting game is finally over!

It’s been a very slow start to the Tweed Valley Osprey story this year because we’ve been waiting for the arrival of our main nest birds.

At just about the point when we believed that white leg SS was not going to return this year, he amazed us all, by returning with a stunning new partner. The new female is a blue ringed bird with the letters AS6. We now know – courtesy of the Kielder Osprey project and some keen osprey followers, Ann and Paula – that this bird originated in Ross-shire from a site at Muir of Ord in 2013. She made a stopover at Kielder on 17th April where she checked out the nest site there. We wonder where did white leg SS meet her? Did they pair up when she arrived at the Borders or had they already met beforehand? They both appeared together at the nest site for the first time on Wednesday 20th April and then were both firmly established by 21st April when the female was first identified by Tom who was on duty at the Wild Watch room at Glentress.

The pair managed to eliminate all of the competitors for the nest very quickly and have taken their place on the nest site. We can expect eggs soon and for the first time, we will have late chicks in the Tweed Valley Osprey Project, so this will be a long season. Any chicks will be hatched almost a month later than usual for this site and so it will be interesting to see if this has an impact on the survival rate of the young birds. Fingers crossed for some good weather and plentiful fish.

White leg SS with a fish

White leg SS photographed by Angus Blackburn

Contenders for the throne

Prior to the return of White leg SS and his new female partner blue AS6, ospreys had been visiting the nest and one bird was thought to be the female from last year. This was an unringed bird that sat on the perch next to the nest and seemed to be expecting that her partner may return. We are not sure if she is still around or whether she has moved on.

A blue ringed bird seemed to have taken up residence for a while and was coming in to feed there each afternoon and he was spotted early in the day too.

Paula, a follower of the Tweed Valley Ospreys made some keen observations on the live streaming camera and took some great photos for the project, of the birds seen at the nest from the internet. We have no clear image of the ring number of this bird but we think it could be CJ1.

Another visitor to the site while it was still vacant was a blue ringed bird and the lettering appeared to be CL7, this was one of the chicks that was ringed at the original back up nest in 2013 with the children from St. Ronan’s School as they took part in the 10th anniversary project to produce the Tweed Valley osprey book, Time Flies.

Nest visitor taken from the internet camera

Nest visitor taken from the internet camera, thanks to Paula

News of Tweed Valley ospreys further afield

One of the Tweed Valley Osprey Project birds has returned to Kielder where she has finally overthrown the partner of the male bird there and has settled in. She is White leg EB and came from a Tweed Valley nest in 2007 and was one of a brood of two. She has been popping in to Kielder for a few years now and had a fling with the male bird ‘37’ in 2014 before the resident female returned and sent her packing! This year though she seems to have won her prize and remains at nest number 2 with male 37. EB is now sitting on eggs.

EB at Kielder courtesy of Joanna Dailey

EB at Kielder courtesy of Joanna Dailey

FK8 satellite tagged

FK8 is the young Tweed Valley female bird that flew to Portugal on migration when she left Peebles and she is still there. She has settled into an area in the west of Portugal near Sines and she has a leisurely life, spending her time between two reservoirs but mostly at the Barragem da Morgavel.

The mother of FK8 was found dead at the end of last season, she was a green ringed bird DN and her partner was yellow 8C. However, the good news is that there are reports that birds have settled on their nest site this season. More ospreys moving into the area mean that vacant nests do not remain vacant for long usually. We have checked our remote camera and can now reveal that the new female at this site appears to be a white ringed bird but we cannot read the letters yet. She is sitting on three eggs.

Satellite map of FK8 home in Portugal

Satellite map of FK8 home in Portugal

Portugal visit

We are delighted to have received reports that another Tweed Valley bird, blue ringed CK4 has also been spotted in Portugal. On February 11th Georg Schreier photographed CK4 with another unringed osprey, flying over the salt pans and channels just west of Faro airport in the Park National da Ria Farmosa. He reported that there have been about 10 ospreys overwintering in that area within a 30km stretch and along the coast.

CK4 in flight in Portugal

CK4 in Portugal photographed by Georg Schreier

A Spanish Visitor

We have just received news that another Scottish bird from the Tweed Valley back up nest no.2 has been overwintering in northwest Spain. Antonio Sandoval Rey sent in a video link to see a blue ringed osprey ( PV0) being mobbed by crows at the Abegondo-Cecebre Reservoir near A Caruna City.

This bird is from a brood of two in 2015, a third egg was found in the nest at ringing time with a fully formed chick inside it but it had a double shell and the chick had been unable to break out.

What has happened to FX9?

Concerns are growing for the juvenile osprey (FX9), that fledged a few weeks ago from the main nest. The bird took off and there have not been any confirmed sightings of him at the nest site since. The camera on the nest is live and is watched by volunteers while on duty. Some activity is obviously missed, as it is not watched constantly but even so the pattern of behaviour is so very different from previous years when offspring repeatedly return to their nest site after fledging and mum and dad brought food back there.  Added to the concern about the bird, is the fact that it is fitted with a satellite transmitter and the last data we received is from 2nd August when all was well and he was roosting in trees near to the nest site.
We are still waiting to hear from Roy Dennis (Highland Foundation for Wildlife), as he receives the data and then passes it on to Tony Lightley for the Tweed Valley Osprey Project. We have not given up hope yet as there could be reasons, such as technical issues with a faulty transmitter or the bird may have not returned to the nest because there was no need being an only chick but until we have some data we cannot be certain.

Return of CL4 from the 10th brood of SS in 2013

Some good news though, is that the film footage of the two birds that were briefly visiting the nest on the 10th August, recorded by David Allan, the volunteer on duty, has been analysed frame by frame and the still image of the blue ringed male bird shows the leg ring number to be CL and the third digit we believe to be 4 (CL4). This is very exciting news as this is one of the ospreys ringed as a chick in the main nest in 2013 while the children of St. Ronan’s Primary school watched. This bird was from the final brood of white leg SS and his original partner in their 10th year together and the children had worked on a project to produce the ‘Osprey Time Flies’ book to celebrate the success of the Tweed Valley Osprey Project and 10th anniversary of the parent birds at the main nest.

DSCF6405
This is a two year old bird and yet again the advantage of ringing birds in order to identify and find out more about them has paid off. We previously believed that birds did not return until at least three years old, when ready to breed but we have had quite a few two year olds returning and being spotted back in the UK.

Juvenile goshawk checks out osprey nest

Once again David Allan was on duty in the centre and was vigilant enough to spot a very special visitor on the main osprey nest. This time he recorded a juvenile goshawk on the nest, on Sunday 16th August. The young bird hopped about on the right hand perch above the nest, then sidled down the branch, had a good look around then hopped back up to the perch and then hopped away into higher foliage never to be seen again.

goshawk edited main nest 16th august 2015

It was such an impressive raptor with a fierce gaze accentuated by the pale eye-stripe. It had the streaking brown colouring on the breast feathers of a juvenile as opposed to the adult birds horizontal stripes, bright yellow sturdy legs and feet and the resemblance of a sparrowhawk but much bigger.

Migration has begun

The ospreys will be making their migrations soon and the parent birds have not been seen for a while, the female has probably already left. It is worth watching out for ospreys all around the area just now because there will be not only the birds that have bred successfully here in the Tweed Valley and their offspring but other birds from further north will be likely to be passing through on their way south.

Thanks for reading,
Diane

FX9 has fledged

The main nest young male bird has fledged successfully and after giving us all quite a worry last week when he hadn’t been seen for five days. We were pleased to receive the first of the satellite data from his transmitter and find out what he has been up to.

It would seem that he took a few earlier flights than we had originally thought and had left the nest and perched in some nearby trees from 20th July onwards. The rest of the data shows that the bird was mostly sitting in trees close by but not on the actual nest, he has spent time flitting from tree to tree and then he became a little bolder and moved along to a further row of conifers opposite his nest site. On 2nd August he took his most daring excursion and flew across the forest and along the front edge of a plantation and roosted in conifers above the burn.

Return to the nest

On Monday 10th August both of his parents were back at the nest and could be seen on the live camera. White leg SS kept himself busy by moving sticks around and having a general tidy up, while his partner sat on the left hand perch squawking. She kept this up for a good while and SS ignored her. She seemed to be begging for food but he didn’t have any. When we receive the next batch of satellite data from FX9, their son, it will be interesting to find out if he was close by when the parents were there. Perhaps his dad had given him a fish which he was eating nearby and this was why his mum was so clearly put out.

There are long periods when the nest is empty now and with only one youngster, there seems to be less need to use the nest for dining now that he is capable of flight.

Osprey visitors

David (one of the volunteers on duty on Monday) reported that two intruder ospreys came on to the nest site at about 4.10pm and stayed until after 5pm. He was able to record some film footage of the birds and it was interesting, as there was an un-ringed adult female with very distinct white markings on the wings with a blue ringed adult male. The female was beseeching food from the male bird. The male had a half-eaten fish in his talons and was on the perch to the left of the nest. She was sitting in the nest and calling repeatedly to him. Unfortunately his blue leg ring could only be seen from the join and couldn’t be read but it had three digits. It was definitely not this year’s juvenile male though.

Migration time

As the summer draws to an end the ospreys will be starting to get ready for their long migration flight. The female adult is usually the first to go, breaking up the family unit and leaving her young behind and the male will stay with the young adult a while longer until he too will take off for his solo journey.

A summary of FK8’s migration last year

Last year the satellite tagged young female stayed in the Tweed Valley area until 7th September. She had made a few bolder excursions out of the valley to get her bearings and then just after 9.30am on 7th September she took off and flew directly to Carlisle. She went south over the Lake District, reaching the Duddon Estuary by 1.30pm, then she crossed the Irish Sea into Liverpool Bay and flew up the Dee Estuary, where she continued into North Wales and stopped to roost overnight at 17.52pm near Llanidloes. She set off the next morning at 6.56am, flew across Wales, crossed the Bristol Channel and roosted in Plymouth overnight. She left the UK mainland the next day and flew through the day and all night to cross the Bay of Biscay and reached Spain at just after 3am. The final part of that flight was slow and at just 1 metre above sea level. She must have been so tired and hungry. She continued on through Spain on shorter flights through the day and roosting at night until reaching Portugal on 14th September. After exploring the whole of the coastal area of the Algarve, she finally settled for the winter around the River Arade in the Portimao area of Portugal. She has spent the whole of the summer of this year in Portugal too.

FX9’s migration journey will be followed soon

We are looking forward to receiving the full data from this year’s satellite tagged bird from the main nest and it will be interesting to find out whether he will go to Africa, as we believe most migrating birds do, or whether he will choose Portugal as his wintering quarters.

sat nav chick main nest FX9 2015

Thanks for reading,

Diane

 

 

 

Chick fitted with satellite tag

The main nest osprey chick is very settled and growing quickly. It will only be a matter of time before this chick will fledge from the nest and begin to explore the area around the Tweed Valley. This will be a very exciting time for all those interested in following the osprey’s story, as for the very first time, the main nest chick has been fitted with a satellite transmitter. This was carried out on the 9th July by Tony Lightley and Dave Anderson from Forestry Commission for Scotland under a special licence. During the process of fitting the transmitter, this 34 day old chick was also weighed and fitted with a darvic ring, (blue FX9) and BTO ring on the legs.

sat nav chick main nest FX9 2015

Telling the sexes apart

It was found that this chick weighed 1420g – meaning it’s a male chick. When determining the sex of the osprey chick, the bird is measured along the wing length and weighed. The smaller male weighs up to 1450g and the females can weigh in excess of 1600g. The female is the larger of the sexes but this is difficult to tell at a distance and in the field, and is only really noticeable when you have both side by side. Another pointer to tell them apart is by the colouring of the feathers around the neck. The male is very pale, but the female has a dark band of feathering for a necklace. The male also has a higher pitched call than the softer pitch of the female but again this is only obvious when both are together.

female chick brown necklace

 

male chick no necklaceFollowing FX9’s journey

The satellite transmitter will enable us to follow the movements of this male chick and track his whereabouts for approximately the next four years of his life. Last year a ‘back up’ nest, female chick (FK8) was fitted with a transmitter and she is in Portugal. She is basing her summer months travelling between reservoirs and rivers in the region south of Sines.

New sites for the project area

Although there was some disappointment that a couple of osprey nest sites were unoccupied this year, it is encouraging to report that there are a couple of new sites within the Tweed Valley Project area. So overall, the population in this region is still promising to expand.

Feeding at the nest

Daily life at the main nest revolves around feeding, preening and resting it would seem. The male bird, white leg SS, brought in a fish to the nest on Monday which was still clearly gaping its jaws and gills. He looked as though he was about to tuck into a good meal for himself when his partner made a grab for it and removed it, somewhat ungraciously from his talons and began to feed herself and her bonnie young boy.

Fledging fun

The osprey chicks fledge when they are between 40 and 50 days old and the period leading up to this first flight from the nest is spent building up the flight muscles in readiness. Regular wing stretching and flapping will occupy the chicks’ time and the frequency of this activity will increase as the chick nears the time to try out his wings for real. Sometimes a gust of wind can take a young bird by surprise and they can be uplifted on outstretched wings before they have actually made the decision to take flight. Watching the main nest live on camera has revealed some fairly comedic moments as the young birds in the past have tried to master their landing techniques when they return to the nest. However, life will be simpler for this chick – being an only offspring – as he won’t have to negotiate landing in amongst any siblings.

Thanks for reading,

Diane

‘Back up’ nest ringing with volunteers

The ‘back up’ nest birds were ringed this week and some of the osprey volunteers were invited to attend to watch. This is something which those involved in the project really enjoy and it is an opportunity for them to see the young osprey chicks and their parents close up for the first time, having studied them on camera throughout the season and helped visitors to understand a little more about these amazing birds. The volunteers for Tweed Valley Osprey Project do a fantastic job meeting visitors and telling the Tweed Valley Osprey story and going along to see the ringing is a thank you for the work that they do and all the time that they give to this project.

forestry commission osprey ringing (1)

photo courtesy of Kathy Henry

forestry commission osprey ringing

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It was found that two chicks had been raised this year in the back up nest and a third egg was found unhatched in the nest. This was similar to last year when FK7 and FK8 were ringed, there was an unhatched egg with a double eggshell. The chick had not managed to break out of the double thickness of shell. This year however, the egg shell was of normal thickness but sadly the fully developed osprey chick had not broken the egg open with its egg-tooth and had died inside the shell. It seems a shame that having reached the full size that it didn’t make it to hatch but we have no idea why this would happen and have no way of finding out.

The birds were fitted with blue Darvic rings on their left legs with the lettering PV0 and PV4. The chicks were a good size but still about three weeks away from fledging as their flight feathers and tail feathers still had to completely break through the shaft.

Disappointingly, a couple of other sites where ospreys had previously been successful in the Tweed Valley project area had been found to have either not occupied this year or to have failed. We do not know why this has happened, adult birds had been seen earlier at the sites but they have for some reason not gone on to successfully breed.

 

Thanks for reading,

Diane

 

 

Flight of Tweed Valley Osprey FK8 during May and June 2015

FK8 has remained in Portugal but has extended her range from Portimao to an area further north.
9th /10th May. An overnight roost in the Penina Golf Course trees. This is 5km to the west of the usual haunts, along the River Arade near Portimao.

Penina golf course

Penina golf course

11th May, further exploration of the region, casting much further afield into a wide band north and west. After leaving the golf resort FK8 explored some of the artificial lakes in the countryside. This could be due to the summer drop in water levels in the rivers and streams.

pic 2 wider north to lake 2

The image above shows FK8’s journey from the River Arade across to the west to the Penina golf resort and then a long northerly exploration of water bodies to the north and back across to the River Arade.

Storks nesting on pylons and rooftops in the area of Portugal where FK8 has explored and their huge nests on the tops of the artificial poles may be a familiar sight reminding her of the treetop eyrie that she fledged from in the Tweed Valley last summer 2014.

pic 3 lake pic

This is a photo of the artificial lake that FK8  checked out on 11th May.

Dropping water levels on the same lake.

pic 5 storks

A storks nest on top of a telegraph pole.

The image above shows the journey on 22nd May. FK8 moved to the north and west of Portimao region and explored the artificial water bodies (reservoirs ) above the Rio Mira.

On 24th May FK8  made a steady journey to visit the artificial reservoir called Barragem de Morgavel. The west coastline of Portugal on the Atlantic Ocean can be seen to the left of the image above. A roost point on the lakeside is marked with a yellow ring.

The trend of movement seems to be generally northwards and seeking out large water bodies as the spring weather warmed up. If river levels were dropping then fishing may have become more difficult and hence the move to deeper water bodies with better fishing prospects.

The image below shows an overnight roost at the Barragem de Morgavel.

pic 7 Barragem de Morgavel

 

pic 9 journey Dec to May

This image shows the journey of FK8 since December 2014, showing the residency in Portimao and the trip to Spain in March, returning to Portugal to the Portimao area and then  the northerly  journey that has taken place in May, ending with the roost site on 25th May.

The image below shows a trip taken by FK8 over the period  28th-31st May, travelling north then south to explore the area.

pic 10 journey May 28th -31st

The image below shows a roost site on the edge of the reservoir and flight paths showing some movement through the day for fishing forays.

pic 11 close up shoreline roost

 

pic 12 travelling between two reservoirs

The image above shows FK8’s  journey flying between the two reservoirs of Barragem de Morgvel and Barragem de Camphilas.

The landscape in Portugal will consist of native species of Carob tree, Common Alder, Holm Oak, Kermes Oak, Portuguese Oak, Pyranean Oak, English Oak, Sweet Chestnut, Wild cherry, narrow leafed ash, strawberry tree, maritime pine, stone pine, alder buckthorn and cork oak and eucalyptus.

Familiar fish species will include, salmon, brown trout, sea trout and pike with the addition of native species of Iberian Barbel and soft mouthed bass plus the introduced rainbow trout.

An image of FK8’s whole journey so far to the end of June is shown below.

pic 13 full journey of FK8