Category Archives: Glentress wildlife

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

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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

 

 

 

What a difference a week makes

The chick in the main nest is growing at an astonishing rate. In one week, the change in this young raptor is very noticeable, as it is so much larger than last week, with a fine covering of feathers. There is very real hope now that this osprey will definitely make it to survive and fledge. There are times when the male brings a fish into the nest and the female shows little or no interest in taking it from him. This is possibly because he is doing so well to provide for his family that sometimes when he presents a fish, the female is not hungry and so doesn’t assume that the chick is hungry.
Sometimes he will fly off with his catch only to return with a portion of it later, having eaten a good meal for himself from it.

Mum feeds chick

Mum feeds chick

Shelter from the storm

The female osprey did a good job to shield the chick during torrential downpours at the weekend and was seen covering three quarters of the chicks body with her own, as the onslaught of raindrops, reminiscent of stair rods pelted down on them.

Sheltering from the storm

Sheltering from the storm

Predator versus predator

On Sunday, white leg SS brought in a pike, the pale stripes down the olive green body were clearly visible, marking it as a juvenile or Jack Pike. Even so, the length of the fish was considerable and was at least the same length as the osprey body and must have weighed practically the same as an osprey almost. With incredible skill the osprey had managed to capture a tremendous predator and not only catch it without coming to any harm but to then lift it clear of the water and carry it in his talons all the way back to the nest.

This photo was taken by Angus Blackburn in 2012 of SS bringing a smaller jack pike back to the nest.

Osprey nesting Scottish Borders. The  first recorded chicks to  hatch in Scotland are doing well at a site in the Scottish Borders.   Pic - Male Osprey with a Pike fish comes  back to feed the  three  chicks.

SS bringing in a jack pike 2012, photo by Angus Blackburn

It would have made a spectacular performance to watch SS catch this fish, as pike are ferocious predators which are incredibly powerful. When in shallower areas of lochs, amongst vegetation they are ever watchful for anything which they could prey upon.  They predate on smaller fish, amphibians, even waterfowl such as ducklings and are not averse to cannibalism!

The long snout of a pike houses rows of very sharp, backward pointing teeth which make it impossible for anything within their jaws to escape. Their method of hunting, particularly in the summer months, is to lurk in the shallows and then burst forward at phenomenal speed to give chase to their victims. Ducklings’ little webbed feet would be seen from below and then the pike would strike and pull the hapless youngster into the deep. Jaws springs to mind – a very scary film  about  a great white shark grabbing its victims from the depths below. In a similar fashion, pike can be likened to the ‘Jaws’ of the freshwater loch!

The osprey hunting method is to fly above a body of water, scanning the water below with their fantastic eyesight and then ‘plunge dive’ from a great height, talons outstretched, as they drop into the water and lock on to the target fish. The curved talons would sink into the flesh of the fish like an angler’s hook and then the osprey must heave its body on outstretched wings, out of the water and become airborne again. Once it has gained height it gives a mid-air shake to remove some excess water and then arranges its toes around the body of the fish, gripping it with its talons and the Velcro-like spicules on the underside of the feet help to lock the fish securely from dropping, as it carries it away like a torpedo.

At this point, the fish would still be alive and as anglers who have ever landed a pike will know, an angry, threatened pike can deliver a nasty bite. White leg SS must have perched somewhere on his return at some point, to kill the fish before delivering it to his family, as the lower jaw was missing. That must have been quite a battle to overpower it and using its strong hooked beak to attack the fish from the head to remove the lower jaw and render it powerless.

This is raw nature, where two top apex predators meet and only one can survive. Thankfully, it was osprey that was the victor and the experience and skill of white leg SS once again is demonstrated and we can only admire him as the true champion that he is. A slight slip or misjudgement in his technique could cause him considerable danger from a pike bite.  What a privilege it is to have this mighty bird spend his summers here in Peeblesshire.

Photo of white leg SS with fish taken by Angus Blackburn 2012

Photo of white leg SS with fish taken by Angus Blackburn 2012

Monster sized chick

The one surviving osprey chick in the main Tweed Valley nest is growing so fast. It is now four weeks old and has a good covering of true feathers rather than the flimsy grey down which is not weather proof. The wing and tail feathers are beginning to break through along the shafts and altogether the chick looks very much like a proper little osprey now.
When food is brought in by the male bird, the chick has been fed to overflowing and the processing of all of this protein is creating a pot-bellied – but healthy looking – bird.

The lack of experience of the female bird is still apparent at times, but she did shield the youngster from the rain storm on Thursday which is good news. Both adults have been spending time together at the nest with the chick and sometimes the mum seems to lack any sense of awareness around her youngster. The female was on the perch above the nest on Monday and the chick was clearly hungry, but it was dad that carried out the feeding task and had some of the fish for himself too. As the chick reached the point of being full, the female joined them in the nest and he proceeded to tear strips of fish off and fed her.

Roomy nest

A full youngster was clearly seen to be appreciating the spacious and roomy nest all to itself early on Monday too, as it was lying down spreading out its wings and kicking its legs back into fully extended stretches. This is certainly a luxury home for one. The chick has been keeping the nest clean and always ensures that when it needs to toilet, it fires the stream of white waste out of the nest. This is often jet sprayed onto the right hand perch giving a whitewashed appearance to the branches beside the nest and the surrounding foliage.

stick moving and whitewash

Both parents were sitting in the nest beside the chick on Tuesday morning, both seemed to be highly alert and were watchful as though there was an intruder bird about or some cause for alarm but the young osprey seemed oblivious to any danger and proceeded to do a bit of stick moving around the nest, something it has witnessed its parents doing regularly as a spot of nest maintenance.

30th june mum dad and chick

FK8 update

FK8, the one year old Tweed Valley Osprey has remained in Portugal. The bird migrated from Peebles at the end of last summer, but rather than heading all the way to Africa and along the Gambia River as most ospreys do, she stopped off in Portugal and stayed there all winter. She took a short trip across the Gulf of Cadiz in Spain in March but headed back to favoured haunts in Portugal a few days later. With the Portuguese summer well under way the fishing areas in Portimao where she was staying will have dried up considerably with dropping water levels and fish would have moved in to better areas too. We assume that because of this she moved further north in May and since then has spent her time between two reservoirs the Barragem de Morgavel and the Barragem de Campilhas.

reservoirs 29th June

Thanks for reading,
Diane

Best fed osprey

osprey one chick fed 21st june

The osprey chick being fed

It has been a tense week watching the Tweed Valley Osprey main nest camera, as with only one remaining chick we have been worried that the inexperienced new mum may not give the young developing bird the attention and care needed to see it through this vulnerable stage of its development. Thankfully, the advantage this little one has is that when dad brings a fish in, the meal no longer has to be shared with two other siblings and that has made mealtimes a gorging fest! I don’t think we have ever seen an osprey chick fed to the point where food is hanging out of its beak before now. Struggling to swallow the last bits because its belly was just full up!

This is good news because lots of rich protein packed, raw fish will ensure growth and as the chick matures the grey fluffy down will be gradually covered by weatherproof feathers and this will help to give some protection from the elements. The female bird did protect her youngster from a torrential downpour at the weekend which was another good sign that she is doing her job properly now. She will hopefully shield her youngster from the midday sun should we ever see it again, through the veil of grey clouds that have appeared this week.

Blue tits starve

Sadly, the little family of blue tits have all perished. The cold wet weather has persisted long enough to cause a distinct lack of caterpillars which are needed to raise a brood of blue tits. Seven hatched out and one by one they have died as they have not had enough food and even one of the pretty little adult birds has died in the nest, probably worn out from its efforts to find food.

Heronry news

22nd june 2015 heron

An adult heron at Kailzie

The empty heron nest at Kailzie has been receiving visits from one of the adult herons and the bird has been doing some nest tidying. They will hold the territory until it is time to breed again but they will not attempt a second brood this year. They nest colonially in a heronry and this is a small one which consists of only five nest sites on this site.

Volunteers, buzzards and goshawks

On Tuesday 17th June, some of the volunteers were treated to a visit to watch the buzzard chicks being ringed and some impressive goshawk chicks, deep in the Tweed Valley Forest.
Licensed bird ringers from Forestry Commission Scotland, Tony Lightley and Eve Schulte carried out the task and were able to show the enthusiastic volunteers from the Tweed Valley Osprey Project these truly wonderful birds. It was an emotional experience to engage with these wild creatures of the forest and a real privilege.

The buzzard chicks were really vocal and super raptors to observe at close quarters but they were totally overshadowed by the far superior and impressive goshawk. These chicks were large, feisty and very vocal with reflexes in their talons of lightning speed. Their sturdy thick legs made the buzzard legs seem like matchsticks by comparison.

buzzard chicks

The buzzard chicks

The familiar buzzard is seen regularly throughout the Borders and feeds on carrion, earthworms, rabbits, mice, voles and birds while the goshawk which looks almost identical to a sparrowhawk but is as big as a buzzard, is a secretive, stealthy hunter which glides silently through the forest and can wheel and flip vertically in fast flight, to negotiate branches when giving chase to prey such as a woodpigeon.

goshawk chicks

The goshawk chicks

Tragic news for Tweed Valley Ospreys

Two chicks in the nest have succumbed to what appears to be overheating exposure on the hottest days of the year so far. On Thursday 11th June – a really hot sunny day which is a rare occasion here in the Scottish Borders – the male bird was away from the nest leaving the female with the chicks and despite the hot weather, she was not shielding her young chicks from the sun.

Three vulnerable chicks exposed to the heat of the midday sun

Three vulnerable chicks exposed to the heat of the midday sun

When the male brought a fish in, she took it from him and fed herself, ignoring the chicks and leaving them exposed to the heat. Later in the afternoon, the male bird returned to the nest with another fish, with the head removed which he had already eaten and presented this to his partner. She was then seen to be feeding one of the chicks and the others could not be seen.

At 12.15pm the female flew off the nest and the male fed a chick. Only one chick could be seen at this point with the other two thought to be still in the nest. The next time any conclusive footage was recorded was on Friday 12th June, when one chick is seen to be active and two chicks were not moving in the nest. At this point the male brought in a fish and the female was up on the perch and she was not interested in the fish and the male then flew off with it. No interest was shown in feeding the remaining chick. It was not until 15.25pm when the male returned with fish again that the female took the fish and fed the remaining chick.

At this point many flies could be seen in the nest and the two chicks were now presumed to have died. We do not know if the bodies of the chicks have been removed as they cannot be seen but there is definitely only one remaining active chick.

On Sunday 14th June, the remaining chick was then left alone and vulnerable in the nest as both parents flew off and eventually the female returned and settled down on the nest to brood it.

home alone chick

Home alone chick

On Monday 15th June, both ospreys were at the nest and paying no attention to the one chick, the female was on the left hand perch and spent hours preening and the male took off only to return with a stick for the nest, both parents then spent considerable time moving the sticks around while the hapless youngster trundled about the nest and kept trying to get underneath mum. After their spell of nest adornment, the male flew off and the female resumed her position on the perch leaving a lonely and probably fairly hungry chick in the nest. There were so many flies around it and landing on it and at times it seemed quite feeble and then would have an energy spurt and begin waddling about. At this stage it would seem like a miracle if it survives.

15th June sticks and chick

Survival chances

With only one chick, the chances of its survival should be good, as all of the fish brought in would not have to be shared meaning good growth, but what is of concern is the lack of attention that the parents are paying to their surviving offspring. We can only watch helplessly and hope that the parent birds will resume their duties for their only one. It does further confirm our suspicions that this female is not experienced and is possibly a first time mum, as she doesn’t seem to know how to look after the young or know what she is doing.
Things went so well at this nest site for 10 years, that it is a bitter pill to swallow having two tragic years consecutively. Fingers crossed that over the next couple of weeks, the osprey pair get their mojo back after losing two chicks and put their all into rearing the one.

Blue tits

In the camera box with the blue tit family there are now only four chicks. Struggling to find any green caterpillars due to the cool spring means essential food for the growing youngsters is not available, and so one of the chicks has not made it. The parents removed the body from the nest and are concentrating their efforts on the remaining brood. The hot weather of last week would have brought about a sudden boost to the caterpillar population hopefully and this will be good news for blue tits.

Barn owls

Volunteers for the Tweed Valley Osprey Project were given a treat to visit a family of barn owls being fitted with BTO rings by Eve Schulte, Conservation Ranger for Forestry Commission Scotland.

Barn owls are another schedule one species from the Wildlife and Countryside Act which makes them a species of serious conservation concern. Their numbers in the region crashed considerably after two very severe winters in 2009 and 2010, and only now are they beginning to pick up. It was lovely to observe in close up, a brood of 3 owlets with their wizened faces, ranging in size from the large, eldest chick to the tiny, fluffy youngest. Hopefully, if the bank vole population and field mice are in good numbers this year then this little family will successfully fledge shortly. Their parents are a beautiful sight to see hunting at dusk, floating across the sky like ghostly images with their beady, black eyes peering out of their white disc faces and shrieking out their eerie banshee like calls.

small chick 2small chick 1

Thanks for reading,
Diane

Hatching expectations

swap over main nest

We are expecting the osprey chicks to hatch this week, after a long incubation period of 35 to 40 days, little chicks should break their way out of the eggs were they have developed. They have a small tip on their beaks called the egg tooth; this is a tool that they use to chip the eggshell open from inside of the egg. They lose the egg tooth soon after hatching and begin to feed on raw strips of fish presented to them by their mother.

Intruder alarm

There was a bit of a shock this week as there was the unexpected appearance of a third osprey at the nest on Monday, this cheeky intruder briefly flew down into the nest, next to the incubating female but thankfully, white leg SS, was close by and immediately did his job and came straight down into the nest and then chased off the intruder. It happened so fast that we couldn’t see if it was a male or female bird. SS was away for about 10 minutes and for the whole time, the female looked very unsettled and alarmed. She was very alert and with her head up, looking skyward – presumably there was a bit of sky chasing above her that we were unable to see.

He returned to the nest and landed beside her and then was quickly off again and the female was alarm calling once more. He must have been successful in chasing the intruder away, as he returned and things settled again. Later he left the nest once more but the female looked content and so he had presumably gone off to hunt for fish.

Vulnerable chicks

Being so close to hatching, this week and the first couple of weeks after the chicks have hatched, is the very worst time for upsets, such as intruder birds, as the chicks will be at their most vulnerable stage. When they first hatch they can barely hold their heads up and are very wobbly until their muscles begin to develop and they gain in strength as they quickly grow on the protein rich diet of fish.
We are apparently due a bit of warm weather which will be a help for the young family, so that feeding can take place. The female has to stand up and away to the side of the chicks to feed them, which would be an impossible task in the high winds and torrential downpours of late.

CL6 after ringing

Return of anniversary young osprey

In 2013, we celebrated the 10th anniversary of the main nest pairing between white leg SS and the unringed female. As part of that celebration we worked with the children of St. Ronan’s Primary School in Innerleithen, to produce the book ‘Time Flies’, to tell the story of the Tweed Valley Ospreys.

The children were treated to a visit to the main nest site to see the young ospreys being fitted with their Darvic rings and the ringed birds were CL4, CL5 and CL6. The rings were chosen to correspond to their class name P4/5 and the following term they were to move to P6

This week we received a report from Joanna Dailey from Kielder Osprey Project that CL6 was photographed at Bothal Pond in Northumberland on 30th May 2015. Here is a photo of the bird taken by Frank Golding and published on Bird Guides.
The bird was watched for about 10 minutes, getting mobbed by crows and oystercatchers and then headed off to the east.
The school has been informed about the birds progress and hopefully the children will be really pleased to know that this bird that they saw as a young fledgling, is now a migrating adult and is fit, looking good and back in the UK.

CK2curtesy osprey safari

CK2 Esthwaite safari

More news has been received from Dave Coleman about the Tweed Valley bird CK2, at Esthwaite in the Lake District. She is in fact breeding and a photograph of her with a male ringed bird was sent to us. The picture is not clear enough to make out the identity of the male but more news about the birds there can be found on the Osprey Safari Facebook page.

FK8 is scouting in Portugal

FK8, the year old Tweed Valley satellite tagged osprey, has moved from her winter quarters in Portimao in Portugal, to a more northerly part of Portugal close to Sines. She is ranging across long distances and scouting and exploring the area. With summer well on its way, the Portuguese river levels will have dropped significantly and fish will have moved to deeper waters and maybe it is this reason that she is now seemingly fishing reservoirs and deeper waters.

Blue tits hatch

The blue tits in the camera box have hatched at Kailzie and the tiny bald nestlings are simply gorgeous. Mum and dad are working hard and delivering green caterpillars to them.
The mystery, slowest nest builder ever, seems to be adding a bit of moss regularly to the other nest box camera but it may be too late in the season for it to be a viable nest for raising a family.

Goshawk family

Fantastic new footage of a goshawk family has been added to the Glentress viewing facilities in the Wildwatch Room. This is a real treat to observe this shy and impressive rare predator.

Thanks for reading!

Diane