Category Archives: Glentress wildlife

Snatch and grab

The osprey pair
The main nest pair are settling in together and their relationship seems to be blossoming. They began the season by frequent mating and then separating to opposite sides of the nest but they seem to be getting more affectionate towards each other.
I think white leg SS must be trying to impress his new wife, as I received a fantastic report from Tom McAndrew who witnessed him bringing a huge trout for her.
Tom said. “I was just packing up when the new female bird set up the most raucous calling and SS brought in the biggest trout I have ever seen him deliver! This was not so much graciously received as grabbed and removed to perch: I’m not sure whether SS was scunnered but he was certainly peeved and retired to the opposite perch.”
Perhaps the new Mrs SS will perfect her manners by the end of the season.

A week later

Love is definitely in the air for our pair of ospreys at the main nest now though. The bond between them has strengthened since their return. They will often be seen sitting together on the same perch beside the nest. Mating has taken place frequently too but there is still no sign of an egg yet. Domestic duties seem to be on the agenda, which gives us hope that they are expecting eggs, as the male brought in a large clump of fresh moss for the nest and has been bringing the occasional stick to add to the sides too. The female jumped down into the base of the nest on Monday and nose-dived into the middle and was kicking out her legs to scrape out a scoop into the centre. This was a sure sign that she is preparing a cup shape to fill with a precious egg cargo and we felt sure that we would see an egg in there soon afterwards but still no sign yet.
We are unconcerned though as it is still early in the season and all the signs are good indicators that they will be productive soon.

Wandering Borders bird

We have received some lovely news from Emyr Evans, the Dyfi Projects manager for Montgomeryshire Wildlife Trust that a Borders osprey with ring number blue CL1 has visited the Dyfi osprey nest site at 11.25am on the 15th April. This bird fledged from a nest site in the Borders in 2012 and successfully migrated. It took a trip to County Wicklow in Ireland and was spotted there for a few days in June 2014. It is great news that as a fully mature adult it is now back in the UK and hopefully on track for taking up a breeding territory. Will it prospect for a site in Wales or continue northwards to find a nest site in Scotland? I hope through more sightings that we may find out.

Spring is still springing

This spring has been a bit of a stop and start season which could account for the delay in egg laying. The weather seemed to encourage blue tits to begin to build a nest in one of the nest boxes on camera at Kailzie and then stop again, while another pair have continued to build their nest and it looks near to completion. These can be watched on the screens in the Kailzie Osprey and Nature Watch Centre.
The oystercatchers seen from the river camera were doing their superb sidestepping synchronised courtship dance with heads down and open beaks.

courting oystercatchers
Butterflies and bees seem to have emerged suddenly and the sunshine on early flowers such as coltsfoot and primroses are providing early nectar sources for them.
A few swallows have been seen and chiffchaffs and willow warblers are now coming through and taking up territories, singing loudly to announce their arrival.

Thanks for reading!

Diane Bennett
Tweedvalleyospreys@gmail.com

First Borders osprey satellite tagged

This week’s been a very special one for the ospreys of Tweed Valley. The female chick on the back up nest being monitored on camera has been fitted with a GPS satellite transmitter. Roy Dennis from the Highland Foundation for Wildlife and Dave Anderson from Forestry Commission Scotland, based at Aberfoyle, travelled to the Borders to carry out the task of fitting this specialised tracking kit to the young bird.

Tony Lightley, the Heritage and Conservation Manager for FCS, South of Scotland District had organised for this to be carried out, as well as for fitting the young birds with the alpha numeric Darvic rings for identification in the field.

satellite tagging the female osprey

Follow the bird

The small transmitter was fitted like a small back pack to be carried between her shoulders. The device is held in place by webbing stitched together by cotton which should hold for the length of the satellite transmitter battery lifetime of 4 years. The battery itself is solar powered and transmits a GPS location of the bird anywhere in the world. Roy Dennis, the leading authority on ospreys in the UK, will receive the details of all of the bird’s movements and present the findings in regular updates on his Highland Foundation for Wildlife website, where we will all be able to follow this very special bird’s journey.

The website also has details of all the other satellite tagged birds currently being monitored, including a Golden Eagle named Roxy that originated in Galloway but has chosen territory in the Borders to range in for the past few years, but has not successfully bred yet.

Colour Darvics

The ‘back up’ nest chicks have been fitted with the BTO rings on their right legs and Darvic rings on their left legs. The female with the satellite tag has leg ring FK8 and the male is leg ring FK7 in white lettering on a blue background.

fk 8 again

Fledged and exploring

The chicks have fledged but are still using the nest site to feed. The latest footage retrieved from the camera revealed the male chick doing comedy bounces and wing flaps prior to his first trip from the nest. The most amazing information has been transmitted back from FK8’s transmitter that she’s made a maiden flight trip to check out the River Tweed.

It‘ll be fascinating to follow her journey and to find out for the first time ever, exactly where an osprey from Tweed Valley goes to on her migration and the route that she takes. We’ll find out where she stops over for breaks and fishing trips and how long it takes for her to reach her over-wintering destination.

Migration

It’ll be a few weeks yet before the ospreys migrate to Africa for the winter. In the meantime it’ll be interesting to see just how far the young female osprey goes to explore her surroundings and to learn to hunt before the big trip.

Holding on

The camera link to the main nest is still live and is being checked regularly for any signs of osprey activity there. This has revealed that white leg SS is still around and the new female is still sticking close by him. Both where briefly at the nest on Monday, he was in the nest and she was on the perch. He was still displaying mantling behaviour and seems very unsettled by her presence but undeterred, when he flew off, she followed him in hot pursuit!

The visitor centres

Both centres at Glentress Forest and Kailzie Gardens have the latest footage from the new ‘back up’ nest on the screens so that visitors can see the chicks before they fledged and being fed by mum (green ring N0) after Dad, (yellow ring 8C) drops in a good sized fish.

Close observation will reveal the small aerial sticking up from the satellite transmitter back pack on the female chick. This is a very fine and flexible wire which bends and flips back into place so that it cannot become snagged on anything as the bird dives into water and flies about.

Thanks for reading!

Diane Bennett

tweedvalleyospreys@gmail.com

New screen stars are a hit

The new osprey pair are proving to be a real hit with visitors to the centres, and footage from the new ‘back up’ nest site shows the two handsome chicks are growing up fast. The ringed adult birds are absolutely, stunningly beautiful. The male bird is a powerful and proficient hunter and he is bringing in good sized fish which he passes straight over to the female which she uses to feed the hungry young ospreys straight away.

Family of ospreys

Home grown borders boy

We now have confirmation about the leg ring on the male bird and have discovered that yellow 8C is a bird which fledged from our number 1 ‘back up nest’ in 2004, in the Tweed Valley Project Area.
This is great news to know that birds born in the Scottish Borders are returning to breed in the area, and another proven success for the Tweed Valley Osprey Project.
We are still waiting to hear where the green ringed partner of yellow 8C has come from. We believe that the green rings date from the year 2005, but records so far reveal that she is not a Borderer! Maybe she is a Highlander, an English or Welsh bird. It will be interesting to find out and also it’s a good thing to strengthen the gene pool, to have local birds breeding with birds from outside the area too.

Blue ringed osprey

Buenos dias

We ’ve had delightful news that one of the osprey chicks ringed at the ‘Back up 1’, nest site last year has been photographed on a sunny beach on the River Tinto, Huelva in Spain this summer.
The juvenile osprey has been fitted with a blue Darvic ring bearing the digits CL9 in white lettering. He is now a fully grown and magnificent looking adult, and – as can be seen from the photograph – is looking very fit and healthy while enjoying a summer break as a one year old bird. Next summer he may well look for territory for breeding and so it will be interesting to find out if he returns to Spain or heads back to the Borders.
Another Borders bred osprey has been spotted this summer over in County Wicklow in Ireland. This bird, bearing the blue Darvic ring CL1, was ringed in 2012 and his safe migration to Ireland really is very good news.

Egg science

A few weeks ago I reported that a failed egg on the ‘back up 2’ nest site had been analysed and revealed a second shell layer over the top of the egg which it would seem prevented the osprey chick from breaking out. We had never encountered anything like this before but one of the volunteers within the osprey project, John Savory, has a science background and revealed that research into egg abnormalities shows that eggs can sometimes have double layers due to prolonged delay in laying of the egg. This, as far as we know has not been encountered in wild birds before.

Heron siesta

The heron nest has become something of a sunny afternoon hammock for a sleepy heron taking afternoon siestas. It looks like it’s one of the adult birds as it has the distinct long, black head plumes and feathery chest finery which the young bird hasn’t grown yet.

Thanks for reading!
Diane Bennett
Tweedvalleyospreys@gmail.com

Forming a new bond at the main osprey nest

The main osprey nest eyrie stands empty for most of the time which is a sad reminder as to the great loss to the project, of the osprey mum who had reared 26 osprey chicks from this site with her partner, white leg ring SS, during 10 successful years together.

Now that she has gone and the chicks from this season have perished we are witnessing the new female being quite determined to stick around with white leg SS. Things seemed to have settled down between the two birds and although there have been no signs of affection between them there does appear to be a growing bond. SS has been seen returning to the nest almost daily with a half-eaten fish in his talons. No sooner has he landed, when the new bird appears and takes the fish from him and then flies off with it. He flies away moments later too. He doesn’t exactly give the fish to her but he doesn’t try to prevent this happening either.

So what is happening here? Is a slow bond between them beginning to grow? He has no choice really at this stage in the season if he wants to hold the territory for next year. It seems likely that there will be a lot of territory bids next year when at the start of the season this nest site will be much in demand and the most dominant and strongest of the ospreys around will take it on. SS will be the victor if he has a strong partner and this new female could well be the bird for the job. If she is young and inexperienced she may be seen off and SS could find another partner, or an already bonded pair could potentially usurp SS. It will be interesting to watch and it is highly unlikely that this will remain a vacant nest site.

Buzzards

The buzzard family at Glentress are almost ready to fledge and we witnessed the female delivering a young rabbit for her 3 large nestlings and then she fed them. They are beautiful birds and will no doubt be heard from the Wildwatch room once they fledge as they are likely to roam the woodland area above the centre and call for food. After fledging they will depend on the parents to provide for them until they are forced to hunt for themselves, this will happen once the parents stop feeding them and leave them to get on with it. They will then have to seek out hunting territory of their own, as they do not migrate and will have to become proficient hunters and scavengers to make it through cold, long winters, here in the Borders.

Swarmed

The bees at Glentress in the viewing hive have swarmed. The queen for whatever reason led the whole colony from the hive and they left. We don’t know where they have gone to but hopefully they will have found a good old hollow tree to begin a new hive. Replacement bees are settling in to the viewing hive and it will be interesting to watch them setting up their new colony.

wildflower

Wildflowers

The wild flowers around the whole of the Glentress Peel site are absolutely stunning and are quite literally buzzing with bees and insect life. Big swathes of wildflower meadows such as this are so important for wildlife, a great nectar source and a great protein source for birds feeding on the insects too.

Herons

The heron chick fledged successfully from the nest and we have been delighted to see one of the adult birds popping into the nest site, as well as some return visits from the young heron. On the river camera, we have watched both the young heron and the adult, coming down to the Tweed to fish.

Visitor Centres

Both of the centres are open daily throughout the summer and at Kailzie there is recorded footage of all the 2014 tragedy and drama with the osprey family, as well short films from the osprey chick ringing from last year with the children of St. Ronan’s Primary School. There are highlights from happier times when the pair had young chicks and various film clips. Volunteers are on hand to give the latest news and show the clips to explain all of the bird behaviour too.

Volunteers at Glentress, when on duty are available to interpret what is happening on the wildlife cameras and there are great views to be had of the bird feeder cameras showing delightful antics of the siskins feeding on the niger seeds.
Osprey Time Flies

The ‘Osprey Time Flies’, Tweed Valley Osprey 10th anniversary book is available from the centres too, and we hope to raise money for the continuation of the Tweed Valley Osprey Project from donations for copies of the book. Thank you very much to those who have given so generously already.

Diane Bennett.
Tweed Valley Osprey Project Officer
Tweedvalleyospreys@gmail.com

A sad loss

Another week has passed and still no sign of the original female osprey. The saga at the nest site has become, at times uncomfortable to watch. The male bird white leg SS, (a firm favourite of mine in the avian world) has always been described by me as such a fine bird, a devoted and loving partner to his female. For over ten years we have watched the calm and peaceful private life played out on our screens at the two centres between the pair of ospreys. We have tried to resist attributing human emotions to their behaviour traits but this has been hard to do when we have witnessed them cuddled up together, or we have seen the male feeding the female with all the same level of gentleness that would be used when feeding delicate and fragile chicks. We have witnessed the pair making joint decisions about the layout of the nest adornments of sticks and moss and watched them present a united front against any other intruder birds.

Now that she has gone and we think that she may have died, as she would not abandon her home and family by choice, we are witnessing scenes of passively aggressive take-over. Powerful and emotive words to describe wild animal behaviour and a little over the top some may think but we have a situation whereby the male seems to be being pushed into a new partnership, like it or not.

New female sets sights on SS

New female sets sights on SS

Moving on

All he has ever known is to hold this territory over the summer and raise a family with his partner. It is what he has done all of his adult life and he is now 16 years old.
The new female has moved herself in, uninvited, I might add! She has pursued the male despite his defensive posturing, and turning his back to her. She knows this is a great site, that he is a loyal partner, proficient provider of fish, has fathered many offspring successfully and holds the best territory in the valley. She wants the nest site and she wants him! Mr Blue Leg Ring that she had appeared to be with seems to have been dumped.
I feel so sorry for White leg SS, as he seems to have no option but to stick with her. He cannot lose his territory and his own partner has disappeared. His instincts will be to try to keep the site, he cannot keep it on his own and the new female is doing all she can to make her presence a permanent one. She beseechingly calls to him when they are both there. A reluctant truce seems to be taking place as he returns to the site and instead of the usual pattern of him delivering a fish to his partner, this new bird snatches it from him, leaving him looking a little bemused. She grabs the fish from him and then flies off and he usually takes off too. This is hardly the romantic fish pass, touching talons kind of moment…it’s more of a smash and grab.

What will happen next?

We have no idea how this will develop, it’s now probably too late for this season for any more eggs, so this female has missed her chance to breed most likely but by staying with SS a bond could develop and next season, if they both make it back to this nest site, the chances are that SS will breed with her. It is also equally likely that a new pair could force them off and take over the site as their own. So all we can do is watch and see what will happen.
We are hoping that maybe we can obtain recordings from the ‘back up’ osprey nest for the rest of this season to see how that family is getting on.

 SS turns back to new female

SS turns back to new female

Glentress Buzzards

We also have a live camera on a buzzard nest, with three chicks at Glentress and these are proving very interesting to watch. There is considerable size difference between the three chicks. The largest seems almost ready to take flight and has been seen exercising the soon to be tested pair of wings, while the two smaller chicks don’t appear to be ready yet.
One of the parents dropped in a black bird, possibly a jackdaw as food for the brood and they were seen tucking into a good meal. Buzzards do fairly well from road kills and scavenging as well as hunting and will eat a varied diet, often seen down on the ground hunting for earthworms. Not terribly raptor like or fierce really, it’s a bit of a wildlife let-down, a slight disappointment even, to see a buzzard hopping round a field looking for earthworms.

Heron takes to the skies

The heron chick at Kailzie has finally flown!  We were worried that it was going to stay at the nest indefinitely, that it was hoping mum and dad would continue to feed it. Hunger has probably driven the young bird to leave the nest and test out its wings. We watched the arrival of a young heron on the river camera checking out the slack water where the burn runs into the Tweed and we hope that this is the youngster from the nest that we have been watching.

Thanks for reading.

Diane Bennett,
Tweed Valley Osprey Project Officer.
Tweedvalleyospreys@gmail.com

An unwelcome guest at the nest

The osprey eyrie is mostly a place of gentle activity at this time of year, with one of the parents undertaking incubation of the eggs and then swapping over to give the other bird a break. There was a bit of a drama witnessed on camera on Tuesday 13th at around 2pm though, when the peaceful scene was interrupted by the unwelcome presence of an intruder osprey.

intruder osprey

The female had been peacefully incubating the eggs and the male bird (white leg SS), was away from the territory, presumably hunting, when suddenly we could see a large shadow flying overhead. The female became quite agitated and began alarm calling and another osprey touched down briefly, before alighting away from the nest. This happened three times and the female was very upset. With her own partner away, she could not move from the eggs and just sat tight, calling out in alarm. We were able to record the action from the live camera and then take a still picture, capturing the briefest moment, when the intruder launched from the side perch on the nest. We can clearly see that this bird does not have a Darvic ring or BTO ring on its legs and so is not our male bird and is an unknown visitor. At this late stage into the incubation, we can speculate that it is a bird looking for a territory and nest site. It could even be a bird which has a nest site and is just being bold and mischievous checking out the neighbours!

female osprey on three eggs

We are looking forward to seeing the arrival of the chicks when they hatch at the end of May to the beginning of June.

The lonesome heron chick at Kailzie has grown so much that the parents are confident to leave it alone for longer periods. The youngster is big enough to hopefully defend itself against any predatory attack from crows.

heron chick

The blue tit continues to incubate nine eggs at Kailzie and at Glentress Wild Watch, the jackdaws have three chicks hatched and two eggs unhatched.

The bees are very settled into their new home at Glentress and they are, quite simply, fascinating to watch.

Incubation and intruders at the nest

The long incubation period at the osprey nest site of up to 40 days is well under way. The soon to be parents have settled in to a routine of domesticity. They take turns to incubate and they really are such a great partnership.

female_3_eggs_14th_may

The female was feeling hungry while she was incubating her three eggs and she was very vocal in letting her feelings be known to her partner who was perched up somewhere off screen but nearby enough for her to know that he was tucking in to a good fish meal. She was calling her beseeching “kee…kee..kee” cry, for around 20 minutes. The male osprey ate the head of the fish, as he had done all the hard work to go off and catch it, but – like the dutiful partner that he is – once he had finished eating his portion, he flew on to the nest and a slightly miffed female (who doesn’t obviously appreciate being kept waiting), snatched her take-away from him and instantly took off with it. The fish was a good size and looked to have striped flanks, so it didn’t appear to be the usual trout but possibly a jack pike caught from a nearby lochan.

Some unwelcome guests

Later, a fully fed and contented female returned to the nest and the birds swapped over, the male flew off and the female settled back down on to the eggs. A fairly uneventful hour went by, when suddenly two jays landed on the osprey nest either side of the female. The female osprey was sitting down on her eggs so they were not perceived as a threat to her and she appeared unconcerned. However, the blackbirds that have their territory close to the osprey nest could be heard alarm calling and were very upset by the appearance of the jays. Both jays swooped away from the nest, off in the same direction, just as the female blackbird landed on the bottom perch of the osprey nest. Her back could just be made out at the bottom corner of the screen. All went quiet for a while and then the female blackbird flew away. Shortly afterwards the beautiful, melodious song of the male blackbird could be heard once again. Hopefully the happy singing from his nearby territory perch means that the jays didn’t steal eggs or nestlings from the blackbirds.

The heron chick continues to thrive and is beginning to look more bird-like than reptilian. The parents are now leaving the chick for longer periods. Don’t they ever learn? Last year the chicks were eaten by crows. Clearly, they think that the young bird is capable of defending itself…and we hope that they’re right.

More wildlife news from Glentress

The blue tit is now incubating at least nine eggs. The jays at Glentress have now got a brood of four chicks and are still incubating the fifth egg. Our new Glentress bees are as hypnotising to watch as ever; a totally, fascinating colony. They are busy building new chambers, the queen is populating the nest chambers and the workers are bringing in hefty pollen sacs now that there is gorse, cowslips and a few other wildflowers, in flower at the Glentress site.

More updates soon, thanks for reading.