Category Archives: Glentress wildlife

Peaceful incubation

The long wait for the incubation period to come to an end seems tedious to us but for the resident ospreys at the main nest eyrie, life has become routine and fairly steady. If ospreys were thankful creatures I am sure that they would be grateful that they are not being harassed by other ospreys wanting a nest site. They seem to have been left to get on with their breeding season with little intrusion so far from other ospreys this year. Could this be because they are a new pairing and the female is strong and young, therefore presenting themselves as a force to be reckoned with? Do other ospreys intrude and cause bother only when they believe they are in with a chance to usurp a weaker individual? It is purely speculation but given that so many established pairs of long standing have had intruder birds and eggs kicked out of nests by rival males at other UK sites and the problems we had last year with our old female, it is a possible consideration.

Hatching time

There is not long to wait now for hatching time and we expect little osprey heads popping up in the nest sometime in the first week of June. This is an exciting time for the Tweed Valley Osprey Project to witness on screen the behaviour of the new mum with the very experienced older male. He has 11 years’ experience of being a successful father and rearing chicks to fledge. We are speculating that this is perhaps the females’ first brood.
Much of her time is spent preening her feathers while he is sitting on the eggs. The breeding season and the long wait for eggs to hatch is an opportunity to moult and grow some pristine new feathers.

A cheeky little female chaffinch took a wander across the top of the nest while the female osprey was incubating and she seemed to help herself to a bit of moss from the nest to take back to line her own nest presumably.

Blue tits

The blue tits on camera at Kailzie now seem to have a complete clutch of eggs at seven in the nest. This is less than most years and is also later than usual due to the cold delayed spring.

Return of the spotted flycatchers

We are delighted that spotted flycatchers have built a nest in the open fronted nest box with a camera on it. The last time they used this box was in 2007, we recently cleared some branches from the area in front of the box and it seems to have been just the right thing for the flycatchers. Flycatchers apparently like a completely clear flyway into their nest site because branches could become perches for predators to use to look into the nest.

Wild food at Kailzie

A Wild Food at Kailzie event will take place on Saturday 30th May from 11am to 4pm in the gardens, with a chance to discover what is edible and growing around us. There will be pond dipping to look at natural predators feeding in the ponds and song birds will be getting a treat as Lynn Walker will be building the Feasting Tree which we hope visitors will help to fill with delicious bird tucker. Come along and make some delicious pudding for birds to feast on and make a feeder of your own.

There will be children’s games and also some live bird ringing taking place in the osprey centre where there will be a chance to see songbirds close up before being fitted with a BTO ring and released unharmed. Donations collected on the day will be for the Tweed Valley Osprey Project.

On the move north

The satellite tagged osprey from Tweed Valley is on her travels again. Having spent what seems to have been an idyllic winter in Portimao in Portugal she briefly took a trip to Spain almost as far as the Strait of Gibraltar in March and then returned to her favourite haunts in Portugal where she has been settled ever since.

full journey of FK8 to May 11th 2015

However, with the onset of summer and the rising temperatures causing river and water levels in general to drop, the osprey, one year old female has begun to move in a northerly direction following the coastline of the Atlantic exploring water bodies in the form of reservoirs and the larger Portuguese rivers. She was last tracked at the Barragem de Morgavel near to the Rio Mira on 25th May.

Thanks for reading!

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Dad the incubator

The novelty of carrying out much of the incubation of her eggs by herself has worn off for our resident female osprey. We suspect that she is a young, possibly even first time breeder and she was so pleased with her fine clutch of eggs that initially, she was resistant to allowing white leg SS, to take a turn to incubate. Well a few weeks of the endless sitting and nothing much happening, must have played a part in changing her mind, as she is now taking extended breaks and leaving a bemused SS alone to incubate.

On Monday 18th, male SS was alone in the nest and sitting on the eggs for most of the day, he was there when the cameras came on and he did not get relieved from his duty until 3.15pm.

The next day, once again, white SS was on incubation duty for most of the morning until just before midday he flew off and she returned within a couple of minutes of him leaving and took over. She had just settled down after turning the eggs and rearranging some nesting material when an almighty hail shower burst. A very fed up looking osprey could be seen hunkered down low with hail stones literally bouncing off her back.

hailstones cropped

They have a few more weeks to go yet before hatching time. The earliest likely date for hatching would be from 3rd June to 7th June.

Intruder ospreys

Now that the pair are established this season, there seems to be a more settled atmosphere at the main nest site and although we have seen an occasional alarm calling and the shadow of an intruder bird flying over the nest, most of the time they seem to be left in peace.
It is thought that intruder birds played a part in the downfall of the previous female which led to her leaving the three young chicks to die in the nest last year, as there were certainly other birds about and the new female wasted no time to move into the nest site, the very next day after she had gone.

Other osprey sites around the country have not been so lucky this year with eggs being kicked out of the nest at Loch Garten by an intruder male bird and Kielder nest sites have had multiple intruder birds harassing the resident pairs. Luckily their eggs have not been damaged. One of the intruder birds causing mischief was a Kielder returning youngster.
When intruder ospreys check out nesting pairs they possibly assess the situation and size up the competition. They may be seizing upon the chance that one of the pair may be a weaker or aged bird that can be displaced to make way for them to move in on a nest site with a resident bird in breeding condition that holds a territory. It has certainly worked for our new Mrs osprey and it would seem that another bird is trying to push out Odin the male at Loch Garten in a similar fashion.

When ospreys fail to breed they often build another nest close by (known as a frustration nest), we do not really understand the purpose of this nest. Is it a ‘back up’ nest in case they lose the territory of the one they hold and they intend to use it themselves, or is it to perhaps distract intruders away from their site and hope that they may take that nest instead?

The number of intruder osprey incidents causing nest upsets and failures is perhaps a good argument for putting up some more artificial nesting platforms to provide an opportunity for a pair in breeding readiness to move straight in.

However, some healthy competition for nest sites may be of benefit to the breeding population too, in a way that osprey breeding success comes from the strongest and best birds in their prime, as the weaker ones are driven off site. Survival of the fittest ensures that the weaker, sickly birds do not get to breed and therefore the offspring are perhaps born to only the best of the osprey stock.

2012 brood

Tweed Valley returner

A Tweed Valley osprey has been reported to have been seen at Esthwaite Water in the Lake District this spring. It is a ringed bird, CK2 which is one of the birds which fledged from our main nest in 2012. Great news that CK2 has made it back to the UK successfully and has been seen and we are waiting to hear more news about whether the bird was just passing through or if it is nesting there.

Bird box news

Blue tits have had a slow spring due to the weather but the pair that have moved into the nest box at Kailzie now have seven eggs and another box which we had assumed had been abandoned had some new nesting material today, so it looks like a pair of late breeders are ready to move in.

Sparrows have moved into the sparrow box on the outside of the osprey centre building, these birds like to nest communally and at least two pairs have moved in.

At Glentress the house martins have been very busy near to the pond area outside the Wildlife Watch room and they are taking advantage of the rainy weather causing messy puddles where they are gathering beakfuls of mud to build their mud cup nests which must be in the houses below Glentress judging by the direction the birds are flying off to.

Thanks for reading,

Diane

Three eggs

a fine pair 11th May

We can now confirm that the main nest pair have three eggs and the long process of incubating them has begun. White leg SS and his previous partner of 11 years had the whole egg and nest ‘set up’ managed like a well-oiled machine. They took turns to incubate and the female would get long breaks away from the nest, while SS took his duty of sitting, in her absence. The new Mrs SS could possibly be a first time breeder, she is unringed, so we do not know her history but her behaviour sometimes suggests that this is quite a new experience to her. Certainly, he is a new husband but she seemed to be a little slow to take up her duties in the beginning when the eggs were first laid. However, now she is into the swing of things, she is at times reluctant to leave at all. White leg SS would drop down from the perch into the nest and was there to take a turn but she didn’t budge at first. Over the past few days though, hunger and perhaps a need to take a stretch, has forced her to allow him some incubation time and they seem to be getting more familiar with their new routine.

We already know that SS is a super dad and has previously raised 10 broods safely through to adulthood and we hope that the new partner will prove to be a really good mum too. Even if she is inexperienced, she will soon learn how to look after her chicks when they finally hatch, which will be in mid-June.

Traffic stopper

On my way to the osprey centre, travelling along the A72 on Tuesday 12th May at just before 9am, traffic flow was interrupted by road works and a convoy system, involving a long wait to get going again. While sitting in the queue of traffic at a standstill, I got a fantastic view of an osprey fishing along the River Tweed right in front of the Cardrona Village Store. The osprey was being mobbed by a pair of crows and three common gulls but was determined to carry on fishing. It continued along the river towards Peebles and I was disappointed when the convoy started off and I had to drive on!

Oystercatcher island

The tiny island roundabout at Cardrona is home to the nesting oystercatchers again this year. On a small scrape of shingle in the island, the bird is sitting on eggs and her partner often sits on the road bollard like a little black and white sentry guarding his mate. The same crows that were giving the osprey a hard time, unfortunately seem to be watching the oystercatchers too. They did this last year and after a long term of incubation,  the eggs and birds where gone, nobody saw them hatch or leave and so we were never sure if they hatched and were led quickly to safety by mum and dad or were gobbled up by the waiting mobsters. Perhaps they were successful, seeing as they have chosen the same nest site again.

A pair of oystercatchers have been checking out the ground in front of the Wildwatch room at Glentress and looked like they were prospecting for a nest site too.
First spotted flycatchers

On 12th May the first spotted flycatcher was back at Kailzie Gardens and had taken up its old hunting ground along the main drive. It likes to perch on the fence posts along the drive, taking acrobatic leaps into the air and giving an aerial chase after flies and then returning to its perch.

Osprey FK8

The Tweed Valley satellite tagged female osprey is still in Portugal, around the Portimao region of the Algarve. Her movements are concentrated in the area around the River Arade and the reservoir to the north of the region.

Penina golf course roost

In early May, she ventured across further to the west to check out and roost overnight in a large Penina golfing resort. As the Portuguese summer progresses many of the smaller river tributaries dry up and the estuarine waters become hard saltpans so we may find that FK8 will move on again. We will have to wait and see what happens. A full round up of FK8’s latest movements will be posted soon.

Thanks for reading!

Diane

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