Category Archives: Ospreys

Ringing the chicks

Main nest chicks

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Twinnies – the osprey duo

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

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

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Testing out those wing muscles

Intruder alert

intruder alarm

Mrs O and SS on high alert berating an aerial intruder

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

Mrs O shield

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

A so – so year

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

Ringing the chicks at a Tweed Valley nest site

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Three juvenile female ospreys in premium condition

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

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

Trio of Females

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

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

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

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30th May and no egg

One male, two females and no eggs

For three days over the past week the osprey nest stood empty. Having at last found not one, but two females, we had hoped that one of them would have become the partner of SS and laid an egg. Perhaps this just isn’t going to happen now. FS2 – the blue ringed bird – returned briefly on Sunday while the other two ospreys were at the nest. SS now seems to be stuck with Mrs. O which doesn’t appear to be a match made in heaven.

Mrs O on a meal ticket

There is no interaction between them or subtleties of behaviour suggesting any kind of bonding or developing partnership. She squawks continually and demands to be fed which seems to be the chief reason that she is still hanging around. Mrs.O – the meal ticket osprey – demands fish, snatches it from SS’ talons once he lands on the nest and immediately turns away from him, dropping her wings in agitation and squawking continually. He doesn’t react, he merely wipes his beak on the sticks of the nest and moves away from her.

No more egg preparations

SS sole role appears to be to catch a fish, eat most of it himself and then fly onto the nest allowing Mrs. O to grab and devour the leftovers. So why does he bother to continue to feed her? There is no egg, he has stopped making scrapes in the nest and has stopped bringing in new nest material. She displays no affection towards him. Things seemed to have cooled down in terms of mating and there has been little further activity. Increased daylight in the spring, the fine weather, a new mate and hormones trigger sexual activity amongst ospreys; but there must reach a point over the summer months, if mating proves unsuccessful, when hormone levels fall and the birds lose their breeding condition.

Failed breeding attempt

The days are still long, having not reached the summer solstice yet, and the weather is ok, but no eggs have been produced from either female in this eyrie. This maybe suggests that the peak in hormones driving breeding condition in the osprey adults has waned. What we don’t know is what physiological conditions trigger the end to a breeding cycle when birds have not successfully laid eggs. We have had eggs laid in the past which have proved to be infertile and not hatched, but it is not clear as to why these particular birds have not produced an egg. Mating definitely took place between SS and both birds, so the lateness of the season might be the factor preventing successful egg production.

It will still be fascinating to watch the behaviour of the birds at the nest site to find out what they do from now on. SS will presumably continue to defend his territory and Mrs. O has no reason to leave if she is getting free fish. But will FS2 be back?

Territorial

When ospreys fail to breed they often build another nest close by. This is known as a frustration nest and is a spare home which may be useful to them in coming seasons should they choose to switch nest site. They would likely only do this if conditions became unfavourable at their original nest site. However, a frustration nest may encourage another osprey pair to take up occupation, encroaching on the territory of the first osprey. This may lead to a great expenditure of energy from the first osprey in defence of his nest site and territory. So it’s a risky strategy, but given that it takes such a long time for ospreys to build up a nest site, it may seem like a risk worth taking. The ospreys within Tweed Valley Osprey Project area have it easy; their nests were ready made nesting platforms created for them over the winter months by Forestry Commission staff.

No DIY needed

All our ospreys had to do was move in and fine tune their ready-made nests with new material. The main nest is a massive structure, having been continually added to since it was first created in 2002 and now looks entirely natural. However, it is wired together and secure so that it doesn’t blow out. Our rangers also remove excess material so that it doesn’t become too heavy over the winter. It saves SS quite a job when he returns, which is just as well, as he was so late arriving this season. His DIY skills have never been truly put to the test but his two-timing tardiness this season looks to have cost him dearly in having no family to raise.

Better luck next time

So the dear, philandering SS will need to arrive in good time next season if he is to be a successful dad again. He needs to actively find a suitable mate and ditch the fish-wifey Mrs.O. Sorry Mrs O but the constant squawking, fish grabbing and attitude to SS is not winning you any fans despite having been been cheated on.

Victory for Mrs O – 23rd May

SS tries to get away from two females

They’re behind you!

SS lets the females sort themselves out

Mrs. O. has not given up her battle to remain the partner of SS at the main nest, even though FS2 has tried to usurp her.

SS surveys the scene of two females in his nest

SS watches the two females below.

It seems that having the attention of two females demanding fish and moving in on his territory is all a bit too much for SS. The squabbling females were both on the nest with SS but rather than make a choice and send one of them packing, he wimped out and flew off leaving the females to battle it out for themselves. Well it was more of a stand-off and stare-off than a battle, with both standing in the nest, Mrs O squawking away with a rather cool FS2 nonchalantly sitting there and ignoring her assault of squawks.

Mrs.O squawking at FS2

Mrs.O squawks at FS2

SS on the edge with two females behind him

SS teeters on the edge away from the warring females

Do your worst

The most aggressive action was a flap of FS2 wings and a forward rush towards Mrs.O but the loud response must have rendered her sensibilities askance as she flew off leaving the triumphant Mrs.O, (the BTO ringed bird) alone in the nest. One – nil to Mrs. O at the end of round one.

Triumphant squawking Mrs.O

Triumphant Mrs.O squawks some more.

This switching around of partners continued for a few days and SS has taken full advantage of the situation, mating with whichever female was at the nest when he returned.

Victory for Mrs.O

Mrs. O has proved to be the victor so far and has firmly got her talons under the mossy carpet of this eyrie. FS2 has not returned for a few days… Does she have a nest and partner elsewhere maybe? She could be laying eggs fertilised by SS at another nest. If there was a Jeremy Kyle Show for ospreys, this sort of behaviour might earn an appearance on an episode!

Mrs O is reaping the benefits of sticking around and SS has been bringing fish for her. Her deafening demands would make it hard not to reward her with fish even just for a brief bit of peace. But even when catered for she still shrilly squawks and pips. SS keeps his distance and teeters on the edge of the perch away from her. Do her persistent cries keep FS2 away? Could that be why she has not returned? Her shrill piercing calls could announce to all ospreys that this is now her territory and SS her prize.

SS and Mrs.O squawking feed me

SS and Mrs.O

Will there be an egg soon?

What we would really like to see now is an egg in that nest! The ever hopeful SS drops into the centre of the nest regularly and tips his body forward, thrusting his legs backwards to kick out material to create a neat little cup shape, just waiting to be filled with an egg or two but there’s been no sign of Mrs. O laying any just yet. So hurry up Mrs. O and start laying eggs for there to be any chance of chicks for this pair, this season!

SS: Super Stud

Cheerio Mrs.O, hello FS2

FS2 and SS 18th May 2017

FS2 and SS

Just when we thought things had settled in to domestic bliss at the main nest with SS and Mrs. O, a dramatic return of a visitor from last year has changed the turn of events. FS2, a female with the blue darvic ring who appeared at the end of last summer and began mock incubating the dud egg in the nest, has turned up while Mrs.O was away and she is now also a new partner for SS.

We never realised his leg ring letters meant super stud, but he now has a choice of the ladies and has mated with both of them! What a difference a day makes as the song goes, 24 little hours and two female ospreys vying for the attentions of dear old SS.

SS – Super Stud

This is a real surprise for all those doubters out there who questioned his breeding credentials this year because of his age or his modus operandi for finding a mate. He is quite a bird.

Mrs.O it would seem has not given up yet, and she returned to the nest once FS2 was away. Who will stay with SS? We shall have to wait and see.

Watch the latest videos of the nest here:

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.

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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