Category Archives: Ospreys

Chick fitted with satellite tag

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

sat nav chick main nest FX9 2015

Telling the sexes apart

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

female chick brown necklace

 

male chick no necklaceFollowing FX9’s journey

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

New sites for the project area

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

Feeding at the nest

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

Fledging fun

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

Thanks for reading,

Diane

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Flight of Tweed Valley Osprey FK8 during May and June 2015

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

Penina golf course

Penina golf course

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

pic 2 wider north to lake 2

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

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

pic 3 lake pic

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

Dropping water levels on the same lake.

pic 5 storks

A storks nest on top of a telegraph pole.

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

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

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

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

pic 7 Barragem de Morgavel

 

pic 9 journey Dec to May

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

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

pic 10 journey May 28th -31st

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

pic 11 close up shoreline roost

 

pic 12 travelling between two reservoirs

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

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

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

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

pic 13 full journey of FK8

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

Three chicks hatched

On Thursday 4th June, two tiny chick heads were spotted for the first time in the nest. It is uncertain whether they had both hatched on the same day or more likely one came a day earlier. The proud parents were very attentive and the male, white leg SS, brought in a fish which the female took and tore off small strips of meat which she offered down to each little osprey in turn to feed.

3 chicks days old with mum and Dad

Later that afternoon the male brought in a second fish and was very attentive towards his partner as he fed her.

On 6th June at 1.25pm, the female stood up and it was noticed that her brood had increased to three as the third little tiny head could be seen.

SS feeds Mrs June 8th 2015

Alive and flapping

The family are doing very well so far and white leg SS, has been bringing in good sized fish. He hasn’t taken any for himself prior to delivery as he has passed over the entire fish to his partner which must have only just been caught as it was still flapping. In fact the tail end of the large trout caught on Sunday 7th June was thrashing about so much it was bouncing off the chicks’ heads.

fish tails

Visitations

A cheeky jay has been seen frequently perched on the side of the nest, but both parents have seemed not in the slightest perturbed by their visitor.

The jay was picking up items from the back of the nest and eating them and then flew off with a chunk in its beak. We can only assume it must be some leftover fish. Fish supper at the jay residence must be a welcome break from acorns then! The ospreys are not concerned that these morsels have been taken from the nest and clearly don’t perceive the jay as a threat, which is strange, as the jay is certainly capable of taking the tiny osprey chicks at this stage of their life. Maybe, the clean-up operation to remove fish debris discarded by the osprey family is welcomed for now, particularly as the chicks would never intentionally be left alone while they so small.

8th June Jay visit