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Last to go

Tweedledee fledges

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Tweedledee with a fish

The main nest osprey juveniles have fledged. LL7 (Tweedledum) was the first to brave a flight attempt last week, while his sister was slower and more reluctant to go. The time leading up to her first flight was spent on her own in the nest, followed by a gentle feeding session with her dad SS, as he very carefully pulled off fish morsels and passed them from his beak to hers.

Once she was full, she stepped back. Mrs O quickly proclaimed her hunger and dropped down from the perch into the nest, calling loudly as she took the remaining fish from SS.  Then daughter and father pottered about for a while, cleaning their beaks by rubbing them on sticks in the nest. LL7 was absent, and missed out on a meal while the rest of his family dined. Once all the food was gone, SS left the nest and flew off, leaving LL6 at home with Mrs O.

For the rest of the afternoon LL6 (Tweedledee) undertook some serious wing flapping, with small hops and jumps across the nest. Mrs O called and squawked from the left hand perch, perhaps encouraging her to try to fly.  LL6 attempted a wing-flapping, side-stepping manoeuvre down the side branch of the perch, and a few moments later she took off at last, with mum following behind.

Mrs O is mean to Tweedledum

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Mrs O attacks her son Tweedledum

Tweedledum (LL7) managed to return to the nest to feed, but his attempts can best be described as clumsy. On 8 August he was in the nest, with Mrs O on the left hand perch. She suddenly flew down and pecked at him, quite viciously and without warning.

He dropped down flat in defence and then she lunged at him, forcing him towards the edge of the nest. It seemed such an aggressive act towards her son, especially as up to now she has been such a good mum. Was she encouraging him to fly again? Or was he holding on to a bit of fish, while she was hungry too?

A visitor

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A red squirrel visitor

Just below the nest on a lower branch a sneaky red squirrel popped along to make a cameo appearance, but soon hopped off again when it realised who held the lofty upper tree abode!

Balancing act

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Tweedledum balances on his fish

The next day after his mean encounter with his mum, Tweedledum was seen in the nest with a fish in his talons but he was clearly not accustomed to dealing with prey by himself. He held onto it with both feet, while doing a balancing act like an amateur skateboarder, wobbling from side to side trying to maintain an upright position whilst bending his head forward and down to take bites with his beak.

He spread his wings and tail to help his balance and to protect his meal from having to be shared with mum. SS and Mrs O sat together on the left hand perch watching him while he ate and occasionally glancing skyward, as though watching something – not with alarm, or because they were unsettled. They just seemed watchful, so perhaps their daughter was close by, or flying overhead.

Fit to burst

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A bulging crop on Tweedledum

On Friday 10 August, Tweedledum was at the nest with his Dad. He was feeding himself, and when he had finished he looked a most peculiar shape as seen from the front, with a bulging crop like a twisted balloon made animal. We’re not quite sure what happened there!

Fk8’s daughter fledges

Firth of Dornoch

Firth of Dornoch

FK8, the Tweed Valley Osprey from 2014’s back up nest, nested in the Dornoch area this summer and her daughter fledged on 14 August. The young female osprey had been making a few movements locally around the nest site, and the tracking data indicated that there was some movement around the trees nearby. On 14 August she left the nest site at just after 9am and flew to the shore of the estuary. She stayed for an hour before making another short flight and another stop, then turned to the west along the shore, finally heading into the forest plantation, flying northwards. She stopped there at 4.15pm.

LK8 fledges

LK8
LK8, another osprey from the Tweed Valley Osprey Project Area has now fledged, his tracker shows that he has discovered Talla and Fruid Reservoirs so far and is doing very well.

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Ready, Steady, Go!

Contented family life

The osprey family at the main nest seemed to be very relaxed and contented for most of the time this week. There is a very definite sense that the season is coming to an end. The young adult ospreys Tweedledum and Tweedledee are fully grown, and are ready to fledge at any time. Their proud parents have been seen sitting close together on the left hand perch above the nest. Looking like a two-headed osprey at one point, they were so close together, a scene we never would have believed possible with Mrs O, given how territorial she used to be. There is now a very close bond between the two adult birds, and SS is the accomplished dad once again, guiding his young offspring through the final stages before they spread their wings and fly.

ss and mrs o sitting close

Mrs O and SS sitting close together

Flight ready

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Getting ready to fly

The young birds have been wing flapping and catching up on lost time during the heat wave. In particular, Tweedledum, the male bird, seemed determined that he was going to take to the skies. His sister was slightly more reluctant. She vigorously flapped her wings and teetered on the edge of the nest, looking like she was determined to go, but her feet gave her away. She was clinging on to a big stick in the hopes that it would anchor her down until she was really ready.

Her more adventurous brother really got the whole flying activity figured out, making little practice flights from one side of the nest to the other, and short, open-winged jumps to and from the perches. Before he finally attempted to leave the nest, there was a lot of balancing on the edge and peering down to the ground. The two young birds watched the scene below them intently, building up the nerve to go, and perhaps realising for the first time just how high up their nest is.

Tweedledum its a long way down

Tweedledum loooks down

LL6 Tweedledee

Tweedledee sits on the edge

Feeding or flying

Feeding time has also been more relaxed. SS has been seen bringing fish to the nest and feeding both the young birds himself. Occasionally, feeding has ended abruptly for LL7 (Tweedledum), as he focused his attention on his wing-flapping practice instead, and left his food.

Fish must be in plentiful supply, as SS has also brought fish for Mrs O, which she shared with the young after taking the head for herself. The whole of the body of the fish was eaten by the young birds, with Tweedledee taking control of the meal before leaving a portion for her brother to finish.

Lift off for Tweedledum

Take off

Up, up and away

Finally, towards the end of the week, the serious business of flight dominated Tweedledum’s schedule, and eventually he plucked up the courage to go. His tracker showed that he left the nest at 6am on Sunday morning on 5 August. He was away, flying off above the forest and across to the edge of the plantation before coming to rest. He remained there for the rest of the day.

When volunteers came into the osprey centre on duty on Sunday they were concerned that there was no sign of him, especially when Dad brought fish back to the nest for Tweedledee and she fed herself. Perhaps the first flight was a bit daunting, and even hunger hadn’t convinced him to return to the nest until he was willing to try out his flight technique again. Those aerodynamic wings will give the bird great lift off and flight with little effort, but the tricky bit is learning to steer into landing sites, such as the nest or a tree top.

Meanwhile, back at the main nest without Tweedledum, the parents and his sister seemed unconcerned. This could have been because they knew where he was and could hear him calling close by.

No return

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SS and daughter Tweedledee waiting for Tweedledum to return

By Monday morning Tweedledum had still not returned to the nest site, and this was becoming worrying. His tracker had not updated and so he couldn’t be traced from his location at the edge of the forest. A quick search nearby was made, and three airborne ospreys were seen flying overhead. Knowing that Tweedledee was still in the nest, the conclusion was drawn that mum and dad were flying with their airborne son Tweedledum, and that thankfully all was well.

Right at the end of the day on Monday, Tweedledee also made her first flight, and a very brief visit back to the nest was made by Tweedledum. Since then, the young have stayed off the nest and only the parents were seen on there with a fish on Tuesday. Hopefully, they will use the nest for meal times, and we will be able to watch them for a while longer on the live camera before they leave us.

In memory of Robert

Sadly, one of our dear osprey volunteers Robert Jamieson has died. He was a great member of the volunteer team and loved the osprey project. He always gave his time so generously and made visitors to the centres welcome, telling them all the latest osprey news and updates. He will be greatly missed by all of us.

Getting ready for flight

Not long to go

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Proud parents with their young sitting in the nest

The chicks at the main nest are now in their seventh week. They are fully feathered, and look chunky and healthy. With only a week to go before they are ready for flight, we might have expected to see a lot more wing-stretching and flapping to test the wings out in recent days, while they have been sitting in the nest. However, with the recent very hot weather, they have been conserving their energy until it was needed.

The weather took a dramatic change, bringing us thunderstorms with lightning and torrential rain, which gave the chicks, Tweedledum and Tweedledee, something else to contend with. Mrs O no longer has to do the motherly umbrella over her young, as their own set of feathers are waterproof now too. They just had to sit it out and wait for the rain to stop, and for Dad to bring some fish in. Fishing must have been tricky for Dad (SS), with rain dappling the surface of the water and making visibility very difficult.

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A wing stretch for the young osprey

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Resting in the shade

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Sitting in a stormy downpour

SS feeds his son and daughter

SS not only brought a good fish in for his family, but he also fed the young birds himself. Mrs O is reaching the stage were her work is almost done, and she can relax her efforts a bit, as the chicks race towards adulthood and independence. SS still has a lot of work to do, and must continue to provide for his family even when the young birds fledge. He will bring fish back to the nest for them to return to and feed.

Once they are flying, the young birds will soon need to learn to find fish for themselves and master the most difficult part- actually catching them. This will all take time, and fortunately they will have back up from their Dad. It is usually the female bird that will leave the family more quickly. Mrs O will need to begin to prepare her own body for migration by building up her reserves, and getting into tip top condition ahead of her partner. SS has been continually hunting and fishing all summer, and must be very fit already, so his readiness for migration should take less time.

FK8, first time mum

FK8, the female tagged osprey from Tweed Valley that has nested in the Dornoch area has successfully raised one of her chicks. The other chick didn’t survive, but we don’t know what happened. The remaining youngster will be ringed and fitted with a tracker this week. The nest site that she has occupied is a very established site and has been productive for many years. FK8 is the new female at this monitored site.

Nobody knows what happened to the original bird but she never returned this year, and FK8 jumped in to take her place. She is possibly with the original resident male, or it could be a totally new pairing. As a first time mum, she has done well to raise one of her young to adulthood. We should hopefully have more news about her next week, and photos of her ringed offspring.

Return of PW3

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PW3 photographed in Kielder June 2018 courtesy of Mitch Teasdale

We have received some backdated news about a bird from Tweed Valley that has returned this year. PW3 is a male osprey raised here at one of the original nest sites, one that has been occupied since 1998. To date 34 ospreys have fledged from this nest location, making it one of the most productive nests in the area. PW3  fledged in 2016 and was one of a brood of three, with two sisters in the nest with him.

He was spotted on his migration in 2016, 45km south west of Paris, fishing at some lakes on his way south, but hadn’t been seen since. This summer, he was spotted and photographed at Bakethin Weir, Kielder Water by Mrs Mitch Teasdale on 25 June at 6.13pm, and her husband got a great photo of him. We know that he didn’t stay at Kielder though, because on 28 June he was again spotted back on home turf in the Borders, flying and fishing at St. Mary’s Loch in the Yarrow Valley. As a two year-old male he will be looking for territory for next year. That may well be in the Tweed Valley Osprey Project area, seeing as he is spending the summer here.

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PW3 photographed in France in 2016 on his first migration.

 

Tweedledum and Tweedledee – Tagged and ringed

Tweed Valley’s favourite chicks are ringed and tagged

Eve and tagged main nest chicks

Eve climbing back down the tree after replacing the tagged and ringed ospreys LL7 and LL6, who will be known as Tweedledum and Tweedledee.

The main nest chicks were 6 weeks old last week and so it was time for them to be fitted with their leg rings and the GPS trackers. Of all the ospreys in the Tweed Valley Osprey Project area it is the main nest chicks that tug at the heart strings the most, due to the connection via the live camera link. These youngsters have been watched and their fortunes followed since they first broke out of their eggs, and their life stories link back even further. We have followed the relationship between the two parent birds, Mrs O and SS, since they first got together last year.

mum dad and chicks

SS has a fish for his family

A Proud Dad

They have proved to be fine parents/ SS, the proud dad, is now 19 years old and these two youngsters bring his total number of chicks raised to adulthood to date to 29. This is his first brood of chicks with first-time mum Mrs O. In 2015, one of his chicks FX9 was fitted with a tracker, but the bird vanished after only a week from fledging and the device never transmitted any further signal.

Tags sponsored by Forest Holidays

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Dave Anderson fits the GPS Tracker

This year’s two special chicks will be the first of his extensive osprey offspring that we will be able to track. Forest Holidays have very kindly sponsored the tracking of these two chicks, and have paid for the data subscription for the next three years. This will mean that we can follow their migration journeys and their lives up to the point where they settle and begin to breed as adult birds. Two representatives from Forest Holidays (Pauline Lynch and Margaret Turner) were invited to watch the juveniles being fitted with their rings and trackers.

Eve Schulte climbed the nest tree and lowered the chicks to the ground to Tony Lightley, who fitted the blue coloured Darvic rings with digits LL6 for the female chick and LL7 for the male. Then Dave Anderson fitted the GPS trackers. This team from Forest Enterprise carried out the procedures under special licence from SNH and BTO as part of the ongoing monitoring of the ospreys for Tweed Valley Osprey Project.

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The fitted tracking device – a GPS Tag

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Tony Lightley with Forest Holidays staff Pauline Lynch and Margaret Turner, with the osprey chicks

Naming the birds

Forest Holidays invited members of the public to name the two chicks via an online vote, and the names selected are Tweedledum (LL7) for the male and Tweedledee (LL6) for the female. The names reflect their origins within the Tweed Valley, while also bringing to mind the curious little characters from Lewis Carroll’s book ‘Alice Through the Looking Glass.’ In fact, Carroll did not come up with the names – they were first penned in a poem by John Byrom, highlighting the petty squabbles between musicians. We have witnessed some squabbles in the nest between the two siblings, and now as soon-to-be adults, we hope that this pair will make a smooth transition into adulthood. We await their first tentative flights soon.

Handsome young male also tagged

A further young osprey from Tweed Valley Osprey Project area has also been fitted with a tracking device. This single chick in the nest identified by leg ring LK8 has been reared by parents who had three eggs in total, but two didn’t hatch. The un-hatched eggs are most likely attributable to the very hot summer leading to dehydration. This is the first osprey from this nest site to be fitted with a tracker, and it will be interesting to follow his progress and compare his life story to the main nest chicks from the same year as him.

LK8

Handsome LK8 will be tracked this year to monitor his progress

Releasing Tawny owls into the wild

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Eve releases a young tawny owl

Across the district, some young orphaned tawny owls have been released recently into vacant owl territories. The owls were rehabilitated by the SSPCA, Fishcross Centre, and Forest Enterprise staff Tony Lightley and Eve Schulte. They monitor the owls in the Forests, and were able to select sites for their safe release into the wild where previously occupied owl nest boxes had become vacant.

It was amazing to see these young birds make their first flights to freedom and into the wild. We hope that they manage to grow strong and establish themselves into their new territories, and maybe take up residence to breed in the boxes next year.

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Tony watches a young tawny owl fly to freedom

 

Osprey chicks are growing up

Chicks have changed over the past few days

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The chicks at the main nest have grown considerably in a matter of a few days. The changes in them are noticeable in the amount of feathering that is beginning to cover their bodies. Their heads now look more like little osprey heads, and they have the distinctive eye-stripe and white feather crest, with a ginger patch at the back of the neck indicative of juveniles.

Their wings and tail are still stubby in terms of any proper feather growth, and they are still quite wobbly in their movements around the nest. Their bellies are quite pronounced and after feeding a full crop bulges below the neck. These areas are still covered in the grey downy insulation, but they haven’t got the layer of true feathers on top of it yet.

Seeking shade

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Their days are mainly spent following mum around the nest to find shade, and she has been very obliging. Thankfully at around 4pm the sun comes around, and shade is created by the conifer tree behind them, so they can all take a break and mum can sit out on the perch and preen her feathers, to keep in condition.

A tidy nest

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Mrs O wants that stick gone from the middle of the nest

Mrs O has become quite the domestic goddess and has taken to nest tidying with zeal. Sometimes a wayward stick in the nest will take her attention, and she will endeavour to remove the unwanted trip hazard even if it is embedded deeply into the structure. She was seen pulling and tugging at a stick jutting out of the centre of the nest, but she couldn’t pull it out; it was half way out and lying across the back of one of the chicks. The other chick tried to be helpful and assist mum to remove it, but without success.

Eventually they gave up and left the stick alone, but throughout the week Mrs O went on a stick mission, collecting mossy branches from one side of the nest and moving them to another side. Still not satisfied, she would begin the removal process again, sometimes building up the sides and sometimes grabbing messy moss and removing it.

Taking turns

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SS has been bringing in plenty of fish for the family, and has been seen feeding the chicks himself with a curious Mrs O looking on. The feeding regime remains the same, with one chick fed first until it is full before the second chick gets fed.

The chicks are stretching and more mobile in the nest. There is some wing flapping beginning to happen, which the chicks do to begin strengthening the emerging flight muscles, but this is just gentle exercise so far. The chicks are curious about their surroundings too, and were peering over the edge of the nest, looking down to the forest floor with the whole family standing together in the top left hand side of the nest. We couldn’t see what had got their attention but it wasn’t causing them any alarm.

chicks 6th July

The Tweed Valley Project area has had mixed fortunes for ospreys this season so far, with a number of nests that have failed or not been occupied, so we are really lucky that the main nest pair and their young are doing so well. We hope that they will grow stronger, and they are just a few weeks off from fledging from the nest.

Disturbance

Some nest sites have been visited this year by people wanting to get a closer look and take photographs. Please be aware that the law regarding the protection of these birds is very strict. Any disturbance, intentional or not, can carry a fine of up to £5000 or a six month jail sentence. They are only visited for the purpose of monitoring, ringing or tagging, which is all done under special licence.

Summer shines on ospreys

Mrs O is a mobile sunshade

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In the scorching heat at the main nest, Mrs O is acting as a mobile sunshade for her two youngsters. Wherever she stands on the edge of the nest, she casts a shadow. Two little osprey bodies just about fit inside of it, keeping out of the glare of the sunshine. They have been seen panting in the heat, and one of the chicks was lying on its side motionless for a worryingly long period of time, which caused concerns that it had been overcome by heat stress. The other chick seemed to be dizzy at times, and stumbled about. It cannot have been comfortable sitting in the hot nest in direct sunlight in last week’s intense heat.

SS has been dutifully returning to the nest with large fish, and both chicks are now being well fed. The food also provides some much needed hydration for the pair. In one comical scene at the nest, Mrs O had fed the chicks and taken a good portion for herself, when SS, who had been dozing at the side of the nest, decided to have his share. Mrs O had to grudgingly give it up to her partner.

Intruder osprey photo-bombs domestic scene

superdad SS sees off intruder

The domestic scene was rudely interrupted during feeding time on 27 June when a cheeky male osprey flew onto the nest perch, causing alarm to the whole family. He had no leg rings, so we couldn’t identify him. He was calling, and dropping and flicking his wings, so SS immediately moved to the side of the nest below him, adopting a defensive posture and flicking his wings in agitation. SS then launched into the air towards him and chased the unwelcome guest away from the nest.

Mrs O casually resumed feeding of the chicks and seemed more than happy that SS could deal with the gate-crasher. It is good to see that their partnership is one of teamwork in their endeavour to raise their young.

Sibling bashing

sibling bashing

The chicks are growing well and there is now a substantial covering of emerging feathers, although they are not insulated enough to protect them from being too hot or too cold yet. They are both well fed, but occasionally if the parents leave them alone for a few minutes one of the chicks invariably squares up to the other one and viciously pecks at it. It was really pulling at the skin on its sibling’s back and was being quite brutal, until Mrs O returned and the squabble was instantly squashed.

Stinky nest

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The nest has been very messy, often strewn with fish debris after feeding. This has attracted scores of flies which can be seen constantly buzzing around the nest. To address this problem, fresh nesting material has been brought in, and dried grass was added to the bottom of the nest. Mrs O brought in fresh pine shoots and proceeded to have a tidy up and move sticks around. Presumably the pine scent would mask the fish smell and not attract the flies as much – an osprey air freshener minus the aerosol.

Home return

There has been a sighting of a returning Tweed Valley bird with ring number PW3 on 28 June. PW3 was seen flying in the Yarrow valley, near to Dryhope, and then on to St.Mary’s Loch. This bird fledged from a nest in 2016 in the Tweed Valley Project area, and it was spotted on migration just south of Paris on 10 September 2016 during the first migration to leave Scotland. This is the first we have heard about the bird since. It is really good to know that as a returning two year-old, this young osprey has chosen to come home to the Borders.

Pair bonding at the back up nest

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We are pleased that at back up no.2 nest, FK0 has paired up with an unringed female. and hes been seen bringing fish for her. They are bonding and have tidied the nest and scraped some of the grass away that had started growing on the top of it due to its vacancy as an unoccupied site this year. FK0 is another returning Borders bird and his partner is an unringed female, quite possibly the widow of the late 8C, as this was her nest site last year.

FK8 is a mum

And finally, saving the best news until last!

FK8 CHICKS

It has been confirmed that FK8 is nesting up north in the Dornoch area and has two chicks. This is the satellite tagged female that fledged from Tweed Valley back up nest no.2 in 2014 and was fitted with a satellite tracker. She spends her winters in Portugal and this is her first brood of chicks. Her chicks will also be fitted with trackers and for the first time we will be able to follow a mother and her offspring.

Changing fortunes

Struggling to find fish

The early part of last week was a difficult time for the osprey family at the main nest, as the aftermath of the wild and stormy weather had left the rivers in spate. SS had clearly been struggling to fish for his family. On Wednesday 20 May there were no fish brought in for the family to feed on. Mrs O seemed distressed, with the chicks were begging for food she could not provide. The chicks, at not much more than a week old, were feeble looking and weak. They had little in the way of down covering on their bodies, and their progress seemed to be in jeopardy.

Just in time

By Thursday morning (21 June), the weather had taken a turn for the better, with the start of the heat wave which has affected much of the UK over the past week or so. Here in the Tweed Valley, the rivers had begun to clear again, and ponds were settling after so much silt laden water had washed into them from the feeder burns. This gave SS the opening that he needed to get back on top of his game, and he did his family proud, returning to the nest with a large, gleaming trout at 10.47am.

Feeding time

Mrs O took the trout from SS and began to feed. In between mouthfuls for herself, she tore off strips to feed the stronger and larger of the two chicks. She fed this little one until it was full and sleepy, and then with still so much fish left, she turned her attention to the smaller chick and began to feed it. Eventually both chicks were full and restful.

SS took his portion of fish after his family were fed and satisfied. Later that same day, SS returned with more fish, and he was certainly making up for lost time – he began to feed the youngsters himself, while Mrs O took time out for some preening. The chicks were visibly stronger and more energised than the day before. After the first chick was full, it lay down on its side. The other chick fed and when it had had enough to eat, chick number one got up and come back over for seconds.

Don’t do it!

The week progressed into warm weather and scorching sunshine. The chicks ranged from being sleepy and still, to being far too adventurous – toddling about the nest using their budding wings as little stilts to enable them to clamber around. These little excursions led them to venture far too close to the edges on occasion. The doting parents had to use fish for a distraction, tempting the chicks back to safer footing. The mature birds began to pay more attention to their nest construction, moving sticks around and building up the edges into little safety barriers to prevent anybody toppling over the edge.

A sad loss

Sadly, for one osprey family in the Borders, two chicks did fall from the nest during the recent high winds. Thankfully, Mrs O and SS seem to have metaphorically ‘red taped’ the danger zone.

By the end of last week, the young ospreys had grown stronger. Their fluffy down coats are forming, with the onset of fully-fledged feathers not too distant. They no longer look feeble and weak, and their fortunes have rapidly turned around since the fish supply has picked up.

The journey’s end for PX1

We finally have news of PX1 whose satellite tracker alerted us to the fact that he had died in the north of Scotland near to the Helmsdale River. The carcass and tag have been recovered and it seems that his neck was broken. We believe this happened when he collided with newly erected deer fencing along the side of a new forestry plantation.

It is such a terrible shame to lose this wonderful, healthy, two year old male osprey. Jeremy Paxman was very saddened to hear of the loss of his bird, and we are very grateful to him for his interest and support for the Tweed Valley Osprey Project. Paxman has agreed that his involvement will continue in the future, hopefully through the tracking of further ospreys.

Volunteers watch goshawks being ringed

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Photo taken by Rhona Anderson. Goshawk male chick before ringing.

The volunteers for the osprey project were invited to attend the ringing of goshawk chicks this week in Tweed Valley Forest Park. They were privileged to witness them being fitted with red darvic rings with white letters of JP and PL by Tony Lightley, after Eve Schulte climbed the fir tree to lower them to the forest floor.

Delightful pine marten family in the Borders

Rhona Anderson took some great photos of these magnificent birds and she has also been continuing to film the pine martens in the forest. The captured footage of the whole pine marten family together and the antics of the three little kits with their mum and dad can be viewed at the following link: www.flickr.com/photos/borderslass/28099626057/in/photostream