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Hope made it

 

Hope has made it across the Sahara

The last report about Hope was that she had safely made it across the Alboran Sea and arrived in North Africa. Since then, she travelled down through Morocco and entered into dangerous Saharan territory. She headed into the desert and we have waited with baited breath to see if she would make it across such a harsh landscape after having journeyed so far. We don’t even know if she is capable of fishing for herself yet, as right up until the time she left the nest in Tweed Valley, her dad, white leg SS, was still supporting her with fish deliveries.

Lost for 6 days

On 13th September Hope’s signal was lost in the Western Sahara and for 6 days we had not had any tracking signal back and were beginning to fear that she had perished. To be the bearer of yet more bad news was not something to be relished. The sad reality of birds lost on migration is the difficult part of tracking young ospreys. Having spent a summer watching them grow and hoping to see them thrive once they leave their parents is nail-biting.

Time to celebrate

This time though, we can rejoice – the wait was worth it. On 19th September the tracking device burst back into life and delivered the data we had been waiting for! Hope did not perish in the desert – she has made an incredible trip and has almost reached Senegal.

Senegal and Gambia are pretty much on our wish list of ‘go to’ places for ospreys to migrate to.

Hope is almost there, and although not wanting to count any chickens before they have hatched yet, we’re feeling a lot more relieved that she is out of the desert and onto good osprey territory for a winter stay.

Fingers crossed for Hope.

SS is a super hero

When we track birds on migration and realise the stark reality of the high mortality rates, it makes it so much more incredible just how birds such as white leg SS and Mrs O make that migration multiple times with success. Especially SS, at 20 years old he is a very experienced world-wise traveller.

Hope near Senegal 19th September

Hope near to Senegal on 19th September

Hope flies high

Hope has left the United Kingdom!

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At last, some good news! Hope, the third young osprey from the main nest in Tweed Valley has started her migration, and safely made it out of the UK.

In our first update from Hope, we learned she had crossed France, and reached Spain on 9 September. At 9.43am Hope was flying at an altitude of 810m, at a leisurely speed of 8.72knots. Her journey took her over the major route of the A-15 south of Lekunberri, in the Basque Country of Spain.

High hopes for Hope!

Hope left the main Tweed Valley nest site at 5.50am on 5 September, where she was last seen on the nest. The day before, her dad, SS, had been bringing fish for her. The rest of the family had already gone, and tragically, her sister Luna had died in Dorset by the time Hope decided to migrate.

On her first day, she travelled a huge distance of 450km, followed by a shorter 31km journey on her second day, and then another epic 410km to leave the UK and travel down through France. It is very interesting that the route that she took through UK was so similar to her sister Luna’s, except that on reaching the south coast she went directly across the channel, where Luna had turned went west along the coast into Dorset.

Luna’s hesitance to leave the coast and cross the channel was probably weather driven. Fortune has favoured Hope, and she has made swift progress. We have everything crossed for her safe journey, and it will be really exciting to see where she spends her winter, if she can successfully complete this first migration journey.

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Hope’s journey so far (up to 9th September)

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A fast migration for Hope so far to Spain

Tweeddale ospreys have flown

All the ospreys have now left from the new nest site, which has been monitored by volunteer Stuart Blaik this season. They stayed as late as the main nest adult SS and his daughter Hope.

Loch Doon and the Tweed Valley grandsons

I was fortunate to visit the osprey site at Loch Doon at the weekend, where I saw one of our Tweed Valley ospreys’ great grandsons on the nest.

The poor young osprey was having a hard time, being harassed by two crows after his dad had delivered a fine fish for him. He never got to eat it though, as the two clever crows bombarded him so often that he lost his fight to defend it. He gave up, and gave chase, and even managed to steal back his fish from the crows. Nonetheless, they kept coming in and taking chunks of his meal.

It is a fantastic set up at Loch Doon in Dumfriesshire – they have a visitor centre with cameras on the nest for live viewing, and a lounge to sit in and drink good coffee whilst watching the nest, across the loch. Volunteers are on duty to tell visitors what is happening and to keep them informed, and the enthusiastic Roy, who was on duty when I visited, told us all about the birds and the osprey project there. It was really good to make links with sites to where Tweed Valley birds have dispersed, and are now breeding.

Another update from Hope!

This morning, we learned Hope has travelled down the west of Africa, having made a safe crossing over the Alboran Sea, leaving Spain yesterday.

Full details of her journey will follow soon!

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Tragedy for Luna

Very sad news

Luna never made it off English shores. She got as far as the Blandford Forum area of Dorset, where she roosted overnight. On her flight the next morning, tragically, she struck overhead power lines. She broke her wing and was taken to the vet, but was put to sleep as they couldn’t save her.

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Luna was recovered close to the power line shown in the google image . The red dot was her last tracked point.

Luna reaches the Big Smoke

Migration progress

Luna stopped overnight in the wooded valley beside the coast near to Lythe on 20 August, and the next day moved on again, continuing her way south to Lincolnshire. She flew 151 km, and stopped overnight near to Ulceby Cross, close to the A1104 road, in a woodland belt.

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Overnight roost for Luna in Yorkshire near to Lythe 19th August

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Heading south

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Crossing the Humber into Grimsby

On 21 August Luna left her latest roost and travelled a further 100km. She reached Fenton in Cambridgeshire where she spent the night in a tree near to the roundabout between the A141 and the B1040.

By 6.30 am on 22 August she was on the move again, heading to  St. Ives. She proceeded south east, crossing the Cambridgeshire countryside, down to Southend on Sea. At 4pm she crossed the Thames estuary and reached the Isle of Grain. She stopped beside the power station at Wallend on the Isle of Grain at 4pm on 22 August, having flown another 133 km of her first migration journey.

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Along the Wash and Cambridgeshire route

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Roost near to Ulceby Cross

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overnight roost 21st August

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To Southend On Sea

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Luna reaches the Isle of Grain

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Luna stops near to the power station close to Wallend , Isle Of Grain

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Last data point on 22nd August at 4pm by the power station

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Luna’s route through UK, not far to go before leaving us now

So far so good, and fingers crossed, she will be likely to leave the UK this weekend.

There has not been any news of Buzz, but it is likely that he has started his journey.  Although Hope’s tracker is not giving any information out, she was seen on the nest yesterday morning. SS was also there the day before, bringing a fish for her. Her solar-powered tracker is likely not getting charged up with enough sunlight, especially if she is just hanging around at the nest site .

More news as we get it!

Migration Starts

Luna flies south

The migration of the main nest’s young ospreys has begun.

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Luna left Tweed Valley, and her first stop was Minto

On 19 August at 3.15pm approximately, Luna, one of the main nest young ospreys left Tweed Valley and set off in a south easterly direction.

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Overnight in a tree north of Minto, in the Scottish Borders

The first part of her journey was a flight of 32.84 km to north of Minto in the Scottish Borders. She spent the night in a tree there, in a small woodland. She stopped at 18.23pm and stayed in the wood until the next morning, then began to move on again at 6.30am. She flew at a speed of between 5 and 20 knots, at a height of 580m above sea level. She flew continuously for four hours,  then at 10.30am on 19 August she rested briefly in a tree at 157m above sea level, before continuing her journey towards Newcastle.

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A well-earned rest stop after 4 hours of flying

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Out to sea beyond Newcastle

Luna flew out to sea leaving the mainland behind her, and traversed across the bay at Middlesbrough. She re-joined the mainland at 14.45 north of Goldsborough in East Yorkshire, and headed up a wooded valley above the coast to roost for the rest of the day and overnight. She had covered a distance of 168 km altogether on 19 August.

She stopped in the wooded area from about 15.46pm to 6am the following morning. From the image on Google Earth, the wood appears to flank a river where she may have fished as she moved around the area, before settling for the night.

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Luna re-joined the mainland and roosted in wooded riverline near Lythe

Her journey continued the next morning, and she had reached Newholm by 8am. She carried on going, heading steadily south east. The last GPS point for her migration received so far was on 20 August at 8.59am, north of Langdale End in Yorkshire.

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On to Newholm!

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The full journey so far

The other tagged young osprey is Luna’s sister Hope. Her data has not updated since 16 August, when it showed that she was still at the nest site in Tweed Valley. By now she could well be on her way, but we will have to wait for the data lag to catch up. Buzz, their brother may well have left by now too.

Season finale!

Sadly, this week is my last week for the summer osprey season… but it has been a great year at the main nest, and the three young ospreys are doing really well. They give the impression of feistiness and strength, especially when compared with last years young ones.

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The youngsters hanging out

There have been some superb name suggestions sent to us, and eventually, we decided on a lunar theme. Willie Mair and Rhona Young thought that it would be fitting to mark the anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing anniversary, as we had already celebrated a 20th anniversary for SS this year.

We have chosen the name Luna for osprey 301, to mark the lunar landing. Hope will be the name for 303, from Lorna’s suggestion, while the male osprey 302 will be called Buzz, in honour of Buzz Aldrin (not Buzz Lightyear!). Thank you to all those who took the time to offer suggestions, as that was much appreciated!

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Luna, Hope and Buzz

As the season draws to a close, we haven’t seen Mrs O for a few days. We think that she may have left for southern winter skies already. She has done an absolutely brilliant job raising three young with her partner, white leg SS. He is definitely still around, and his visits to the nest involve only the briefest touchdown to deposit a fish for one of his offspring, then he alights and is away again in the blink of an eye. We hope, very much, that we will see him back next year, partnered with Mrs O for another successful season.

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Mrs O with feathers sticking up and Hope on the nest, both eating fish

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Mrs O shows off her feather spoilers

As for the three young ospreys, they are still hanging out at the nest to feed. The last view of Mrs O at the nest was 7 August, when she arrived with a fish. 303 (Hope) was already eating fish on the nest. They both sat there eating, Mrs O up on the perch and Hope on the nest. Mrs O had two feathers on either side sticking right up, looking like the spoilers on a sporty car. Is this the tail end of her summer moult before she takes flight?

Later that day, 302 (Buzz) was sitting alone on the post when a jay decided to visit. The little jay hopped about while Buzz watched, and then both sat at opposite sides of the nest on the perches quite contentedly.

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Buzz has the fish, Hope  and Luna stare upwards, watching SS in case he has more fish.

On 8 August all three young birds were seen at the nest together, tracking a bird flying in the sky above them. They were dropping their wings and flicking them and calling excitedly. A fish was brought in and dropped off to them, we think by SS, but as it happened in a flash, it was hard to see and then he was gone again.

Buzz grabbed the fish, which was only small but very much still alive and flapping about. He was unsure what to do, and tried to hold it down to keep his sister Hope, from making a steal. The fish had smudge markings down its flanks and was possibly a parr. It looked golden in colour, as the light caught it. Buzz was definitely not up for sharing, especially when Luna made an appearance at the nest with a flying swoop as she dropped in.

Luna landing

Luna landing

Buzz kept walking around the edge of the nest, keeping the fish away from his sisters. His strategy was to hold it down in his talons until it weakened before he attempted to eat it.

The adult bird was flying around the nest above them, and they kept looking skyward, the sisters undecided as to whether they should keep watching dad in case he had some more fish, or to keep watch on their brother, in case he let go of his.

Buzz with trout parr

Buzz with the parr

The centres will remain open until the end of August, allowing visitors to catch a few last glimpses of the family before they leave. This week’s highlight from the nest are over on YouTube – click the image below to play.

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This week’s highlights

There is a lovely film which shows the whole summer season, from Mrs O and SS arriving in the spring, to the laying of the eggs, incubation, hatching, and the patient rearing of the three chicks, showing how they developed week by week until fledging.

Thank you to all the volunteers for the Tweed Valley Osprey Project, and our project supporters. The volunteers do a fantastic job keeping a watch on the nest and recording everything that is happening. They greet all the visitors to the centres, and make a visit so pleasant with tales of what the birds have been up to, always ready with a cheery smile and such enthusiasm.

Once the birds begin their migration, I will send in some updates to let everyone know how they are doing. We all wish them a safe journey and a long and happy life. Bye bye until next year!

– Diane Bennett

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The  SS birthday cake by Emma’s Cakes of Kelso and left to right: Diane Bennett, Lady Angela Buchan Hepburn, Tony Lightley, Lynne Mitchell, Eve Schulte, Iain Coates and Norma Coates (Photo Courtesy of Peeblesshire news)

 

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TVOP fabulous osprey volunteers and supporters (photo courtesy of Peeblesshire news)

 

All about survival…

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Mrs O and her three young but very grown up ospreys.

All three young ospreys from the main nest are now flying, and the good news is that they are returning to the nest to feed. Mrs O and SS are still here, and SS is still bringing fish back for the young offspring, but there is a definite shift in the attitudes and personalities of the three young birds. By far the most assertive is now 302, the young male. He was the underdog of the brood while growing up, but he is most certainly making up for lost time now.

SS looks to camera as his son takes the fish

302 takes the fish as SS looks straight into the camera, Mrs O is in the foreground with her back to camera and 301 is on the perch. 303 is not at the nest.

Each fish delivery from SS is swooped upon by his son, as he claims it for himself, mantling over the prey and turning his back on his sisters. The two sisters are very much at odds with each other as well, and the rivalry tips over into all-out battle at times, as we witnessed on 1 August.

Male osprey 302 had seized the advantage and was feeding on a fish, with his sisters in the background, when an almighty barney broke out between them all. It started when 303 made a move towards 302’s side of the nest. This ignited a furious reaction from 301, who flew at her and with wings outstretched and talons flying, as she tried to push her sister from the nest.

She fought back admirably and the two birds tussled back and forth, teetering on the edge of the nest for quite some time. Then 303 pushed the advantage and started to force her way back into the nest area, wings outstretched, jumping up as they pushed and shoved each other. Meanwhile young 302 kept his head down, stayed out of the trouble and ate the fish. Like father like son!

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Most often, we see 302 and 301 sitting at the nest together waiting for food. Attempts to join them by 303 are thwarted with clumsy landings, aborted at the last minute, as she overflies the nest.

There is a very definite air of fighting for survival between the young birds. Time is drawing near for their mother to leave them, and soon they will be alone to fend for themselves. The feisty attitude of 302 and 301 stands them in good stead but 303 needs to up her game if she is to survive. She needs to deal with rivalry, defend herself and feed herself. With a little more experience, and the sharp edge of hunger gnawing at her core, she will no doubt learn fast as her survival instinct kicks in. She had it easy on the nest while growing up, with fish delivery by her dad, followed by Mrs O gently feeding her, but there is no such luxury now. If fish is brought in, it is a race to be the first to grab it. So far, 302 has used this to his advantage and 303 has been a bit slow.

All three birds are not always present on the nest together as they are flying and exploring their surroundings, so it was good to see that SS delivered a fish to the nest when 303 was the only young bird there on Monday 4 August. She got to handle the whole fish without competition as Mrs O sat up on the perch above her.

Each meal time is now a contest when all three are present, and there is an element of survival of the fittest. Overall they seem to be very feisty, fit and healthy, and hopefully will do well when the time comes for them to leave.

Encountering rivalry, competition and territory battles at this young stage is not a bad thing on their journey to adulthood, because all too soon, once they are adult birds, they will have to deal with contests to win a mate and nest sites, if they are to be successful and breed in future years.

20190802_13-11-47Mrs O and all waiting for dad and calling

Mrs O and her young chips off the old block – just look at those facial expressions! Reminiscent of Mrs O and her squawking days.

The satellite tags so far have illustrated that although both sisters have flown from the nest site, neither have ventured outside of the protective environs of their forest home. The greatest distance achieved from the nest so far has been 800m. But both have taken little forays in all directions around the area, not too far from the safety of the nest location.

A cheeky little jay popped onto Mrs O’s favourite perch on Sunday to see if there may be any scraps to eat, it was a short visit and he soon left.

The osprey nest tree is a Scots pine, and the pine needles have turned brown, with the crown showing signs of die back. The tree doesn’t look in very good condition, and it has held this nest for 22 years. At the end of this season the environment team will take a look at it to assess its condition for next year. It may require some struts and support but at some point, it looks like a new site may have to be created for the main nest pair.

dying nest tree

The pine needles on the nest tree are yellowed and it looks like the tree is dying.

We’ve made a short film of the highlights from the 2019 season. Take a look here, or click the image below. Thank you for following the journey of our young osprey family!

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Tweed Valley Ospreys 2019