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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.

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Forest ventures

The Tweed Valley satellite tracked young osprey FK8, has expanded her home ranging to check out other forests in the Tweed Valley. Most of the time she wanders not too far from her eyrie but every now and then she takes herself off for a trip further afield.
On 14th August she visited the Kirkhouse Forest and was tracked there at 7.53am, then she ventured across to Cardrona Forest where her transmitter recorded her as being there at 8.50am.

eagle's journey

On 15th August she went on a big circular loop, east of Walkerburn, at 11.32am venturing across the River Tweed and then north to north east almost as far as Windlestraw Law in the Moorfoot hills, before taking a south westerly direction across the top of Caberston Forest, returning to cross the Tweed again just west of Walkerburn at 11.55am. The next data record gives her as being up in the hills above Yarrow Kirk at 13.24pm which is south of the River Tweed and into the next valley.

map of eagle's journey

It’s interesting to consider her motivation for these trips. She doesn’t apparently seem to be seeking out water courses or lochs from what the data is showing. So is she sitting at the eyrie feeling rather hungry and in the absence of her parents, deciding to wander around and explore her surroundings to familiarise herself with the terrain? Does she go looking for her Dad when he is off hunting and has her mum left already? We just don’t know.

Tough love

Tough love is the order of the day for motivating the young ospreys to move beyond the home zone as fish are brought in less frequently by the male and hunger will drive them off the nest. However, it seems that she has not found St Mary’s Loch or Megget Water in the Yarrow Valley yet. There have been no significant trips along the River Tweed. Does this mean that she is not following Dad to learn how to hunt as we always have considered in the past and she is still relying on free dinners being brought in from him at the moment? So when will she begin learning the necessary skills for life in hunting and catching fish at big water bodies and rivers?

For the first time ever, we are getting an insight into how a young osprey in the Tweed Valley behaves once she has fledged. We will be able to establish the exact date that she begins her journey south to migrate to Africa and we will be able to follow her across the world for the next 4 years providing she survives the hazardous migration that she will soon embark upon.

main eagle nest site

Main nest site

Our usual Tweed Valley osprey star, white leg ring SS, has remained in the area all summer and has regularly been spotted on the main nest site where tragically he lost his three young chicks and his lifelong mate this year.

Hot property

This site has become hot property and there have been siting’s of other prospecting ospreys throughout the summer. The most exciting visit was the blue ringed male osprey with letters LT. He was hatched from the nest we call the ‘back up’ nest in 2009 and sadly, for the first time in over 10 years, his parents did not return.

injured eagle

LT returned from Africa in 2011 and got into difficulty, which resulted in a visit to Two Rivers vets in Peebles followed by a fortnight in South of Scotland Wildlife Hospital, and was released from his original nest site in September 2011. He has returned this year and although he hasn’t got a territory of his own yet, he seems to have made the Scottish Borders his preferred summer residence.

Frustration nest

Another osprey nest has been built within 2km of the main nest site. This has been built by birds in the area and it could either be what is known as a ‘frustration nest’ built by white leg SS or a new site built by LT. It has not been used for raising a family as the season was far too late by the time it was built, but it will be interesting to see what happens next year.

Thanks for reading!
Diane Bennett
Tweedvalleyospreys@gmail.com

First Borders osprey satellite tagged

This week’s been a very special one for the ospreys of Tweed Valley. The female chick on the back up nest being monitored on camera has been fitted with a GPS satellite transmitter. Roy Dennis from the Highland Foundation for Wildlife and Dave Anderson from Forestry Commission Scotland, based at Aberfoyle, travelled to the Borders to carry out the task of fitting this specialised tracking kit to the young bird.

Tony Lightley, the Heritage and Conservation Manager for FCS, South of Scotland District had organised for this to be carried out, as well as for fitting the young birds with the alpha numeric Darvic rings for identification in the field.

satellite tagging the female osprey

Follow the bird

The small transmitter was fitted like a small back pack to be carried between her shoulders. The device is held in place by webbing stitched together by cotton which should hold for the length of the satellite transmitter battery lifetime of 4 years. The battery itself is solar powered and transmits a GPS location of the bird anywhere in the world. Roy Dennis, the leading authority on ospreys in the UK, will receive the details of all of the bird’s movements and present the findings in regular updates on his Highland Foundation for Wildlife website, where we will all be able to follow this very special bird’s journey.

The website also has details of all the other satellite tagged birds currently being monitored, including a Golden Eagle named Roxy that originated in Galloway but has chosen territory in the Borders to range in for the past few years, but has not successfully bred yet.

Colour Darvics

The ‘back up’ nest chicks have been fitted with the BTO rings on their right legs and Darvic rings on their left legs. The female with the satellite tag has leg ring FK8 and the male is leg ring FK7 in white lettering on a blue background.

fk 8 again

Fledged and exploring

The chicks have fledged but are still using the nest site to feed. The latest footage retrieved from the camera revealed the male chick doing comedy bounces and wing flaps prior to his first trip from the nest. The most amazing information has been transmitted back from FK8’s transmitter that she’s made a maiden flight trip to check out the River Tweed.

It‘ll be fascinating to follow her journey and to find out for the first time ever, exactly where an osprey from Tweed Valley goes to on her migration and the route that she takes. We’ll find out where she stops over for breaks and fishing trips and how long it takes for her to reach her over-wintering destination.

Migration

It’ll be a few weeks yet before the ospreys migrate to Africa for the winter. In the meantime it’ll be interesting to see just how far the young female osprey goes to explore her surroundings and to learn to hunt before the big trip.

Holding on

The camera link to the main nest is still live and is being checked regularly for any signs of osprey activity there. This has revealed that white leg SS is still around and the new female is still sticking close by him. Both where briefly at the nest on Monday, he was in the nest and she was on the perch. He was still displaying mantling behaviour and seems very unsettled by her presence but undeterred, when he flew off, she followed him in hot pursuit!

The visitor centres

Both centres at Glentress Forest and Kailzie Gardens have the latest footage from the new ‘back up’ nest on the screens so that visitors can see the chicks before they fledged and being fed by mum (green ring N0) after Dad, (yellow ring 8C) drops in a good sized fish.

Close observation will reveal the small aerial sticking up from the satellite transmitter back pack on the female chick. This is a very fine and flexible wire which bends and flips back into place so that it cannot become snagged on anything as the bird dives into water and flies about.

Thanks for reading!

Diane Bennett

tweedvalleyospreys@gmail.com

New screen stars are a hit

The new osprey pair are proving to be a real hit with visitors to the centres, and footage from the new ‘back up’ nest site shows the two handsome chicks are growing up fast. The ringed adult birds are absolutely, stunningly beautiful. The male bird is a powerful and proficient hunter and he is bringing in good sized fish which he passes straight over to the female which she uses to feed the hungry young ospreys straight away.

Family of ospreys

Home grown borders boy

We now have confirmation about the leg ring on the male bird and have discovered that yellow 8C is a bird which fledged from our number 1 ‘back up nest’ in 2004, in the Tweed Valley Project Area.
This is great news to know that birds born in the Scottish Borders are returning to breed in the area, and another proven success for the Tweed Valley Osprey Project.
We are still waiting to hear where the green ringed partner of yellow 8C has come from. We believe that the green rings date from the year 2005, but records so far reveal that she is not a Borderer! Maybe she is a Highlander, an English or Welsh bird. It will be interesting to find out and also it’s a good thing to strengthen the gene pool, to have local birds breeding with birds from outside the area too.

Blue ringed osprey

Buenos dias

We ’ve had delightful news that one of the osprey chicks ringed at the ‘Back up 1’, nest site last year has been photographed on a sunny beach on the River Tinto, Huelva in Spain this summer.
The juvenile osprey has been fitted with a blue Darvic ring bearing the digits CL9 in white lettering. He is now a fully grown and magnificent looking adult, and – as can be seen from the photograph – is looking very fit and healthy while enjoying a summer break as a one year old bird. Next summer he may well look for territory for breeding and so it will be interesting to find out if he returns to Spain or heads back to the Borders.
Another Borders bred osprey has been spotted this summer over in County Wicklow in Ireland. This bird, bearing the blue Darvic ring CL1, was ringed in 2012 and his safe migration to Ireland really is very good news.

Egg science

A few weeks ago I reported that a failed egg on the ‘back up 2’ nest site had been analysed and revealed a second shell layer over the top of the egg which it would seem prevented the osprey chick from breaking out. We had never encountered anything like this before but one of the volunteers within the osprey project, John Savory, has a science background and revealed that research into egg abnormalities shows that eggs can sometimes have double layers due to prolonged delay in laying of the egg. This, as far as we know has not been encountered in wild birds before.

Heron siesta

The heron nest has become something of a sunny afternoon hammock for a sleepy heron taking afternoon siestas. It looks like it’s one of the adult birds as it has the distinct long, black head plumes and feathery chest finery which the young bird hasn’t grown yet.

Thanks for reading!
Diane Bennett
Tweedvalleyospreys@gmail.com

An exciting new discovery

ospreyfishingangusblackburn

Photograph courtesy of Angus Blackburn

At last we have some exciting and happy news from the Tweed Valley Osprey Project. One of the monitored ‘back up’ nests within the project area has had its camera switched on and we are able to extract footage from it to check the progress of the family of ospreys at this nest site.

Ringed adult birds

Both of the adult birds at this site are ringed birds, the male has a yellow Darvic ring 8C and the female has a green ring with letters NO. The yellow Darvic ring is very clear from the filming but the green ring is harder to read, so the lettering will need to be confirmed once we have more footage from the site. There are two lovely healthy and large chicks, and the footage has been installed on the screens at the two centres of Kailzie Gardens and Glentress Wildwatch Room.

Yellow ringed osprey

Over the next few weeks we will be able to monitor the progress and bring regular updated film footage for the centres, until the chicks fledge. This is a very exciting twist for this year’s season, following the tragedy of losing our female and the chicks from the main nest. We now have some positive osprey breeding, a chance to watch this family and to find out where the parents originated from and how old they are.

Borders regulars

This pair of birds has been recorded in the Borders before, but it was not known that they were paired together or that they were the parents present at this nest site, so it’s fantastic information to find out. Yellow 8C was photographed fishing in the Yarrow Valley around five years ago by professional photographer Angus Blackburn. Angus took this remarkable photograph which was published in the Daily Mail, and we also used the photograph in the new Tweed Valley Osprey Book called Osprey Time Flies along with lots of other super photographs that he took for the osprey project. It’s great that we now know where yellow 8C is nesting and can confirm that he’s a successful breeding bird. The green ringed bird has also previously been photographed while fishing in the Yarrow Valley by Willie McCulloch in 2008 and this photograph was donated to the Tweed Valley Osprey Project . It’s framed for people to see it at Kailzie Osprey and Nature Watch Centre.

Green ringed osprey

Osprey Time Flies

The Osprey Time Flies book has been distributed to all of the primary schools in the Tweeddale area so that every child has a copy and can find out about the remarkable ospreys living in the Tweed Valley at secret nest locations.
Copies are available from Kailzie Gardens Osprey and Nature Watch and from Glentress Wildwatch, when there is a volunteer on duty. We would like to thank those that have so generously made donations to the Tweed Valley Osprey Project for a copy of the book. All money raised is used for the upkeep of this project, which is a not for profit partnership.
More wildlife news
The buzzards have now fledged at Glentress and are away from the nest site now. The herons at Kailzie are using the nest site as a base from time to time and we have seen both adults and the young bird loafing at the site and preening. A very delighted volunteer, Lynn Walker, witnessed a little red squirrel checking out the nest and then taking a snooze in the middle of the nest in the sunshine! It stayed for quite a while until a disgruntled heron trundled along and disturbed it.

Over the coming weeks more footage from the osprey ‘back up’ nest will be brought in to the centres and both centres will be open daily for viewing. We hope to see many visitors to come and enjoy viewing the new osprey family.

Thanks for reading!
Diane Bennett
Tweedvalleyospreys@gmail.com

Forming a new bond at the main osprey nest

The main osprey nest eyrie stands empty for most of the time which is a sad reminder as to the great loss to the project, of the osprey mum who had reared 26 osprey chicks from this site with her partner, white leg ring SS, during 10 successful years together.

Now that she has gone and the chicks from this season have perished we are witnessing the new female being quite determined to stick around with white leg SS. Things seemed to have settled down between the two birds and although there have been no signs of affection between them there does appear to be a growing bond. SS has been seen returning to the nest almost daily with a half-eaten fish in his talons. No sooner has he landed, when the new bird appears and takes the fish from him and then flies off with it. He flies away moments later too. He doesn’t exactly give the fish to her but he doesn’t try to prevent this happening either.

So what is happening here? Is a slow bond between them beginning to grow? He has no choice really at this stage in the season if he wants to hold the territory for next year. It seems likely that there will be a lot of territory bids next year when at the start of the season this nest site will be much in demand and the most dominant and strongest of the ospreys around will take it on. SS will be the victor if he has a strong partner and this new female could well be the bird for the job. If she is young and inexperienced she may be seen off and SS could find another partner, or an already bonded pair could potentially usurp SS. It will be interesting to watch and it is highly unlikely that this will remain a vacant nest site.

Buzzards

The buzzard family at Glentress are almost ready to fledge and we witnessed the female delivering a young rabbit for her 3 large nestlings and then she fed them. They are beautiful birds and will no doubt be heard from the Wildwatch room once they fledge as they are likely to roam the woodland area above the centre and call for food. After fledging they will depend on the parents to provide for them until they are forced to hunt for themselves, this will happen once the parents stop feeding them and leave them to get on with it. They will then have to seek out hunting territory of their own, as they do not migrate and will have to become proficient hunters and scavengers to make it through cold, long winters, here in the Borders.

Swarmed

The bees at Glentress in the viewing hive have swarmed. The queen for whatever reason led the whole colony from the hive and they left. We don’t know where they have gone to but hopefully they will have found a good old hollow tree to begin a new hive. Replacement bees are settling in to the viewing hive and it will be interesting to watch them setting up their new colony.

wildflower

Wildflowers

The wild flowers around the whole of the Glentress Peel site are absolutely stunning and are quite literally buzzing with bees and insect life. Big swathes of wildflower meadows such as this are so important for wildlife, a great nectar source and a great protein source for birds feeding on the insects too.

Herons

The heron chick fledged successfully from the nest and we have been delighted to see one of the adult birds popping into the nest site, as well as some return visits from the young heron. On the river camera, we have watched both the young heron and the adult, coming down to the Tweed to fish.

Visitor Centres

Both of the centres are open daily throughout the summer and at Kailzie there is recorded footage of all the 2014 tragedy and drama with the osprey family, as well short films from the osprey chick ringing from last year with the children of St. Ronan’s Primary School. There are highlights from happier times when the pair had young chicks and various film clips. Volunteers are on hand to give the latest news and show the clips to explain all of the bird behaviour too.

Volunteers at Glentress, when on duty are available to interpret what is happening on the wildlife cameras and there are great views to be had of the bird feeder cameras showing delightful antics of the siskins feeding on the niger seeds.
Osprey Time Flies

The ‘Osprey Time Flies’, Tweed Valley Osprey 10th anniversary book is available from the centres too, and we hope to raise money for the continuation of the Tweed Valley Osprey Project from donations for copies of the book. Thank you very much to those who have given so generously already.

Diane Bennett.
Tweed Valley Osprey Project Officer
Tweedvalleyospreys@gmail.com

A sad loss

Another week has passed and still no sign of the original female osprey. The saga at the nest site has become, at times uncomfortable to watch. The male bird white leg SS, (a firm favourite of mine in the avian world) has always been described by me as such a fine bird, a devoted and loving partner to his female. For over ten years we have watched the calm and peaceful private life played out on our screens at the two centres between the pair of ospreys. We have tried to resist attributing human emotions to their behaviour traits but this has been hard to do when we have witnessed them cuddled up together, or we have seen the male feeding the female with all the same level of gentleness that would be used when feeding delicate and fragile chicks. We have witnessed the pair making joint decisions about the layout of the nest adornments of sticks and moss and watched them present a united front against any other intruder birds.

Now that she has gone and we think that she may have died, as she would not abandon her home and family by choice, we are witnessing scenes of passively aggressive take-over. Powerful and emotive words to describe wild animal behaviour and a little over the top some may think but we have a situation whereby the male seems to be being pushed into a new partnership, like it or not.

New female sets sights on SS

New female sets sights on SS

Moving on

All he has ever known is to hold this territory over the summer and raise a family with his partner. It is what he has done all of his adult life and he is now 16 years old.
The new female has moved herself in, uninvited, I might add! She has pursued the male despite his defensive posturing, and turning his back to her. She knows this is a great site, that he is a loyal partner, proficient provider of fish, has fathered many offspring successfully and holds the best territory in the valley. She wants the nest site and she wants him! Mr Blue Leg Ring that she had appeared to be with seems to have been dumped.
I feel so sorry for White leg SS, as he seems to have no option but to stick with her. He cannot lose his territory and his own partner has disappeared. His instincts will be to try to keep the site, he cannot keep it on his own and the new female is doing all she can to make her presence a permanent one. She beseechingly calls to him when they are both there. A reluctant truce seems to be taking place as he returns to the site and instead of the usual pattern of him delivering a fish to his partner, this new bird snatches it from him, leaving him looking a little bemused. She grabs the fish from him and then flies off and he usually takes off too. This is hardly the romantic fish pass, touching talons kind of moment…it’s more of a smash and grab.

What will happen next?

We have no idea how this will develop, it’s now probably too late for this season for any more eggs, so this female has missed her chance to breed most likely but by staying with SS a bond could develop and next season, if they both make it back to this nest site, the chances are that SS will breed with her. It is also equally likely that a new pair could force them off and take over the site as their own. So all we can do is watch and see what will happen.
We are hoping that maybe we can obtain recordings from the ‘back up’ osprey nest for the rest of this season to see how that family is getting on.

 SS turns back to new female

SS turns back to new female

Glentress Buzzards

We also have a live camera on a buzzard nest, with three chicks at Glentress and these are proving very interesting to watch. There is considerable size difference between the three chicks. The largest seems almost ready to take flight and has been seen exercising the soon to be tested pair of wings, while the two smaller chicks don’t appear to be ready yet.
One of the parents dropped in a black bird, possibly a jackdaw as food for the brood and they were seen tucking into a good meal. Buzzards do fairly well from road kills and scavenging as well as hunting and will eat a varied diet, often seen down on the ground hunting for earthworms. Not terribly raptor like or fierce really, it’s a bit of a wildlife let-down, a slight disappointment even, to see a buzzard hopping round a field looking for earthworms.

Heron takes to the skies

The heron chick at Kailzie has finally flown!  We were worried that it was going to stay at the nest indefinitely, that it was hoping mum and dad would continue to feed it. Hunger has probably driven the young bird to leave the nest and test out its wings. We watched the arrival of a young heron on the river camera checking out the slack water where the burn runs into the Tweed and we hope that this is the youngster from the nest that we have been watching.

Thanks for reading.

Diane Bennett,
Tweed Valley Osprey Project Officer.
Tweedvalleyospreys@gmail.com