Tag Archives: St. Ronan’s Primary School

Osprey Time Flies – 10 years of osprey in the Tweed Valley

It has been a time of celebration in the Tweed Valley, as not only have the main nest pair of ospreys returned for their eleventh season together and have just hatched out three beautiful chicks, but the conclusion of the tenth anniversary celebrations of this nesting pair was held at St. Ronan’s Primary School on Tuesday 27th May.

The honoured pupils that had taken part in the project to create a tenth anniversary book to mark the birds tenth year together were joined by osprey volunteers, project partners for Tweed valley Osprey Project from Forestry Commission Scotland, Kailzie Gardens and the Friends of Kailzie Wildlife to launch the new book, ‘Osprey Time Flies, 10 years of Osprey in the Tweed Valley’.

The children had taken part in the project last summer to learn all about the ospreys in the heart of the Tweed Valley, which have been nesting successfully and making a significant impact on the regeneration of the osprey population in the Scottish Borders. The pupils worked with the Tweed Valley Osprey Project Officer, Diane Bennett and the Kailzie Wildlife Project Officer, Rachel McAleese to undertake workshops, writing, artwork, games, video diaries and interviews all about ospreys.

A Tale of Two Ospreys

The work by the children was used to complement telling the story of this remarkable pair of ospreys and what has happened each year since their first successful brood was raised here. It’s a touching tale about two birds which migrate each year to Africa and return to the same eyrie in the Tweed Valley Forest Park to raise a family each summer. These birds have been watched on ‘live camera’ at the two osprey watch centres at Glentress Forest and Kailzie Gardens and they have delighted viewers over the years by allowing such an insight into their private life. We have gained so much knowledge and certainly a deep fondness for these birds as we have watched the intimate osprey moments relayed through live images back to our screens. We have shared their joy as the chicks fledge each year and we have witnessed the stress of intruder birds causing a threat to family life, storms battering the towering nest structure with a parent bird sheltering the young and marvelled at the hunting prowess of the male as he dutifully brings fish to feed his family.

The children who took part in the project were mostly in their tenth year and we were able to reflect on each year of their lives and the corresponding events that took place at the osprey nest. The children’s work for the book finished last summer with a privileged, ‘once in a lifetime’ trip to the osprey nest to see the birds being fitted with their leg rings by a licensed ringer from the Forestry Commission Scotland, Tony Lightley.

Time to celebrate

The celebration evening culminated in a chance to re-live the experience by watching the film of the bird ringing and of the children playing the osprey migration game. Each child received a copy of the book, ‘Osprey Time Flies’ and a special presentation copy of the film, as well as a photograph taken with the ospreys during the ringing. It’s hoped that the children will hold ospreys in a special place in their hearts and become their conservation champions in the future.

St. Ronan’s head teacher, Keith Belleville was delighted to see the work of the pupils in print.  “We were very privileged to have been asked to take part in this unique project and I know that the memory of being involved will live on with the children.  This is an excellent example of schools working in partnership with the community and taking, not just outdoors, but into the wild,” he said.

Osprey Time Flies Book

There are 10,000 copies of the book which will be issued free to each family in the Tweeddale schools over the coming weeks. The rest of the books will be available from the osprey centres and a few chosen outlets and we would welcome a donation towards the Tweed Valley Osprey Project from anybody wanting a copy of the book. The osprey project is a not for profit project and all funds raised are used towards keeping the project going.
We are extremely grateful to Lemon Digital Design in Peebles for helping to produce this book and for their inspiration, design and tireless enthusiasm throughout the project.
The whole project was made possible with funding from Awards for All Scotland.

Thanks for reading!
Diane Bennett, Tweed Valley Osprey Project Officer.

A Trio of Chicks

We have fantastic news that all three eggs have hatched and there are now three very healthy looking chicks for the doting parents of this pair in their eleventh season together at the main nest site. The first two chicks hatched on the 29th May, hatching of the second chick was watched live on screen by the volunteer on duty mid-afternoon and then the third chick hatched out in spectacular style on 1st June. Part of the egg could be seen, although slightly obscured by the nesting material, movement was noticed, followed by the emergence of a chick who seemed to break free at lightning speed with a ‘ta dah,’ entrance into the world!

The parents were having a touching moment where the male was busy feeding his partner and both seemed to not even notice the arrival of number three, despite the flourishing birth scene.

After the female had eaten enough fish, she took the remaining portion from white leg SS and began to feed the young chicks. The two older chicks were very hungry but the new arrival did not seem too interested in feeding.

3 osprey chicks feeding

To play dead or not to play dead?

A fascinating scene played out a little later on where another bird was pestering the parents at the nest. The ospreys both positioned themselves into the nest with the chicks in the middle and we could see the shadow of a large bird repeatedly flying over the nest. The parents were extremely upset and were alarm calling and posturing but all the while they resisted the temptation to leave the site to deal with the intruder. They are very experienced parents and they instinctively defended their chicks by sticking with them and guarding them, as to leave and give chase would place the chicks in very real harm. Leaving the chicks would expose them to predation from any other lurking chancer such as a crow, squirrel, jay, buzzard or passing sparrowhawk.

We have witnessed scenes of intruder birds harassing the parents at the nest many times over the years, often it is a another harmless, nosey osprey checking out the territory but always we have noted the behaviour of the chicks to be the defensive ‘play dead’ position in the nest when there is danger. However, at just a couple of days old, these young chicks did not play dead but were sitting upright with necks outstretched as though mum and dad were about to feed them. This begs the question – is fear a learned behaviour? As the chicks grow, is it instinct or do the parents teach the young to play dead?
We are always learning more about these birds and their behaviour and each season brings new surprises.

Hapless Heron

At the heron nest site there remains one young heron, now adult sized but we have not seen any indication of fledging. The bird wanders around the nesting area through the branches of the trees but there has been no serious effort in wing stretching and developing those flight muscles. There has also been no sign of parent birds feeding the youngster either, although it may be that this happens before the cameras come on. Worryingly though, it does appear to be fairly lethargic and so we hope that it will be ok.

book kids

Osprey Time Flies

The much awaited celebration book, ‘Osprey Time Flies, 10 years of osprey in the Tweed Valley’ has now been launched and this has been part of a collaborative project with St. Ronan’s Primary School, The Tweed Valley Osprey Project and The Friends of Kailzie Wildlife, this was made possible with funding for its production from Awards 4All Scotland.

A Rarity Spotted

On visiting the school to take some photos of the children with the new book, I spotted a fantastic red kite flying over the school being mobbed by a jackdaw as I was on my way out of the school gates. It circled for several minutes and then took off in a westerly direction towards Peebles. That was a fantastic sighting and a real rarity for this area. My camera had no batteries, of course…

Thanks for reading!