Tag Archives: tweed valley osprey project

Further drama unfolds at the osprey nest

On Sunday, after the disappearance of the female bird, there was plenty of osprey drama at the main nest. Volunteers reported that the female bird had returned to the nest and she seemed well. Although we had lost this years’ chicks, there was now hope for the slim chance that further egg laying and a very late brood could be a possibility.

New female moves in

However, on examining the footage taken over the past week the story seems to be unraveling further and we now believe that it is a second unringed female. She was on the nest with the male and his behaviour suggested a defensive posture, not the welcome homecoming for his partner that we would expect. This leads us to believe that this bird is a stranger. The male has appeared threatened by the bird’s presence at the nest site since Sunday and does not appear to welcome her at all. He was seen with wings dropped and moving away from her at each approach.

Nest usurpers

Over the past few days, the male has brought in sticks to tidy the nest, the dead chicks have gone and he is staying at the site. However, the new female is staying there too. There has been little interaction between them, both occupying perches either side of the nest. It almost looks like a stand-off, a non-contact contest over territory.

After a further few days at the nest, the female started calling repeatedly and the male SS has perched beside her but there is something about the way that they are, that seems to suggest that they are unfamiliar with each other.

A blue ringed bird has also been seen trying to come down onto the nest.

Three birds pictured at the next on the 8th of June

Has the original partner died?

Re-examining footage it would appear that perhaps the original female bird was not quite well. The male was seen feeding her repeatedly, during the really wet weather. On 4th June he fed her and she lay across the chicks and, at one point, looks exhausted. Her back looks sodden as the rain is bouncing down on her and yet he is dry, standing next to her, with the rain not penetrating his feathers. If she was out of condition and not preening effectively then she would have been getting cold and drawing on valuable energy reserves as she tried to shield the chicks.

Wet female shields while male feeds her on 4th June 2014

She flew off and the male fed the chicks and settled on them, which is very unusual at this early stage in the chicks life. The female looked in poor condition and we wonder if she has died.

The other birds hanging around the nest site have been waiting in the wings to usurp her position for this site, as it is a good site. So it is very likely that the new female is taking over now that there is a vacancy.

We will have to continue to watch to see how this drama unfolds. Will SS hold the territory and take her as a new partner or will he lose this site to new birds?

This is a sad time for the project and a cruel reminder of how vulnerable the chicks are at an early age. They can perish so easily if they get cold and wet. It seems likely we will have a season without chicks and we hope that SS will hold the territory and return next season. If our original female has perished, which seems likely, then that is a very sad loss. She has been a fantastic mum and a delight to watch for over 10 years and she will be so very sadly missed by all.

We will have to wait and see…

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Tragedy strikes at the Tweed Valley Osprey nest

We are devastated to report that the osprey female failed to return to the nest on Thursday 5th June in the afternoon during a really wet, cold day. The male bird, white leg SS, did his best to keep the young chicks going by feeding them and attempting to keep them warm but he left them at around 3.30pm and the chicks have most likely succumbed to the cold conditions. The chicks were seen dead in the nest on Friday and there is still no sign of the female adult.

The male bird is still at the nest site and looks a very sorry figure, he seems to ignore the dead chicks and is just waiting with fish in his talons for the return of his mate.
The nest site area has been checked in case the female was close by and maybe on the ground injured but there is absolutely no sign of her.

Many people were very emotionally attached to this pair of ospreys, as we have watched them for the past 10 years and were looking forward to their 11th season together and all had appeared well. The female was not ringed, so we do not know anything of her origins and it may be that she was really old. The male bird was repeatedly seen feeding the female this season, so perhaps she was feeling unwell. We will never know.

The volunteers and staff are devastated at the loss of this remarkable and beautiful wild bird and their little family. We just hope that white SS recovers from his loss and maybe finds a new mate next year. We will keep the cameras going just now to see what he does and also just in case, as there is a slim chance that the female may return.

Note from the editor: Since this post was written we have had reports that the female has returned to the nest. More updates to follow soon.

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!

Incubation and intruders at the nest

The long incubation period at the osprey nest site of up to 40 days is well under way. The soon to be parents have settled in to a routine of domesticity. They take turns to incubate and they really are such a great partnership.

female_3_eggs_14th_may

The female was feeling hungry while she was incubating her three eggs and she was very vocal in letting her feelings be known to her partner who was perched up somewhere off screen but nearby enough for her to know that he was tucking in to a good fish meal. She was calling her beseeching “kee…kee..kee” cry, for around 20 minutes. The male osprey ate the head of the fish, as he had done all the hard work to go off and catch it, but – like the dutiful partner that he is – once he had finished eating his portion, he flew on to the nest and a slightly miffed female (who doesn’t obviously appreciate being kept waiting), snatched her take-away from him and instantly took off with it. The fish was a good size and looked to have striped flanks, so it didn’t appear to be the usual trout but possibly a jack pike caught from a nearby lochan.

Some unwelcome guests

Later, a fully fed and contented female returned to the nest and the birds swapped over, the male flew off and the female settled back down on to the eggs. A fairly uneventful hour went by, when suddenly two jays landed on the osprey nest either side of the female. The female osprey was sitting down on her eggs so they were not perceived as a threat to her and she appeared unconcerned. However, the blackbirds that have their territory close to the osprey nest could be heard alarm calling and were very upset by the appearance of the jays. Both jays swooped away from the nest, off in the same direction, just as the female blackbird landed on the bottom perch of the osprey nest. Her back could just be made out at the bottom corner of the screen. All went quiet for a while and then the female blackbird flew away. Shortly afterwards the beautiful, melodious song of the male blackbird could be heard once again. Hopefully the happy singing from his nearby territory perch means that the jays didn’t steal eggs or nestlings from the blackbirds.

The heron chick continues to thrive and is beginning to look more bird-like than reptilian. The parents are now leaving the chick for longer periods. Don’t they ever learn? Last year the chicks were eaten by crows. Clearly, they think that the young bird is capable of defending itself…and we hope that they’re right.

More wildlife news from Glentress

The blue tit is now incubating at least nine eggs. The jays at Glentress have now got a brood of four chicks and are still incubating the fifth egg. Our new Glentress bees are as hypnotising to watch as ever; a totally, fascinating colony. They are busy building new chambers, the queen is populating the nest chambers and the workers are bringing in hefty pollen sacs now that there is gorse, cowslips and a few other wildflowers, in flower at the Glentress site.

More updates soon, thanks for reading.