Tag Archives: tweed valley osprey

What has happened to FX9?

Concerns are growing for the juvenile osprey (FX9), that fledged a few weeks ago from the main nest. The bird took off and there have not been any confirmed sightings of him at the nest site since. The camera on the nest is live and is watched by volunteers while on duty. Some activity is obviously missed, as it is not watched constantly but even so the pattern of behaviour is so very different from previous years when offspring repeatedly return to their nest site after fledging and mum and dad brought food back there.  Added to the concern about the bird, is the fact that it is fitted with a satellite transmitter and the last data we received is from 2nd August when all was well and he was roosting in trees near to the nest site.
We are still waiting to hear from Roy Dennis (Highland Foundation for Wildlife), as he receives the data and then passes it on to Tony Lightley for the Tweed Valley Osprey Project. We have not given up hope yet as there could be reasons, such as technical issues with a faulty transmitter or the bird may have not returned to the nest because there was no need being an only chick but until we have some data we cannot be certain.

Return of CL4 from the 10th brood of SS in 2013

Some good news though, is that the film footage of the two birds that were briefly visiting the nest on the 10th August, recorded by David Allan, the volunteer on duty, has been analysed frame by frame and the still image of the blue ringed male bird shows the leg ring number to be CL and the third digit we believe to be 4 (CL4). This is very exciting news as this is one of the ospreys ringed as a chick in the main nest in 2013 while the children of St. Ronan’s Primary school watched. This bird was from the final brood of white leg SS and his original partner in their 10th year together and the children had worked on a project to produce the ‘Osprey Time Flies’ book to celebrate the success of the Tweed Valley Osprey Project and 10th anniversary of the parent birds at the main nest.

DSCF6405
This is a two year old bird and yet again the advantage of ringing birds in order to identify and find out more about them has paid off. We previously believed that birds did not return until at least three years old, when ready to breed but we have had quite a few two year olds returning and being spotted back in the UK.

Juvenile goshawk checks out osprey nest

Once again David Allan was on duty in the centre and was vigilant enough to spot a very special visitor on the main osprey nest. This time he recorded a juvenile goshawk on the nest, on Sunday 16th August. The young bird hopped about on the right hand perch above the nest, then sidled down the branch, had a good look around then hopped back up to the perch and then hopped away into higher foliage never to be seen again.

goshawk edited main nest 16th august 2015

It was such an impressive raptor with a fierce gaze accentuated by the pale eye-stripe. It had the streaking brown colouring on the breast feathers of a juvenile as opposed to the adult birds horizontal stripes, bright yellow sturdy legs and feet and the resemblance of a sparrowhawk but much bigger.

Migration has begun

The ospreys will be making their migrations soon and the parent birds have not been seen for a while, the female has probably already left. It is worth watching out for ospreys all around the area just now because there will be not only the birds that have bred successfully here in the Tweed Valley and their offspring but other birds from further north will be likely to be passing through on their way south.

Thanks for reading,
Diane

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What a difference a week makes

The chick in the main nest is growing at an astonishing rate. In one week, the change in this young raptor is very noticeable, as it is so much larger than last week, with a fine covering of feathers. There is very real hope now that this osprey will definitely make it to survive and fledge. There are times when the male brings a fish into the nest and the female shows little or no interest in taking it from him. This is possibly because he is doing so well to provide for his family that sometimes when he presents a fish, the female is not hungry and so doesn’t assume that the chick is hungry.
Sometimes he will fly off with his catch only to return with a portion of it later, having eaten a good meal for himself from it.

Mum feeds chick

Mum feeds chick

Shelter from the storm

The female osprey did a good job to shield the chick during torrential downpours at the weekend and was seen covering three quarters of the chicks body with her own, as the onslaught of raindrops, reminiscent of stair rods pelted down on them.

Sheltering from the storm

Sheltering from the storm

Predator versus predator

On Sunday, white leg SS brought in a pike, the pale stripes down the olive green body were clearly visible, marking it as a juvenile or Jack Pike. Even so, the length of the fish was considerable and was at least the same length as the osprey body and must have weighed practically the same as an osprey almost. With incredible skill the osprey had managed to capture a tremendous predator and not only catch it without coming to any harm but to then lift it clear of the water and carry it in his talons all the way back to the nest.

This photo was taken by Angus Blackburn in 2012 of SS bringing a smaller jack pike back to the nest.

Osprey nesting Scottish Borders. The  first recorded chicks to  hatch in Scotland are doing well at a site in the Scottish Borders.   Pic - Male Osprey with a Pike fish comes  back to feed the  three  chicks.

SS bringing in a jack pike 2012, photo by Angus Blackburn

It would have made a spectacular performance to watch SS catch this fish, as pike are ferocious predators which are incredibly powerful. When in shallower areas of lochs, amongst vegetation they are ever watchful for anything which they could prey upon.  They predate on smaller fish, amphibians, even waterfowl such as ducklings and are not averse to cannibalism!

The long snout of a pike houses rows of very sharp, backward pointing teeth which make it impossible for anything within their jaws to escape. Their method of hunting, particularly in the summer months, is to lurk in the shallows and then burst forward at phenomenal speed to give chase to their victims. Ducklings’ little webbed feet would be seen from below and then the pike would strike and pull the hapless youngster into the deep. Jaws springs to mind – a very scary film  about  a great white shark grabbing its victims from the depths below. In a similar fashion, pike can be likened to the ‘Jaws’ of the freshwater loch!

The osprey hunting method is to fly above a body of water, scanning the water below with their fantastic eyesight and then ‘plunge dive’ from a great height, talons outstretched, as they drop into the water and lock on to the target fish. The curved talons would sink into the flesh of the fish like an angler’s hook and then the osprey must heave its body on outstretched wings, out of the water and become airborne again. Once it has gained height it gives a mid-air shake to remove some excess water and then arranges its toes around the body of the fish, gripping it with its talons and the Velcro-like spicules on the underside of the feet help to lock the fish securely from dropping, as it carries it away like a torpedo.

At this point, the fish would still be alive and as anglers who have ever landed a pike will know, an angry, threatened pike can deliver a nasty bite. White leg SS must have perched somewhere on his return at some point, to kill the fish before delivering it to his family, as the lower jaw was missing. That must have been quite a battle to overpower it and using its strong hooked beak to attack the fish from the head to remove the lower jaw and render it powerless.

This is raw nature, where two top apex predators meet and only one can survive. Thankfully, it was osprey that was the victor and the experience and skill of white leg SS once again is demonstrated and we can only admire him as the true champion that he is. A slight slip or misjudgement in his technique could cause him considerable danger from a pike bite.  What a privilege it is to have this mighty bird spend his summers here in Peeblesshire.

Photo of white leg SS with fish taken by Angus Blackburn 2012

Photo of white leg SS with fish taken by Angus Blackburn 2012

Monster sized chick

The one surviving osprey chick in the main Tweed Valley nest is growing so fast. It is now four weeks old and has a good covering of true feathers rather than the flimsy grey down which is not weather proof. The wing and tail feathers are beginning to break through along the shafts and altogether the chick looks very much like a proper little osprey now.
When food is brought in by the male bird, the chick has been fed to overflowing and the processing of all of this protein is creating a pot-bellied – but healthy looking – bird.

The lack of experience of the female bird is still apparent at times, but she did shield the youngster from the rain storm on Thursday which is good news. Both adults have been spending time together at the nest with the chick and sometimes the mum seems to lack any sense of awareness around her youngster. The female was on the perch above the nest on Monday and the chick was clearly hungry, but it was dad that carried out the feeding task and had some of the fish for himself too. As the chick reached the point of being full, the female joined them in the nest and he proceeded to tear strips of fish off and fed her.

Roomy nest

A full youngster was clearly seen to be appreciating the spacious and roomy nest all to itself early on Monday too, as it was lying down spreading out its wings and kicking its legs back into fully extended stretches. This is certainly a luxury home for one. The chick has been keeping the nest clean and always ensures that when it needs to toilet, it fires the stream of white waste out of the nest. This is often jet sprayed onto the right hand perch giving a whitewashed appearance to the branches beside the nest and the surrounding foliage.

stick moving and whitewash

Both parents were sitting in the nest beside the chick on Tuesday morning, both seemed to be highly alert and were watchful as though there was an intruder bird about or some cause for alarm but the young osprey seemed oblivious to any danger and proceeded to do a bit of stick moving around the nest, something it has witnessed its parents doing regularly as a spot of nest maintenance.

30th june mum dad and chick

FK8 update

FK8, the one year old Tweed Valley Osprey has remained in Portugal. The bird migrated from Peebles at the end of last summer, but rather than heading all the way to Africa and along the Gambia River as most ospreys do, she stopped off in Portugal and stayed there all winter. She took a short trip across the Gulf of Cadiz in Spain in March but headed back to favoured haunts in Portugal a few days later. With the Portuguese summer well under way the fishing areas in Portimao where she was staying will have dried up considerably with dropping water levels and fish would have moved in to better areas too. We assume that because of this she moved further north in May and since then has spent her time between two reservoirs the Barragem de Morgavel and the Barragem de Campilhas.

reservoirs 29th June

Thanks for reading,
Diane