Thursday, 30 April 2015

We've moved!

Follow the osprey's adventures over at Tweed Valley Ospreys.

Tuesday, 27 August 2013

Farewell for another year.

An empty nest, at the top of an old Scots Pine, looking like a flattened out platform of larch sticks, garnished with dried out yellowed moss, is the scene on the live cameras for most of the time towards the last days of summer.
photo by J.Lister

Only a few short weeks ago this was the scene of bustling activity with three juvenile ospreys the same size as their parents, all squashed together, occupied with wing stretching exercises and flapping to strengthen their flight muscles. After fledging, the juvenile birds also continued to use the eyrie as a dining area to practice gripping fish in their talons and using their hook tipped beaks to tear off strips to eat.

In what seems such a short time, the birds are ready to make their way in the world, it is time to journey south and although we are sure that mum and one of the juveniles have already gone, it seems likely that the second young bird has left now too. A brief appearance at the eyrie of a lone juvenile on Monday indicates that there is one still to make a move, to start the migration journey and dad will most likely wait until this one goes before he too will make his way down to West Africa.

We are delighted that this 10th anniversary of the parents, at the main nest site has gone without any hitches and young ospreys have successfully fledged once again from this nest all watched with privilege from our live viewing facilities at Glentress Wildwatch Room and at Kailzie Gardens osprey and nature watch centre.

The Tweed Valley Osprey Project is a conservation success story and a project to which the dedicated few who are involved should be very proud of because in a matter of 15 years this region has gone from somewhere where ospreys were extinct to a region that has now produced upwards of 160 fledged ospreys, mostly from artificial eyries created to encourage them to breed here. These magnificent birds will need careful monitoring and protection in the future if they are to continue to thrive. We hear reports of a couple of nest sites that have failed to produce young and we are all too aware that the biggest threat to them is from disturbance.

Photo by J.Lister
We are lucky that the main nest site location was so carefully chosen at the start of this project, as for ten years this site has been relatively disturbance free and its security has been very well maintained. The Forestry Commission for Scotland staff have maintained and renovated the nest site while the birds are away on migration, created new artificial eyries, they install all the camera workings to make the live images possible and the licensed Conservation and Heritage Manager actively monitors the birds by ringing the fledglings at six weeks old, so that they can be tracked in the future with visible identity rings.

Although the centres are quiet at this time of year we still have many visitors on holiday in the area and folk from as far as Lancashire and Devon have called in to see our ospreys this week and to hear how the project is progressing. Most of the time the centres have volunteers on duty and they do a great job to interpret the osprey activities and tell visitors all about Tweed Valley Ospreys and their amazing comeback to the area thanks to the work done by this project. We are extremely grateful to all the volunteers that have given their time so generously to support this project once again for this season.

This week is the end of osprey watching for the season and The Osprey and Nature Watch Centre at Kailzie Gardens will be closed from Sunday 1st September although the Wildwatch Room at Glentress will remain open for longer.

I would like to thank everybody that has supported the osprey project this year and wish for a safe migration  journey for our ospreys and a safe return next spring when hopefully I will be able to bring news that our pair have returned for an eleventh season together.

Best Wishes

Diane Bennett.

Tweed Valley Osprey Project Officer.

Tuesday, 20 August 2013

Time To Go

Photo by J.Lister
There is a definite autumnal nip in the air as we are approaching the end of August. Gone are the long stretched out evenings, as the daylight hours begin to shrink back. Ospreys have felt it too and most certainly the female from the main nest site is now on her way. We are not certain of the exact date that she left but she has not been seen for quite a while now.

photo by J.Lister
The male was seen regularly back at the eyrie with three of his young juveniles, feeding together but for this past week only two juveniles have been present with the male. This is hopefully a good sign that the boldest youngster has followed Mums example and headed off south to longer days and warmer climate, to escape the start of the Scottish cold season with short days.

This week a lonely juvenile osprey sat for hours on the eyrie calling and wing flicking and looking skywards. Perhaps the male bird was somewhere close by, feeding on a fish and the youngster was hopeful of receiving a meal. A second young osprey joined the first one at the nest site but appeared quite content and was preening feathers. A whole morning passed by and Dad never put in an appearance. Eventually both young birds flew off but returned later to sit and wait for Dad again. He must be feeling the need to push his remaining brood into independence. He will stay around until he sees them depart before he will also begin his long journey south to Western Africa. The impulse to migrate must be strong and certainly birds will face a better journey if they leave before autumn sets in properly with gales making passage difficult.

The river camera at Kailzie revealed a surprise visitor last week and the volunteer on duty was able to take snap shots and a small amount of video footage of what appears to be a juvenile buzzard bathing in the burn that leads down to the River Tweed.  The raptor is a chunky brown bird with streaky brown markings over buff coloured chest and belly. It was a bit difficult to distinguish what it was at first and was thought to be a sparrowhawk but after careful scrutiny it was decided that it was one of the young buzzards.

The buzzards remain thoughout the seasons and do not migrate to foreign climates. When times get tough over the winter months with snow conditions they will adopt a localised movement to better conditions and being a bird that relies quite heavily on carrion, it manages to scratch a good living for itself topping up its diet with road kill and earth worms or any other scraps. It is equally equipped for hunting prey such as rabbit or occasional birds and squirrels.

Tuesday, 13 August 2013

Southern skies beckon soon.

A lonely chick was seen at the main nest site on Monday 12th August, it flew on to the nest and was calling repeatedly. We could not see if there was an adult nearby or whether it was just calling out in the hopes that a parent may be in the vicinity with a tasty fish to hand over. The male bird, white leg ring SS appeared on the nest site on 13th August with a really big fish and was feeding himself. One of the chicks was keeping him close company and calling and begging for food. The chick is a good deal larger than her dad, so this is presumably a female chick. Her hungry father was having a good feed for himself and did not appear too keen to share his prize.

The chicks by now are proficient fliers and we would hope that they are gaining the hunting skills that will make them independent. Survival depends on the young birds being able to hunt for themselves, as soon they will need to make their solo migration journeys to Africa.

It could be that the male may be reluctant to share a meal at this late stage because he will be very aware that the chicks must make their own way without his support soon. He is the parent that will provide the finishing school for his offspring, as by now their mum has broken ties with them and may even have moved on. She will make her way slowly south, feeding up and getting herself back into peak condition after raising another brood over the summer. We have no idea how old she is because she is not ringed. This has certainly been her 10th season with male, white leg ring SS, but we believe that she was possibly the bird that occupied the main nest with another unringed male the year before SS arrived. He is fifteen years old and in his prime and we hope that they will both return next year for their eleventh year together. It is worth visiting the osprey centres to catch a glimpse of the family before they leave and although the nest may be empty sometimes when the family are off hunting, we are still seeing Dad and the chicks popping back to feed from time to time.

The Kailzie Wildlife Festival was held last weekend at Kailzie Gardens and was a great success. The weekend was packed with wildlife themed family entertainment, with demonstrations of bird ringing, bat and bird box making, guided walks, photography, pond dipping, mammal trapping, stalls and birds of prey. One of the star attractions was the magnificent golden eagle called Captain, a ferret on a lead kept what appeared to be a critical eye on proceedings and a mighty Eagle Owl greeted visitors with a steely orange eyed gaze.

The festival was organised by the Friends of Kailzie Wildlife as part of the KLAWED Project with funding from Leader and SNH.

Wednesday, 31 July 2013

Fledged Ospreys and unusual sightings

We were delighted that the first and boldest chick fledged from the nest on the 14th July and a couple of days later a second chick was practicing the art of being airborne by flying from one side of the nest to another.

The male bird delivered a large brown trout to the nest where one chick took command of the situation by taking the whole fish from his talons and proceeded to feed itself. Shortly afterwards the female flew onto the nest with a fish in her talons and began to feed the chick that already had a fish of its own. Old habits die hard! The chick didn’t complain and gracefully accepted the proffered morsels, maybe keeping the fish in its own talons as a snack for later.

The female flew off after a while only to return later with a change of heart and snatch the fish away from the chick and fly off with it.

On the 17th July, one lonely chick was seen in the nest while all the family were away. Perhaps this one was hoping that a sympathetic parent may pop by and deliver some dinner. This is the time of tough love and chicks can be left without food for a while to drive them on to begin to fend for themselves.

All chicks are now fledged and are gaining superb flying practice and for a change the Scottish summer weather has not been all about deluge and torrential rain, but we Brits are great at moaning about the weather and this seasons chicks have had to contend with searing heat, as we have a proper summer sunny period. This brought about a period of inactivity and the weather was too hot for osprey chicks and volunteers alike!

At cooler times during this balmy summer, conditions have been excellent for fishing and bumper supplies must mean fit and healthy birds getting into prime condition, in readiness for that all important first migration journey which is looming in the not too distant future.

Sightings of a New osprey family in town!

Innerleithen games week parade was visited by a new family of ospreys in town, marching down the high street! A couple of pupils from St.Ronan’s Primary school that had been involved in the osprey project this season dressed up as ospreys and pushed their eyrie along the road complete with little brother as a cute osprey chick peeking out of his eggshell!

They won third prize in the fancy dress competition and we are very proud of them here at the Tweed Valley Osprey Project. Very Well Done. Great costumes!

Wednesday, 24 July 2013

First Chick fledged.

On Sunday 14th July, one of the young ospreys at the main nest became quite bold and flew up on to the perch beside the nest. It was more like a flapping hop than a true flight, really. It remained perched there for quite some time while the other two chicks remained in the nest, seemingly unimpressed by the show of sudden adventurous activity. A great deal of wing flapping and wing stretching has been taking place at the nest, as the young birds flex their soon to be tested flight muscles. The more they practice and exercise, the stronger they will become which will make the first flights less feeble and more purposeful which would give a young bird greater confidence.

The boldest chick was clearly ready to make that move from flightless to flight, as having remained on the perch for quite a while, it decided to take the plunge for a maiden trip. The volunteers on duty at the centres of Kailzie Gardens and Glentress Forest, missed seeing it go but they were faced with the obvious fact that the camera clearly only showed that there were now two chicks in the nest.

This can be a worrying time but the chick is the right age, weight and ready to go. The less brave siblings must follow soon. The male bird (white leg ring SS) came into the nest bearing a good sized fish and began to feed the two remaining young birds later in the afternoon. The young explorer did not return for a feed, perhaps it was enjoying the newly found freedom as the world suddenly opened up and the surroundings of the nest became shrunken as the open countryside beckoned for further exploration. Then again it could have been so alarmed at the surprise flight that it was clinging by its talons, to a nearby branch of a tree and wondering how it was ever going to return back to the nest.

It did manage a return flight later in the day and landed confidently on the nest, giving the appearance that it had done all this flight sort of thing before!

On Monday 15th July, two chicks and their mum were at the nest and the errant fledged chick was off exploring again.  There is only a day between the ages of the three chicks but it doesn’t always follow that they will all fledge together or on consecutive days. The chicks will go when they are ready and sometimes need a fair bit of encouragement from mum and dad. They will try to starve the remaining youngsters from the nest so that they will fly when they are hungry enough to get to dad with a tasty fish.

The family will use the nest regularly as a feeding place and a place to safely rest during the next month but as all the chicks master flight, there will be longer periods away from the nest, as they become fitter and lose the baby fat from their bodies to become finely tuned muscles.

This time of year in the Scottish Borders is a great time to try to spot families of ospreys out on flying and hunting trips together. It is good to keep a look out over any stretch of water where there is good fishing, including the River Tweed, as birds patrol the territory finding favourable hunting areas.
Please do report any sightings of the ospreys to us, especially if the leg ring lettering and colours are visible and make a note of them. Please also note whether the coloured ring (Darvic ring) is on the birds left or right leg and if possible take a photograph. We can then find out which bird it is and where it is from.

Here  are some more photos from the ringing of the ospreys last week and the children of St.Ronan's Primary School who came to see the ringing.

Thursday, 4 July 2013

St Ronan's kids are treated to osprey ringing

On Monday 1st July, the chicks from the main osprey nest were ringed. The adult birds, (white leg ring SS) and his un-ringed female are in their tenth season at the nest and this batch of three chicks brings their total number of chicks raised in ten years to 26.

Tony Lightley with pupils from St.Ronan's Primary School
Tony Lightley with pupils from St.Ronan's Primary School

The children from Class P4/5 have been working all summer term on a celebration book for the ospreys 10th anniversary and to thank them for all their hard work and enthusiasm, a special trip was organised by Forestry Commission Scotland to take the children to see the young ospreys being ringed, as they are now six weeks old and soon will be making their first flight.

The chicks were lowered to the forest  floor where Tony Lightley, (Conservation Manager for FCS) and his colleague Ronnie Graham put the leg rings on to the birds, weighed them and measured them. The birds were fitted with unique BTO rings on their right legs, which carry a serial number which identifies the bird and a large Darvic ring on their left leg which is an alpha numeric identification ring which can be read at a distance through a telescope or binoculars, so that birds can be tracked over their lifetime to study their movements and progress in the future.

The class of P4/5 children were further treated, in that Tony arranged for the leg rings to have lettering that relates to their class number. So, the chicks were given rings with the letters CL4, CL5 and the third chick CL6, as the pupils will be moving into Class 6 next term.  It will be lovely if we hear of these birds in the future, whether they return to this area to breed when they are old enough, or if we receive sightings of them wherever they may turn up.  The young chicks will make their very first migration to Africa by the end of this summer, once they have mastered flight and fishing techniques, which their skilled parents will teach them.

Ronan Ted, (the school mascot ) gets a surprise visit too!
Ronan Ted, (the school mascot ) gets a surprise visit too!

The production of the tenth anniversary book has been the joint project between Tweed Valley Osprey Project and the Friends of Kailzie Wildlife, working with the P4/5 pupils of St. Ronan’s Primary School and we received a grant from Awards 4 All to produce 10,000 copies, which will be available from August.
The school have a mascot called Ronan which is a little teddy bear, decked out in school uniform complete with school tie. Ronan Ted accompanied the children on their visit and was treated to a surprise of his own. Tony took him up to the nest for a quick look when he put the chicks back after they had been ringed!

Three ringed chicks back in the nest after ringing.
Three ringed chicks back in the nest after ringing.

The children thoroughly enjoyed their visit, it was a very special day out to see such a wonderful osprey family and a thoroughly deserved opportunity for children who have immersed themselves in this project work with so much enthusiasm.
Depute Head, Jan Lister who accompanied the children on their visit said, ‘’ Today has been a great opportunity for the children to see at first hand , the splendour of these young ospreys before they embark on their remarkable journey to West Africa. In school for the last few weeks the children have been learning about the conservation of these remarkable birds and their successful return to breed in the Scottish Borders. Today, that learning was brought to life and has given them many memories which will last a lifetime. We are very grateful for having had this opportunity”.