Saturday, 31 May 2008

Growing Strong

Our main nest Osprey chicks are today one week, nine and ten days old respectively. Volunteers and visitors alike have been amazed at how much they have grown in their first week or so- they already seem to have doubled in size. The oldest two are already loosing some of the fluffy whiteness of their initial stage and are darkening to a deeper grey.
We are very happy to report all three chicks feeding well and seeming strong. They are having many small meals a day- this morning dad brought in such a huge fish, he was able to eat half himself and still have enough for the chicks breakfast, morning tea and lunch! He even fed them himself tenderly whilst mum was away from the nest briefly.
There is no sign of the youngest chick being weaker , despite its smaller size, though sibling rivalry has started to emerge, with some squabbling between chicks. Lets hope it all stays amicable!

Thursday, 29 May 2008

Apologies Technical Hiccups

We hope you are enjoying the webcam view of our main Osprey nest. Please accept our apologies for the view being 'stuck' in one position. The zoom and tilt feature of our camera, powered by a motor, is currently malfunctioning. We are hoping to be able to rectify this soon, but this not going to be easy!

The images are fed from the Osprey nest to the visitors centres and thence to the Internet, via and radio and microwave link, due to the remote location. We set up the cameras every year before the birds arrive in the spring, and once the birds begin nesting we respect an exclusion zone around the nest to avoid disturbing them.

Of course this has the disadvantage of meaning we can't pop in a fix or change the camera easily , so we have installed a 'standby' camera. Alas, this extra camera too is playing up!

So please be patient with us , and meantime enjoy the close up view of the Osprey nest and the three chicks.

Three is the Magic Number

Here at the Tweed Valley Osprey Project, we like to keep in touch with the other Osprey watch sites in the UK to keep tabs on how the species is progressing. We are happy to report its seems so far to be a good year for Ospreys, with three being the magic number at a several sites.

Both the Glaslyn Welsh Ospreys, and Loch Garten Ospreys on Speyside , like us , already have three chicks.

The Loch of the Lowes Ospreys have only hatched one chick from three eggs thus far-though their female is thought to be over 20 years old and has laid more than fifty eggs in her time , so she deserves an osprey award!

The Aberfoyle Ospreys and the Lake District Ospreys are still awaiting hatching- stay tuned! Down at Rutland Water, one nest site has a hatchling, and the other is due to hatch any moment now.

Three chicks is a fantastic result for any Osprey nest, and we hope other sites will be as lucky as us this year. It will be interesting to see if, over the rest of the season , all of these chicks survive. In the past it was often assumed that the smallest or youngest of triple chicks wouldn't survive. However, here in the Tweed Valley we can vouch for the fact that it is possible for Ospreys to raise even four chicks! Our famous 2005 nest proved that with experienced parents and good habitat, all chicks can make it at least to fledging. We have great faith in our experienced Osprey parents here in the Tweed Valley.

Tuesday, 27 May 2008

Its a Hatrick!

The glorious sunshine here in the Scottish Borders this weekend finally encouraged our last remaining egg on the Main Osprey nest to hatch. We now have three delightful chicks from three eggs- more than any of us dared to hope given the weather conditions in which they were all laid which included several days of snow!

Visitors and volunteers have already been treated to some great views of the tiny chicks being tenderly fed and 'tucked in' by their parents. Mum is understandably very protective at this stage and doesn't leave the nest hardly at all, keeping her chicks safely tucked under her when they're not feeding.

Staff have been paying 'count the bobble heads' every time she stands up, and we are now sure there are three, the last having hatched sometime on Saturday. It is of course a few days behind its siblings and so is significantly smaller. Lets hope it catches up over the coming days. This is only the second time this pair of Ospreys has hatched three eggs but we are confident their excellent parenting skills should see their family through the season ahead.

Wednesday, 21 May 2008

The Best News - Baby Buzz in the Borders

The best news today from the Tweed Valley, our main nest Ospreys have hatched not one but two chicks in the last twenty four hours! Here at the Osprey watch centres volunteers and visitors alike have been thrilled to see two tiny chicks close up on the nest cameras. The chicks were born last night and this morning respectively. The female Osprey has already begun feeding them raw fish, and even keeping half a fish tucked safely beneath her for their seconds, as if incubating it too!

There is still another viable egg in the nest which we hope will hatch over the next few days.
Visitors this bank holiday weekend will be able to enjoy the intimate view of this early stage of the Ospreys lives, when they are at their cutest. Stayed tuned for more baby Osprey news!

Tuesday, 20 May 2008

Nervous Anticipation

Here in the Tweed valley we have reached the stage of the Osprey year when chewed fingernails and anxious pacing becomes the norm! With our main nest pair of birds expected to hatch their chicks anytime this week, the staff and volunteers become somewhat like nervous grandparents. The three eggs were laid over nearly a week back in April, and so should hatch in the same sequence over the next week or so here.

Of course we have learnt never to count your Osprey chicks before they hatch- it is quite common for some eggs not to make it, either because they were never fertilised, or because they were subject to too much cold during incubation. As the first egg in particular was laid when it was still snowing here we have our doubts, but have to trust in our very experienced and capable Osprey parents and their instincts and skills in egg protection.

Last year on this nest we also had three eggs and only two hatched, so we hope to at least equal that this year. We will keep you posted!

Thursday, 15 May 2008

A Second Hatrick

Regular viewers of the Tweed Valley Ospreys will be delighted to know that our second camera monitored site ( affectionately know as the Back-up nest) has now had the presence of three eggs confirmed.

This nest has a camera that only records in 'real-time' so a special trip up the mountain is required to harvest footage, and hence the occasional delay in getting news to you. But to have both nests with three eggs is a very exciting prospect indeed, especially knowing hatching is not far off.

Watching the 7 or so hours of footage harvested from this nest this week, I've noticed the female Osprey incubating on this nest has two very much preferred positions- both facing down the valley from her high vantage point, giving her a clear view of everything and anything coming into her valley. She never turns her back on the scene below- her vigilance is amazing and perhaps a sign of just how wary and susceptible to disturbance these birds are.

Stay tuned as hatching nears!

Tuesday, 13 May 2008

Basking in Sunshine

Spring really does seem to have arrived at last here in the Tweed Valley with glorious sunshine and warm weather the norm in this last week. Our birds have been basking and enjoying the warmth, though at times they pant to keep themselves cool as there is no shade at the nest. This is because the birds prefer an very exposed nest site where they can get 360 degree views and be prepared for anything!

The nest visible on the camera is atop a very high tree, on which was fixed a platform some years ago as part of the projects' active encouragement of the birds in this region. We like to think of these nesting platforms as 'starter kit homes' for Ospreys and they have been very successful here in the Borders and across Scotland in encouraging birds to take up residence.

Incubation continues and we are anxiously awaiting hatching- the earliest possible date for this would be approximately the 20th May so not long now!

Elsewhere at the centres we now have blue tits with eggs on nestcam at Kailzie and swallows sitting at Glentress. Don't forget our free guided nature walks this weekend at Glentress on Saturday and Kailzie on Sunday- see below for details.All are welcome- come and discover the wildlife in your backyard!!

Friday, 9 May 2008

Upcoming Events

Here at the Tweed Valley Osprey Project we like to think of our Ospreys as ambassadors for all wildlife. In both visitor centers we profile other species of birds and mammals on nest cameras and are happy to provide tips on local wildlife viewing opportunities in the Borders.

We have nominated May as the month to encourage everyone to find out about Wildlife in your Backyard. We have special displays in both centres from next week, on what you can do at home to cater for wildlife, and Kailzie has a special wildlife gardening feature.

We are running two free guided walks to help you discover wildlife on your doorstep:
Saturday 17th May at Glentress, 2pm, and Sunday 18th may at Kailzie gardens, 2pm.

Both events are 1.5hrs approximately and moderate grade. Wear sensible shoes and outdoor clothing. All children should be accompanied. For more information contact Emma on 07530310376.

Also, on Bank Holiday Monday, 26th May, at Kailzie Gardens we are having a special free kids' activity and information day- come and make a bug box, and pick up a free information pack about wildlife in your backyard.

Great News

Great news all round this week at the Tweed Valley Osprey Project!

Our local conservation officer has reported that this year we again have eight pairs of ospreys nesting in the Scottish Borders, which out of a UK total of just over 200 pairs is a wonderful contribution. It is too early yet to tell how many of these nest will produce eggs and chicks successfully , but we hope it will be a bumper year for ospreys!

Also, news from our 'backup nest' - we have two eggs laid by our resident pair of birds, so we are hoping they too will have chicks by the end of May.

Lastly, news today of a sighting of one of our previous year's osprey chicks: one of the 2003 chicks has been found in Dumfries and Galloway. Despite being blown down by the turbulence of a passing military aircraft, the bird was rescued and re-released unharmed. This is fantastic news as we estimate only half of chicks born each year make it back to Scotland as breeding age adults due to the hazards of migration. There is also a time delay of a couple of years usually before their return to their birthplace, so we are always excited to get news of them.

Our main nest birds are enjoying the glorious warm weather- as are we!

Monday, 5 May 2008

Spring Sunshine

Here in the Tweed Valley today, we are blessed with glorious sunshine and it is so warm it feels like summer already! Can it only be six days ago it was artic cold and hailing on our poor hardy birds?

The female osprey still sticks diligently to her nest incubating her eggs. She has been frequently today seen 'panting' with her beak open trying to cool herself, and sometimes opening her wings and flying short distances to cool off.

Incubation is a delicate balance of keeping the eggs at just the right temperature- perhaps she is trying to keep them from getting too warm!

The male too seems to be taking it easy in the heat, spending most of the day sitting in trees nearby, probably dozing in the sunshine, although he did bring a nice wee trout today for lunch for his lady.

Here in the Osprey Watch centre it really feels like spring. We have swallows beginning to nest on our camera at Glentress and great tits at Kailzie. Other birds such as dunnocks, house sparrows and wrens are beginning to make homes around the centres and we hope to catch some more of these on live nest camera soon.

Many of us were up at dawn on Sunday for a national dawn chorus day walk at Kailzie- a great chance to see and hear many of our local birds at their spring best, and worth the early rising. This was just one of many special events planned for the summer, suitable for the whole family, so stay posted.

Saturday, 3 May 2008

Hail and Hearty

What a week in the Tweed valley! We've had everything from glorious spring sunshine to hail showers, and finally some real warmth in the air.

One Tuesday the hail was so heavy it saw our poor female osprey frantically mantling (spreading her wings and flattened herself) over her eggs trying to protect them from the hailstones. She was , at one stage, up to her chest surrounded by hailstones in a completely white nest! Surely this is not the kind of weather she was hoping for when she flew back from Africa!

Although we've had no serious nest incursions by stray ospreys or other birds, our male has been sitting in nearby trees frequently, and often on the camera itself, never too far away from his precious female and nest, in case of trouble.

The telltale vertical wobble on the camera lets us know he's sitting perched on it and sometimes we get a great view of his undercarriage as he take off!

Otherwise all is well on the nest and incubation continues- we all have our fingers crossed for our three precious eggs.