Thursday, 31 July 2008

Hungry and Greedy.

Our three chicks are still very much dependant on mum and dad for food, despite their growing confidence in their flying skills. Dad, and less often mum, have continued to bring fish to the nest for the youngsters although they are not always all present when it arrives!

In contrast to their earlier good manners at feeding times ( when mum deliberately fed them each in turn to prevent squabbling) it now seems to be a bit of a free for all!

Dad delivered a fish today and the quickest chick got to it first, greedily feeding itself and steadfastly refused to share it with its younger brother. The poor hungry wee chap desperately circled and tried to scrounge some fish. He raised quite a hue and cry squawking and complaining , perhaps hoping a parent would hear him and take pity on him- but all to no avail.

It now seems to be more like every chicks for itself! hard days ahead for our youngsters as they learn the hard facts of survival.

Tuesday, 29 July 2008

Surprising Independence

Our three Osprey chicks are showing themselves to be surprisingly independent this week. It seems they were quiet slow in fledging, a little reluctant to start flying ( perhaps because the weather was so awful) but now them seem to be making up for lost time.

All three chicks have been spending considerable time away from the nest, and taking flights around the valley. In fact they are spending more time off the nest the last few days then we would normally expect at this stage- perhaps the very hot weather we've been having is making the nest a bit uncomfortable and they've been sheltering in nearby trees were it is a bit shadier. They certainly seem to appear quickly whenever food is delivered by an adult to the nest- they seem to come from nowhere in an instant like typical teenagers!

There is still plenty to see in the centres though with all the birds making regular appearances and great highlights of the season so far now on DVD too.

Thursday, 24 July 2008


Viewers of our main osprey nest will be as surprised as we were with the results of our chicks DNA results just in. During their health examination on ringing day a tiny blood sample was taken from each young chick to help screen for illness and to determine the gender of the birds. This is necessary because there are no real external difference between males and females- and the subtle differences in plumage can be very subjective and not clear until they are older. Since females in this species are always larger than males , and can have proportionally bigger legs, we often use this to estimate the sex of the birds during ringing. We used this technique on July 1st, and thought the largest two chicks were female.

Surprise, surprise, it turns out ALL THREE OF OUR CHICKS ARE MALE! We have only been using this technique for a few years, and it looks like it will turn up a few surprises.

So 2008 is the year of three wee boys- you can always guarantee a surprise with ospreys!

The Week Has Flown Past

My apologies for the delay in posting this week- its been a busy one! All three of our chicks have fledged this week and there has been plenty of action on the nest. Our oldest chick fledged a week ago today, and is strong and confidently flying now. The second chick flew on Sunday afternoon- 4pm seems to be the fashionable time for a young chick to lift off! The smallest chick flew on Tuesday to the great cheers of those watching.

The scariest and funniest moments have undoubtedly been landings - on Monday for example, the second chick landed literally on top of his brother, who had flattened himself to try to get out of the way- very undignified!

All three chicks are still spending most of their time on the nest however, with fish being brought in most days by mum and dad. Dad especially has taken to delivering fish and dumping them in the nest for the chicks to feed themselves. When mum appeared yesterday with a fish however, they lined up to beg like babies for her to feed them despite now being more than capable of shredding the fish themselves. Talk about spoilt!

Friday, 18 July 2008

We Have First Lift off!

Late yesterday afternoon our oldest and strongest chick, a female, took the huge step of her first flight! After flying across the nest several times during the day, she finally took off from the nest at 4.05pm heading off down the valley.

We anxiously awaited her return but she hadn't made it back by 6pm when our cameras shut down for the night. So of course I came in early this morning to see if she's made it safely back- only to find only two chicks on the nest- my heart lurched! Luckily within the first hour she reappeared- obviously confident enough to take another short flight this morning.

Neither of her two nest mates looks so keen to follow suit but it's likely they will in the next few days- hopefully as successfully as their sister.

Thursday, 17 July 2008

Almost Off!

Here in the centres it is getting nail biting! The chicks are big, strong, and bold, but none has yet taken that brave final step off the nest. The largest female chick has certainly been close to it and at least two of the chicks have managed airborne hops across the width of the nest- at least six feet- but until they actually leave the nest it doesn't count as full fledging. Yesterday a crowd of visitors was teased by the largest female chick, as she danced on the edge of the nest tantalisingly several times- to a chorus of GO GO GO ! YOU CAN DO IT! from the crowd. Maybe today? We'll keep you posted

Wednesday, 16 July 2008

Webcam back online!

At last - images from the nest are available online again. Sorry this has taken a while. The webcam is available at Or go to the Tweed Valley Ospreys homepage and click on 'live images of the nest'.

Monday, 14 July 2008

Images from the ringing

We've posted images from the recent ringing online - you can see a preview of them via the slideshow on the right, or you can view them all in full at You can also click on any of the slideshow images to go to the online album.

While you're there, have a look at the pictures of the Huntly Peregrines too.

Hope you enjoy them!

Saturday, 12 July 2008

Mum's Independence

Our Tweed Valley Osprey chicks have been huddled down the last couple of days trying to stay warm in the incessant rain, so not much flapping or pre-flying practise has been had. However, as soon as the sun breaks though they furiously preen themselves- the bedraggled look just won't do!- and start their 'pilates' routine. This is essential to build muscle fitness before their impending first flights.

Our chicks are now so big and mature that mum has started to leave them for considerable periods. She has been noticeably absent from the nest and the immediate area -not holed up on her usual perch as couple of trees away- for up to an hour at a time. She is finally able to take longer flights away from the family, as now they are big enough to look after themselves, and we suspect she is now joining in fishing. It is important for her to brush up on her hunting skills (which have been dormant for a couple of months) as she will soon need to fish for herself on migration. Dad is probably glad of the help in providing for the three huge hungry chicks as they are somewhat insatiable by now- though we've yet to see her bring a fish back to the nest herself.

We're all staying tuned for the thrills and spills of the coming week or so as the chicks take their first flights.

Monday, 7 July 2008

More on the ringing

A select group of our hard working local volunteers had their efforts rewarded by being given a unique chance to get 'up close and personal' with this year's osprey chicks during the recent ringing.

Caroline Blackie with one of the Tweed Valley osprey chicks
Click on the image to see a larger version

New volunteer Caroline Blackie (in picture), along with Roger Scott and Bob Rowles, both of whom have been involved with the Osprey Watch Centres since they first opened in 2003, were some of the lucky few to witness the ringing. Andrew MacDonald, Andrew Scurfield and Nigel Palmer were given special recognition for their outstanding contribution to the project during the 2007 season.

Sunday, 6 July 2008

Quiet Recovery

The few days since the young Ospreys' big ringing event have been quiet and peaceful. All the chicks seem hearty and have been getting more active on the nest. One chick in particular - the largest female chick- is very active, already doing some really strong wing flapping and standing very close to the edge of the nest. This behaviour is normal for this stage, when the wing muscles are being built up before their first flights. The smaller two chicks have been watching big sister with bemusement and are only just starting to join in the ritual.

The chicks are now approaching adult size and, with their new plumage , quiet similar superficially to their parents. You often have to take a moment to look for the telltale pale edge to each brown feather to check if its one of the youngsters- the parents are solid chocolate brown.

The nest is going to start looking very crowded soon, as all the three chicks start exercising ( now you know why its so big!) and mum and dad are increasingly taking their breaks off the nest. Both parents have been using nearby perches and next door trees to get a little space from the 'kids' but they are never far away in case of trouble.

Stay tuned for the thrills and spills of fledging.

Wednesday, 2 July 2008

The Big Day

We are delighted to report that the ringing day for our young Ospreys was a great success. The weather stayed fine and we were able to get our expert team on site and the whole process achieved in a hour. The procedure is designed to give us our one and only chance ever to handle the chicks, and collect scientific data, whilst minimising any stress to the birds.

Our expert Forestry Commission climber braved the enormous nest to bring the chicks down to earth, where they were weighed, measured, ringed and given a thorough medical by our wildlife vet. If anything it must be said the chicks were larger in real life than they seem on camera - really adult size already, just with a bit more feather development to go. They were amazingly calm and easy to handle, and exquisitely beautiful up close.

The vet was pleased to report they all appeared to be healthy, if a little thin ( less than ideal but not dangerously thin), even the smallest chick. Whilst it is impossible to say for certain until blood test results are in, it appears we have two female sand a male chick- the smallest being the wee man!

The chicks were given their identity rings (called darvic rings) which are white just like dad's, and carry the numbers, CA CB and CC. These rings will be invaluable in tracing what happens to our chicks in the future and identifying them if and when they make it back to Scotland as adults.

Mum was back on the nest within half an hour of our leaving and Dad brought a fish in to console the wee ones less than an hour later- they all seem to be none the worse for wear after their adventure.

We are pleased to report that the backup nest chicks we also ringed yesterday, and there were two delightful chicks (one female one male we think) but no clues as to the fate of the original third sibling. These were also healthy and hearty and were given ring numbers CE and CF.

I hope to post pictures of the ringing on the blog tomorrow.

A big thank you to all the ringing team for their expert work and a very successful ringing day.