Thursday, 28 August 2008

2009 Awaits!

The Borders ospreys will be back in late March/early April 2009. We will again be running live nest camera coverage from the moment they arrive until the end of August.

We will again be running a full programme of special events and activities for all ages, including: a spring dawn chorus walk, summer guided nature walks, kids activity days, and more. Stay Tuned!

If you would like to be involved as a volunteer, please get in touch. You'll be given full training and have the chance to get actively involved in the centres, attend talks and outings and social occasions and meet some fabulous people. It is also great experience for anyone who perhaps fancies a career in conservation or environmental education. See you in 2009!

So Long and Thanks For all the Fish

As our season draws to a close, I'd like to thank everyone who has helped make the 2008 Osprey season here in the Borders such a success.
It is appropriate that our tenth anniversary year for these wonderful Birds in the Borders, should be our most successful year ever. With eight nesting pairs and at we believe 15 chicks, the future looks bright for these wonderful birds in this area thanks to the help they've received from a team of volunteers, staff and sympathetic locals alike.

As those of you who've visited our twin centres will appreciate the projects heart blood is a dedicated team of volunteers who devote their time to sharing their knowledge of the birds with the public. This team of forty people are amazingly knowledgeable and generous- not just about Ospreys but local birds, wildlife, walking , history and more- they've helped many visitors use the Osprey watch centres as a springboard to enjoying the wild Borders.

Behind the scenes are a dedicated steering committee from Forestry Commission Scotland, RSPB, and Kailzie Estate who all contribute to making the partnership project work. A big thankyou must also go to ground staff such as our local Conservation and Recreation Rangers who do so much work with building nest platforms and monitoring birds.
A big thankyou also goes to all the local birders, walkers, fishermen and neighbours who feed us information on the birds activities and help keep nest sites monitored and safe from egg thieves and disturbance.

Lastly thankyou everyone who has visited and contributed to the project- nearly9,000 people this year alone! Your support and donations will help practical conservation and education in the future. We hope you've enjoyed the season- be sure to come and see us next spring! Emma Rawling

End of the Season- Or is it?

Here in the Tweed Valley you can't quite escape the feeling that our Osprey season is ending and autumn is waiting in the wings. All our nest camera birds have fledged, even the second brood swallows and wrens, and the swifts have already left. Early mornings have been foggy and the nights drawing in-but its a beautiful time of year here in the Borders for wildlife watching.

Our female Osprey has already left for southern skies, and we haven't seen the male for a few days now. The three youngsters are, however, still around as a great scene yesterday showed: Not having been seen on the nest for three days, at about 3.30pm, all three chicks suddenly appeared on the nest all at once, one with a sizeable fish in its talons. Frantic squabbling ensued ( though most of it was ritualised mantling and threats rather than contact) and for ten minutes all three birds had a standoff at the nest. This aggressive posturing at first made me think they were defending the nest from an intruder, but its seems likely that is was an argument over food- perhaps dad has left and being on their own, suddenly reliant on their own fishing skills, has made them a wee bit desperate.

It is certainly a tough time ahead for these young birds who are really just starting their life journeys- with some 4,000 miles of migration ahead of them this autumn into the unknown , and an extended 'gap-year' holiday on offer in Africa if they make it! Even their parents have a good five months in Africa to look forward to ( and two months travelling) before we'll see them again. Perhaps we could think of them as African birds who come here to breed, rather than Uk birds who go to Africa. Whichever way you look at it, they certainly have evolved an extraordinary lifestyle.

Monday, 18 August 2008

An Empty Nest

Our young main nest Ospreys are becoming a rare sight at the nest now, as they are all now confident in the air and independent. The female bird has almost certainly left for Africa already as it's been more than a week since we had a confirmed sighting of her. As is so often the case, dad seems to have been left to supervise the teenage chicks 'finishing school' period. However, even he is becoming a rare sight at the nest, no longer bringing fish in for the chicks, which must mean they are feeding themselves down at the river.

We have been getting reports of Ospreys seen out and about the area thick and fast- from the classic St Marys Loch, to the Yarrow valley, the Tweed river at Thornilee, and even flying over the Kailzie centre on Friday!

Interestingly we are now seeing other Ospreys starting to cross the Borders too , on their way south. As one of our volunteers mentions in his comment, we had a strange female on the nest this week- females are usually the first to start moving south, having spent so much of the summer sedentary. Others will doubtless be young birds who didn't manage to breed this year, heading south early. It won't be long now until many of the highland birds will be crossing the Borders ( most use a route over us or Galloway) on their way to Africa- we'll be wishing them well as they pass us over!

Wednesday, 13 August 2008

Growing Up and Away

Our three Osprey chicks are seemingly too busy showing off their new found flying skills too bother too much with visiting the nest this week. They only seem to appear ( like most teenagers) when there is the offer of food around!

The male bird is still devotedly bringing fish back to nest for his offspring, and whichever chicks is closest at the time scores the whole thing. Interestingly , one of the chicks yesterday only bothered to eat about half of one such fish, leaving the remains on the nest- which is a good sign, because it means he can't be too hungry!
There have been several occasions this week when the youngsters have turned up at the nest carrying fish which we can only assume they have caught themselves, which is another great sign that they are perfecting the skills they will soon need to survive on their own.

One beneficiary of this abundance is the cheeky Jay which has realised the Osprey nest is a good place to hang around to score a free meal of fish scraps- we've been seeing more of it than our Ospreys!
The upside of the quiet on the nest is that its a great time to try your hand at spotting our birds out and about in the Borders- come and see us in the centres for tips on where best to look in the area. Be sure to let us know is you have luck!

Thursday, 7 August 2008

First Fish?

Yesterday we witnessed an interesting feeding time at the main Osprey nest. Dad arrived back with a fish which one of the chicks greedily began to devour as usual. Moments later another chick arrived with a half fish which it started to eat on the nest. Could it be that this was its own first catch? Has our youngster started fishing for himself , or could he have mugged mum somewhere off camera fro a share of her spoils?

Comedy then ensued as the chick with the fish provided by dad, had extreme trouble handling the very large trout! He insisted taking the fish to the perching post to the left of the nest, despite it being slick with rain, and struggled continuously to keep the fish on the post- several times we thought he would drop it altogether! If you think the post is at least a foot in diameter, that meant the fish had to be at least a foot and a half long- quite a catch for dad!

Lets hope the flooding in the Tweed Valley today doesn't leave our Ospreys too hungry- perhaps they'll be going further afield today to local lochs and reservoirs where the water is clearer? A good time perhaps to stake them out to watch for Ospreys in action!

Tuesday, 5 August 2008

Where's Mum?

We haven't seen our female Osprey on the nest for a few days now, although with the adults' visits often very short - dump the fish for the kids and run!- it is hard to be certain. She is obviously spending much of her time away fishing, working on her fitness before her long autumn migration. Although she is usually the first of the family to head away south , it is probably too early for her to have left just yet, so we will be keeping a close eye out in the next few days for sightings of her.

Interestingly we had an intruder alert yesterday, caused by another osprey. Two chicks arrived back at the nest ( probably from nearby tree perches) and started alarm calling. A parent bird quickly appeared and joined them on the nest, and the chicks flattened themselves in their instinctive 'camouflage' posture. After a few minutes of watching the intruder circle above, the parent bird gave chase leaving the youngsters on the nest.

It is interesting to speculate that the scare may have been caused by one of the other young Scottish ospreys starting to drift south across territories such as ours. Birds that haven't successfully bred this year usually begin to migrate about now. So it is likely we'll have more of these alerts in the coming days and weeks.