Thursday, 30 April 2009

A Triple Bonus!

Three is definitely our lucky number here at the Tweed Valley Osprey Project. After keeping us waiting so long for the first egg to arrive, our resident female osprey has excelled herself and again laid three eggs! We got a glimpse of the third egg today, which was probably laid sometime in the last 36 hours. Both parents are already doing sterling duty incubating and turning the eggs.

Let's just hope their parental dedication will see all three hatch in a few weeks time!

Wednesday, 29 April 2009

Herons Ahoy!

Great news at our Kailzie centre today with our local heronry at last live on camera! Not many people know that these birds nest in colonies and we have at least three pairs nesting together on the banks of the river Tweed.

The great news is that the nest we have on camera has three hatchlings, approximately ten days old. these delightful nestlings are rather odd looking- somewhat like prehistoric dinosaurs.

They will be featuring live on camera in the centre every day from 12 noon until 4pm, until next week when they will be live all day, everyday. Edited footage will also be shown at the Glentress centre.

As far as we know, this is the only heronry televised in south Scotland- the nearest other is the highly recommended Lochinver RSPB project.

Come and enjoy the views of these strange and beautiful creatures.

Then There Were Two

Great news today as we have confirmation of a second osprey egg in the nest. It was probably laid on Sunday afternoon or Monday but it has taken us until now to confirm its presence. This is because the nest is so very deep in the centre.

We may even yet got a third egg laid if this female's historical record is anything to go by.
We are overjoyed at the prospect of even two potential osprey offspring this year- but it's a long and hazardous 35 days ahead until hatching at least so fingers crossed all round.

Tuesday, 28 April 2009

Incubation Begins

Over the weekend here in the Tweed Valley, our ospreys have been settling down to the long and patient task of incubating their egg. As yet there is still only one egg, but because the nest is so deeply cup shaped, it may be a few days before we can confirm the presence of another egg as we would normally expect. This pair of birds have historically laid two or three each year for the last five years.

It seems our male, being impatient for the first egg to arrive has spent most of his time digging out the centre of the nest ( all that kicking may have been frustration!) and adding yet more moss which is doing a great job of hiding the eggs from view. After a weekend of perfect sunshine it turned very cold again yesterday so all that insulation certainly came in handy though.

Our male osprey has been showing himself to be his usual considerate and devoted self- taking a turn at least once a day to sit on the egg. Usually when he arrives back with a fish , the female will take it off to eat it and he will sit in the nest- carefully curling his long talons in to avoid endangering the egg. He can sit for up to an hour a half , showing unusual paternal devotion.

Let's hope that both birds soon have another egg to lavish attention on!

Friday, 24 April 2009

An Exciting First: Nuthatches At Kailzie

Our Kailzie centre is today a bit like a maternity ward with not only the osprey on her first egg, but a real first: Nuthatch eggs.

We have nuthatches nesting in one of our boxes near the centre, and for the first time we have them live on camera. This is a privileged insight indeed into this beautiful bird.

The female is sitting on at least two eggs and when she leaves she cleverly covers them up with wood shavings to fool predators. The male was seen this afternoon sitting on top the nest box singing at full volume- perhaps announcing to the world his new fatherhood!

Come and see these lovely birds on camera at Kailzie this season.

An Egg at Last!!!

The long wait is over - our female Osprey this morning laid her first egg at about 11am. After days of coming and going, she finally settled in the nest centre this morning and after about half an hour of agitated behaviour she started standing and using her beak to roll something beneath her- typical behaviour with an egg.

At noon we caught a glimpse of the egg, despite the centre of the nest being so deep.
This is hopefully just the beginning of her breeding season- with three eggs the historic norm for this pair of birds. They are usually laid a day or so apart, so we'll hopefully see more eggs over the next few days.

The male has been his usual attentive self today, bringing in at least two fish- the female didn't seem much interested in the second, having more maternal things on her mind! He also tried to take a turn incubating this afternoon, keen to take a look at the egg- but our female didn't give him much of a chance! He has certainly been hanging around the nest more than usual- a proud father indeed!

Tuesday, 21 April 2009

Overdue Eggs or Mistaken Identity?

We have been suffering a torturous wait here at the Osprey Watch centres for the appearance of our first eggs of the season. We have been getting lots of questions about why it is that the eggs are 'late', as they are usually laid 7-14days after first mating. However, the eggs have in the past been laid as late as the end of April, so we are not yet out of the realms of 'normal'- we are not panicking yet, just being impatient!

Firstly our nest has not been a quiet place this spring with an unusually high amount of intruder disturbance with others ospreys at the site. In particular last Saturday's violence may just have put off our female laying. This is unlikely but possible, especially since both our resident birds have been mating frequently and showing all the usual nesting behaviour such as nest 'renovation'.

The other even less likely possibility is that we have had a case of mistaken identity with the females and a changeover last Saturday.

Since 'our' female is unringed, we rely on recognising her distinctive head markings each year. Could it be that the female who arrived on the 1st April was coincidentally another unringed female with a similar marking? Could our male " white SS" have been courting another lady that first week, and when his 'real' lady turned up on the Saturday, she chased the interloper off? This would mean of course she has only been on 'her' nest for a week, accounting for the lack of eggs as yet.

The reason we are unsure is that the extreme violence of that encounter made identifying the females very difficult- in such a flurry of feathers , quite who was chasing who was unclear.

Could it be that there was a changeover amongst all that excitement? If the 'intruder' was in fact a resident bird coming home to find an interloper in her place, it would certainly account for the amazing violence and persistence she showed!

We will be reviewing the recorded footage over the next couple of days to see if we can unravel this mystery!

Monday, 20 April 2009

News of Previous Osprey Chicks

Whilst the torturous wait for the first egg of 2009 on our main osprey nest goes on , I thought I'd share some good news with everyone about some of our previous osprey offspring.

As everyone knows, the odds are stacked against our chicks, with a survival rate in the first 12 months estimated to be between just 25-50%.

At his excellent recent talk in Edinburgh , Roy Dennis pointed out that even on the nest it is not unusual for not all chicks to survive to fledge as this depends entirely on fish supply and therefore directly on the skill and dedication of the male bird. We are very lucky that our main nest male is such an excellent provider!

Add to this the many hazards of their first lonely long migration and their first couple of years in Africa, and we can only expect a small number of the birds we watch growing up here making it back as adults to breed in the future.

However, there are bright examples such as one of our chicks born in 2005 in the Tweed Valley. The female chick was fitted with a green darvic ring 'DE' , and she was first seen at Rutland Water in East Anglia in July 2007, where she stayed until September, as is common in juvenile birds. She was seen again in 2008, but has not yet made an appearance in 2009.

The definition of true success for a project like ours is to know that our birds become part of the breeding population and future of the species, so we hope she survives and makes Rutland her home!

Incidentally the other chick from the same 2005 nest, also a female, was found dead (apparently electrocuted) in Cordoba Spain on 16th September 2008, she had flown a distance of 2000km from the nest site to the site where she was recovered.

Another chick hatched near Peebles in 2003 was reported to have flown free after being found injured after being downed by the downdraft of a Hercules aircraft at a fish farm on Loch Ken in 2008.

Lets hope 2009 is the year we get more news of the fate of our Tweed Valley Osprey chicks!

Friday, 17 April 2009

A Terrible Long Wait

Here in the Tweed Valley we are suffering a terrible wait for our first osprey egg on the main nest. Though we hoped it might appear as soon as last weekend, we are sure it can't be far off now! It is certainly still in the realms of reasonable timing since their arrival so we aren't panicking yet, but the wait feels like torture!

The good news is that the behaviour of the birds is all normal and certainly the female is looking very homely!

Further good news is that out of the 8 pairs of ospreys we know nested in the Borders last year, at least five are back so far this Spring, so things are looking good for the breeding season ahead.

I have has some enquires regarding ring numbers for previous years chicks form The Tweed Valley- I am hoping to publish a list next week with all the numbers you should be looking out for! Thanks for the interest- lets hope this year we will see more of this next generation of ospreys making it back to breed here in Scotland.

Monday, 13 April 2009

A Dramatic Weekend

Our resident Osprey Pair have had a dramatic weekend, with a most unwelcome Easter visitor at the nest! The pair have been looking very settled on the nest, doing great 'renovating work' with sticks and moss, and bonding closely - often sharing the perch side by side romantically!

However, on Saturday another Osprey spoiled their peace by invading the nest. When the male brought a fish in about 3pm, the female was joined by another bird, and briefly there was a dramatic struggle with three birds on the nest. It appeared as if our female had the intruder pinned down for a minute or so, before it escaped the violent squabble , minus the fish, and the male exited stage left! It is highly unusual for ospreys to come to physical blows like this, with most aggression and defence being ritualised posturing and 'swearing' rather than coming to blows with talons!

That would usually be the end of that, but for at least and hour and a half, the intruder continues to harass the female on the nest, dive bombing and swooping so low our lass had to duck to avoid being struck . The speed at which these attacks occurred was incredible, as was the intruders persistence. Those watching we riveted by the drama, but alas it was all so fast and furious we could not get a view of an identity ring on the intruder, so its identity remains a mystery. Was it another female? Was it a previous years offspring convinced it had rights to its natal nest?

In the five years we've been watching this Osprey couple we've never seen such a prolonged episode of aggression. We can only hope the drama has not put our female off laying her eggs as they are literally due any time now.

Apologies For Poor Picture Quality

Our apologies for the occasional poor picture quality on the web link to the live nest camera. The problem occasionally crops up in the early season every year, and is caused by condensation misting on the camera screen at the nest. Unfortunately we can't just pop up to wipe it off!

It happens due to the low angle of the sun at this time in April in the nest valley, but always disappears after the first couple of weeks of the season as the suns angle gets higher.

We know it is frustrating when your view is hazy , but please bear with us! Many thanks, The Osprey Centre Team.

Friday, 10 April 2009

Will it Be an Easter Egg?

Our resident osprey pair have been doing sterling duty on the nest the last few days, with the male in particular bringing in and adding many more sticks, and much fresh moss to line the nest. Both birds have also been doing their rather comical ' sit and scrape' excavation technique to ensure the nest is adequately cup shaped to protect and insulate the eggs. Luckily we have a higher camera angle this year so we hope we will none the less get a clear view of the eggs when they are laid.

On average our female seems to lay eggs about 10 days after her first mating - which would make today or tomorrow the earliest we could expect an egg. So, fingers very firmly crossed we may get a wonderful Easter present of Osprey eggs over the weekend! We hope she will then lay at least two over the next several days.

There has almost always been one of the birds in continuous residence now- probably as they are bound and determined not to loose the newly renovated nest to an intruder, and perhaps also because the female is close to laying. Interestingly both birds have been seen eating on the nest lately- another good sign that family life isn't far off.

Stay tuned for Osprey Easter Egg news!

Tuesday, 7 April 2009

Webcam now on the blog

If you look to the right of the page you'll hopefully see images coming from our main nest. You can see a bigger version of the web cam on the main Tweed Valley ospreys pages on the Forestry Commission website - but it will give you a taste of what's going on.

You might need to refresh the page from time to time to update the image, but in the main there will be a live feed between 10.00am and 5.00pm each day.

The best images, of course, are available at our osprey watch centres, so do pay us a visit if you can.

Open Doors and a Busy Nest

After a frantic weekend of preparation, we have officially opened our doors at both visitors centres for the season, and the public and volunteers are already enjoying great viewing of our Osprey couple on their nest. The live web version of the camera is also up as of today ( 10am- 5pm daily) so do enjoy it. Remember there loads extra to do and see in the centres so don't forget to visit us during the season!

The birds are certainly wasting no time in getting ready to raise a family, with multiple matings, and some nest tidying and renovation going on , especially bringing in fresh moss to line it with.

There has also been some serious 'guard' duty as we again had an Osprey intruder at the nest yesterday. Both 'our' birds saw off the intruder several times as it did close fly-pasts and at one stage landed on the nest. Alas it was all too fast for us to ascertain an identity for the intruder, but usually at this time of year it is a young Osprey ( often male) looking to 'muscle in.

Other news at the centres is that we have several other live nest box cameras this year which we hope will be featuring some really interesting birds. At Glentress we already have Jackdaws nesting and at Kailzie the first optimistic signs of our FIRST EVER nesting Nuthatch on camera- stay tuned!

Thursday, 2 April 2009

And Then There Were Three!

What did I say yesterday? It wasn't an April fool- it was indeed the day our 'main' nest Osprey first returned. The hardworking volunteers attending a working Bee at Glentress centre preparing it for the season, were treated to the first camera view of our female bird on the nest just after lunch. This confirmed her presence which we'd suspected for a few days after local sightings over the river etc. What a welcome sight after her long and dangerous journeys!

Then the best of news today, as our female was joined by her mate at 10.30am this morning. The pair, despite months apart, wasted no time in romantic reunions and mated at 11am. This bodes very well for the breeding season ahead.

To top it all off the newly reunited pair joined forces to see off an intruder Osprey this lunchtime at the nest- alas it happened too quickly for me to identify the intruder, but I'm sure it won't be the last of the season.

The two visitor centres open on Monday so come and see the birds for yourselves soon!

Wednesday, 1 April 2009

Our First Bird of 2009

I am happy to report we have our first breeding bird of the 2009 season here in the Tweed Valley.
Alas it is not on our main live camera nest - yet! Will today be the day our stars arrive? we hope so!

Most of you will be familiar with the second nest we monitor in the area, affectionately know as the 'Backup' nest. It appears that the female on this nest is already in residence and busy housekeeping whilst waiting for her mate.
Many of you will know this bird as 'Errol's mum' as it was she in 2005 who raised an amazing four chicks to fledging ( a record ) one of whom was the famous runt Errol.

We hope to report very soon on more arrivals - stay tuned!