Monday, 29 June 2009

What to Expect Next

As our chicks reach their 'halfway mark' in the fast race to fledging, its a good time to look ahead. We've had lots of questions about what to expect over the next few weeks, so here's a guide.

Our chicks will quickly gain adult feathers now( these currently showing as wee brown smudges in their down), and will begin to look a lot more like miniature adults.

The chicks legs will start to develop strength and they will begin to stand more on the nest , whereas they are still currently 'walking' on their knees and their elbows! They will likely be much more adventurous on the nest too, venturing out of the central cup to the edges.

We expect in a week or so to see the chicks start stretching their wings and develop their muscles. They will likely fledge at between 7 and 8 weeks- watch out for the thrills and spills.

We also expect to ring the chicks sometime in the next ten days to two weeks: this special day will be organised by an expert team- stay tuned for the date to be announced. This event will be televised in the centres live.

Friday, 26 June 2009

The Name Game

Here in the Tweed Valley we have decided to break with convention this year and name our young Ospreys on the nest. There are three chicks at approximately three and a half weeks old, who are definately developing their own unique characters so we thought it high time they had names!

We have asked three of our local primary schools to help name the Osprey chicks , as hopefully these birds will part of the future of the Borders just as the children will be. The school holidays will be the ideal time for the children to come and meet their 'namesakes' and see for themselves just how fast they grow, and follow their eventful progress.

With very kind assistance of the local primary school children we now have names for two of our youngsters: The largest and bossiest chicks has been named " Tokyo" by Eddlestone Primary pupils and the second, darker chick has been named "Caledonia" by the pupils at Kingsland Primary School, Peebles. We are waiting for confirmation of the name for the third, youngest chick, but it is currently going by the nickname "Stig".

Tuesday, 23 June 2009

Hotting Up

Our baby Ospreys are now three weeks old, and taking on a speckled appearance, as they get the first tiny adult feathers. Their wings seem to be growing faster than anything else, and they seem to using these long appendages as 'props' . All three youngsters are quite mobile now and as they move around the nest, they balance on their wings as their feet are still quite weak.

Dad excelled himself this morning with three nice fish delivered within 3 hours- the demands of a hungry family just keep growing! The fishing conditions are near perfect, with calm clear water, at a good depth.

Mum has spent most of today shielding the youngsters from the hot weather- what a difference to last week when she was struggling to keep them warm. She has been standing over the chicks with her wings spread to provide as much shade as possible!

Thursday, 18 June 2009

Intruder Drama on the Nest

At Osprey nests, it is common in the early days of the season to have intruder Ospreys harass the nest. These are usually young juvenile birds trying to muscle in on the established pairs, who are given short welcome by resident birds. Regular viewers of our main nest here in the Tweed valley will know we certainly had our fair share of these dramas back in April.

It is more unusual however, to have intruders later in the season, so today's events were certainly a surprise! At approximately 11.45 the female started giving alarm calls, and the chicks obediently 'played dead' in the nest. Mum started to mantle ( spreading her wings defensively ) and the shadow of a large bird was seen passing over the nest a few times.

Then dramatically, a strange adult Osprey landed on the nest, clinging to the right hand side for a few seconds before mum flew at it in a rage and chased it off. This intruder bird seemed to fall to the lower branches of the nest tree, stunned, but then took off, and the female gave chase!

She was absent form the nest for at least 10 minutes, which the chicks didn't seem to mind, though we were very relieved when she reappeared to keep them safe. Though another Osprey would not harm the chicks, and opportunist predator may have take the chance to steal a chick, or a heavy shower could have chilled them fatally.

Is this the same intruder female who we saw at the nest in April? We could not seem any coloured leg ring during the brief visit so it is certainly possible- and would account for her boldness. Or could it be another of our youngsters returning to its natal nest? These questions can only be answered if it returns to the nest again- though we hope for our chicks sake , things remain quiet and peaceful.

Wednesday, 17 June 2009

Fledging Youngsters

News today of our other nesting birds on live cameras in the centres.

The swallows at Glentress have begun to fledge from the nest- all six are absolutely huge and hopefully will therefore have a good chance on the wing. The jackdaws have also fledged but are still using the box to roost in.

The Kailzie nuthatches are doing well, with several of the ringed young appearing on the feeders at the window very regularly. We are still hoping their parents will lay another clutch in the televised nest box.

The Herons are still using the nest their nests in the colony on camera, and are often to be seen sitting in a loose group in the field along the river bank- sometimes up to seven or eight of them!

We also have a blue tits live on camera at Kailzie at the moment on camera.

We are hoping to have more youngsters on camera in the centres soon- just in time for the school holidays!

Monday, 15 June 2009

Second Week for the Chicks

The second week of our chicks lives has been a happy and uneventful one. There have been plenty of fish delivered by our dedicated male, and mum has been working hard to keep the chicks warm and dry during the recent heavy showers of rain.

The chicks are 15, 14 and 12 days old today, and all are doing well- and even the smallest chick is managing to get his fair share of food- his size doesn't seem to an impediment. The squabbling is seemingly subsiding as the chicks sort out their 'pecking order' and things find a quieter equilibrium.

The change this week most of you will notice is that all three chicks have entered their very dark grey phase with distinctive white stripes on their backs. Some unkind folk would say this is an 'ugly' stage with the chicks looking decidedly reptilian! We'll let you decide!

Wednesday, 10 June 2009

Early Squabbles

The first week of the chicks lives at the main osprey nest has been a good one, with plenty of fish being delivered by their doting dad and mum doing a great job of being scrupulously fair at food distribution!

There have been some squabbles amongst the chicks though, with the largest and oldest chick ( not surprisingly) being the main culprit so far. It is quite normal for their to be sibling squabbles, especially in the first couple of weeks until a clear hierarchy develops. The biggest chick has been seen of the last couple of days, pecking at its second sibling and even at his mother- when she was trying to get it to sit down quietly under her!

Helpfully the three chicks are quite distinct from one another, and our volunteer staff can help you distinguish their differences. The oldest chick is also the palest and largest, with the second chick being much darker around the head. The youngest is of course much smaller and is also very pale.

Monday, 8 June 2009

Herons and Nuthatches

Those of you who have enjoyed views of our local Heronry at the Kailzie centre this spring will be pleased to hear the colony is doing well. There are at least seven 'teenage' herons, all either just fledged or on the cusp of their first flights. There are also, unusually, three freshly laid eggs!?!

We were privileged to witness the ringing of some of these young herons last week, when they were brought safely to the ground (using techniques similar to those we use every year on the Ospreys) for our licensed bird ringer to attached identity rings. These will hopefully enable us to follow their progress and chart how many of these local youngsters survive.

If you would like to see pictures of this process , please just ask centre staff

Our Kailzie Nuthatches have also fledged recently, with all six making their first flight within 20 minutes of each other on Thursday. These delightful little birds often lay two clutches of eggs per year so we will be leaving the nest camera connected in case. If you would like to see footage of this nest, there are highlights available in the centres. The adults are also still a common feature on the live feeding station at Kailzie.

Growing Bairns

Our three delightful Osprey chicks are all doing well, with oldest being a week old today. All three seem strong and healthy, and are happily feeding in turns.

There has been some squabbling, with the oldest chick being rather bossy, even having a go at its mum this morning. However, the smallest chick who was born late on Thursday, despite being much smaller, is holding its own.

The chicks are more distinct from each other than usual, with the eldest being the largest and palest, the middle one being noticeably darker and having more head stripes, and the youngest noticeably smaller.

All three will soon begin changing colours, growing a little darker grey and developing the odd 'roadstripe' white marking down their backs that typifies this next stage. Turn your back for a day and baby ospreys change colour on you!

Friday, 5 June 2009

Its a Triple Bill!

Great news yesterday afternoon as the third osprey egg on our main nest hatched!

Those of us watching all day did wonder if the poor female had 'ants in her pants' as she was very very restless all day. At around 4pm there suddenly appeared two pieces of broken egg shell which she took out from underneath herself.

Finally, after a very long wait ( sorry to those visitors who patiently waited until 5.30- you were right after all!!) at 5.40pm the male arrived with a (tiny) fish and the female stood up. We were clearly able to see both wee heads of the older chicks (looking strong and hungry!) as well as a very wobbly third little face.

Just like baby humans, it seems wee ospreys are not very good at first on head control! We hope the cold turn the weather has taken doesn't disadvantage this late little arrival who is , after all, three days younger than its oldest sibling.

Wednesday, 3 June 2009

And Now for the Bad News

Amongst all the happy news this week come two devastating bits of bad news for Ospreys in Scotland.

Firstly the confirmed police report of an Osprey egg theft in the highlands last month- egg thieves wiped out a breeding nest, in a illegal raid to supply the egg collecting trade. This kind of criminal behaviour threatens birds survival and is a timely reminder of the risks to our precious local birds.

If you are one of the lucky Borders locals who knows of a nest site location, PLEASE continue to be vigilant and keep the location to yourself! You never whose ears the information may end up in and the risks are very real. If you see any suspicious behaviour at any nest site, contact the Osprey officer or the police immediately.

Secondly, two reports this week of Scottish Ospreys seriously endangered and one dead through entanglement with fishing line. Whilst most fishermen are highly responsible and wildlife loving, a small minority continue to discard fishing line on river banks where it is a lethal hazard to all kinds of wildlife. Ospreys, swans, otters and other birds all regularly die or are injured by entanglement in discarded line. PLEASE CLEAN UP FISHING LINE! Walkers, if you see fishing line lying about, please pick it up to help protect wildlife- your actions could save lives.

Thank you.

And a Third and a Fourth

Fantastic news confirmed this afternoon that another of our local Osprey nests ( there are at least 8 again this year) , affectionately know as the 'backup nest' also has recent hatchlings. This nest is camera monitored , although not live linked , and todays recording clearly shows least two chicks. They are probably three or four days ahead of our main nest birds. We are hoping to be able to share this footage with you in the centres soon, so if you would like to see the backup nest birds, just ask the volunteer on duty to show you the latest recordings.
Lets hope all our local nests will do as well this year and we may have another bumper Osprey year!

A Second Osprey Arrival

More great news on Tuesday morning with the appearance of another baby Osprey on the main nest. It took us a while to confirm its presence- it wasn't until the lunchtime fish arrived that we saw its little head clearly- interestingly dad took a turn feeding both the chicks showing his typical dedication and tenderness which is not that common in male ospreys.

The second wee arrival is noticeably darker marked than its sibling which should allow us to distinguish them , at least for a while until the later feather stages - regular watchers will know how many colour stages baby ospreys go through!

We still await the third eggs potential hatching- stay tuned!

Monday, 1 June 2009

What a Scorcher of a First day!

Our first little Osprey chick of the year has had a scorcher of a first day in the blazing sunshine and unseasonal heat here in the Scottish Borders. The parents have been taking turns sheltering it (and its two unhatched siblings) with their shadows from the sun, rather than tucking it underneath to keep warn as is usually the case in cold spring weather !

The wee one has had many tiny meals of raw Tweed river fish, with mum keeping a ready supply of fish at hand on the nest for these 'little and often' snacks. This does however, seem to be attracting a lot of flies to the nest!

It is amazing to see how strong the chicks begging instinct is at only a few hours old- it seems strong and healthy and well able to put its head up for food at any opportunity

Lets hope the strong sun is not a risk to the chicks who can easily overheat, just as they can easily chill- it is up to the parents dedication now to keep them safe and comfortable until they have adult feathers and can regulate their own temperature.

Lets hope our wee osprey is joined by some siblings soon.

First Osprey Chick Hatches!

Great news this morning as our first wee Osprey of the season has hatched!!!!! Our first clue was when we turned the camera on this morning half a hatched egg was clearly visible. The male was sitting on the eggs and chick, but when mum arrived with food ( which she has been eating itself off nest) we saw the wee head appear. Both remaining eggs were also clearly visible.
Both parents have been seen spreading their wings wide to provide shade for their first arrival. More news soon!

Waiting With Baited Breath

Here in the Tweed Valley we are literally waiting with baited breath for our first Osprey chicks of 2009 to hatch. Yesterday was the 35th day for our 'oldest' egg, and therefore the first possible hatching date. Our birds seem to have an historical average of about 37 days so we feel sure the big event can't be far off!

The parent birds behaviour has certainly altered somewhat over the weekend. Despite the blazing sunshine, both parents have been diligent on the nest, with the male sitting most of the day on Sunday. Both birds seem to be somewhat restless, and we are looking out for signs of them 'listening' to the telltale noises from inside the eggs as they prepare to hatch.

Unusually on the weekend, when the male brought in a fish, the female did not leave with it as she has been prone to do, but he sat next to her and fed her strips of fish in a delightful display of tenderness. This is more like the behaviour we see on the nest when has has young chicks she is unwilling to leave.

Keep your fingers crossed and hopefully we will have good news to share with everyone very soon.