Friday, 31 July 2009

Stig Takes Off!

To everyone's joy, our smallest chick Stig, who got into such trouble earlier this week, has finally taken his first flight. Late yesterday he took off rather tentatively and made a short trip around the nest. He was back on the nest within five minutes looking very pleased with himself. However, he has only repeated the attempt twice since- he's still taking things slowly thank goodness!

Thursday, 30 July 2009

Stig Still on the Nest

To all our enormous relief it seems little Stig, our smallest chick, has learnt from his misadventure at the beginning of the week, and is taking things slowly. He has been sitting on the nest all day again yesterday, doing some wing stretching and flapping, but not trying to take off. Some unkind people have suggested he's a little 'backwards' but we think he's just being cautious as his unscheduled first 'flight' was such a disaster!

There has been lots of action at the nest, with the two oldest chicks making regular short flights and both parents appearing on the nest regularly. However, when dad brought in a fish and mum was absent, there was an bit of squabbling over the fish- with no mum there to ensure they shared fairly, Tokyo the oldest and bossiest unsurprisingly got the majority of ti!

We expect all three chicks to be using the nest a lot in the next two or three weeks or so- unlike many small birds, the Osprey chicks first flight is just the start of a gradual 'fitness' regime, aimed at building wing muscle and strength for the long journeys ahead.

Tuesday, 28 July 2009

Stig Recovers

Just a quick update on Stig- our little rascal who gave us all such a fright yesterday! He seems to be absolutely fine, none the worse for his "off the nest" adventures!

It doesn't seem like he's learnt his lesson though- he's back sitting on the edge of the nest again, as precariously as before!

He has been tucking into fish today as normal with his brother and sister who have both been taking short flights. At about 5pm today when dad brought in a fish, all five birds were on the nest- though the chicks can feed themselves already, mum seems to think it was vital she was there to ensure everyone shared fairly!

Lets hope Stig continues his wing stretching and flapping and is fit enough to make his official first flight later this week- fingers crossed its more successful than the last!

Monday, 27 July 2009

High Drama and Dramatic Rescue

Monday the 27th July 2009 will go down as one of our most dramatic days ever, but I am happy to report 'All's well that ends well'.

Yesterday afternoon, the youngest chick " Stig" took a tumble from the nest, despite not being anywhere near ready to fly . Witnesses describing him 'stepping backwards and falling of the nest' late afternoon. This is not uncommon in birds near to fledging and we waited to see if this unscheduled departure would force him to fly and see him return safely. (Almost all young Ospreys come back to the nest after their early flights, which usually only last few minutes.) Unfortunately by early this morning he had not reappeared and our concerns for him grew.

If "Stig" had been able to glide to a nearby tree, his parents would continue to feed him and all would be well until he was properly ready to fly in a few days. If however, he fell to the ground, he would most likely not have the strength to take off and would of course be desperately vulnerable to predators and unlikely to survive.

After consulting with our experts and much discussion on the merits of interfering, we decided that the other two chicks would not be compromised if we went to the nest to see if we could find " Stig". After a short search, we found him stuck amongst very long bracken near the base of the nest tree, looking forlorn, but unharmed. After a short confinement in a quiet and safe box, "Stig" was fed with some fresh fish ( kindly supplied by Ronnie Graham of Barony Country Foods at short notice!) and returned safely to the nest by Forestry Commission Conservation Manager Tony Lightly.

We watched on camera this afternoon as he sat on the nest feeding well and waiting for his two older siblings ( both now flying) to return to share his windfall of fish! He seemed none the worse for wear for his adventure, but was still standing perilously close to the nest edge having learnt little from his mishap! This happy outcome seems to vindicate our decision to intervene- since he most probably would not have survived if we hadn't. We will report on his progress tomorrow and hope all the excitement won't have done him any harm!

Whilst all this was going on, we shouldn't ignore the fact that our female chick "Caledonia" fledged naturally today as well, at about 2pm. Her first flight was a text book five minutes and she came back to an impressively accomplished first landing- well done lass!

Saturday, 25 July 2009

We Have First Lift Off!

This afternoon our oldest Osprey chick 'Tokyo' took his maiden flight. After a week full of vigorous wing stretching and flapping and a few attempts at flying across the large nest in the past couple of days, and at the grand old age of seven and half weeks he took his first flight from the nest at 1.57 pm today.

He was shepherded back to the nest by his ever watchful mother just three minutes later, as is often the case with Ospreys- they do not leave the nest permanently at first, continuing to use it as a base for several weeks to come, and only gradually building independence.

We will keep you posted on the progress of the other two chicks and be sure to drop in a visit us if you can to enjoy the thrills and spills ( crash landings and ungainly manoeuvres being common) of this eventful time in the young Ospreys lives.

Tuesday, 21 July 2009

Teenagers Doing Well

Our three Osprey chicks are all doing well, a week after their exciting ringing experience. They settled back into life on the nest very very quickly and have been happily showing off their blue leg rings on camera ever since!

They are spending a large amount of time preening themselves as the last of their down 'baby fluff' is shed and their adult feathers fully develop. When they shake themselves, little clouds of tiny down feathers often float away like thistle down!

They are also importantly spending a lot of time wing stretching now- which we have been jokingly calling 'Osprey aerobics'. This is crucial for their wing muscles to develop and strengthen prior to their first flight.

We've had lots of questions regarding when these chicks will fledge: the answer is soon! In 2007 when the chicks hatched at a similar time, they first fledged on the 24th July- so will this year be the same this year?

And don't worry , once they fledge they will keep coming back to the nest , like all teenagers, for food, rest and company, so you will still be seeing plenty of them!

Friday, 17 July 2009

Still Buzzing

Here in the Tweed Valley we are still buzzing from all the excitement of meeting our Osprey chicks up close on Monday on their ringing day. We thought you'd like some more pictures of them up close!

Also, some people have asked about the 'backup nest' where you will be pleased to hear two very big and healthy chicks were also ringed on Monday- one male and one female.

Tuesday, 14 July 2009

Baby's Big Day

Wow! What an amazing day for our young Ospreys and us!
Yesterday was ringing day- the only time in the Ospreys lives when they will be handled by humans. This safe and strictly controlled research technique involves the chicks being brought down to the ground for about half an hour to be weighed, measured, health checked and have identity leg rings fitted. These will enable us to identify these individuals in the future and track their movements. It is also our only chance for the team to meet them face to face and take photographs- an experience to be treasured.

The parent birds circled overhead during this process as usual, swearing at us but not attacking, and were happy to return to their family very shortly after they were returned to the nest safe and sound.

All three chicks were in very good body condition and very well grown for their age, we are happy to say. Tokyo was rather feisty and had a few nips at our team- until given a stick to hold in his beak! It turns out that he is a male bird, whereas Caledonia is undoubtedly a female, and little Stig ( still a healthy 1.6 kgs) is also probably a boy.

The rings this year are blue on the left leg, and the ring 'numbers' are : "LK" for Tokyo, "LL" for Caledonia" and "LM" for Stig.

There is extensive footage of this process now available of this process in both centres for you to enjoy.

Saturday, 11 July 2009

Ringing Day Approaches

The exciting day is fast approaching when our young Ospreys are going to be ringed. This is the only day in their entire lives (hopefully) when they will be handled by humans and that we will get to see them in such intimate detail so its an important moment.

This safe and strictly licensed technique is one hundred years old this year and tried and tested with Ospreys. It enables us to identify individuals, track the progress of birds and gather information on their migrations and whereabouts during their ( hopefully) long lives. At the same time, the chicks will be weighed, measured and given a health check as well.

This Monday morning ( the 13th) at approximately 10am- 12noon, the team will be ringing the main nest chicks, and thanks to help from the Forestry Commission technical department we will be able to broadcast this event live into the centres at Glentress and Kailzie for all to enjoy. There will be experienced volunteers on hand to explain the procedures as they happen and to answer any questions you may have.

All of this is of course weather dependant as the birds welfare must always come first, but I will try to post any change of plans here for you all.

Thursday, 9 July 2009

Growing Up Fast

Our three Osprey chicks, Tokyo, Caledonia and Stig, are growing up incredibly fast and showing signs in the last couple of days of making quick progress.

The wing stretching phase begun in earnest ( in which the chicks stretch horizontally often to strengthen their muscles for flight) which is often gangly and at the expense of the others' personal space'! Its just as well the nest is so large and mum is spending more time off the nest in a nearby tree.

Also, the largest chick, Tokyo, was seen today feeding itself for the first time. When the usual afternoon fish was fed to the chicks by mum, only a small fibrous tail fin section remained- too small and unappetising for mum to consider. The oldest chick took it upon itself to eat this unaided, almost choking on the whole tail as it swallowed it! Greed is good if you're a growing Osprey!

The chicks will be six weeks old next week, which means only one thing- ringing day is near! We will probably be doing this special job early next week so stay posted for more info- it will be televised in the centre for you all to enjoy.

Monday, 6 July 2009


Our poor Ospreys have spend a rather soggy weekend here in the Tweed Valley, with intermittent downpours of heavy summer rain. Some of you have no doubt noticed that mum seems to be a little less vigilant on the nest than earlier in the season, but before you criticise her, let us explain.

Now the chicks have a decent set of adult feathers coming through, they are much better at thermoregulation ( maintaining their own body temperature) and have gained an amount of waterproofing as well. This means mum can now take breaks sitting nearby, without having to sit on top of the chicks all the time.

Secondly, the chicks are now much less vulnerable to predators, being a) well camouflaged ( as some visitors will be able to tell you!) and b) big enough to be too much of a meal for almost all predators.

Thirdly, you will probably have noticed the chicks have started their wing stretching and exercising, which can be rather vigorous and make the nest a bit crowded and uncomfortable for mum- better to give the chicks room for their aerobics!

So if mum is absent from the nest- don't panic! It is most likely she is just a few feet to the right or left of the camera on a perch, nearby if there's any trouble or threat- as you can see from how quickly she appears when food arrives!

Thursday, 2 July 2009

Coping with the Heat

Here in the Tweed Valley we are sweltering in the heat, with hot muggy conditions and some sudden thundery downpours that haven't been unwelcome!

With the osprey nest being so high up and exposed, there is of course, no shade to be had for the chicks. Our female Osprey has therefore been doing a great 'parasol' impersonation, trying to provide enough shade for all three of her young. She has been standing with her wings outspread, almost like a cormorant, and with her own feathers fluffed out to increase air circulation. Heat and dehydration can be a real risk for young Ospreys who are getting all their water needs from their fish diet.

Fascinatingly, when the male has arrived with food over the last couple of days, mum hasn't made her usual quick grab of the fish to feed it to the chicks. She seems to realise keeping the chicks shaded is even more important than food, so she has held her position. Dad therefore has stepped into the breach and been feeding the chicks himself- not very common behaviour, but a sensible way around the problem. Osprey parents are nothing if not dedicated!