Thursday, 27 August 2009

Osprey Centres and Cameras

Please accept our apologies for the intermittent problems with the osprey nest camera over the last few days. Its seems the constant work over the summer has exhausted the solar batteries and they are draining quickly. In order to preserve them we have shortened the timer to 10.30am to 4pm. There have also been some clarity problems but hopefully these have now been sorted.

Our twin centres at Kailzie Gardens and Glentress forest will be open 10am-5pm until Monday the 31st August. After this time, as there is no longer any activity on the osprey nest, our centres will go into an 'off season' mode. Both will be open but unstaffed during September, with highlights of the 2009 season on display but no live camera viewing. They will of course still have information on local walks, wildlife watching etc available.

So pop in and see our friendly volunteer staff before the months end to hear all about our fantastic season, ask questions, or share your own osprey stories.

The End is Nigh

Well, metaphorically speaking the end of our 2009 osprey season is nearing its natural conclusion, as our young birds become independent and all the birds begin to think of moving southwards.

Over the last week, we've noticed the birds returning less and less often to the nest, and the three chicks are now appearing only once or twice a day for brief visits. This is , of course, a good sign as the youngsters need to be effectively self-sufficient any day now.

We have not had a confirmed sighting of our mother bird for well over a week , so we are pretty certain she has heading south on her long migration. Dad has also been conspicuously absent from the nest for the last few days- though he may still be in the area , just spending all his time at the river 'coaching' his offspring!

We are also starting to get regular sightings of other ospreys in the area- birds from further north in Scotland who are passing through the Borders on their journey south, often using our waterways as a convenient staging post.

All this of course means it is the best possible time of year to try your hand at spotting ospreys out and about in the Borders. If you want some hot tips, pop into one of our centres over the next few days and ask our volunteers. If you see a bird , and especially if you spot any wearing colourful Darvic leg rings, please let us know!

Wednesday, 19 August 2009

A Motherly Surprise

Our viewing of the live osprey nest has continued to be fascinating this week, with more than usual nest activity for this time of year. All three chicks are still making very regular appearances, and dad is perhaps surprisingly still bringing fish to the nest daily, despite the fact that at least two of the chicks are now able to hunt for themselves.

Yesterday held an even greater surprise though, as our female osprey made an appearance on the nest with a fish. We had begun to think she had already left for her long migration journey south. Regular watchers will know it is always mum who heads south first, leaving dad to 'supervise' the teenage chicks in the final weeks before he too abandons them.

What was most interesting though, was the fact that mum 'babied' the three chicks as if they were tiny- carefully shredding the fish she had brought in and ensuring it was shared fairly. This is extraordinary considering their advanced stage of independence!

It was great to see her looking so well and obviously in good hunting form as she will surely start her journey soon.

Monday, 17 August 2009

Growing Independence

Good news this week as all three of our chicks are doing brilliantly and gaining independence rapidly. They have all been returning to the nest regularly and their father has still been providing fish for them. There have been a few squabbles over fish on the nest and there is no doubt that the oldest two have been getting the lions share now mum isn't around to ensure good manners.

The best news though has been the appearance on the nest of both Tokyo and Calendonia with their own fish! Both chicks have returned to the nest carrying the fish, in Caledonia's case, still wriggling and flapping! We are very proud of our youngsters who are beginning to feed themselves. This puts paid to the theory that young ospreys do not hunt for themselves until abandoned by their parents and forces to start their southwards journeys.

Wednesday, 12 August 2009

Update on Other Birds

Just a quick note to answer some enquiries about our other birds we've been featuring at the centres over the last few months on live cameras. Though Ospreys are of course our stars, we like to think of them as ambassadors for all our local wildlife and try to feature other species in the centres as well.

Firstly, the live Heron nest on camera at Kailzie fledged at least 7 healthy chicks, and though we've had one sad mortality since then, these youngsters are often being seen in the Kailzie fields and on the Tweed river below the centre.

Similarly the nuthatch family who so fascinated us on live nest box camera are all fledged and still visit the bird feeding table outside the centre- though trying to see any leg ring numbers on these visits has proved impossible!

At Glentress, the swallows have just yesterday fledged their second brood on the live nest camera - a grand total of 10 chicks this year- well done parents! Its a pleasure to watch the swallows swooping around Glentress carpark oblivious to all the human activity below.

We have also had exciting regular reports of Tree Sparrows on our live feeding station camera- as well as all the usual suspects- which is a quite uncommon species distinct from the common House Sparrow.

Lastly we have a family of Jays frequently using the Live Osprey nest at the moment- two adults and at least one youngster have been making appearances, mostly when the Ospreys are away, to scavenge for scraps. They have even appeared when the nest is occupied occasionally, and after ignoring them imperiously for a while , the young ospreys eventually give chase! Jays are lovely forest birds, not often seen up close, but are versatile scavengers and a colourful addition!

There is still lots to see in the centres, including highlights of the season so far, so drop in before the end of August.

Monday, 10 August 2009

Family News

Over the last few days the main Osprey nest has been the site of regular activity and it's been quite hard to keep a track of all the coming and going! The whole family is never on the nest all together now, and with the adults and chicks all still using the nest as a base , especially for feeding, it is a bit like watching a constantly changing who's who!

The reason for all the confusion is easy to appreciate when you realise that all three chicks are now at least as big as their father and Tokyo and Caledonia are nearly as big as mum! The only appreciable difference in appearance is the more speckled feathers of the youngsters (as each feather still has a pale fringe to it).

The only way to be certain of the birds identities is to zoom in and focus on their legs to read their Identity Leg rings ( known as Darvic rings) which they have been wearing since the 13th July. By this method we have been able to confirm all three chicks have visited the nest regularly this week- including little Stig who seems to be doing just fine!

We have even seen mum on Thursday who brought a fish back to the nest and fed the chicks as if they were little.

This is interesting as she is obviously back to hunting herself and getting fit for her migration south, as she is usually the first to head south- and this could be very soon indeed.

Wednesday, 5 August 2009

Growing Up Fast

Our three Osprey chicks are certainly growing up quickly and showing remarkable independence at this early stage of their newly fledged lives. Over the last three or four days they have been an increasingly rare sight at the nest, as they spend longer and longer away on their 'training' flights, working on their all important fitness.

They have also taken to roosting on trees nearby the nest rather than on it, as their quick appearance when an adult with food appears testifies! Like all hungry teenagers, when food is on offer, they magically appear! Dad has been bringing at least two fish a day the the nest, but it looks very like the start of the ' tough love' period when the food deliveries decrease, as a none to subtle 'hint' that the youngsters should be trying fishing for themselves.