Wednesday, 29 August 2012

Farewell for this season


This years osprey brood not long after hatching
This years osprey brood not long after hatching
 The nest has been empty now for the past few days and although the young birds are likely to still be around, we think that the parents have now left.

Staring at the empty nest, we are reminded that these magnificent birds are only really, truly ‘our Tweed Valley Ospreys’, for part of the year, as they will be spending the next six months in Africa. I wonder do the local people in Africa refer to ‘their birds’ returning?

In reality, we share the pleasure of this international family. It should be a happy time to see the birds have left after another successful season, another brood of chicks raised and off to make their way in the world. But for the volunteers and staff at the osprey centres, it is always tinged with a slight sadness to see them go and we hope that the adult birds make it back safely next spring.

All that remains is to sincerely thank all of the volunteers that have staffed the centres this season. Some of the volunteers have been faithful to the Tweed Valley Osprey Project since the very start. Also, each year we manage to recruit a few new volunteers to the project and we are very grateful for their support and their enthusiasm to share the news about the osprey antics with visitors.

It is my last day for working on the osprey project for this year and I hope that everyone has enjoyed hearing the weekly osprey family updates.

Thank you for supporting the Tweed Valley Osprey Project,


Until next year, bye for now,

Di Bennett,
Tweed Valley Osprey Officer.



Thursday, 23 August 2012

Migration time for our ospreys

Migration for ospreys has started now and birds from further up north will be passing through the area on their southward journey to spend winter in Africa, in areas such as Senegal and the Gambia. Here, they will live a colonial existence, fishing in the swamps and languishing in the good weather, to avoid the harsher winters of Scotland.

We had thought that the female osprey from the Tweed Valley main nest had departed already but she made a very brief appearance at the nest on Sunday 19th. Both adult ospreys must spend this time preparing for their migration, by feeding up and getting into prime condition. The young must now fend for themselves, as they are due to make their solo journeys to Africa for the first time. This is a daunting task to embark upon, when so far their lives have proved to be quite idyllic here in the Borders. They have had the luxury of doting parents, they have been well fed, grown up in an undisturbed eyrie and now they are finding their way in the world, to explore this lovely area where they have been raised. They face many hazards and situations that they will have to deal with, as well as finding good food sources along the way.
A lone chick at the eyrie
We hope that good weather assists them for their first migration so that they make a safe crossing over large water bodies and avoid desert landscapes as much as possible.

Once the young ospreys have made one successful journey, the knowledge and experience that they have gained will help them for future passages and they will select their own favoured routes with good stop over sites. The journey can take up to a month to complete before they settle into wintering grounds. The young birds may not return until they are two to three years old and they would be unlikely to breed successfully until at least aged 3 to 4 years old.

Once settled into a nesting territory they can live well into their twenties and make lifelong partnerships.

The main nest birds have been together for nine years and they have remained faithful to each other and to the nesting site. Next year will be the 10th anniversary of the osprey pair and also the 10th anniversary of the Osprey Centres, so the Tweed Valley Osprey Partnership of Forestry Commission for Scotland, Kailzie Gardens and RSPB we will be planning a joint celebration event to mark the occasion.

Follow us on Twitter and via the FC Scotland Facebook page for updates on the 10th Anniversary celebration.

Friday, 17 August 2012

Our young ospreys getting to grips with the art of hunting


Osprey Talons
The young ospreys are now proficient flying hunters. They have had a few weeks to explore the Borders terrain and discover all of the fishing hot spots with their parents.

The weather has finally given them a break to practice hunting and spotting fish in the water from a good height and then aim their plunge dive technique, to lock on to the unsuspecting fish below and pluck it from the water.

The fish are caught in their mighty talons and then they manoeuvre their toes to face the fish in a forwards direction to carry it off in a streamlined fashion. This is quite a skill to master and to be able to fly with a live wriggling fish between their talons too. The technique is naturally aided by the birds finely designed feet, sporting growths called spicules, which act as sticky pads onto the fish, so that it doesn’t slip from their grasp.

We have seen chicks recently landing on the nest with fish and we are assuming that they are catching this prey for themselves, although we have also witnessed the parents drop in with an occasional fish also. So, it could be that they are still being supported by their parents as well as catching some of their own.

The adult birds will be leaving for their long haul migration to Africa soon. The female is usually the first to break up the family unit and may well have already left. She was last seen on Friday 10th August. The chicks are still coming to the nest, so we are confident that the male is still around because the young birds wait and hope that he will pass a fish over to them. The nest stands empty for quite long periods of time and then suddenly a chick will fly in and land and will begin calling excitedly, which must be because an adult or a sibling is nearby with a fish.

One of the young ospreys looks to be smaller than the other two chicks and at the time of ringing, it was thought that all three chicks were female because they were a good weight and size but possibly now that they are grown, the smaller one may turn out to be a male bird.

You can view footage of these magnificent birds before they head off on their long journey via our webcam .

Wednesday, 15 August 2012

Cheeky intruder at the osprey nest!


Visitors to the osprey eyrie have included a jay family and this week a juvenile great spotted woodpecker.

There are frequent coming and goings from the osprey chicks at the nest site whenever they are hungry. The parents have been at the nest site regularly too and the male brought in a fish on Sunday which the female took and flew off with it. They seem to keep their strong pair bond this
late into the season even though their instinct to prepare for a long migration journey is imminent. It is usual for the female to be the first to break up the family unit and head south once the chicks have fledged and have been flying for a few weeks. Perhaps having had such a very early brood means a longer stay in Scotland for the adult birds. This slow end to the season will allow for plenty of time for the adults to gain peak condition for the flight to Africa. The young birds will also have extended time to hone their skills before making their perilous first migration journey.

David Allan who is one of the Osprey Project volunteers sent this message to me yesterday, ‘ Just to let you know, we had a rather unwelcome intruder at the nest this afternoon . . . . a GREY SQUIRREL!

It appeared around 3:15pm, and hung around the nest for a couple of minutes. The female was on the nest at the time with a fish. I don't know who got the bigger shock when the squirrel appeared over the edge of the nest!

Live images of the osprey nest can be viewed via our webcam which is available from 8am to 6pm

Wednesday, 1 August 2012

Young ospreys left home alone and visits from the Jay family


Two jays check out the empty nest.
The osprey eyrie is sometimes unoccupied by the osprey family when they are out on a fishing foray. This leaves a desirable residence open for exploration from other species checking it out.

The jay family which presumably nested quite near to the osprey family, have been frequently seen at the nest, moving sticks about and pecking around on the nest floor to pick up any titbits.


One of the jays flew on to the nest and was startled by the arrival of one of the osprey youngsters. The bold jay nonchalantly moved towards the edge of the nest and as it gained confidence and felt less threatened by the presence of the osprey, slowly made its way back to the middle of the nest, just pecking at the sticks. Then both osprey and jay flew off at the same time but parting in different directions.

On Monday 30th July, two of the young ospreys were at the nest with a fish each and were feeding themselves. There was no sign of the parent birds and so there is no way of knowing whether these young birds had caught the fish for themselves, or if parents had given the fish to them. They both arrived at the nest with the fish. The third young osprey flew in to join her sisters but one of them took off presumably not very enthusiastic about sharing her dinner!


Chick all alone in the nest squawking loudly.
There can be long periods of squawking from the chicks as they hang around the nest site waiting for food. Sometimes they may perch to the side of the nest and call loudly. We cannot see if there is a parent nearby but assume that there must be and that the young birds are begging for food.


There are occasions were the birds appear to look skyward and begin to alarm call and this could mark the presence of intruder ospreys or other perceived threats such as buzzard or maybe goshawk nearby. There have not been any incidents that we know of at this site, or of any intruder birds actually coming down to the nest this year, although in the past other ospreys have popped down to check out the site.

At the Osprey Centres

Young great spotted woodpeckers have been seen coming to the bird feeders regularly at both Glentress and Kailzie feeding stations and they seem to favour the peanut feeders. A hedgehog has been patrolling the area outside of the Kailzie Osprey and Nature Watch Centre and even had a snooze in the hedgehog box!

There is a clear path from the hedgehog box to the pond edge where it must come for a drink. Young birds seem to be everywhere at this time of year and they are rapidly spreading out to make up roving mixed flocks feeding through the woodland areas.

Soon the wader families of oystercatcher, lapwing and curlews will abandon their upland home for a more coastal and estuarine habitat for the autumn.

Friday, 27 July 2012

A variety of breeding birds at the Osprey Watch Centres

Swallows

The swallow chicks have flown the nest. It is really good to know that this family have done so well during this wet summer. We will be watching to see if the parents come back to have a second brood as they usually do. They will choose a nest site near to the one they have just occupied and start again. If they do we will move the camera and watch the next stage of summer with this pair of swallows.


Feeding stations

It is good to see that there are many young song birds coming to the bird feeding stations at both Glentress and Kailzie Gardens. The young blue tits and great tits have yellow faces compared to the white faces of their parents. The black facial markings and bibs are the same as the adult birds. Young great spotted woodpeckers, nuthatches , chaffinches and greenfinches have also been spotted.


Red list species of conservation concern
Spotted flycatchers at Kailzie Gardens
Spotted flycatchers at Kailzie Gardens

The young flycatchers and their parents are really visible down the main drive into Kailzie Gardens, you can see them perched on the post and wire fences and swooping off to chase flies and return back to the perch. A short film clip of the flycatchers filmed along the drive can be watched in the osprey and nature watch centre. The parents and two youngsters can be seen as a family together during a torrential rainstorm.


Spotted flycatchers are described as being on the red list of birds of conservation importance according to the RSPB website. These are birds of the highest conservation concern that have severely declined in population and suffered a severe contraction of breeding range over the past 25 years. We are very privileged to have them breeding successfully at Kailzie Gardens.


Tuesday, 24 July 2012

Osprey manners missing at feeding time as chicks resemble rebellious teenagers!

Lunchtime feeding at the osprey eyrie seems to have lost the orderly and civilised manner we have become familiar with over the course of our young chicks growing up. The youngsters now resemble rebellious teenagers all shouting to each other excitedly across the table at meal times!

Our hungry chicks at feeding time
Our hungry chicks at feeding time
The female (Mum) brought in a good sized fish. We don’t know if Dad had caught it and given it to her, or whether she caught it herself. She flew on to the nest with it and was soon joined by three extremely noisy youngsters. The boldest chick took the fish from her and began to feed itself avidly.
The whole time our bold chick was tucking into the fish, the other two just squawked and created a rumpus. Mum decided that she would like to take the fish back. The chick took on an aggressive stance and faced down her mum, as she mantled over the fish and held onto it in her talons! Her mum backed off and flew from the nest. Once the chicks’ appetite was satisfied, she let go of the fish and moved away.

The next chick quickly seized the opportunity and grabbed the half eaten fish and began to eat , leaving chick number three to really squawk and complain loudly throughout her sisters feeding. Mum returned and it looked as though she was about to take the fish again. We thought that she was probably going to ensure that the third chick was fed, however, her intent was actually more about taking the fish for herself! When she was unsuccessful again, she took off and left the chicks to continue.

After about twenty minutes the second chick lost interest in feeding and thankfully chick number three managed to grab the remaining third of the fish to feed.

This is a great time of year to watch out for families of ospreys out and about near water bodies in the Scottish Borders and particularly around Tweed Valley. Fledged, hungry chicks will be honing their skills for flight and to master fishing techniques. Mostly they will rely upon their parents to catch the fish for them but they must watch how they do it and learn very quickly. Soon the parents will be less keen to share their supplies as they will need to build up their own reserves for the return journey to Africa. Hunger will eventually drive the young birds to fish for themselves. It is a hard lesson for them and their survival depends on it.

Tuesday, 17 July 2012

Successful first flight for our three osprey chicks

On the first day without rain (12th July), two of the osprey chicks took to the skies at last, followed later in the day by the third chick.


Our three chicks at the nest after a successful first flight
Our three chicks at the nest after a successful first flight
 It is always a very worrying time when the birds make their first flights as they can crash land and struggle to make lift- off again. The birds were away from the nest for a considerable amount of time and we waited in anticipation to see if the family would return safely.

The day after their debut flights all of the family were seen back at the nest and all were looking healthy and well. A safe first adventure for the youngsters and this has now set them well on their way to full maturity. They will spend their time from now on familiarizing themselves with the landscape and following their dad to learn fishing and hunting skills.

On Monday 16th July, the whole family were together at the nest. Dad had brought in a good sized fish and the boldest chick (CK1), seized upon it and began to tear off strips of flesh and feed herself. She continued to feed until she was full, before mum took the fish from her during much squawking and complaining and proceeded to share the rest of the fish by tearing off bits and offering them to the two other chicks one at a time.

The family altogether at the nest are an incredible sight and the young birds are now fully adult sized. The female brood are bigger than their Dad. They have been nicknamed the ‘Pointer Sisters’, as we waited for such a long time for them to ‘go ahead and jump’, to make their first flights!

Of the three chicks, the most dominant and leader of any activity is the chick with leg ring CK1. She was the first to fly, the first to feed herself and she takes off from the nest first after feeding. She is a bold bird that will hopefully have good survival instincts to ensure a long life.

Tuesday, 10 July 2012

Nearly ready to fly from the crowded nest.

Dad in the middle of the nest with his young family
 and Mum watches from the side branch.
The Tweed Valley Osprey chicks on the main camera nest have not flown yet. At the viewing centres, the on- screen antics of the birds limbering up ready for flight is super to watch.

We have witnessed many concerted wing-flapping sessions and valiant effort but lift-off has been achieved only briefly so far, rising from the nest and then straight back down again. The birds are well feathered and look physically ready to go but they are not in a hurry to venture out into the wider world just yet.
It's a bit of a squash !
While on duty, one of our volunteers, Iain Coates, made this observation about their flight practice:
"One knew what it was doing, another tried but didn’t quite have the rhythm and the third wasn’t really sure what it was supposed to do!"

When the whole family is at the nest it is a very crowded place now. The huge nest structure looks really small when occupied by the five family members together.

Survival against all the odds


The Tweed Valley Ospreys have done remarkably well to raise chicks to survive this summer of deluge and rivers mostly in a state of spate.

We have heard news of chick fatalities across the whole of the UK. Birds have simply not survived due to the cold wet summer and lack of food. One chick from each of the nests at Caerlaverock, Aberfoyle, Loch Garten and Kielder have been reported as having died in the nest; two chicks died at the Dyfi nest in Wales.

A final count up of all the osprey nest sites in the Tweed Valley has not been reported yet but we know that at least two of the nest sites have very good, healthy chicks ready to fledge. The parent birds are finding a good food source to exploit and this is looking very optimistic for the future of Tweed Valley raised ospreys.

Prize winners visit osprey ringing event.


The Fernando family from Edinburgh won a prize trip to see the ospreys being ringed in Tweed Valley.



Gail,Naresh,Reine Fernando (age 12) and Lowry Fernando (Age 7)
At the weekend, the osprey chicks in the nest known as ‘The Back-Up Nest’ were ringed. The Fernando family from Edinburgh were invited along as special guests to see the chicks being ringed by Tony Lightley, (Conservation Manager from Forestry Commission Scotland and licensed ringer for raptors in the South of Scotland).
Phil Cosgrove , Chairman of Friends of Kailzie Wildlife
 and osprey project volunteer.
The special invitation was won as a raffle prize from the Kailzie Wildlife Festival Event on 9th and 10th June. Phil Cosgrove, chairman of the Friends of Kailzie Wildlife was delighted to inform the family of their special prize and attended the event also.

Tony Lightley rings the osprey chicks across the whole region as part of the Tweed Valley Osprey Project to monitor their progress and distribution throughout their lifetimes. The two healthy chicks were fitted with blue darvic leg rings CK5 and CK6.


As well as chairing the Friends of Kailzie Wildlife Group, Phil has been volunteering with the Tweed Valley Osprey Project for 6 years and this was the first time he had seen ospreys so close. He described it as a wonderful experience.

One of the chicks ringed.
The Fernando family had a lovely time and Gail said:

"We were very excited when we heard we had won the competition and the children were really looking forward to the ringing. The actual day far exceeded our expectations and it was a magical and very moving experience and was the highlight of our summer holidays.
"A big thank you to Tony at Forestry Commission Scotland and Friends of Kailzie Wildlife for organising this brilliant prize."


Reine (age 12) said; “It was an experience like no other. Getting to actually hold the osprey chick was really exciting, I can’t wait to tell all my school friends about it”

More news via the wildlife cameras.


Swallows.

The swallow family on camera at Kailzie now have three chicks hatched and the busy parents are swooping into the nest taking turns to deliver food for their brood.  The parents seem to have chosen a good location for the nest on a ledge at the back of the fishery building.

Pond Camera.

The pond camera is revealing good views of the diving beetles swimming about, with the characteristic air bubble on their backs to enable underwater breathing.  The newts have not been seen for a while, so perhaps the adults have left the pond now, and we are hopeful of seeing young newts (efts).

Efts resemble the adults only with dragon-like adornments to their heads - external gills for their underwater life cycle until they are ready to become truly amphibious adults with lungs for breathing out of the water.

Wildflowers

At Glentress the wildflowers are in full bloom all around the wildwatch room and car parks. There is an abundance of birdsfoot trefoil, yellow rattle, clovers, oxe-eye daisies, and vetches, all attracting plenty of butterflies, moths and bees. One of the cameras has been fixed on to the flowers to watch bee activity.

Tuesday, 3 July 2012

Home Alone Chicks Prepare for Flight



Wing Flapping to strengthen muscles.
The osprey chicks are building up to making their first flight. The majority of time in the nest is spent preening their feathers to ensure that they are in pristine condition and wing flapping with ever greater degrees of intensity. The wing flapping is a way of strengthening their muscles in readiness for flight.
It is incredible that only seven weeks ago, there were three tiny heads peering upwards from the bottom of the nest and now the three chicks are virtually adult sized and occupy all of the space in the nest and when the adults are there as well, it seems totally overcrowded.

 The male continues to deliver really big fish, the family took 45 minutes to devour a huge fish between them on Monday  and afterwards they appeared to be satisfied for a long time.

On Tuesday, the volunteers on duty did not see a fish brought in for most of the day which could be deliberate action from the male to encourage the chicks to make a first flight from the nest.  If the chicks are a bit lethargic and unwilling to test out their wings, hunger will drive them on eventually.  The chicks were left for long periods of time in the nest alone and they were unconcerned,  appearing to concentrate on more preening and more and more wing flapping.

From this time on, until the end of the osprey season in early September, it is a good time to keep a watchful eye out for ospreys in flight.  Soon all the chicks from other successful nest sites in the Upper Tweed Valley as well as the camera nest family will be flying and fishing at any suitable water bodies, including the River Tweed. So it is worth keeping a pair of binoculars to hand, when out and about and double checking any large birds of prey in flight.

If any birds are spotted through telescopes or on camera with visible ring numbers, please let us know and we can find out where the bird is from and when it was hatched out. Towards the end of the summer this becomes very useful information, as birds from further north will be passing through as well.

Wednesday, 27 June 2012

New osprey chicks are ringed

Tweed Valley Osprey Project volunteers at yesterdays ringing
Tweed Valley Osprey Project volunteers
 at yesterdays ringing
Yesterday, the young osprey chicks in the main camera nest were ringed.

Tony Lightley, the conservation manager from Forestry Commission for Scotland led his team to the nest, where under special licence, Tony was able to climb to the top of the nest tree and remove the chicks and lower them to the ground below where they were fitted with two leg rings each. On their right legs they received a unique British Trust for Ornithology Ring which is indestructible and bears a unique reference number, and on the left leg they each received a large blue coloured Darvic ring with white lettering.

The three chicks from our main nest were given the following leg rings, CKO, CK1 and CK2.

These rings will help to monitor the progress of the birds over the course of their lifetimes. If the birds are spotted and a note made of their leg ring number this can be sent to BTO (British Trust for Ornithology) and the ringer of the bird will be contacted to let them know. This is a great tool to scientifically track the distribution of ospreys and find out about how long they live and where they are migrating to; and often information can be gleaned about other places birds may turn up along their migration routes at stop off feeding places.

The chicks were also measured and weighed and from this information we believe that all three chicks may be female. They are very big chicks and well fed and feathered. It is estimated that they will be likely to fly in about another weeks’ time.

A selection of volunteers are invited to attend the ringing each year, as a thank you for staffing the centres at Glentress and Kailzie. All enjoyed the experience very much and were delighted at seeing the chicks.

Wednesday, 20 June 2012

Kailzie Wildlife Festival and more from Tweed Valley

Visitors to the wildlife festival were left in no doubt that the Tweed Valley is indeed teeming with wildlife. Below is a summary of just some of the wildlife seen in absolute close-up, over the whole weekend event.

· Live mammal trapping caught two voles and two wood mice and these were safely returned back to their homes after greeting the public!

· Marathon Pond dipping with Anna Craigen from Borders Forest Trust caught lots of pond life mentioned above.

· Burn dipping caught – mayfly nymphs, cased caddis fly larvae, leeches, fresh water limpet, trout fry and lots of fresh water shrimps.

· Moth trapping with Reuben Singleton and moth group friends caught, angle shades, brimstone, prominents and many more but the star moth caught one of our volunteers Nigel Palmer! It hitched a lift on his sleeve for most of the afternoon! It was a magnificent hawk moth.

· Bird ringing with Stuart Craig was absolutely brilliant with visitors able to see birds in the hand such as great spotted woodpecker, blue tits, siskin, nuthatches, great tits, chaffinches, coal tits and swallow.

The pond dipping activities during the Kailzie Wildlife Festival proved to be one of the most enjoyable sessions and kids were enthralled by the myriad creatures lurking in the deep. Sticklebacks, diving beetles, leeches, water boatmen , tadpoles and water shrimp were just some of the fascinating pond life that was found. The pond camera back at the osprey and nature centre continues to reveal the life in the underwater world and we have witnessed the occasional diving beetle whizzing by but by far the star attractions are the palmate newts stalking prey on the pond bed.
We will be running the event again next year so we hope to meet even more visitors for an even bigger event.

Meanwhile.....

The heron chicks spend very little time at the nest now. The less than subtle hint from their parents to make the chicks hunt for themselves seems to have finally pressed home.

Our swallow has settled down to incubate her eggs on the nest, this can be viewed at the Kailzie Osprey and Nature Watch Centre which has a camera pointed into the nest and the images are relayed to a large screen in the centre. The adult bird is such a beautiful sight with dark blue wings, back and tail with a red face and cream under belly. These beautiful migrant birds are easily recognisable by their forked tails and long tail streamers.




Growing Chicks are now wing stretching.



Young ospreys
Young ospreys play dead

The osprey chicks have survived the worst that the good old British weather has managed to throw at them and it was really heart - warming to see relaxed and healthy large chicks in the nest yesterday.

Tensions seem to have eased between the siblings too, and the youngest chick has apparently regained an appetite. The male bird with white leg ring SS continues to exploit his fishing source and is bringing in lovely big trout to feed the young brood.

Plenty of relaxed wing stretching was witnessed at the nest today and this is a good sign as the youngsters flex their muscles and develop their bodies in preparation for flight which will only be a couple of weeks away now.

Ringing the young chicks will be taking place shortly under licence with Tony Lightley, the Forestry Commission Scotland Conservation Manager and his team of helpers.

This will involve accessing the nest and removing the youngsters to fit their legs with Darvic ring and BTO ring so that we can gain an insight into their distribution once they have left the nest. Sightings of the large Darvic rings with the coloured background and lettering can be used to trace the origin of birds seen.

Osprey White SS

This year so far we have received news that Tweed Valley raised birds have appeared at Leighton Moss, and Tweed Valley osprey with blue Darvic leg ring ‘HF’, turned up at Dyfi Opsrey Project in Wales on 4th June - probably trying to get a spot of stardom on Springwatch!

Tweed Valley-raised chicks dispersing around the country is superb news for us, as it is so good to know that birds are returning after successful migration journeys.

Keep up to date with our ospreys progress and view images on the new FCS facebook page

Monday, 18 June 2012

Herons and more nest site news from Tweed Valley


Waiting and hoping Mum will bring some food.
Herons. The two heron chicks are fully fledged and flying off to feed themselves and to explore their surroundings. They return to the nest and spend quite a time sitting and resting ever hopeful that one of their parents will pop in and bring some food. The parents have not been seen at the nest for some time though and this is a deliberate ploy to make the chicks leave the nest and hunt for themselves.


Blue tits.

Both blue tit families which were live on camera have now fledged, four chicks in each nest which is a low number, considering some years a single brood can consist of at least 10 chicks. The weather caused a lack of food and some nestlings died of starvation but it is good that some of them have made it.

Swallows.

At Kailzie, a small camera is now revealing life in a swallow nest. The swallows have been seen building the nest up and we were aware that there was at least one egg in the nest at the weekend but now the female appears to be sitting more in the nest, so perhaps she has laid her full clutch now.

Oystercatchers at Glentress.
Oystercatcher eggs in the scrape nest.
Sadly, too much disturbance from people passing the nest meant that the female oystercatcher was away from her eggs for too long.

A smashed egg was first seen with two eggs remaining but a little later all three eggs were smashed. We don’t know what smashed the eggs but presume a crow has attacked while the female was disturbed and away from the nest.  Very disappointing and next time a vulnerable nest appears we may try to cordon it off to allow the parent some peace to incubate without disturbance.

 It was too difficult where this nest was positioned because it was right next to the main path leading to the wildwatch and washroom on a main thoroughfare.

Pied Wagtail

We may prove to be lucky yet though, as it appears that a new nest is being constructed within the structure of the osprey demonstration nest. A small pied wagtail has been seen working away and if she does settle we will move a camera over to watch her and hopefully be able to witness her incubate her eggs and raise a little family.

Protecting vulnerable chicks from rainstorms .


Recently the osprey family have had to put up with some torrential downpours and the chicks were very vulnerable to hypothermia during the extremes of weather. However, having such attentive parents has meant that the chicks have come through what has been the worst of it. The female shielded the youngsters under her, with wings stretched out and mantled around the chicks to protect them from the wind and the rain.

Volunteers on duty have noted on several occasions now that the smallest chick has been subjected to some pretty tough bashings from the largest chick in the nest and at one point the poor victim appeared to have its head stuck in amongst the sticks of the nest, as it crouched down to play dead, waiting for the attack to subside.
The smallest chick has not always been as keen to come forward to feed and  has quickly lost interest in eating during meal times. We are watching to see how things progress and we hope that this phase will soon pass without any harm done.
Waiting for a fish delivery

The young have grown considerably and are now appearing to be well feathered.  The weather settled down on Monday and Tuesday last week and a sign that all is now well in the nest is that the female has begun to leave the chicks on occasion and go off to feed herself. She must feel confident that the chicks have developed enough for their own downy feathers to keep them warm.

Dad has been seen bringing in some very good sized trout, they are still gleaming and wet having just been caught and delivered straight to the family.

Friday, 8 June 2012

Sibling rivalry in the osprey nest!

The chicks are growing big and strong, their bodies are looking well rounded and they are tumbling about the nest, gaining more strength in their legs and stubby wings. The largest of the chicks is a bit of a bully towards the smaller siblings and the volunteer on duty last Saturday was most concerned when the large chick began to attack the smallest chick in the nest, repeatedly pecking at the back of the head! Chick squabbles are nothing new but this seemed to be particularly vicious.

Fortunately however, the chick seems to be fine and not affected by the onslaught.

Osprey family at Tweed Valley
Our osprey family at the nest
On Monday late in the afternoon, the osprey family were seen together at the nest and the chicks began to get hungry. Their last meal had been at midday. The largest chick began to grab the smaller chicks and peck at them again, although the parents seemed to be quite unconcerned.

At about 3pm Dad finally took the hint and went off to catch a fish for his family. He returned about 45 minutes later with a huge fish, which was still very lively and flapping about. The female extracted the fish from his talons and began to tear strips from the head with her hooked beak to feed the chicks.

The ospreys are now developing into a proper family, although we will need to keep an eye on our troublesome chick!

You can see live high quality images of the ospreys in action at our two viewing centres in Tweed Valley at Glentress and Kailzie Gardens.

Wednesday, 6 June 2012

First Kailzie Wildlife Festival takes place this weekend

Kailzie wildlife festival poster
The first ever wildlife festival organised by the Friends of Kailzie Wildlife will be held at Kailzie Gardens on 9th and 10th June with events and activities for all the family to enjoy and get involved in.

The festival starts at 10am on 9th June, with exhibitions, stalls and activities. The first activity on the day will be to check the mammal traps for small animals such as mice and voles. These will then be released before the weather gets too warm, as any caught will have gone into the traps the previous evening. They will have had a good feed from the food left for them and a sleep in the bedding provided in the Longworth traps! The mammals can be viewed at close quarters and then selected children from the crowd will be allowed to release them.

Throughout the day there will be themed activities such as pond dipping, stream dipping, heritage tree walks, bird watching trips and bug hunts all led by conservation organisations such as Tweed Valley Osprey Project, RSPB and Borders Forest Trust, Forestry Commission Scotland as well as the museum service and volunteers.

Professional ornithologist Roy Dennis is officially opening the festival at 11.30am on Saturday 9th June followed by a talk in the Osprey and Nature Watch Centre about his ‘life of ospreys’ and many people are looking forward to meeting such an expert whose life has been dedicated to these famous birds since the early days of their return from extinction in the UK.

For more information call Kailzie Gardens on 01721 720007 via the FC Scotland Facebook page or visit the website http://www.kailziewildlife.org/

Friday, 1 June 2012

Good weather brings out an abundance of bird life in Tweed Valley

The good weather has meant a surge in good blue tit food with the emergence of caterpillars and we have 4 chicks left in the box which are now looking like they will thrive. Good news after the unfortunate loss of chicks earlier in the month. They are well feathered and it will only be another week before they will leave the nest and head into the woods. Hurry down to the centre at Kailzie before you miss them!

The starlings have left their porch nest at the centre at Kailzie. We never saw them leave as they often go at dawn, we can only hope that the young birds outwitted the crows waiting to pick them off! The parent birds have been popping back to the nest and we are hoping they are going to try for a second brood. If they do we will be able to pop a camera in to watch them.

Oystercatcher
Oystercatcher nesting on the stoney ground
at Glentress
There is an oystercatcher nesting on the bare stoney ground outside the Wildwatch Room at Glentress. You may think this is a particularly stupid place to nest with so many people wandering about and disturbing her but is there method in her madness? The presence of so many people around prevents the crows from coming down and is actually helping.
A note to all mountain bikers and pedestrians please keep to the paths as there are quite a few oystercatchers nesting in vulnerable places around the centre buildings.

Heron chicks
Our two heron chicks

The two heron chicks are really big now at two months old and they flap about and wander around the nest tree, we haven’t seen any purposeful take-offs yet, so it is doubtful if they are flying yet. The parents are still bringing food to the nest where they are feeding.

Tuesday, 29 May 2012

Our three new chicks bask in the sunshine but no luck with the fourth egg



Osprey parents with chicks
Our proud parents watch over their new brood
The fourth egg has not hatched and cannot be seen in the nest. The female osprey has stopped incubating so the egg must not have been viable. However, on a much brighter note, we have three bouncy healthy looking chicks in the nest and they are growing at a phenomenal rate!

Only one week ago we could barely see their tiny heads reaching up for food. Since then they have almost doubled in size! They have grey down covered bodies and stumpy wings with the characteristic black eye-stripe prominent on their faces.

This phase of their life cycle could be classed as their ugly phase, often almost reptilian in facial expressions and mannerisms as they lurch at each other in chick squabbles from time to time. In just a very short period they will begin to get their fledgling feathers and they will gain their handsome colouring.
We are currently having a summer of extremes in Tweed Valley, from the washout spring, (thankfully, before the chicks hatched), to the sudden heatwave. The female now has the greatest concern to shield the vulnerable chicks from the scorching sun as they can very quickly be affected with heat exhaustion.

Pictures of the new chicks can be viewed on the new FC Scotland Facebook page

Wednesday, 23 May 2012

Feeding the three new arrivals

On Saturday 19th May, the male brought in a small fish with red fins, possibly a rudd or a roach. The fish was still alive and flapping as Mum was feeding the chicks and the tail fin caught the 4th egg and rolled it in the nest so we got a really clear view of it.

Female osprey feeds chicks
Our female osprey feeds her young chicks
 On 21st May the male brought a freshly caught fish back to the nest with the head still intact and the fish was flapping about which was a grisly sight. Usually he would have eaten the head first and then delivered the remains but because the chicks have only just hatched he must be very keen to ensure that his family benefit from the successful fishing trip as soon as possible.The female tore off small strips of flesh from the fish and fed this directly to the young chicks.

After feeding time was over, the female settled down onto the young brood and appeared to be continuing to incubate the fourth egg.

Visit our two Osprey Watch centres at Kailzie Gardens and Glentress for quality live images of our osprey family.

Monday, 21 May 2012

New arrivals boost osprey family numbers


osprey chicks
Chicks from a previous Tweed Valley brood
 Two further eggs have now hatched in the osprey nest in Tweed Valley meaning we now have proud parents of three chicks. The eggs hatched over the last few days and the male osprey has now had to double his efforts to make sure he catches the largest fish possible to feed his brood!

We are still awaiting images of the new chicks. These will be posted on the new FC Scotland facebook page when we get them.

A fourth egg still remains in the nest. Volunteers at the centres remain hopeful that this will hatch, however four chicks in one nest would be an extremely rare occurance.

On a sadder note, our blue tits have been seen on camera dragging three dead chicks from the nest. It is believed that the chicks failed to survive through a lack of food. Blue tits feed heavily on caterpillars and the recent damp weather has seen a drop in caterpillar larvae in the area meaning the young birds have been struggling to survive on small insects.

Hopefully with the weather now beginning to improve, the rest of the chicks will be able to get the nutrition they need to grow.

Friday, 18 May 2012

Wildlife Cameras give us upclose views of the abundance of wildlife in the area


Kailzie Gardens Osprey Watch
The centre at Kailzie Gardens
There are now more cameras trained on wildlife at the opsrey watch centres at Glentress Peel and at Kailzie Gardens, so it is not just all about ospreys anymore. We have the fondest regards for our ospreys but it is really fascinating to spy on the secret world of our other species live on camera too.

We have seen the blue tit turning her clutch of 10 eggs. most of which have now hatched. The pondcam has been superb to reveal the life of the tadpoles and today a common newt went stalking past the camera too, so perhaps we can expect some efts as spring progresses.

The river cam at Kailzie has a pan , zoom and tilt driver and we zoomed along the river and across the stone dyking and glimpsed a redstart which is exciting as the old dyking is possibly the site of the nest.

We can follow wildlife up the river and focus on a fallen willow which we are hoping may attract kingfisher as an observational perch from which, to dive into the water below to grab fish fry.

Wednesday, 16 May 2012

First osprey chick in Scotland hatched in Tweed valley


feeding chick proud dad looks
Feeding chick proud dad looks
The Tweed Valley ospreys have hatched what is believed to be the first osprey chick in Scotland.
Signs that the new arrival was due became very clear as the adult birds were becoming very twitchy and restless. The new chick was spotted by volunteers today.

The first egg was laid around the 9th of April and a second one soon after. It is not clear if there are other eggs because the nest is piled so high with twigs and branches.

The osprey family can be viewed on high definition cameras at Forestry Commission Scotland’s Glentress Forest and at Kailzie Gardens, both close to Peebles.

Osprey Information Officer Diane Bennett said:

"This is great news for the Tweed Valley Osprey Project and for ospreys across Scotland.

The adults are old hands when it comes to rearing chicks…this will be their 9th brood to date.

The adult male will be busier than ever now with more mouths to feed. He has already been bringing fish back to the nest and sharing it with his mate who is turn will feed the new chick.

In a few days we will hopefully have more chicks in the nest to keep the proud parents busier than ever."


As part of the Tweed Valley Osprey Project, the chick will be ringed so that its movements can be monitored over its lifetime.

Glentress Forest’s wildwatch room is situated within the new Peel visitor centre development and is part of the wider Tweed Valley Ospreys Project. The project is a partnership between Forestry Commission Scotland, Kailzie Gardens and RSPB Scotland.

The project not only offers close circuit TV footage of ospreys at Glentress Forest and Kailzie Gardens, but also of other birds too. For more information on the Tweed Valley Osprey Watch project log on to www.forestry.gov.uk/tweedvalleyospreys.

Tuesday, 15 May 2012

Blue tits have a new family as eggs start to hatch


blue tit
Our blue tits are now proud parents
 Yesterday at the centre at Kailzie we were delighted to see 8 tiny little wide open mouthed heads reaching up out of the nestcup begging for food. Mum is intermittently still incubating , so we have 2 more eggs still to hatch. Dad was very busy diving into the nest box with green caterpillars for the brood and bringing food in to mum.

Both birds were in and out of the box all day and bringing back food to satisfy their little ones. They will be fed a diet of green caterpillars as super high protein rations to enable speedy growth.

Monday, 14 May 2012

Twitchy Ospreys await the day

 
Osprey on the nest
One of our ospreys guarding the nest
The soon to be parents are becoming a little restless, they are old hands at this family game and have raised 8 broods of chicks to date, with this year being their ninth brood.

So understandably they must realise that the time is very close now for hatching out their first 2012 youngster.
We are hoping to have this years first hatched osprey chick in Scotland too, so hurry up parents and incubate those eggs!

Today on the nest the male brought a huge fish in to eat and this became a shared meal.


Male osprey returns with food
Our male osprey brings home the dinner
The backdrop of forest sounds was delightful as a song thrush has taken up residence close by and was practising his triple song phrases with gusto.

We are expecting hatching soon and as there is news we will post it on the blog and via our twitter feed.

Nine years of watching this osprey pair raise their family and yet the excitement at hatching time never fades.

They are magnificent birds and we are all looking forward to see how many chicks they will have.


Friday, 4 May 2012

A foray of feathered activity around Tweed Valley


heron chicks
Our developing heron chicks at the nest

The heron chicks at Kailzie are really big now and they are becoming adventurous. The nest is a midden of rotting food at the bottom and white splashes of heron droppings all around the edges. This is such a contrast to the tidy and clean nesting ospreys.

The precocious chicks are beginning to wander through the branches of their nest tree to explore their world and possibly to escape the stinky reaches of their home.

While the chicks had gone walkabout we think a chick from one of the other nearby nests in the colony wandered on in to have a nose about and see if there was any free food scraps to be had.

This bird seemed much further advanced in feathering, with the pin feathers broken all along the shafts to reveal almost full primary and secondary feathers.

After a good rummage about in the bottom of the nest, the chick then stalked off to continue wandering though the branches.

The two heron chicks return to the nest when they are hungry and mum is due back to feed them.

When their mum returns to the nest with a full crop of fishy food, both chicks violently descend on her and begin tapping at her beak to regurgitate the food. It is like a wrestling match with both chicks competing to win the prize! Most often it is the largest heron chick that wins and gets a satisfied full stomach and the smaller skinnier chick has to take any scraps dropped into the bottom of the nest. We are hoping that this smaller chick will get enough to survive.

The blue tits have now completed their clutch of eggs and it looks like there are 10 eggs in the nest. The female carefully covers the eggs when she leaves the nest but she has now begun incubating and turning them regularly. When she stands up briefly we get a glimpse of the eggs.

The feeder cameras at Glentress are bustling with hungry forest birds such as flocks of siskins tucking in to the peanut feeders. The camera is set to capture, in superb detail, these little finches teasing the food from between the mesh of the feeders.

Wednesday, 2 May 2012

Male Osprey taking on his role as "Man of the nest"



Osprey incubating at the nest in Tweed Valley
One of our Ospreys incubating at the nest
 Things are going really well for our parents to be in Tweed Valley.

The pair have spent the first part of the incubation season going off to hunt for themselves and then taking it in turns to incubate the eggs.

They seem to have a system all worked out and operate a rota which keeps the whole egg incubation period running as a slick operation.

Things have changed this week though - a slight shift in behaviour - the male (White leg ring SS) has started to hunt for his lady!


Female osprey sets of with our male's latest catch
Female osprey sets of with
our male's latest catch

He has been spotted bringing in headless fish and delivering the substantial body to
the female at the nest.

He must be catching the fish, then perching up close by and feeding on the nutritious brains before passing his bounty over to the female once she is ready for a swap over at the nest.

She takes the fish and flies off with it while he settles down into a spot of incubation duty.

Signs of a great team at work as we edge closer to the appearance of some new chicks.


Friday, 27 April 2012

Heron's lead the way with hungry chicks


Adult heron feeding chicks
Adult Heron feeding chicks
Lots of activity on the heron cam with a full nest. Today we saw the adult heron flying onto the nest, greeted by two hungry chicks who began to tap the adults beak with their own beaks. The adult was then forced to regurgitate its food into the beak of the hungriest chick.

The pond camera is showing the tadpoles free swimming in the little pond outside the centre at Kailzie, whilst the blue tits are out and about feeding up in readiness for the long incubation. The eggs are covered when the female is out and she will begin to incubate once the clutch of eggs is complete.




Tuesday, 24 April 2012

Ospreys reveal two eggs (at least....)



Osprey at the nest
Osprey at the nest in Tweed Valley

The ospreys have been keeping the number of eggs that they have as a closely guarded secret until yesterday when the female stood up and began to turn the eggs, revealing two, possibly more, but definitely two.

They are taking turns to incubate and seem very settled in their lofty eyrie. This pair are in their ninth year together and have raised 20 chicks to date.

They have laid their eggs very early and so we can expect hatching to be in mid May which are likely to be the earliest chicks to hatch in Scotland this year.

The centre cameras are providing the greatest opportunity to watch them continue their family life in peace in the forest, so that we can really appreciate how they live their lives and raise their families during their annual summer visit to the Tweed Valley.

The great thing about having such a remote nest relayed through camera is that we are seeing totally relaxed and natural behaviour at all times and the only disturbance they generally encounter is another passing, intrusive and nosey osprey on occasion!



Tuesday, 17 April 2012

Incubation time for our ospreys


Male and female ospreys on the nest
Male and female ospreys on the nest yesterday
The camera was working again today and we are relieved that the technical teething troubles seem to be getting resolved .

The High Definition images on the live nest today revealed that the male was incubating a mystery number of eggs. He was in the nest for a considerable time before the female returned and encouraged him to move over, so that she could take her turn to incubate.

We cannot see the eggs, but the expectant parents are turning and moving them, scraping deep down into the nest cup, which takes them further from view but is doing a good job of keeping the eggs safe and warm.

The new equipment allows us to take pictures and video clips of the nest which we will update on the blog and web pages.

The quality of the nest pictures really shows just how good the new equipment is. We hope to have any initial issues sorted soon so we can bring you top quality images throughout the viewing season at the Osprey Watch Centre .

Tuesday, 10 April 2012

The New Look Centres at Glentress and Kailzie

The New Wildwatch Room at Glentress Peel.
A quick tour of the centre.




The Osprey and Nature Centre at Kailzie Gardens.
A quick tour of the centre.