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.


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.


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

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 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.