Friday, 27 July 2012

A variety of breeding birds at the Osprey Watch Centres


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.


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.


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.