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 .

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