Wednesday, 31 July 2013

Fledged Ospreys and unusual sightings

We were delighted that the first and boldest chick fledged from the nest on the 14th July and a couple of days later a second chick was practicing the art of being airborne by flying from one side of the nest to another.

The male bird delivered a large brown trout to the nest where one chick took command of the situation by taking the whole fish from his talons and proceeded to feed itself. Shortly afterwards the female flew onto the nest with a fish in her talons and began to feed the chick that already had a fish of its own. Old habits die hard! The chick didn’t complain and gracefully accepted the proffered morsels, maybe keeping the fish in its own talons as a snack for later.

The female flew off after a while only to return later with a change of heart and snatch the fish away from the chick and fly off with it.

On the 17th July, one lonely chick was seen in the nest while all the family were away. Perhaps this one was hoping that a sympathetic parent may pop by and deliver some dinner. This is the time of tough love and chicks can be left without food for a while to drive them on to begin to fend for themselves.

All chicks are now fledged and are gaining superb flying practice and for a change the Scottish summer weather has not been all about deluge and torrential rain, but we Brits are great at moaning about the weather and this seasons chicks have had to contend with searing heat, as we have a proper summer sunny period. This brought about a period of inactivity and the weather was too hot for osprey chicks and volunteers alike!

At cooler times during this balmy summer, conditions have been excellent for fishing and bumper supplies must mean fit and healthy birds getting into prime condition, in readiness for that all important first migration journey which is looming in the not too distant future.

Sightings of a New osprey family in town!

Innerleithen games week parade was visited by a new family of ospreys in town, marching down the high street! A couple of pupils from St.Ronan’s Primary school that had been involved in the osprey project this season dressed up as ospreys and pushed their eyrie along the road complete with little brother as a cute osprey chick peeking out of his eggshell!

They won third prize in the fancy dress competition and we are very proud of them here at the Tweed Valley Osprey Project. Very Well Done. Great costumes!

Wednesday, 24 July 2013

First Chick fledged.

On Sunday 14th July, one of the young ospreys at the main nest became quite bold and flew up on to the perch beside the nest. It was more like a flapping hop than a true flight, really. It remained perched there for quite some time while the other two chicks remained in the nest, seemingly unimpressed by the show of sudden adventurous activity. A great deal of wing flapping and wing stretching has been taking place at the nest, as the young birds flex their soon to be tested flight muscles. The more they practice and exercise, the stronger they will become which will make the first flights less feeble and more purposeful which would give a young bird greater confidence.

The boldest chick was clearly ready to make that move from flightless to flight, as having remained on the perch for quite a while, it decided to take the plunge for a maiden trip. The volunteers on duty at the centres of Kailzie Gardens and Glentress Forest, missed seeing it go but they were faced with the obvious fact that the camera clearly only showed that there were now two chicks in the nest.

This can be a worrying time but the chick is the right age, weight and ready to go. The less brave siblings must follow soon. The male bird (white leg ring SS) came into the nest bearing a good sized fish and began to feed the two remaining young birds later in the afternoon. The young explorer did not return for a feed, perhaps it was enjoying the newly found freedom as the world suddenly opened up and the surroundings of the nest became shrunken as the open countryside beckoned for further exploration. Then again it could have been so alarmed at the surprise flight that it was clinging by its talons, to a nearby branch of a tree and wondering how it was ever going to return back to the nest.

It did manage a return flight later in the day and landed confidently on the nest, giving the appearance that it had done all this flight sort of thing before!

On Monday 15th July, two chicks and their mum were at the nest and the errant fledged chick was off exploring again.  There is only a day between the ages of the three chicks but it doesn’t always follow that they will all fledge together or on consecutive days. The chicks will go when they are ready and sometimes need a fair bit of encouragement from mum and dad. They will try to starve the remaining youngsters from the nest so that they will fly when they are hungry enough to get to dad with a tasty fish.

The family will use the nest regularly as a feeding place and a place to safely rest during the next month but as all the chicks master flight, there will be longer periods away from the nest, as they become fitter and lose the baby fat from their bodies to become finely tuned muscles.

This time of year in the Scottish Borders is a great time to try to spot families of ospreys out on flying and hunting trips together. It is good to keep a look out over any stretch of water where there is good fishing, including the River Tweed, as birds patrol the territory finding favourable hunting areas.
Please do report any sightings of the ospreys to us, especially if the leg ring lettering and colours are visible and make a note of them. Please also note whether the coloured ring (Darvic ring) is on the birds left or right leg and if possible take a photograph. We can then find out which bird it is and where it is from.

Here  are some more photos from the ringing of the ospreys last week and the children of St.Ronan's Primary School who came to see the ringing.

Thursday, 4 July 2013

St Ronan's kids are treated to osprey ringing

On Monday 1st July, the chicks from the main osprey nest were ringed. The adult birds, (white leg ring SS) and his un-ringed female are in their tenth season at the nest and this batch of three chicks brings their total number of chicks raised in ten years to 26.

Tony Lightley with pupils from St.Ronan's Primary School
Tony Lightley with pupils from St.Ronan's Primary School

The children from Class P4/5 have been working all summer term on a celebration book for the ospreys 10th anniversary and to thank them for all their hard work and enthusiasm, a special trip was organised by Forestry Commission Scotland to take the children to see the young ospreys being ringed, as they are now six weeks old and soon will be making their first flight.

The chicks were lowered to the forest  floor where Tony Lightley, (Conservation Manager for FCS) and his colleague Ronnie Graham put the leg rings on to the birds, weighed them and measured them. The birds were fitted with unique BTO rings on their right legs, which carry a serial number which identifies the bird and a large Darvic ring on their left leg which is an alpha numeric identification ring which can be read at a distance through a telescope or binoculars, so that birds can be tracked over their lifetime to study their movements and progress in the future.

The class of P4/5 children were further treated, in that Tony arranged for the leg rings to have lettering that relates to their class number. So, the chicks were given rings with the letters CL4, CL5 and the third chick CL6, as the pupils will be moving into Class 6 next term.  It will be lovely if we hear of these birds in the future, whether they return to this area to breed when they are old enough, or if we receive sightings of them wherever they may turn up.  The young chicks will make their very first migration to Africa by the end of this summer, once they have mastered flight and fishing techniques, which their skilled parents will teach them.

Ronan Ted, (the school mascot ) gets a surprise visit too!
Ronan Ted, (the school mascot ) gets a surprise visit too!

The production of the tenth anniversary book has been the joint project between Tweed Valley Osprey Project and the Friends of Kailzie Wildlife, working with the P4/5 pupils of St. Ronan’s Primary School and we received a grant from Awards 4 All to produce 10,000 copies, which will be available from August.
The school have a mascot called Ronan which is a little teddy bear, decked out in school uniform complete with school tie. Ronan Ted accompanied the children on their visit and was treated to a surprise of his own. Tony took him up to the nest for a quick look when he put the chicks back after they had been ringed!

Three ringed chicks back in the nest after ringing.
Three ringed chicks back in the nest after ringing.

The children thoroughly enjoyed their visit, it was a very special day out to see such a wonderful osprey family and a thoroughly deserved opportunity for children who have immersed themselves in this project work with so much enthusiasm.
Depute Head, Jan Lister who accompanied the children on their visit said, ‘’ Today has been a great opportunity for the children to see at first hand , the splendour of these young ospreys before they embark on their remarkable journey to West Africa. In school for the last few weeks the children have been learning about the conservation of these remarkable birds and their successful return to breed in the Scottish Borders. Today, that learning was brought to life and has given them many memories which will last a lifetime. We are very grateful for having had this opportunity”.