Tuesday, 27 August 2013

Farewell for another year.

An empty nest, at the top of an old Scots Pine, looking like a flattened out platform of larch sticks, garnished with dried out yellowed moss, is the scene on the live cameras for most of the time towards the last days of summer.
photo by J.Lister

Only a few short weeks ago this was the scene of bustling activity with three juvenile ospreys the same size as their parents, all squashed together, occupied with wing stretching exercises and flapping to strengthen their flight muscles. After fledging, the juvenile birds also continued to use the eyrie as a dining area to practice gripping fish in their talons and using their hook tipped beaks to tear off strips to eat.

In what seems such a short time, the birds are ready to make their way in the world, it is time to journey south and although we are sure that mum and one of the juveniles have already gone, it seems likely that the second young bird has left now too. A brief appearance at the eyrie of a lone juvenile on Monday indicates that there is one still to make a move, to start the migration journey and dad will most likely wait until this one goes before he too will make his way down to West Africa.

We are delighted that this 10th anniversary of the parents, at the main nest site has gone without any hitches and young ospreys have successfully fledged once again from this nest all watched with privilege from our live viewing facilities at Glentress Wildwatch Room and at Kailzie Gardens osprey and nature watch centre.

The Tweed Valley Osprey Project is a conservation success story and a project to which the dedicated few who are involved should be very proud of because in a matter of 15 years this region has gone from somewhere where ospreys were extinct to a region that has now produced upwards of 160 fledged ospreys, mostly from artificial eyries created to encourage them to breed here. These magnificent birds will need careful monitoring and protection in the future if they are to continue to thrive. We hear reports of a couple of nest sites that have failed to produce young and we are all too aware that the biggest threat to them is from disturbance.

Photo by J.Lister
We are lucky that the main nest site location was so carefully chosen at the start of this project, as for ten years this site has been relatively disturbance free and its security has been very well maintained. The Forestry Commission for Scotland staff have maintained and renovated the nest site while the birds are away on migration, created new artificial eyries, they install all the camera workings to make the live images possible and the licensed Conservation and Heritage Manager actively monitors the birds by ringing the fledglings at six weeks old, so that they can be tracked in the future with visible identity rings.

Although the centres are quiet at this time of year we still have many visitors on holiday in the area and folk from as far as Lancashire and Devon have called in to see our ospreys this week and to hear how the project is progressing. Most of the time the centres have volunteers on duty and they do a great job to interpret the osprey activities and tell visitors all about Tweed Valley Ospreys and their amazing comeback to the area thanks to the work done by this project. We are extremely grateful to all the volunteers that have given their time so generously to support this project once again for this season.

This week is the end of osprey watching for the season and The Osprey and Nature Watch Centre at Kailzie Gardens will be closed from Sunday 1st September although the Wildwatch Room at Glentress will remain open for longer.

I would like to thank everybody that has supported the osprey project this year and wish for a safe migration  journey for our ospreys and a safe return next spring when hopefully I will be able to bring news that our pair have returned for an eleventh season together.

Best Wishes

Diane Bennett.

Tweed Valley Osprey Project Officer.

Tuesday, 20 August 2013

Time To Go

Photo by J.Lister
There is a definite autumnal nip in the air as we are approaching the end of August. Gone are the long stretched out evenings, as the daylight hours begin to shrink back. Ospreys have felt it too and most certainly the female from the main nest site is now on her way. We are not certain of the exact date that she left but she has not been seen for quite a while now.

photo by J.Lister
The male was seen regularly back at the eyrie with three of his young juveniles, feeding together but for this past week only two juveniles have been present with the male. This is hopefully a good sign that the boldest youngster has followed Mums example and headed off south to longer days and warmer climate, to escape the start of the Scottish cold season with short days.

This week a lonely juvenile osprey sat for hours on the eyrie calling and wing flicking and looking skywards. Perhaps the male bird was somewhere close by, feeding on a fish and the youngster was hopeful of receiving a meal. A second young osprey joined the first one at the nest site but appeared quite content and was preening feathers. A whole morning passed by and Dad never put in an appearance. Eventually both young birds flew off but returned later to sit and wait for Dad again. He must be feeling the need to push his remaining brood into independence. He will stay around until he sees them depart before he will also begin his long journey south to Western Africa. The impulse to migrate must be strong and certainly birds will face a better journey if they leave before autumn sets in properly with gales making passage difficult.

The river camera at Kailzie revealed a surprise visitor last week and the volunteer on duty was able to take snap shots and a small amount of video footage of what appears to be a juvenile buzzard bathing in the burn that leads down to the River Tweed.  The raptor is a chunky brown bird with streaky brown markings over buff coloured chest and belly. It was a bit difficult to distinguish what it was at first and was thought to be a sparrowhawk but after careful scrutiny it was decided that it was one of the young buzzards.

The buzzards remain thoughout the seasons and do not migrate to foreign climates. When times get tough over the winter months with snow conditions they will adopt a localised movement to better conditions and being a bird that relies quite heavily on carrion, it manages to scratch a good living for itself topping up its diet with road kill and earth worms or any other scraps. It is equally equipped for hunting prey such as rabbit or occasional birds and squirrels.

Tuesday, 13 August 2013

Southern skies beckon soon.

A lonely chick was seen at the main nest site on Monday 12th August, it flew on to the nest and was calling repeatedly. We could not see if there was an adult nearby or whether it was just calling out in the hopes that a parent may be in the vicinity with a tasty fish to hand over. The male bird, white leg ring SS appeared on the nest site on 13th August with a really big fish and was feeding himself. One of the chicks was keeping him close company and calling and begging for food. The chick is a good deal larger than her dad, so this is presumably a female chick. Her hungry father was having a good feed for himself and did not appear too keen to share his prize.

The chicks by now are proficient fliers and we would hope that they are gaining the hunting skills that will make them independent. Survival depends on the young birds being able to hunt for themselves, as soon they will need to make their solo migration journeys to Africa.

It could be that the male may be reluctant to share a meal at this late stage because he will be very aware that the chicks must make their own way without his support soon. He is the parent that will provide the finishing school for his offspring, as by now their mum has broken ties with them and may even have moved on. She will make her way slowly south, feeding up and getting herself back into peak condition after raising another brood over the summer. We have no idea how old she is because she is not ringed. This has certainly been her 10th season with male, white leg ring SS, but we believe that she was possibly the bird that occupied the main nest with another unringed male the year before SS arrived. He is fifteen years old and in his prime and we hope that they will both return next year for their eleventh year together. It is worth visiting the osprey centres to catch a glimpse of the family before they leave and although the nest may be empty sometimes when the family are off hunting, we are still seeing Dad and the chicks popping back to feed from time to time.

The Kailzie Wildlife Festival was held last weekend at Kailzie Gardens and was a great success. The weekend was packed with wildlife themed family entertainment, with demonstrations of bird ringing, bat and bird box making, guided walks, photography, pond dipping, mammal trapping, stalls and birds of prey. One of the star attractions was the magnificent golden eagle called Captain, a ferret on a lead kept what appeared to be a critical eye on proceedings and a mighty Eagle Owl greeted visitors with a steely orange eyed gaze.

The festival was organised by the Friends of Kailzie Wildlife as part of the KLAWED Project with funding from Leader and SNH.