Leading a bachelor life has its joys and its betrayals!
The young woman in Unring’s life is as unpredictable as one might expect, coupled with her winsome beauty. She has a brown smudgy chest and a long dark streak on the back of her head. Perhaps ‘Long streak’ would describe her appearance and nature.
Their relationship started on rocky ground on May 6th with Unring clearly stressed with the whole process of sitting close to a strange female. However, familiarity breeds confidence and through her sporadic visits he has come around to appreciating her charms and does not turn his back the minute she approaches.
However, this increasing warmth may only be because he realises that he has a rival – and it appears she is not subtle in pointing this out. Last week as Unring sat in the alders having his usual post-prandial nap Longstreak lured another young male onto the nearby platform to share an intimate lunch. Opening an eye after some time Unring spied this betrayal and rose into the air to defend his territory. There was an aerial battle in which Unring managed to put in a few punches and the trounced suitor flew off rapidly North. Meanwhile Longstreak sat on the side toying with her sushi and mentally giving marks for stamina and style.
The next day, Sunday, unsurprisingly, she spent hours basking on the nest of the victor and graciously eating the fish that he had provided. Ah -ha we thought! Have they bonded at last?
But no – come Monday she had disappeared again.
This behaviour would indicate that the female is young and not really ready to settle down – compare this with the flightiness of no 14 over the previous seasons. But who knows, maybe the groundwork is being in for next season?
Longstreak on the left – you can just about see this mark on the back of her head.
Has our wandering lad settled on a site? It looks like there’s particularly good tree to roost on or fish off. Ospreys hunt by sight and use their talons to catch their prey. This means that they hunt over shallow water, as they have to be able to reach into the depths with their long legs for fishing spears. Characteristically they hover over a chosen patch and then folding their wings back, dive head first towards the water, their eyes locked on to their prey. At the last second their feet swing forward and they plunge in feeling for the fleeing fish with their four toes and clutching with terrible talons.
Back on Bassenthwaite there is still a roller coaster of sightings as young and unmated birds fly in and fly out. Every day one or two birds are spotted singly or together at various locations from the Dodd viewpoints. Usually one of the birds is Unring, although he is off fishing for part of the day. Sometimes this is in full view of the Dodd telescopes and sometimes to the North end of the Lake, or local reservoirs. Without a mate he is fancy free to go where he wants.
Depending on the gender of the visitor he is still carrying nest material around – as much for display purposes as nest construction. He has been seen putting material into a couple of sites, other than the nest. Last week he caused watchers consternation as he managed to snag a large piece of black plastic from the Lake side. He has gathered environmentally unfriendly material before, but never of such a size. It trailed from his talons like a malevolent kite tail threatening to drag him into the water. Then as he gained height the wind took over and buffeted him and his dark luggage, reminding us of just how light even a large bird is. Eventually he disappeared into trees and we were left wondering for some time if he had been able to disentangle himself, or whether we might need to lead a rescue mission. Luckily, he appeared sans plastic a while later, but it was a chilling reminder that our plastic pollution can kill in all sorts of ways.
At the North end of Bassenthwaite Lake lies Silver Meadows, a nature reserve named for the sight of silver undersides of willow leaves as they turn and flutter in the wind, or perhaps after the silver water that creeps up silently into the grasses and sedges in winter until the whole area transforms into a shining inlet of the larger Lake. On the first Sunday in May a band of 20 or 30 Friends arrive at the break of day for the annual Dawn chorus walk. This year as well as the 32 bird species counted Peter McQueen set up a moth trap. With the soft fog and windless conditions it was ideal weather and lying in the upturned egg- boxes under the lamp was a sheaf of over a hundred of these beautiful insects. And their names are almost as beautiful as themselves – Hebrew Character, Luna Thorn, Green Carpet, Quakers and Drabs. The walk finished with very welcome bacon butties as we watched the moths rouse out of their light induced stupor and drift off like ascending snowflakes, into the vegetation to sleep the day away.
At the South end of the Lake the Osprey’s date seems to be extending. She hasn’t left yet, so he must be doing something right!
After the fiasco with the young lady in the second week of April. (A relationship that was as unromantic as it was brief) It had seemed that Unring had settled down into the carefree, if slightly lonely, life of a bachelor. His days have consisted of getting up in the morning to a nice fish breakfast, a turn about the Lake followed by some DIY repairs to an already perfect nest and then the rest of the day free for preening. No stress!
Then this afternoon everything changed again with the arrival of another female contender for the bargain package-deal of home, food and husband. That’s her on the left, a young and very vocal virago upsetting Unring’s placid routine with demands for fish and frolic.
You would have thought he’d have jumped at the chance of passing on his genes to posterity, but with shoulders hunched, back turned to her, head down and wings splayed out it appeared if ever a bloke disliked the very idea of a blind date with an unknown bird, it’s him.
We will see if she’s still around in the morning!
No 14 has spent some time exploring the area south of lake Windermere before heading north to visit the River Eden and the River Eamont, Whins Pond area.
At 0537am this morning (26th April) a transmission came from slap bang in middle of Malham tarn!!
Watch out you peregrines – your ‘Date with Nature’ is being upstaged!
Pond Piece, Pattiswick Hall farms halfway between Braintree and Tiptree Essex at 7pm on April 16th
At last the North is calling! The blandishments of Tiptree jam in could not hold him! No 14 has made his way across the Pennines and on the evening of the 19th he was on the River Lune south of Kirkby Lonsdale.
Here are no 14’s movements over the last six days. Perhaps, like many of us he has realised that with the opportunities he has for globe trotting he hasn’t thoroughly explored his home country. Certainly there seems to be no particular pull towards claiming a territory or settling down for this carefree bachelor.
With the temperature hitting 18C at 20.00 hours up at Whinlatter yesterday evening surely this is a sign of Spring. Maybe the start of flocks of little migrants, willow warblers, chiff chaffs, swallows martins, will mean a few more wandering ospreys touching down.
Time keeps creeping on and we are now in mid-April. These are the questions everyone is asking.
Where is KL? Is it too late to expect her back? Is there a chance she has survived?
Where is KL? – the short answer is that we do not know. She does not have a satellite tracker (unlike her son No14) so we cannot pinpoint her position or what date she might have started the migration (No 14 started on March 19th). We know her roosting spot is in Senegal in the Sine Saloum Delta and thus her probable flight path follows the desert coast of Africa through Spain and France to home. She has a white ring on her right leg but unless someone sharp eyed with good optics picks this up and bothers to send in the sighting we are no further forward.
Is it too late to expect her back? Not at all. The time it takes to migrate depends very much on wind and weather. As we know the strong easterly winds have effected the whole of Europe and many migrants will have battled or just decided to rest up until certain of kindly winds. Waiting though means they will need to spend time to replenish their fat reserves to resume the journey.
This year statistics from the other observed nests in the UK all point to many individuals who have not turned up yet. Usually between 8% and 10% of adult ospreys do not make it each year. This year about 25% are missing. It seems unlikely that all of these will have perished (although being blown out into the Atlantic will have been a very real danger!). Lastly, In their first year both Unring and KL arrived on April 24th and this is not the latest date recorded overall by a long chalk.
Is there a chance she has survived? The journey is the single greatest factor in the mortality rate of osprey. Think of all the hazards and it is amazing that any find their way at all. KL is now 9 years old, an experienced traveller and in her prime. What we do know from osprey behaviour is that if it is at all possible for her to make the journey she will continue trying.
From Unring’s behaviour he is still on the look out for her, spending yesterday nest building and sitting as a watchman on the topmost branch of the nest tree.
So, this is what a good home looks like to Unring, a cosy bunk, his lovely lady and good food. Worth waiting for!
Le Toquet-Paris-Plage – in the early 1900’s home of the English literary smart set including HG Wells, Noel Coward and PG Wodehouse. Architect designed villas lie behind the sand dunes but for No 14 lingering there the attraction for a smart bird is in the name – must be a plage with poissons.
11.04.2018 Then a leisurely drift down the coast to the lazy braided mouth of the Somme River.
12.04 At last he crosses the Channel and flies across Kent and the mouth.of the Thames and on North West into Leicestershire. On his way home? Oh no our bird’s not done yet. He got to the outskirts of Leicester before turning sharply south west to visit to visit Sezincote estate in the Cotswolds, perhaps attracted by the green pergola of the Mughal temple or perhaps the green waters of Sezincote Lake.
Back on Bassenthwaite :- Still no KL and the other affaire is still more off than on.
How lucky is it to be able to view the ospreys from your own house? Even better when the household comes up to Whinlatter to report the sighting and check out the CCTV footage. This morning 3 birds were spotted over the marsh in just such a manner.
One of course was Unring, one probably his off/on female, but who was the other? We didn’t have to wait long before a skirl of wings heralded yet another stranger bird ganging doon on the nest. Distinguished by broad dark line down the back of its head it may have been either a bonnie lad or lassie. We knew instantly it must be a Scottish bird as it had a blue colour ring on its left leg. (English and Welsh birds have their colour rings on the right)
All we needed to do was to read the white lettering and we would ken its age, where it was hatched and perhaps where it is nesting. We watched avidly as it contentedly shuffled about the nest cup, picking up a bit of moss here, laying down a bit of stick there and looking lazily out at the view. But its legs showed as coyly as white sheep in a Scots mist, hidden either by its feathers or by the deep bed of pale dry grass. After 15 mins of pop-eyed concentration from staff and visitors it flew off – probably over the Border and never to be seen again – leaving nothing but a wee snippet of film showing a blue blur with a mark that could have been an X or a Y or a V.
No 14 has got going again and at the last download yesterday was at Le Toquet, North France ready to cross the channel. Look out Angleterre!
The film below looks hopeful, but if you look carefully the hit and miss aspect of the new relationship is very obvious. Unring is going through the actions but is unsuccessful in the deed.