With chicks growing rapidly there has not been much space to think about No 14 and how he is faring. As you can see he has felt no urge to return to his natal site. Instead he has followed a pattern similar to other juvenile ospreys in that he has a main area of interest – in this case South Lakes- and from there he makes trips out to other favoured spots. This sequence maximises the chance of his finding a nest site, a fishing ground and a lady friend. Two major hurdles are firstly, finding these factors all in one place and, crucially, winning the approval of the lady. Despite being a super flyer and unsurpassed traveller, or perhaps because of it, it does not look as if he has succeeded in settling down this season.
From summer heatwave to winter chill and winds –It’s flaming June!
In their exposed nest site the osprey family have been a sad sight to see. KL has spent her time crouching over her chicks trying to keep as much of them as possible warm. She has been drenched and the wind has turned her soggy feathers inside out, like an old umbrella. However, she has persisted and with Unring sitting in the alders close by to give her the occasional spell they are winning through. Fishing has been tricky with the Lake alternately rough with waves, brown with silt or pock-marked with raindrops. Even with his superior eyesight Unring has been bringing back smaller fry than usual – just at a time when the chicks are putting on their major growth spurt. One small pike today was demolished between them in less than 6 minutes and then they were looking for more.
The eldest is over 3 weeks old now and its rugby-ball shaped body seems to be inflating every day, as well as sprouting a thick cape of feather spines. Instinctively (and probably because their emerging body fuzz itches) all three are starting to spend time preening, nibbling at the base of the spines to remove the quill casing and enable the feather inside to blossom. Wings are also extending. It’s amazing, but in a few more days they will actually begin to look like birds instead of dinosaurs!
An exciting few days with sightings of ‘extra’ ospreys on the flowery shores Bassenthwaite and Derwentwater.
Sunday afternoon showed watchers at the Viewpoints and at Whinlatter some spectacular behaviours with the addition of a third bird flying in the area.
It started with Unring touching down onto the nest holding a fine looking perch and then despite having hungry chicks waiting, flying straight off with it again. Only a few minutes later KL started to mantle over the chicks shrieking her displeasure to the skies. Unring re appeared and sat himself on a side branch with the fish and then suddenly, perched on the top of the tree, was a stranger osprey also clutching a fish.
Unring was caught in a dilemma – there was KL screeching at him to chase away this intruder – but to do this he would have to drop his hard won meal. We have seen him in this place before and as usual he seems to be a great believer in discretion being the greater part of valour – he stuck with the fish.
Meanwhile ‘stranger-danger’ was eying up the nest and the female, who by this time was in paroxisms of emotion and throwing herself over her offspring who flattened themselves in the bottom of the nest. It looked like a stand-off until the stranger upped the stakes. Dropping like a stone from the top branch he landed on the very edge of the nest. As KL lunged towards him he thrust his fish at her into the base of the nest and then with an insouciant swirl of the wing flew off low and fast towards Keswick. Whew – hot stuff! Unring seeing the retreat in his rival took off smartly and followed him at a sensible distance.
KL, panting in the bottom of the nest, became aware that she was sharing the space not only with her 3 ruffled chicks but also with a particularly fine rainbow trout. Oh well! Kids have to be fed and you should never look a gift fish in the mouth. Within a few minutes the family was enjoying their unexpected bounty.
But a ‘free’ lunch – we wonder?
Our chicks are now about 16 days, 15 days and 12 days old and are all doing fine. Despite their size difference KL is feeding all of them and all are developing as they should. They have lost their early white down and are now at the stage when their first feathers are starting to sprout (not a pretty sight!) Often described as reptilian at this age they are actively crawling around the nest using both legs and wings to manoeuvre themselves.
The picture above appears to illustrate the saying ‘birds in their little nests agree’ with the older sibling’s wing draped affectionately around the youngest. However, those who have been watching on the webstream will notice that angry looking spats occur quite frequently. These generally happen when the chicks rear themselves up, searching for food. As with most young chicks we think it is probable that they have a limited focal length, focussed on the proximity and movement of the mother’s beak as it descends from above with food. Naturally then, if a sibling’s head starts waving in front of your nose you will assume it is more food and peck at it. and as it will inevitably try to get away, you will re-double your efforts to grab it. It is interesting to note that when the ‘victim’ lies down in the bottom of the nest the stimulus and thus the ‘attack’ ceases. Also interesting is that it is not always the larger chicks that initiate the behaviour. Little One has been seen bouncing up and down when hungry, trying to pile in with an upper-cut to the lower jaw of its elders – and sometimes succeeding! Sadly for him, the inevitable result is that though the fly-weight may pop in a few hits the heavy-weight, once it works out the direction of attack, will bat at the lighter contender until it understands that its place is at the bottom of the nest! (Until the nest round anyway.)
Chick number 3 hatched on the 21st May, watched by a fascinated audience at Whinlatter.
Hatch dates then are 18th, 19th and 21st.
Although the smallest the chick quickly raised its head and started begging for food before it had properly dried – a good omen for its survival.
Both KL and Unring have become more synchronised this year in guarding the chicks and one is always close by – although because of their small size they are still vulnerable to the elements. KL has spent the last couple of days shading them from the sun, so they do not de-hydrate.
And here is a sibling hatched just about 24 hours after the first. Initially seen at 14.30 on May 19th, Friday after an exciting morning’s viewing following the progress of the hatch from the first chip to first crack to the eventual struggle to get out of the shell. The new little body, despite its gruelling hours escaping from the egg was programmed to respond to the offer of food and had its first mouthfuls whilst it was still damp!
The third egg could hatch at any time over the next 4 days according to the dates – no signs today.
After two days of waiting with baited breath KL and Unring’s first egg DID hatch at last in the afternoon of May 18th. However, for hours all we could see was the empty eggshell – evidence but no content. KL seemed determined to keep the chick tucked well in under her feathers. Even the sizeable fish that Unring brought up for the occasion was spurned.
At long last we got a good view as Unring came to inspect his offspring and a little later in the evening it was given a first feed.
Here is a summary of No 14’s migration from Bioko to the Lakes this year and a run down of where he was in April.
On the 22nd March 2017 Number 14 was at his favourite site on the island of Bioko, Equatorial Guinea. He had been here for most of the winter sometimes not travelling more than a square mile away from his favoured spot, an area renowned for plenty of fish.
All changed on the 23rd March when the migration bug set in. His mileage and roost sites for the next twenty-three days were as follows: – You can see why we were concerned with his progress in the Algerian desert.
|22nd March 2017||Bioko|
|11th April||138||England; New Forest|
|12th April||94||England; River Avon|
|13th April||51||England; Uttoxeter|
|14th April||92||England; River Lune|
3,700 (approx.) miles later he was resting on the Lune near Hornby, Lancashire.
Since the middle of April Number 14 has remained generally in the South Lakes area with a couple of exceptions. On the 17th April, he had a day out over Liverpool, on the 21st to Dunford Bridge, Yorkshire and on the 28th he was over Hawthornthwaite Fell near Blackburn.
Sharp eyed visitors to the Lakes may have seen him at Estwaitewater, showing off on Easter Sunday the 16th, or on the 18th,22nd or 26th. Sharp eyed fishermen may have seen him around Pennington
Following the cold snap when we had views of our birds sitting on a nest full of sleet the joys of snuggling down in the equivalent of a warm duvet are becoming apparent. Building up the sides of the nest with sticks as a wind break has become a priority, particularly as Unring looked as if he was hanging on with both feet during some of the wilder gusts. However, bringing in a stick, as well as being a practical move, also has its psychological aspect as it signals that the other partner would like a turn sitting. This turned into a battle of wills yesterday morning as each of the birds came in at shorter and shorter intervals with sticks and then attempted to boot the other one off. This took the form of either ‘accidentally-on-purpose’ dragging the stick over the one sitting, sliding in a not so subtle foot under a wing or, in Unring’s case sticking his whole head under KL’s body and attempting a flip!
Here is a clip of Kl’s effort