Nearly airbourne

No pictures for the moment can be uploaded onto this site.

However, hopefully the chicks can be seen on the live stream. They are now into their 7th week and their muscles are developing with exercise  interspersed with rest. In week six they were also preening vigorously to release their feathers from the sheaths. This process is now  largely complete although there still looks to be another centimetre or two to grow on pinions and tail feathers. Flapping is now strong enough to carry the birds in hops across the nest and they are all spending time balanced precariously over the void and looking down.

Like many birds of prey they stare at a particular point and then move their heads rapidly from side to side. They are probably triangulating distance as they have no other practical way of knowing how far things are from the nest and thus where they might land on that important first flight.

Join in with the Work-out.

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Until now our chicks have only had a couple of goals in life – to eat and to sleep – and as a by product of that, to grow.

But now another element is added on to the equation. Exercise! For the next 2 weeks they will be putting in the hours with a gruelling training programme, worthy of Olympic contenders.

Fledging is comparable to ski jumping, combining the elements of great height, fast descent and the real possibility of a fatal crash landing. But whereas a ski-er can build up from small to large jumps our chicks will have only one chance to get it right when they launch themselves for the first time into space.  It is not just the glory of winning a gold but a question of survival.

So, between feeds and snoozes our chicks are now stretching, extending and flapping those unwieldy wing appendages that have developed so fast. Legs are also being strengthened with a regime of knees bend. If you’re feeling a bit unfit yourself feel free to join in. Before you know it, there may be a new Eddie the Eagle in the making!

 

Ringing – Sub-culture.

Ringing

Where ospreys dare

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U6 – a steely orange glare!

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U7 and U8 heads in the sand

 

Hatched on 18th 19th and 22nd of May the chicks are now entering  into their 5th week of life. It is a constant source of amazement  how fast they grow; from fluffy ping-pong size to fully feathered rugby balls with wings.

It is at this time that we fit on their identification rings. This year, the first since 2009, we have 3 beautiful chicks. They are a credit to the care that KL and Unring have lavished on them, catching fish and feeding them throughout the hours of daylight and keeping them warm or shaded, depending on the variable Cumbrian weather.

Early this summer morning the trained and licenced ringing team walked quietly over to the site. Looking up through the green oak leaves to a pale blue sky we could see both KL and Unring flying over the nest and soon could hear their cries, warning their chicks to lie down, stay still and rely upon their camouflage for protection. Darren, veteran tree climber, ascended and peered over the nest edge. The two eldest chicks lay just as Mum could wish, flattened out and holding on with both feet. But youngest was not going to take things passively and had already reared up on its wings and legs with its neck feathers raised, like a fierce little Lygon. Gently, Darren picked it up placed it in a sports bag and lowered it to the bottom of the tree where our Ringer was waiting. Placed on the ground the young bird held its stance, looking around with orange-iris eyes at a different world of grass and buttercups. It managed a nifty peck at the Ringer’s thumb as firstly its metal ring with unique serial number was placed on its left leg and its Blue colour ring U6 was placed on the right. In future years it will be this means of identification that will tell us if it has survived the migration and returned to Cumbria.

‘ It’s so feisty, I’m guessing it’s a male, but it’s weight should confirm that.’ At 1,320 g the spring balance told us it was indeed within the male weight parameters, being lighter than females of the same age. With a flurry of quill dander and a drift of baby down it’s – no, HIS –wing measurements were taken and feet examined. Smallest and youngest but superbly healthy and bursting with attitude, U6 sat to one side watching on whilst his more docile siblings went through the same process, fitted with leg rings U7 and U8. From the weight of 1,470g  the middle chick is probably another male and at a buxom 1,570 g the oldest should be female.

‘Fly well little birds’, we whispered as they were hauled up one at a time and replaced in the nest. Then we walked away to let them resume their avian lives again.

No 14 Update.

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.

.No14 Early June 17

Growing games

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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!

 

A ‘free’ lunch?

An exciting few days with sightings of ‘extra’ ospreys on the flowery shores Bassenthwaite and Derwentwater.

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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?

Sibling affection?

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.)

 

A Third Chick

 

 

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 a second

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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.

 

Hooray! First Chick

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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.

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