Migration Updates

It may be the end of the human side of the project at the end of August but it is definitely not the end for our ospreys. In the seven months before they return to Bassenthwaite again their lives go on in their personal projects for survival.

We do have a couple of tools to keep us in touch with their whereabouts, a satellite tracker and leg-rings. These are vital if we are to learn anything about the global nature of these birds and to make sure that their habitats in other parts of the world are thriving and fit for their needs. Healthy waters full of healthy fish.

Our 2013 juvenile – prosaically named Number 14, has a back pack Satellite transmitter and for the last 4 years it has been sending out a steady stream of information telling us to with a few yards where he is in the world, his height above ground and how fast he is flying. His journeys have proved to be an eye opener into the distances and range of migration and also the amount of navigational decision making an individual is capable of. His winter home is in Bioko, an island off the North of Equatorial Guinea and it is to here he is now making his way.

He started his journey from his bachelor pad in the South Lakes on September 9th, flying down country to roost near Seven Springs, the source of the Thames for the night. Next day was a great hop of 182 miles. Setting off early on the 10th he flew over Eastbourne and Hastings, across the channel to landfall on the French coast  South of Bologne-sur-mer. On the 11th he swept around the West of Paris passing over Versailles.

He has since been making his way down to mid France arriving at a convenient stretch of water near Bourges on 16th. The water is obviously full of fish as he has settled for a rest there and on 20th was still moving between 3 or 4 trees around the water’s edge. Where next and when is the question?

Leg rings do not give this amount of detail, but over a large number of sightings can give accurate ideas on the broad bands of migration paths. Of course they have to be spotted and read first and then the information passed on . This year we have been particularly grateful to Jose Alvires and Alberto Benito who have photographed birds of great interest to us.

Blue 2H, a Keilder chick who attempted to breed in the North Lakes this year and was seen trying to feed our chicks when his own nest failed, was photographed fishing by Jose in Covado River Portugal.

Also from the Fowlshaw nest Blue 35, the female mate of our own White YW was seen by Alberto on the Aguilar de Campoo Reservoir in Spain.

(Follow the blue links for great pictures)

What a feast of autumn ospreys for all of us armchair travellers!


All going to plan!

Over the last weeks the osprey family has been doing exactly as they should. KL, our adult female mother left in the middle of August for sunnier climes. This is normal as the female osprey, unlike many other birds of prey, does not take on the role of food provider as the chicks need her less on the nest. However, ever-adaptable, she may share the occasional fish she catches for herself. So, eventually redundant as a mother, she builds up her own condition and starts her journey back first.

Our juvenile U8 (Artagel) was the next to flit. He has always been the most forward of the chicks, fledging the nest a few days before his siblings and appearing to put some serious practice into fishing. His journey will be very different to his mother’s as he will have no idea where he is going or what lies ahead. Having satellite tracked other chicks it seems they try to roost near water every night and presumably attempt to fish, which depending on the stretch of water they have chosen, may or may not be successful.

U6, (Ulysses) our youngest, smallest and feistiest male, has left in the last week. He has been seen puttering about over the North end of Bassenthwaite Lake and it is to be hoped that in that time he actually caught a fish! There are no fish in the Sahara so he will have to make sure he keeps his body weight up before he attempts the crossing.

U7 (Elter) our female chick is still with us and as we have noticed with female chicks in the past she seems to have Dad wrapped around her little talon, particularly now there is no sibling competition. She has been very vocal in demanding food, and we have seen Unring pass over two enormous trout in the past couple of days. This is fine for building up her already not inconsiderable body weight, but is it conducive to her catching fish for herself? Ready or not though the urge to fly South may kick in at any day and she will be off, at which point Unring will probably breath a fishy sigh of relief!

It has been a grand achievement to successfully raise 3 such bonny looking chicks. We cross our own toes and talons that they will make it – but of course until some one reads and reports one of those blue rings we will never know!

The Project closes down today so no staff or telescopes will be on duty from tomorrow until next year. Watch this space though for further updates on our amazing satellite tracked bird No 14 – how will his 4th southward migration fare?



Strange and Outstanding

One outstanding and one strange event has happened over the past 2 weeks.

The outstanding event has been the fledging of two marsh harrier chicks on the National Nature Reserve below the Dodd Wood viewpoints. It is a unique event as marsh harriers have not bred in Cumbria for over a hundred years. In most summers we have seen single birds that have stayed just for a few days and assumed that there was not enough reed bed to attract them to become more resident However, this year has seen a pair hunting throughout the season over the marsh, hunting the swathes of reed canary grass and passing food in courtship air dances.Last Sunday week we were overjoyed to see not one but two dark brown fledglings, with their characteristic cinnamon heads fluttering out of the grass. As their favourite perches are the lines of fence posts they are easily visible through the telescopes and have provided us with hours of interest. It is likely that the recent rise in numbers of the marsh harrier have encouraged pairs to explore more marginal sites but it is not sure fire that they will return to Bassenthwaite next year as marsh harriers may change partner and nest site each season.

The strange incident concerned another pair of ospreys that visited our nest, also on Sunday, All 3 of our chicks landed on the nest in a great state of agitation, screaming,  flattening their bodies and shaking their wings. Suddenly an adult bird flew in with a half eaten perch. One of the chicks leapt forward and grabbed at it, but in the general upset managed to catch hold of the bird’s talon and then grimly hung on to it. This gave us a chance to see that it was not Unring, our own adult, but a blue ringed male. After a short tussle our chick, realising his mistake, let go of the toe and grabbed the fish. At the same time,  landing on the nest, was yet another stranger bird, this time a  rather small looking female with no ring.

On replaying the film footage we found that the ring read 2H. This we discovered was a Kielder Forest bird, hatched in 2012.It had been seen at Kielder on return from its migration  in 2014 and 2015. It is likely that he and his partner failed to breed successfully this year and were attracted to the very successful nest on Bassenthwaite. It appears trying to feed unrelated chicks  is not an unusual occurance in these circumstances but undoubtedly a first for here.



The Names of the Games

Following the naming of our 2016 chick Bega, the osprey chicks this year have also got  monikers

Elter – the U7 female. This is a Cumbrian word from the Scandinavian word eltr meaning swan (eg Elterwater) Elter has particularly lovely white under feathers!

Artegel – the U8 male – this is from Wordworth’s poem ‘Artegal and Elidur’ about Ancient British Kings.

Ulysses – U6 the youngest male – from the ancient Greek adventurer and traveller, who is traditionally seen as small but cunning and feisty. (or just say U6 fast a number of times)


Choosing the names was a really difficult decision, with over 100  names  put forward by members of the public, many of them beautiful and relevant. Over £200.00 was raised for the project which we hope will go towards the fund for new optical equipment for next year. Thank you to all those who took part.  If anyone wants to donate now through  Just Giving there is a link  on the home page of www.ospreywatch.co.uk.


The chicks continue to do well and are flying around the Bassenthwaite valley and perching on dead trees and branches, which may look like fun and games to us but in fact is serious practice for the long migration in a few weeks time. This uses up a lot of energy and they are generally quite hungry so  Unring the adult male bird is providing them with lots of  plump perch. KL their mother is still here but will be off to Africa as soon as she has built up fat reserves and is in good condition.



Circuits and splashes

The initial good weather gave all our chicks a head start and perhaps a bit of overconfidence. The windy days of Thursday and Friday saw quite a bit of buffeting in the air and in some cases taking off and then flying backwards, which left them a little nonplussed. U7 fled to the nest at one point, as a safe haven, but found that even taking off from there was fraught with danger. She had to experiment for some time, looking a bit like an umbrella on the verge of turning inside out before finding that the trick is to lean into the wind rather than it coming at you broadside.

All the chicks have been seen from the Lower Viewpoint at Dodd flying over the edges of Bassenthwaite and enjoying the occasional splashdown. However, it is Unring that is still doing all the fishing. Today, he caught a fish so enormous that he dropped it – viewed by one of his offspring sitting on a nearby post and KL, bathing just a few yards away.

It could happen to anyone.

Last flier

U7 managed to hoist herself off the nest – largest and definitely not least. This was Saturday’s effort and since then all three chicks have been positively whizzing around the immediate area of the nest in the bright sunshine. lots of lift and a bit of breeze means they wobble a bit but have not crash landed!

Who goes next?

We waited all day yesterday for either U6 or U7 to have the courage of their convictions to lift off. But No! Neither could bring themselves to follow their brother.

Today U7, the bigger female was giving it a really good go, helicoptering feet above the nest and then dropping down. Will she go? Won’t she go? Will she go?

Oh! Where’s U6? A gust of wind, just as he opened his wings, did the trick for him and away he was blown to a nearby branch. And there he has stayed for the day, unable to come to terms with a different perspective on the world. Unring has been bringing fish to the nest this afternoon, eaten by sedentary U7 and visiting U8 and so we are confident that a famished stomach will blow him back before too long.


A first day’s flight

Like Harry Potter U8 is a ‘natural’. Although only into his first full day of flying he is managing very well with no crashes or bludger hits that we have seen. He is staying close to the nest and making short forays out and back. Sometimes it takes a few circuits to get into a good position for landing back on the nest but he has avoided his sedentary siblings so far.

U6 and U7 are looking with great interest at the gyrations of their brother and have had us with hearts in mouths a few times when they have teetered on the edge flapping wildly. But as of 16.00 hours neither had had the courage to jump.

An interesting incident today involved an extra osprey around the nest. The intruder, flying overhead had a fish (seen catching below the viewpoint) and as in a previous incident this year it dived from a height above the nest and delivered the fish (a perch) to the 2 cowering chicks, bypassing KL, Unring and flipping past U8. What is this all about?

Congratulations to the Kielder Forestry Commission team who are celebrating their 50thchick. They currently have 4 breeding nest sites in the forests around the huge reservoir.

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.