Hatching. And still chilly!

Over the past week there have been signs of a change of behaviour in the birds on the Bassenthwaite nest. After round-the-clock incubation with both Mum and Dad doing stints with only the occasional upset of a visiting passage osprey or corvid intrusion, suddenly all if fired up again. Dad is bringing fish to the nest and instead of taking it away to eat, Mum is hoarding it. It’s one of the best things in the world to watch when she at last stands up and after tearing off a minute portion of flesh, dips her head down into the nest; a sure sign that she has offered it to a chick. If all goes well then the chick instinctively grabs at it and down the red lane it goes. After that it becomes the bottomless pit, that so many parents will relate to. With more than one infant the parent’s days are cut out for them with fishing, feeding and keeping the little ones warm. Roll on some less chilly days!

Image of new hatched chicks and headless fish – from a previous year

 

Eggs! A chilly start to season this year’s clutch.

Picture from a previous year – showing a full clutch of 3 eggs

The Bassenthwaite birds have done it again. On Saturday 10th April the behaviour of the birds changed with both looking a little uncomfortable. The female stood hunched in the nest whilst the male flew around with a fish – but her mind was on higher things!!

Here’s an on-the-spot account by one of the watchers:-

‘There was one bird standing hunched on the edge of the nest looking about. After a time it sat down in the nest with only its head visible. At about 3:30 another osprey flew by carrying a fish. It did not stop at the nest, but flew round a couple of times then went off towards the south. The other bird stood up and looked about, but did  not leave the nest. I stayed for about another ½ hour, and nothing further happened. It then started to snow and got very cold, so I came home.’

By Sunday it seemed that the first egg had been laid although mating continued – a sure sign that more eggs are on the way. Eggs are laid at 2 day intervals and so her clutch will have been completed sometime in the middle of that week. She is now sitting tightly.

Crossed fingers for the next month of sitting.

Oh Beautiful Day!

After a grey start to the day, suddenly sunshine painted the fellsides in shades of gold and umber and the Lake lying below, shone bright as a starling’s wing, flecked by a warm breeze. What scenario could be better to welcome back the Bassenthwaite birds than this?

Over the past few days we’ve caught glimpses of a single osprey (or ospreys) dodging about the marsh and there have been some sightings at nearby stretches of water but this afternoon, quite clear to behold, were 2 ospreys sitting close together, sharing a fish for lunch. Their long migration is over and along with all the other creatures that share the valley,  the summer business of home building and rearing offspring is starting.

Hooray!

 

Welcome to 2021 – Long time no see 7V!

Over the past couple of weeks it has been all eyes to the skies watching out for ospreys passing overhead and ospreys that look as if they might stay and take up residence in the valley. So far there have been a number of sightings of passage birds but they have winged their way on past going North to Scotland. Around the nest platforms there have been the usual excitements of buzzards and crows having some argie-bargies as they jockey for their own nest territories in the area.

Looking at last year’s satellite maps  there are many factors that can effect the date of arrival of migrating birds. Africa is a huge continent and start points can be anywhere from Equatorial Guinea, c4000 miles from the UK and Senegal c 3000 miles. Some canny birds are only making a short hop from the Mediterranean, where more are now spending their winters.

Weather too plays a vital part, particularly the wind strength and direction. An adverse wind near ground level will be avoided by an experienced osprey if there is a good tail wind at a 1000 feet.

Some excellent news is a report Yellow 7V, of one of the Bassenthwaite offspring hatched in 2008. After leaving the Lakes on his first migration this bird was next seen in 2013 at a nest site in Scotland, where we believe he has been breeding ever since. He hatched from a fortuitous clutch of 3 brothers and his sibling is White YW who has been breeding at Foulshaw and has recently returned to breed again this year.

Yellow 7V was photographed at Langue de Barbarie

in Senegal by John-Marie Dupart, who has kindly given permission to use his pictures. It is great to see our bird, now 13 years old, looking so fit and well, only his ring a bit faded. The down-side, that many have commented on, is the amount of plastic rubbish cast up on a beach that is relatively remote.

Crossed fingers that he has made his way back again and will be rearing more Bassenthwaite bairns North of the Border this season.

 

 

Through France and Spain and into Africa

Through Southern France and over the Pyrenees, skirting around Spain and over the Mediterranean (actually the bit called the Alboran Sea) to Morocco. 30.09.2020.

02.10.2020

Across the Atlas Mountains into Algeria and across the Grand Erg Occidental Desert to roost in the mountains.

04.10.2020

Then an odd divergence to the East along the mountain range, passing an even odder landscape feature.

A moon landscape with what looks to be an enormous meteor strike. The Tin Bider crater was formed in the last 70 million years, perhaps in the late Cretaceous or early Tertiary Period.Spanning 6 kilometres, the crater sits at the southern end of a range of hills.

10.10.2020

He’s crossed out of Algeria into Mali and he’s heading southwards to follow the Niger River which should take him through the SW corner of Niger into Nigeria and down to the coast.
14.10.2020

‘We have been made aware of a possible ringing recovery involving White 14.  We are working closely with the British Trust for Ornithology, and will update when they can confirm or deny these reports.’

Spring 2021

Sadly, it is confirmed that No 14 has perished in Mali. We shall probably never find out the full story, but as we know the hazards of migration over such a long distance are many, on both human and natural fronts. The legacy of his terrific and well documented flights has added a further dimension to what we understand about osprey movements across the globe.

 

Britain, Brittany, France

We are not keeping up with wonder bird!

This is his position for September 28th. He has flown down the length of France via a channel crossing, Seaton to Loguivy on the  Brittany coast. Then straight over Brittany to  Carnac Plage he took a rather risky route over the notorious Bay of Biscay to the Gironde Estuary. This is a favourite osprey stop over place with shallow sandy water and good fishing. He then continued Southward, toward the Pyrenees.

No 14 starts his Southward Journey

 

Travels around the South lakes over the past few weeks.

Day 1 of the migration

Roudsea to Wrexham – and that was the first indication that No 14 had started his migration back to his wintering grounds in Bioko on Wednesday 16th Sept. It was a leisurely trip starting at 06.55 with some swoops around the bay before heading off over the North Wales Coast and landing in a strip of woodland adjacent to a river near Wrexham. Via the M6 the journey would have been about 140 miles.

No 14 and some research – handsome, talonted, why no mate?

The map shows No 14’s movements in S Lakes, fishing in the estuary with occasional visits to Pennington reservoir to the west. 

No 14 has not found a mate this year, again and he has rarely been seen visiting the site in South Lakes where we felt he might settle, so:

Our licensed ringer and osprey expert has been trying to discover if the fact that white 14, at the age of 7 years and has not started breeding yet is unusual or if the fact that he is still carrying the satellite tag is having an influence on his breeding capabilities.

To this end he has asked the folk who have worked with the Rutland osprey population which started breeding in the same year as the Lakeland birds and also Roy Dennis who has been involved with Ospreys, including satellite tagging, for many years in Scotland and elsewhere what information they have on the ages that ospreys have started to breed and whether any birds carrying satellite tags have bred successfully.

This is the information/data that they have sent through to him. It’s extremely interesting to know about other ospreys and the ages they start to breed and those others carrying sat tag successfully raising chicks

With regard to the age of breeding males, there have been two males in the Rutland Water population that bred for the first time aged 11 and 14 respectively.

So there is no doubt that some birds have to wait a considerable time to breed.

This year there is an 8 year-old male that is breeding for the first time, and a 7 year-old male that is yet to pair up.

So on this data there is still time and hope that white 14 will breed in the future

There are numerous examples of satellite-tagged birds breeding successfully. Notable examples include:

  • Female Yellow 30 raised eight chicks between 2015-2019 at a nest near Rutland Water after being tagged as an adult in 2013. The tag then fell off last winter and she has returned to breed again this year.
  • One of Roy’s satellite-tagged females, Beatrice, bred each year from 2009-2015 after being tagged as an adult in 2008.
  • Satellite-tagged female Morven bred between 2009 and 2018 while carrying a satellite transmitter. The transmitter was then removed and she continues to return to Scotland.
  • Another of Roy’s satellite-tagged birds, Nimrod (male), raised five chicks between 2008 and 2011 while carrying a satellite tag.
  • A further six satellite-tagged males and two females have bred successfully in Scotland in recent years, plus two males at Rutland Water.

There is no evidence that satellite transmitters have ever stopped birds breeding. 

So to conclude, there is no way that the satellite transmitter is the issue with White 14 and there are still several years left for him to settle down and raise some chicks.

 

The Lockdown Gap.

 

Top of Dodd – Sunshine and clouds in June.

With Staff and Volunteers all in Lockdown and subsequently unable to deliver the Osprey project there has been little news on the doings of the Bassenthwaite family over the past months. At the Dodd viewpoints there is no way that using communal telescopes can comply with covid restrictions. Similarly, gathering people around a screen to watch osprey footage is not possible with social distancing.

However, ospreys, like many other creatures thrived over a time when traffic and people were not there to disturb them.

Eggs were laid, chicks were hatched, fishing was good and the dry sunshine conducive to health and well-being. The two chicks this year looked very healthy. Their experienced Father Unring, now in his 8th breeding year, is a pro at delivering fish and defending the nest site. The female, thought to be the un-ringed one from last year, has taken to motherhood well, shading the young chicks from the sun and popping the right sized morsels of food down their ever-hungry throats.

The chicks from an early age showed a considerable size difference. Perhaps this indicated there had been an egg that did not hatch laid between them. Or perhaps the elder one of the two was a bigger female and the younger a smaller male. However, both were vigorous in vying for attention and in flapping and hopping about the nest prior to first flights.

Altogether, with pairs in South Lakes, such as Foulshaw, and those in Keilder Forest producing young, Cumbria is having a good year ospreywise!

The Life and Death of 5Y

 

The Life and Death of Green 5Y 

Image – Craig Smith 5Y Brockholes April 2020

Over the past week there have been great highs and then a huge low concerning the life and death of Bassenthwaite osprey Green 5Y.

This is as full a story as I can get, starting at a bit before the beginning:

The advantages of Ringing

Ringing a bird has always been one of the least invasive methods of collecting data on its movements after it has left the nest.  The LDOP has tried to ring all chicks every year since its inception in 2001. At the age of 5-6 weeks these Schedule 1 chicks are taken by a licensed ringer from the nest and in the space of half an hour are given a visual health check and are weighed and measured. Two rings are placed on their legs.  In England, the left leg bears a metal BTO ring with the unique serial number of the bird stamped into it. On the right leg a larger plastic Darvic ring is placed with a letter/number/colour combination. Generally, with luck, this can be seen through a telescope, whereas the metal ring number can in most cases only be read from a deceased recovery.

Ring sightings depend on members of the public spotting them and sending their findings to the BTO, who then informs the ringer concerned. Over a number of years, a broad set of information can be gathered on the population movement and dynamics, but for individual birds sightings can be few and far between. At a watched breeding nest site, like Bassenthwaite, there are daily summer sightings, but then only sporadic and random information. This can be very frustrating when we send off healthy chicks and never hear anything of them again! We know about 70% never reach breeding maturity, but we can never be sure if they have failed or just not seen.

It is also important to note that unless cameras are fixed onto the nest site confirming the identities of the breeding male and female, is difficult and sometimes open to speculation, despite the birds carrying a colour ring and it’s even more difficult if they don’t.

Green 5Y has been an exception in that we have had bites at a history from his hatching in 2006 at Bassenthwaite to his sad death on April 23rd) near Brockholes Nature reserve in Lancashire.

His Early Months

Image 5Y 2006 Bassenthwaite July LDOP

Green 5Y was the offspring of the 2 original ospreys breeding on Bassenthwaite from 2001, No-ring (A very distinctive male bird with no rings) and female Green SX.

2006 was SX’s last year of breeding but as a bonus, she managed to produce, hatch and rear chicks from 3 eggs (previously she had only had 1 and 2 offspring). The first two eggs were laid on Tuesday 18th April at 05.30 and Fri 21st April – but the third was more difficult to verify but probably about 23rd April. Interestingly, George, the Forestry Commission engineer had tried to insert a mini camera on the edge of the nest for the second year running, this time with a cage around it to prevent accidents with sticks and talons, but by the time of hatching it was buried again in moss and branches.

By the end of May and the last days of incubation, the weather had turned bitterly cold, volunteers wearing gloves and woolly hats. On Friday 26th May we were on tenterhooks but relied on the protection team who told us that they thought the first chick had hatched at around 23.00. The big surprise on Saturday was that when we switched on at 10.00 a second chick had hatched at about 7.50 that morning. To quote ringer Pete Davies,

“We were already delighted at seeing one chick in the nest at first light and I couldn’t believe it when the second egg started to hatch. My heart was in my mouth as we watched the tiny chick struggling to break out of the egg. This is quite extraordinary because there is usually a full day between hatching – I’ve never heard of anything like this before.”

Then there was a wait until the night of Tues 30th when the last chick hatched in the night. Amazingly, the sticks by the mini camera had moved and much of the hatching process was captured on video film, which with the technology of the time was thrilling to achieve.

One of these exciting hatchings was 5Y – but we weren’t to know that at the time!

All the chicks thrived with the copious amount of fish that No ring brought in, although the littlest had to use quite a lot of ducking and weaving moves to get into a position to be fed, and avoid being bashed by its older and much bigger siblings. No-ring was seen to feed it exclusively on occasions.

On July 5th they were ringed and checked by Pete D, all behaving perfectly at ‘playing dead’ whilst SX called overhead. Ranger, Paul Brown filmed the occasion. The female bird was already big compared with her two brothers and her ring was Green XU. The other two male chicks were ringed Green 5Y and Green 5Z.

They continued to develop well heading towards fledging in July, the next big milestone. The weather had turned extremely hot and the chicks panted on the nest, despite their covering of feathers. On Thursday 20th of July at 14.35 in a haze of heat, the male chick 5Z took its maiden flight and promptly disappeared into the sultry air. It was spotted the next day, still out, but doing fine. On Sat 22nd July 5Y took its first flight in the evening, and his big sister took hers, again in the cool of the evening, on Sun 23rd.

As with all juveniles their first days in the air were full of near misses and clumsy landings but the female came on in leaps and bounds and on July 31st was seen catching her first fish. Her brothers were still doing circuits and bumps but as they grew bolder there were attempts when they ganged up to chase their sister to steal her fish. She was more than a match for them though.

By this time SX Mum was only coming into the nest at 2 or 3 day intervals, sometimes with a fish for the juveniles, as she prepared herself for the journey back to Africa.

Over the summer otters were often seen in the glassy waters and on the marsh. One perfect moment was viewed by many visitors and staff when 2 of the juveniles were bathing and an otter romped into their space across the boggy ground. It was a bit of a shock for everyone! Great white egret and marsh harrier had also been seen as high spots over the summer.

It’s not sure when the chicks left the valley as the human side of the Project stops at the end of August but by 27th Aug SX had departed and in the next couple of weeks so had the juveniles and Dad.

Fast forward a few years

Now comes a gap. Ospreys generally spend a couple of years in Africa after their first migration to mature before making the return journey. Whether 5Z and sister XU survived no one knows, but in the Spring of 2009 5Y was once again seen near Esthwaite Water in the company of his half sister White YU. White YU was hatched in 2007. No-ring was her father with a new un-ringed female ‘Mrs’ was her mother as Green SX had failed to return in 2007. YU and 5Y made a nest on private land in S Lakes in 2009 and bred in 2010. It is probable/possible that they were the breeding couple over the next years, with YU as the female until 2018. In 2019 a female with no ring was seen there.

However, this year 2020, Green 5Y had not been seen in S Lakes although he was possibly on his way there.

The Brockholes sightings

The M6 motorway runs closely past the Brockholes nature reserve, near Preston, Lancashire and although shut, due to corona virus, local people were charmed and uplifted when on April 15th 2020 an osprey was reported sitting on the motorway bridge above the River Ribble and diving off to catch fish. (Have a look at Google maps)

With hindsight this was probably not the ideal perching spot.

Darren Leen who works for Highways England’s traffic officer service from an outstation next to the M6 and A59 at Samlesbury recognised it as an osprey from his first sight.’ I was on a break at the outstation when I saw the osprey on a motorway bridge; it had been scanning the River Ribble for his/her next meal, sitting unfazed by 44-tonne vehicles passing less than three metres away.”

https://www.brockholes.org/blog/alan-wright/osprey-here-stay

A number of people managed to get photos of him, including the images attached from Craig Smith. The bird had no Darvic ring, but it was noticed that he seemed to have a metal ring on his left leg, indicating he was an English bird. One picture was so sharp that the digits could be seen, and these were sent off to the BTO.

In a couple of days Pete had the confirmation that it was 5Y!

The questions this raised were many, not only where he had been but also why had he left a prime nest site? Was he pushed out by a rival male, or had he arrived late one year and found it already taken or do ospreys, reaching a certain age become more infertile with less urge to breed and go wandering. Fascinating!

All this detective work led to him having a moment of high publicity, featuring on TV. There was a lovely bit of film, but with the motorway traffic blurring fast behind him.

On 23.04 2020 watchers observed him sitting on the railing as usual, overlooking the River when a cyclist decided that he would make his way along the hard shoulder of the motorway – who knows why, being both dangerous and we assume illegal.

5Y taken aback, shot into the air, straight into an up-coming lorry.

Witnesses took photos of the cyclist, but he made it clear he had less than no concern about the incident.

Of course, it has been a great sadness to all others involved, particularly for those watching him in Lancashire and for us having found 5Y and lost him again so quickly. The set of incidents were random, but quite probably not that unusual, except in the witnessing. As we see daily from the many corpses knocked down on all roads, traffic and wild creatures are not compatible.  These are the words of the Brockholes team:

‘This news brings home ever more the need for bigger, better and more connected green spaces to allow such magnificent birds such as this one to thrive. Our conservation team work tirelessly to ensure Brockholes provides the best habitat for an abundance of different wildlife, but with surroundings becoming ever more industrialised, we need the help of wider organisations and the Government to provide a wildlife focused environmental bill which will make protecting species all the more prevalent in the hearts of the nation.’

https://www.facebook.com/brockholes

However, for 5Y to have lived for 14 years of migration, breeding and overcoming all the other hazards of existence, his was a victory in its own right. He occupied a place at the top of the survival pyramid – his genes live on!

And we have that once in a 20-year history of a magnificent birth to death record.

We hope he finds himself by a safe river where the Salmon leap willingly into a hunting osprey’s talons.

Bar and LDOP Team

Craig Smith 5Y Brockholes 2020 April

Teamwork

Sophie and Becky made the great efforts to capture and verify the Brockhole story and get permissions to use the wonderful photos.  And of course Pete who placed his leg rings on in the first place.