Meanwhile Number 14 having crossed the Sahara Desert twice in two years, entered Europe via Italy on the 3rd of May, then progressed north to Czech/German border and has now completed three circular tours of Europe. The first two took in Denmark and Sweden, the third included Norway. Whilst flying to Norway via the North Sea he was only 175 miles from the British coastline. He has now visited 28 different countries since leaving these shores – brownie points if you can work them all out!
Over the last few days he seems to have taken a break remaining in central Europe.
If you come up to Whinlatter you can see the growth of Gale and Oscar live on CCTV. You can also have a cup of fresh coffee homemade cake and locally sourced lunch at Siskins and watch the equally enchanting little woodland birds on the feeders outside.
Of course, Siskins cafe is named after one of the commonest birds in the forest.
In past years they could be seen, tiny yellow-tinted quarrelsome mites, telling the blue-tits off as they both headed for the biggest sunflower seed.
However in the last two years far fewer have been using the feeders, although the woods resound to their ‘chew chew’ contact calls. Why? We think it is to do with the maturity of the conifer trees in the area around the Visitor Centre and weather conditions. Last year there was a BUMPER crop of pine cones, sitka, douglas and larch. The scaly brown pockets of pine seed hang in pendulous swags of bunting along all the top branches. Red squirrels, Crossbills and of course the Siskins are having a feast. Like the discerning Siskins cafe customers, why go to a fast food feeder outlet when there are a million natural ‘ Cumbrian’ organic meals to be had?
Picture Juvenile Siskin at Whinlatter.
Now the chicks are 20 and 16 days old they are popping their heads and bits of body up nicely above the nest edge. Unring is doing a great job at bringing in the fish, which is just as well as the chicks are at their hungriest. He provided 4 fish yesterday between 14.00 and 18.00 before both and KL were satisfied.
Gale and Oscar are growing nicely!
They have put off their childish fluff and have turned into little reptiles (in appearance anyway) . All over their bodies the pimples of youth are breaking out into the stubbs of developing feathers. Instead of being a vulnerable pale grey and white they now have a brownish blackish mottled look that is no doubt much better for camouflage. A paler stripe down the length of their backs tricks the eye into thinking they are part of the stick pattern at the bottom of the nest. They are eating so much that, when they are not sleeping off the previous meal, they have to row themselves around the nest on their stomachs, using their wings to propel them.
In the valley the weather has suddenly turned for the better and all the previously chilled and battered flowers are frantically unfolding and blooming. Bluebells are nearly over but the May is in full swing
Living in the NW of England weather is something to be wary of. It is always hovering on the brink of change, the brow of the clouds wrinkled in uncertain temper. The past week has been no exception with winds so cold they have been carrying sleet, sunshine warm enough for shorts, gales to rip the branches off trees and rain torrential. On one evening it seemed as if the nest would blow down, or that KL would be blown out of it. Thank goodness for the sturdy construction of the nest platform and our tree climbers who in the early Spring removed all the top layer of loose sticks.
KL has proved herself to be a fantastic mother, turning herself into an avian umbrella with a thermal lining, keeping the chicks warm and thriving. Unring has been doing his part bringing in fish to keep the whole family fuelled for growth and energy.
KL flattening herself below the rim of the nest as the rain lashes down. Ospreys, like other birds keep their feathers waterproof with oil from their preen gland, but as you can see these are not as efficient at repelling moisture as a duck’s or swan’s say.
One of the tenants of detective novels is that it is easy to see what we want to and not what is actually there. So when the third egg in the nest disappeared seemingly under our noses this morning (Monday) we had to do a double take and really look hard for clues to explain the mystery.
1. Chick No1 (Gale) hatched on 27th May – no problem
2. The second laid egg, recognisable by its strong markings showed a hairline crack on Friday. On Saturday morning it was rocking and movement could be seen inside through a hole. By the afternoon things had slowed down and as we said, rather pessimistically, we hoped it would hatch in the night.
3. Low and behold on Sunday morning – there was a chick (Oscar) – whom we immediately assumed had hatched from the second egg. But had he?
4. At 07.30 on Monday morning there were 2 chicks and one egg on the nest. At 10.30 there were 2 chicks on the nest and no egg visible.
Let’s have another look at the hatching picture and the markings on the eggs.
Suddenly it becomes obvious. The egg that is still intact in the middle of the nest is the strongly marked egg number 2. The shell on the right nest side is lighter in colour and is egg number 3. This is what Oscar hatched out of. Elementary!
Sadly then, the chick in egg number 2 never made it out of the shell. This is not an uncommon occurrence with birds. A chick that is not strong enough to get out of the shell on its own will always have some weakness or deformity that would have prevented it from functioning normally.
But what happened to the egg itself? Well, we are still not sure. Possibly, like infertile eggs in previous years, it is buried under the new nest material that came in and may well surface again. Or maybe one of the adults, sensing that it was redundant, flipped it out of the nest.
At the end of all this, despite the loss of one egg, we have 2 healthy chicks and two devoted parents.
Sit tight for the night KL. There’s a storm with wind and rain rocking the whole valley.