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.