Flying 101

It is true what they say, time really does fly when you are having fun! (Pun intended).

At six and a half weeks old, Bassethwaite’s little osprey is not so little anymore. In fact it is looking so grown up that we do occasionally have to look twice through the scopes to be sure who exactly we are looking at. Of course she is not finished developing quite yet and we aren’t expecting fledging for another week and a half…give or take!  

Mum is now happy to leave the youngster alone on the nest for periods, settling on a perch next to dad where she can see the youngster or taking herself off for some all important me time.

Mum and dad enjoying a moments peace and quiet

The youngster has been making good use of the extra space to get in some exercise: warm up with some stretches, moving on to vigourous flapping before the grand finale…helicoptering! This is named for the way that the chick rises vertically off the nest a few inches before touching down in a manner similar to a helicopter. Friday’s practise was a touch nerve-wracking for those of us watching as it was a windy day but the osprey-copter seemed to handle it with ease!  

One of the things that makes Dodd Wood such a great place to see ospreys, is that not only can we show you them on or around their nest, but we are also well placed to observe fishing and bathing activity. Mum in particular seems to enjoy a good bath, usually in the shallow water right below the viewpoint. It is always lovely to see an osprey enjoying splashing in the water in much the same way that a sparrow might splash in a bird bath. Except Bassethwaite is one really big bird bath! 


Chick Check

The Bassenthwaite chick has had its health check and has been ringed. She is a female and unsurprisingly large as she has the lion’s share of the grub! Her British Trust for Ornithology Darvic coloured ring designation is now Blue 400.  In the short term this should make her easy to identify after she fledges in the next weeks and, if she survives her first migrations, a tool to recognise her by if she makes it back to the North Lakes.

This 5 week old chick below (photo LDOP 2016) shows all the characteristics of a young osprey juvenile. Eyes are orange – in the adult they are yellow. Feather edgings are buff to break up the outline and blend in with nest material. Although bones have grown to nearly full size (enabling a ring to be fitted without becoming tight) muscle has yet to catch up. This means  juvenile ospreys are very docile in the hands of the ringer – an advantage for both bird and human considering the amount of pain an inadvertent talon or beak puncture might inflict.



The North Sea for Breakfast

Number 14, Bassenthwaite bird Extraordinaire!

Hatched in 2013 as one of the three in Unring and KL’s first brood, this bird has taught us more about what an osprey is capable of than any other. As a juvenile he was leg-ringed  as White 14 and a GPS tracker fitted. Since then it has been telling us his story, one more along the lines of ‘Sinbad’ considering the range and length of his adventurous journeys.

His winter home is on the island of Bioko, so the least mileage he does in a year is the 8000 mile round trip.

So, what better on a nice bright Saturday morning – have a quick trip to the North Sea for breakfast. It was approximately a 300 mile round trip, travelling out to sea 40 miles off Grimsby. Yes he did come back!

Of sundials and siestas!

Following on from last week, it appears that the Bassenthwaite nest has become hot property!

Shenanigans have continued all week, with an intruding osprey being seen buzzing over the nest on several occasions. Sadly, as we are unable to see whether it is rung or not during its visits. We cannot tell if this is just one intruder who isn’t getting the message or whether there are several birds with an eye on the nest. What we do know though, is that the bird(s) are certainly tenacious, often taking dad a couple of hours at a time to clear them out.
Saturday’s intruder was particularly determined. It all kicked off before lunch when dad was spotted chasing it down right in front of the viewpoint, much to the delight of everyone watching. In fact, in amongst the excited chatter of onlookers, you could hear the birds vocalising to one another. Then they slid out of sight heading north up the lake and were gone, leaving us to an anxious wait for dad to return.
It is fair to say that we are all a little bit jumpy after dad’s two day disappearance a couple of weeks ago so it was a huge relief when he came gliding onto the nest bearing a silvery gift for mum and youngster, 4 hours later! The relief was short lived though, for no sooner had he handed his prize over then the intruder reappeared over the nest, prompting dad to take to the wing once more to see it off.

Eyes to the skies for that lovely osprey shape

You’ll be relieved to hear that dad isn’t always quite so rushed off his…wings.
In fact, as long as mum and chick are fed and there are no intruders, dad can put his feet up on his favourite perch and while away the hot hours of the afternoon. He did get a little too comfy on his perch on Tuesday though and had to be prompted to go fishing by mum who was less than impressed by his laid back attitude. She mobbed him until he reluctantly sloped off towards Derwent water.

Dad in his “arm chair”

With the chick now four weeks old and growing like a weed (albeit a very cute, winged variety) and the weather so good, mum doesn’t need to brood it. Most of the day she sits up on the nest keeping a close eye on it whilst it siestas in the sun. As the hours slip by she moves around the edge of the nest, using her body to cast shade on the snoozing chick, a little bit like an inverse sundial. So any time we want to know the time at the viewpoint, we can take a glance at mum through the scope and work it out from where she is at that point.

Bright blue skies and sunshine over Bassenthaite

With all of this going on, it is a great time to come to Dodd and see the osprey family for yourself. Please be aware that the viewpoint at Dodd will be closed this week from Tuesday 9th July- Thursday 11th but we will resume normal opening (10-5) from Friday 12th. Hope to see you there!

Fisher Kings and Friars

If you have been up at Dodd and Whinlatter this summer you will most likely have been greeted by one of the fantastic Lake District Osprey Project Volunteers. From April 1st to August 23rd the sites are manned, and womanned, without charge, to provide visitors with updates on the ospreys, information on wildlife and passion about the beautiful world around us. Sometimes they take a well-earned rest of course, to go on holiday and it is always good to see pictures of birds and wildlife sent from other places.


Here’s a view of another iconic bird, the puffin, taken by Annie in Shetland last week. In Cumbria, our closest spot to catch a glimpse of these is at St. Bee’s Head, and then only sometimes, in very small numbers.

At first glance the diminutive hole-nester, with its painted Easter-egg beak, appears to have nothing in common with the majestic osprey.  However, like ospreys its main diet is fish, although to achieve the same end, its method of catching its prey and body adaptation is very different.

An osprey, being a bird of prey, catches a single fish with its talons, then tears it to pieces with its beak; a puffin catches with its beak which is modified to be able to hold a full load of sand-eels, heads and tails protruding on each side like a set slippery silver whiskers. These it feeds to its young or swallows whole.

An osprey hovers and plunges into water feet first, the soles of its toes covered in spicules designed to provide grip against fish scales; a puffin dives in head first to chase prey, using its wings to virtually fly under water. Its strong grooved tongue holds the fish firmly in its beak.

A puffin can swim and land on water and has the ability to completely waterproof its feathers; ospreys can do none of these things, usually a fatal disadvantage if blown off course over the Atlantic. This means that a puffin can travel to the middle of the fish rich Atlantic outside the breeding season, a relatively safe environment, (excepting man’s interferences, plastics, pollution, overfishing) whilst an osprey journeys the hazardous way overland, crossing the arid sandy seas of the Sahara to its winter home in West Africa.

A last word in Latin, the puffin with its upright stance, waddling walk and black and white plumage is named  Fratercula arctica, the Arctic Friar. The osprey on the other end of the scale is named after a Greek King, Pandion haliaetus. Both fool the fishes beneath them by having pale undersides, perfect camouflage against the light sky, which of course gives rise to the famous fish proverb,

‘He jumped out of the flying Pan into the Friar’,

warning small fry of those unfortunates that having avoided capture by the one bird meet their ends with the other.