Mystery Blue

 

As the summer has progressed we have been expecting to see other ospreys exploring the area. These will be birds like our No14 who are not yet mated and have not decided upon a nest site. As we know they can fly considerable distances just having a look around. Ospreys are incredibly nosey about other osprey nests – who knows but they could be abandoned, poorly defended or a potential home for the next year, so always worth checking out.

Unring must have been less vigilant than usual because we caught this bird sitting eating a very large fish on the branch beside the nest on Friday 22nd June.

It has a Blue ring on its Left leg so it is probably a Scottish Bird. However, here the trail goes cold. So far, we have not been able to trace the letter/number CA3. There appears to be no record on the internet lists so we are making enquiries through official channels. (It is not a local post code!)

 

Red and Gold

 

 

 

Cordulagaster Boltonii  – Golden Ringed dragon fly m (photo David Kitching)

If you miss the ‘Kersplosh!’ of the hunting osprey look a bit closer to hand to witness aeriel chases at least as exciting.

Dragonflies are one of the most spectacular insects of the summer months, the rustle of their wings whilst they hawk for unwary insect prey amongst foliage is as typical as their strikingly colourful bodies. One like this was spotted sitting on a shale bank by a Volunteer, on their way to the Upper Viewpoint at Dodd.

Most Dragonflies spend a couple of years underwater but these Golden Ringed ones spend  5 years of their lives there as ferocious larva. Tadpoles and Toadpoles beware! They have a few weeks flying free in Oriental splendour before the cycle starts again. The biggest is the female Golden Ringed dragon fly, her length marked like a black  finger set with with a series of multiple wedding bands. After the nuptial flight she lays her eggs by hovering over shallow water and vertically stabbing her abdomen into the stream beds.The acid upper waters of Skill Beck or the margins of the marsh land lagoons would do equally for a nursery.

At Whinlatter, smaller but in greater profusion, Red Damselflies Pyrrhosoma nymphula are darting in linked heart-shaped pairs around the ponds. But if you look deep into the water you can sometimes spot the next year’s generation showing their true nature stalking the mud in search of dinner.

 

 

 

 

Reed all about no 14

Number 14

Here is a map of the past week, where 14 can be seen to have been zig-zagging about various parts of South Cumbria. He has been  at Esthwaite, and Roudsea nest sites, fishing in the estuaries and making an occasional visit to Leighton Moss RSPB Reserve.https://www.rspb.org.uk/reserves-and-events/reserves-a-z/leighton-moss/

As 14 flies over Leighton Moss with bird’s eye view, he will spot quartering marsh harriers, families of bearded tits, twirling their tails and moustaches around the stems of their watery forest, and possibly the booming bittern lurking in the largest reed bed in England. As we have only a little reed bed on Bass it cannot support all these specialist habitat birds. But, after last year’s surprise breeding, this year we are still having good sightings of a female marsh harrier interested in the site. With the increasing numbers nationally they may well use it another year.

Dodd and Douglas

Douglas fir awaiting transport

   Those of you visiting Dodd Wood will have seen the results of a winter of tree management. The Forestry Commission manages its woods for timber, people and wildlife. The trees are a crop, albeit one with an 60+ year growing cycle!
The pride of the timber stock are the Douglas fir trees, rising straight as paint brushes colouring the sky.
Their Native home is the Canadian West Coast, so they thrive on the similar amounts of rain the Lake District generally provides. Unusually, although a conifer, they are classed as a hard wood so, together with their size they are prized for special projects.
This year for logs such as these, some are going to the Baltic Ports to be used as part of a project to restore port infrastructure, beginning with the dock in Hamburg, Germany.
Others are being sent to Portsmouth and Plymouth to be used as masts for tall ships and a shipment is being sent to Boston Mass. to be used in building projects in America.
Time to start becoming an arm-chair tree traveller!

And then there were 4 and 6

At the beginning of the season there was one – Unring – sitting all alone, waiting for KL.

On May 6th there were two ,Unring and a young female with a long streak on the back of her head. ‘Longstreak’

A young male bird, probably Blue 2H, has been spotted on the Lake. As he starts visiting the Southern waters of Bassenthwaite,  there were three.

This week another female osprey has been seen also visiting, in his company – so now there are four.

When in the neutral territory, under the Lower Dodd Viewpoint, they seem to be getting on amicably, fishing and playing on the wind together. For long periods they have been seen sitting on the shingle shoals that have emerged as the Lake has receded. With the sunshine maybe it reminds them of balmy sandy spits of the West African estuaries.

However, Unring is still vigilant over his nest, defending it vigorously with talons outstretched against 2H and his new girlfriend if they fly in too close.  ‘Longstreak, however, is still inclined to sit back and watch the tournament rather than helping him.

And where does 6 come in?

Staff travelling around the Lake this week were excited to see no less than 6 red kites flying above. Until now we have only seen the odd one at long intervals. Their butterfly wing beats, colours buff, red and brown, glinting in the sun against a blue sky and the constant re-adjusting of their forked tails to wind and thermals make them one of the most beautiful raptors. Where have they come from? As we are mid-way between 3 re-introduction sites, Galloway, across the water, Gateshead, across the Pennines and Grizedale, our South Lakes sister forest, they could have come from any of these. Keep a look out for them and let us know if you can see any wing-tags.

Wood sorrel blooms on the forest floor

 

 

Review 14

Putting the sections of No 14’s migration journey together into one map is always fascinating and always begs the question, ‘Why do they do it?’ The simple answer is, of course, for food. Swallows and other small migrants take advantage of the burst of Northern insects hatching out in their myriads in the Spring. Anyone taking a late stroll around Bassenthwaite must have been aware of the clouds of midges glowing like back-lit ballerinas dancing their short lives away in the setting sun. Similarly ospreys home in on the supplies of fish rising in the warming waters. 10,000 years ago when ice still held much of Europe in its grip ospreys must have been largely confined to the Tropics. As the ice receded young birds would have pushed out across the Sahara, as it developed into a much damper place supporting trees and grassland rather than today’s searing waste. By the time the desert came into being the migration was already established and so they continue to this day. But how the instinct or physiological mechanisms to support this global journey developed we still have very little idea.

A sense of ownership

Today saw a further visit from Longstreak, so 2 ospreys were skimming over the valley. Then suddenly a silhouette cut the sky line and there was a third one high above. After a few investigative twirls over the lake Unring swooped back to lay claim to his nest. On his first pass both resident crows, who were obviously alarmed with the sight of so many birds of prey in the immediate vicinity, rose up and one after the other buffeted him off the branch he had been meaning to perch on.

On the second pass he landed on the nest and mantled, spreading both wings wide, looking up with one eye after the other at the intruder bird. An instant later Longstreak joined him. As it is not ‘her’ nest she was quite unfazed by the bird overhead. However, the fact that she was there seemed to indicate she felt some loyalty to Unring or the site. Indeed, after Unring flew off again a few minutes later, presumably to see if the other bird was on its way, she turned over a few sticks. This was something we had not seen before and an encouraging indication that she approves of the site. Or maybe, only the threat awoke her instinct to lay some claim to it.

Fair and Fickle

Leading a bachelor life has its joys and its betrayals!

The young woman in Unring’s life is as unpredictable as one might expect, coupled with her winsome beauty. She has a brown smudgy chest and a long dark streak on the back of her head. Perhaps ‘Long streak’ would describe her appearance and nature.

Their relationship started on rocky ground on May 6th with Unring clearly stressed with the whole process of sitting close to a strange female. However, familiarity breeds confidence and through her sporadic visits he has come around to appreciating her charms and does not turn his back the minute she approaches.

However, this increasing warmth may only be because he realises that he has a rival – and it appears she is not subtle in pointing this out. Last week as Unring sat in the alders having his usual post-prandial nap Longstreak lured another young male onto the nearby platform to share an intimate lunch. Opening an eye after some time Unring spied this betrayal and rose into the air to defend his territory. There was an aerial battle in which Unring managed to put in a few punches and the trounced suitor flew off rapidly North. Meanwhile Longstreak sat on the side toying with her sushi and mentally giving marks for stamina and style.

The next day, Sunday, unsurprisingly, she spent hours basking on the nest of the victor and graciously eating the fish that he had provided. Ah -ha we thought! Have they bonded at last?

But no – come Monday she had disappeared again.

This behaviour would indicate that the female is young and not really ready to settle down – compare this with the flightiness of no 14 over the previous seasons. But who knows, maybe the groundwork is being in for next season?

Longstreak on the left  – you can just about see this mark on the back of her head.

Simply Simpsons – no 14

 

 

Has our wandering lad settled on a site? It looks like there’s particularly good tree to roost on or fish off. Ospreys hunt by sight and use their talons to catch their prey. This means that they hunt over shallow water, as they have to be able to reach into the depths with their long legs for fishing spears. Characteristically they hover over a chosen patch and then folding their wings back, dive head first towards the water, their eyes locked on to their prey. At the last second their feet swing forward and they plunge in feeling for the fleeing fish with their four toes and clutching with terrible talons.

Back on Bassenthwaite there is still a roller coaster of sightings as young and unmated birds fly in and fly out. Every day one or two birds are spotted singly or together at various locations from the Dodd viewpoints. Usually one of the birds is Unring, although he is off fishing for part of the day. Sometimes this is in full view of the Dodd telescopes and sometimes to the North end of the Lake, or local reservoirs. Without a mate he is fancy free to go where he wants.

Depending on the gender of the visitor he is still carrying nest material around – as much for display purposes as nest construction. He has been seen putting material into a couple of sites, other than the nest. Last week he caused watchers consternation as he managed to snag a large piece of black plastic from the Lake side. He has gathered environmentally unfriendly material before, but never of such a size. It trailed from his talons like a malevolent kite tail threatening to drag him into the water. Then as he gained height the wind took over and buffeted him and his dark luggage, reminding us of just how light even a large bird is. Eventually he disappeared into trees and we were left wondering for some time if he had been able to disentangle himself, or whether we might need to lead a rescue mission. Luckily, he appeared sans plastic a while later, but it was a chilling reminder that our plastic pollution can kill in all sorts of ways.

Dubwath at Dawn

At the North end of Bassenthwaite Lake lies Silver Meadows, a nature reserve named for the sight of silver undersides of willow leaves as they turn and flutter in the wind, or perhaps after the silver water that creeps up silently into the grasses and sedges in winter until the whole area transforms into a shining inlet of the larger Lake. On the first Sunday in May a band of 20 or 30 Friends arrive at the break of day for the annual Dawn chorus walk. This year as well as the 32 bird species counted Peter McQueen  set up a moth trap. With the soft fog and windless conditions it was ideal weather and lying in the upturned egg- boxes under the lamp was a sheaf of over a hundred of these beautiful insects. And their names are almost as beautiful as themselves – Hebrew Character, Luna Thorn, Green Carpet, Quakers and Drabs. The walk finished with very welcome bacon butties as we watched the moths rouse out of their light induced stupor and drift off  like ascending snowflakes, into the vegetation to sleep the day away.

At the South end of the Lake the Osprey’s date seems to be extending. She hasn’t left yet, so he must be doing something right!