Osprey and Wildlife Cruise: 1 July

The first of the summer evening motorboat cruises, a Calvert Trust/Northumberland Wildlife Trust initiative, set off on a calm and balmy if overcast early evening. A contrast to the rainy and cold spring trip.

Before we had even got out of the inlet where the boat is moored we saw an Osprey! It was over a parallel inlet and we watched it flying quite slowly over the water until it went out of sight. A bonus was a Common Sandpiper at the edge of the water.

An obliging poser! (c) Joanna Dailey

An obliging poser!
(c) Joanna Dailey

This was a great start for the two visitors on board, Carole and Paul, because it was their first ever Osprey sighting. Our driver Lucy headed over to another inlet which the Ospreys use when they hunt. We hadn’t been there long before an Osprey flew across the end of the inlet onto the main body of the water, so back we went! Probably the same Osprey was picked up again and obligingly landed in a tree where good views could be seen through binoculars.

Probably a female Osprey (c) Joanna Dailey

Probably a female Osprey
(c) Joanna Dailey

From analysing the not very good photos the Osprey appears to be unringed and has quite a dark chest, which ruled out YA or 37.

After a few minutes the Osprey flew and tracked along the tree line just back from the water. It looked female and had  damaged one of the primaries on the left wing at some point, P8, which is re-growing.

Lucy took us to the inlet where the bird was headed but we couldn’t spot it again.

Adult male Mallards in eclipse (c) Joanna Dailey

Adult male Mallards in eclipse plumage
(c) Joanna Dailey

We travelled along the north shore and watched Sand Martins wheeling about near their nests in the sandy bankside. Other bird life was relatively scarce although we noted Oystercatchers, Carrion Crows and a flock of eight Curlews. A pair of Ducks proved more tricky; they were adult male Mallards in eclipse plumage.

As we arrived back the sun was behind thinner cloud and there was a lovely glow on the water.

Carole and Paul’s verdict – a great experience!

There will be a cruise every Wednesday until the end of August. If you are interested sign on with the Calvert Trust.

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Nest 1 Ringing

The chicks on Nest 1 have been ringed and a GSM/GPS tracker attached to the eldest chick.

As usual YA and Mrs YA circled the area calling to the chicks to play dead and they largely complied.

YA circling close to the nest area (c) Joanna Dailey

YA circling close to the nest area
(c) Joanna Dailey

Mrs YA was mainly further away (c) Forestry Commission England

Mrs YA was mainly further away
(c) Joanna Dailey

The largest chick, a female, was weighed (1780g) and measured first and BTO and Darvic rings attached. She sports Blue VY on her right leg.

Blue VY (c) Joanna Dailey

Blue VY
(c) Joanna Dailey

The younger chick was lighter at 1550g and is also female. She has Blue VP on her right leg.

Blue VP (c) Joanna Dailey

Blue VP
(c) Joanna Dailey

A GSM/GPS tracker was fitted to the eldest chick by Roy Dennis. Nest 1 is not in range of a mobile mast to receive the data so the first downloads will be after VY has fledged.

As the small team left the area YA and Mrs YA neared the nest to check on their chicks.

YA can see his chicks returning to the nest (c) Joanna Dailey

YA can see his chicks returning to the nest
(c) Joanna Dailey

Unfortunately the nestcam hasn’t streamed for the last couple of days so we aren’t able to monitor progress closely.

Posted in Osprey updates, UK | Tagged | 6 Comments

Nest 3 update

The latest download from Nest 3 had some interesting footage, in particular an intrusion on 27 June when an unringed osprey followed the Nest 3 male to the nest as he returned with a catch. The intruder was around for about six minutes; some of the action including the intruder landing on the nest is in this video.play still

The adults are bringing in sticks and moss, building up the nest.

The usual disagreement over stick placement! (c) Forestry Commission England

The usual disagreement over stick placement!
(c) Forestry Commission England

The male continues to spend time standing on the nest with the female and still feeds the chicks at times.

The male feeds a chick (c) Forestry Commission England

The male feeds a chick
(c) Forestry Commission England

On Monday Chick 1 was just about able to walk a few tottery steps.

Chick 1 stands and peers at the world beyond (c) Forestry Commission England

Chick 1 stands and peers at the world beyond
(c) Forestry Commission England

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Osprey Watch Report: 28 June 2015

Yesterday’s Osprey Watch Report:-

We arrived in the rain, but were delighted to find the Nest 1 camera was working well. Two damp chicks were apparently sleeping peacefully with Mrs YA in attendance. Half an hour later Mrs YA flew off. The wet chicks spent some time stretching their wings (now of a most impressive length), before settling back down in their damp nest. Mrs YA came back a couple of times in the next half an hour, bringing in a couple of twigs and adjusting the nest a bit. We saw no sign of YA. Thick clouds were completely blanketing the area, and we were unable to see the far side of the lake, to see if he was anywhere around, or sitting in his favourite tree. By 12.30pm there was still no sign of YA, and Mrs YA spent about ten minutes sitting on the far side of the nest from the camera pole, and was seen to be shouting. Because there had been no delivery of a fish in all the time we had been watching, we suspected that the shouts may have had something to do with the absence of a delivery of fish! The connection for Nest 1 dropped off soon after this so we switched to Nest 2 and saw the two chicks sitting up and preening.

At one o’clock the rain stopped and we were able to see the other side of Kielder Water. We set up two scopes outside. We were able to watch Nest 1 via the nestcam again for a while, and noticed that one of the chicks stood for a short while firmly on two feet, whereas they had both been shuffling around the nest on their flattened lower limbs earlier on.

Easier to see over the edge on your feet! (c) Forestry Commission England

Easier to see over the edge on your feet!
(c) Forestry Commission England

Then the other chick stood up on its feet as well. Were we watching their first steps? There was much preening and thrashing of wings – good for drying out and for the developing wing muscles. We did not see a fish brought in to the nest either via the cam or by watching on the scopes, although we could see YA in his favourite tree, and for a while an adult was on top of the camera pole.

Nest 2’s fish delivery came in at around two o’clock and the chicks were well fed and spent the rest of the day not moving very much at all, apart from stretching a leg out, or a wing. We noticed that the unhatched egg was still in the nest, just near where the chicks were basking. Some of the time both parents were in attendance, but the chicks were left on their own quite a lot too. It was certainly not a cold day, in spite of the early rain and mist.

We had over 60 visitors, who were really interested in our birds. One family came in thinking that the cameras were on an owl’s nest, but we talked to them about the ospreys, and they spent a long time looking through the scopes and going backwards and forwards between the scopes and the cabin, asking questions and getting excited about what they were learning. A good day at Osprey Watch.

Cath, John and Gillie


Nest 1 had eaten before Osprey Watch started. One of the chicks was considering helping Mrs YA with the last bit!

I could swallow that! (c) Forestry Commission England

I could swallow that!
(c) Forestry Commission England

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Osprey Watch Report: 27 June 2015

Apart from a very short piece of footage yesterday the Nest 1 cameras haven’t streamed to Leaplish or Kielder Castle Café. The Forestry Commission Radio and Electronics Branch are working hard to resolve this. But the Report from the Osprey Watch team today gives a good flavour of Nest 1 events:-

“After setting up at Leaplish we waited for the rush of visitors we expected on a fine Saturday morning; no rush happened. We had a few visitors am and almost none across lunchtime. It was so quiet we could hear the rabbits eating! We spent much of this time trying, and failing, to get the Nest 1 camera feed to work. It stayed unconnected all day, however, the Nest 2 feed was as solid as a rock and showed visitors many domestic details of Osprey family life.

There was much flapping activity on Nest 1 as we set up the scopes; at least 2 adults were seen on the nest with both of them flapping wings briskly. One bird was seen flying off and things settled down. Thereafter, YA was perched in his usual tree, until we saw another osprey circling over his nest. YA obviously saw it too as he took off and appeared to guard his own nest by circling for several minutes. Could the earlier “flapping” activity indicate an interloper?

Meanwhile Nest 2 had a fish which fed the chicks until sated.

37 delivers what the chicks want! (c) Forestry Commission England

37 delivers what the chicks want!
(c) Forestry Commission England

The unhatched egg was clearly visible as was the fact that all Nest 2 occupants ignored it. The chicks preened, Mrs 37 brought a few twigs and 37 joined them several times.

Many more visitors arrived in the afternoon, several of whom reported osprey sightings at the Dam and one couple said they had seen one on Derwent reservoir. In mid-afternoon we were concerned to see 2 buzzards flying directly across the water from Leaplish, but YA was not sufficiently impressed to leave his tree perch. There was more flying activity around Nest 1. Mrs YA flew backwards and forwards and YA flew off towards the Dam, and we believe came back later with a fish.

By now, the birds on Nest 2 were showing signs of being hungry. As it was packing up time, all 3 volunteers were in the cabin and were surprised when a large trout was dropped onto the nest. 37 then perched on the camera and partly obscured our view of the feeding by placing his tail feathers over the lens. A last minute excitement to round off a lovely day spent in the company of interested visitors.

The weather was fine with sunshine on Nest 1 giving some excellent views and a breeze keeping the midges away (although they do like our new cabin!!)

NB There was much wasp activity around the front left hand corner of the ramp deck; we guess they may be starting a nest there or trying to find suitable wood fibres to build a nest elsewhere. Watch your ankles if you using the scope nearest to the fence!

Christine, Joyce and Ian

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A bit of roaming from both 7H and UV!

In the last week both 7H and UV have roamed – albeit very modestly in UV’s case. Since his arrival at the Langue de Barbarie in late April he hadn’t explored the mainland. Until …

… on 23 June the day started normally with UV leaving his overnight roost, probably fishing during the early morning when there are few fixes, then sitting in a favourite spot in the trees by 09.33 UTC. The next fix at 10.07 showed him flying over the mainland shore and the next two were over the east edge of a lake in the Guembeul  Natural Reserve.

UV's first excursion inland

UV’s first excursion inland

UV then perched by a tributary of the Senegal River before flying higher than he has done for a while before heading back to base at low altitude.

This image shows his activity over the whole day.

UV range on 23 June

UV range on 23 June

So not a long trip, probably about 20 km in total depending how much he meandered on the outward leg, but still a first for him since settling on the Langue de Barbarie. Mostly he has a few flights off shore or over the lagoon but mainly just sits in the trees or on the beach. Here is a typical recent ‘fairly busy’day.

21 June: UV's range

21 June: UV’s range

In Morocco 7H continues to travel much further than UV every day. On 24 June she visited the port of Jorf Lasfar for the first time since 1 April. This elevation graphic from Paul shows well how she flies high over land.

7H returns briefly to Jorf Lasfar

7H returns briefly to Jorf Lasfar

This was a particularly busy day for her. By 06.57 she was flying towards the river and was hunting around 07.30 before sitting in agricultural land for just under 30 minutes. Then she was off and soon climbed to 974m ASL. She spent 50 minutes at the irrigation area – somewhere she visits every few days – before moving on to Jorf Lasfor where she flew over the northern end of the docks.

7H flying at the docks

7H flying at the docks

After returning via El Jadida 7H sat near her roost before spending the later afternoon down near the river loops. These still form her main hunting range as this image from 20 June demonstrates.

7H hunting around the loops on 20 June

7H hunting around the loops on 20 June

Recently 7H has occasionally travelled along the coast early in the morning before heading upriver. On 23 June she also visited old haunts – her main roost from her first few months at Azemmour where she sat for a time, the river mouth to hunt and the beach to the east side to sit.

23 June: 7H visits old haunts

23 June: 7H visits old haunts

Then it was down to the loops!

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Qualitative stereopsis and other matters

The chicks continue to develop rapidly on all three nests. On Nests 1 and 2 they are peeping over the edge quite often. They move their heads from side to side – a behaviour called qualitative stereopsis which Paul described in a 2013 post on his Wildlifewriter blog. Here is Chick 1 on Nest 2 demonstrating the behaviour. He is looking at 37 on the camera pole.

The ungainly wings seem to grow ever longer and the primary feathers are coming along well. The feather sheaths appear blue because they are filled with blood which supports the feathers by, in effect, “hydraulic pressure” until they grow and stiffen.

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Lots of preening helps the feathers out of the sheaths.

Synchronised preening (c) Forestry Commission England

Synchronised preening
(c) Forestry Commission England

The weather has been less windy on the whole and ample fish are coming to the nests. Mealtimes can last an hour or longer with short breaks by one or both chicks before extra room is found.

Chick 2 has a top up (c) Forestry Commission England

Chick 2 has a top up but Chick 1 is a bit full
(c) Forestry Commission England

37 tops up Chick 1 (c) Forestry Commission England

37 tops up Chick 1 during his own meal
(c) Forestry Commission England

At this age the chicks are much better at regulating their own body temperature. In the warmer weather, they engage in “gular fluttering” – a rapid cycling of the throat muscles which exchanges heat by evaporation.

The chicks are hot in the midday sun (c) Forestry Commission England

The Nest 3 chicks are hot in the midday sun on 23 June
(c) Forestry Commission England

Mrs YA has exhibited some interesting behaviour too. She picked up a long piece of bark and for over five minutes tore tiny pieces off. Here is a short segment.

Ospreys use bark to maintain their beaks and may get nutrients and/or trace elements but usually this is intermittent not sustained behaviour.

There have been intruder incidents on all nests – intruders unseen – but the oddest was on Nest 1 when the intruder dropped a stick onto the nest. Obviously s/he felt a helping hand was required!

A present from an intruder (c) Forestry Commission England

A present from an intruder
(c) Forestry Commission England

Many thanks to Paul for his input on avian ecology.

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