Guest Post on ‘the Welsh boys’

Heather, a Glaslyn volunteer and member of the community interest company Bywyd Gwyllt Glaslyn Wildlife that will be taking ownership of the project in September this year, has shared memories of Yellow 37 and White YA as chicks at Glaslyn with some images of White YA from a 2007 DVD. A fascinating read follows, many thanks Heather.

2013 will always be memorable to the people connected to the Glaslyn Osprey Project, because it is the year that we discovered that two of the chicks we had watched develop from eggs into beautiful juvenile ospreys, were the two breeding males at Kielder Forest. Nothing had been heard of either of our boys since they left their natal nest on their first migrations to Africa. When the news broke in April that White YA was still alive and well we were over the moon, even though he was making rather a nuisance of himself at Blagdon Lakes at the time. Then when we discovered Yellow 37, the first of the Glaslyn chicks to ever fledge the nest, was still with us it was double joy, despite the fact they had not done what we had all hoped they would do, return to Wales to establish their own nests.

2005 had been a year of great hope, after the disappointment of losing the two young chicks in 2004, when the natural nest collapsed in an unseasonal gale. I remember the excitement when the first egg was laid on 2nd May. Several of us had been watching a Little Egret from the bridge at Pont Croesor, when one of the staff cycled up the field, frantically calling us back. It was an emotional moment as we viewed that newly laid first egg on the large TV screen, an egg that most likely contained Yellow 37. This egg hatched 38 days later at 9pm on 9th June, followed by a second chick three days later. We all hoped that one of these chicks would be a male, because generally male ospreys are instinctively drawn back to their natal area when they are looking for their own nest sites. The Glaslyn male chicks do not seem to have read the books!! When they were fitted with their rings on 13th July, we discovered that the older chick was the lighter of the two, weighing 1430g compared to his younger siblings 1540g. Yellow 37 was showing all the correct indicators that he was indeed the male chick we had hoped for and when he fledged at 51 days old it was a historic day. I managed to miss him fledging by 20 minutes, but I did manage to witness his very confident second flight. On 11th August Yellow 37 was missing from the nest site for several hours and on his return was visibly wet, although he did not have a fish to prove he had been successful. In fact we never saw any evidence that summer that either chick had managed to catch their own fish and they remained in the area until mid-September. One thing I do recall about 37, was the occasion his father 11(98) returned to the nest with a fish, as he passed it over to his son, a talon of the youngster became caught in the metal BTO ring of the adult male. 11(98) held his foot outstretched and perfectly still until 37 was able to free himself and finally enjoy his meal. Children from the local school Ysgol y Garreg, were handed the task of choosing names for the youngsters at the end of the season and they named Yellow 37 “Cymro” meaning Welshman.

2006 was another successful year for the Glaslyn pair, we were all hopeful that three chicks would fledge the nest that year. Our hopes were dashed when the eldest chick suddenly and inexplicably died in the nest a few days after they had been fitted with their rings. The remaining chicks continued to thrive and successfully fledged and migrated. One of them, Black 80, has been breeding at NTS Threave in Dumfries & Galloway since 2009, although he is now possibly with his third different female.

We looked forward to the return of our birds in 2007 with renewed hope for seeing three chicks fledging the nest. All three eggs hatched and the chicks appeared strong and healthy. We had rarely seen any aggression between the chicks in previous years, but the youngest chick, White YA, demonstrated his strong personality by attempting to pick on his older siblings at just a week old. He was soon put in his place. When he was only nine days old he had to wait his turn for his share of a complete fish 11(98) had brought in. He impatiently made several vain attempts to pluck a fish eye that was temptingly close to where he stood and looked on in horror as his mother gave it to another chick. Then to his delight he realised there was a second eye still available. His mother appeared to notice his eagerness to taste the eye and he eventually got his prize. Sadly the middle chick died a few days later, we never discovered the reasons why, but the two remaining chicks continued to flourish. The family also became TV stars when the ringing of the chicks was featured on the BBC TV programme Animal 24:7. The parents and the eggs had also made an appearance on the BBC Wales TV programme Iolo’s Welsh Safari earlier that year. YA was 30 days old when he was brought down from the nest for ringing with his older sister YB, he weighed 1320g, a little less than 37 had been two years before, but 37 had been the older chick and was 34 days old at ringing. The fledging of YB a couple of weeks later did not go smoothly, she had been practising wing flapping and helicoptering on the side of the nest when her mother decided to join the two chicks in the nest. Unfortunately she chose exactly the same moment as her daughter to land which resulted in YB cascading down the branches onto a perch two thirds up the pine. She remained there for three hours before plucking up the courage to leave the sanctuary of her branch and returning to the nest. Two days later at 51 days old (exactly the same age as 37) YA took his maiden flight. It was a very confident and bold flight for a first attempt. The two youngsters were seen to make fishing trips towards the estuary with the male after they had fledged and YB was seen fishing near the Porthmadog cob in mid-August, although it was uncertain whether she had actually been successful.

The Glaslyn pair have to date raised 27 chicks, four of these have died whilst nestlings, but 21 of them have successfully fledged the nest. A male from from 2008 White YC did return to Wales in 2011, he was seen on both the Glaslyn and the Dyfi nests that year and was spotted in the Porthmadog area last year, although he has not been seen this year. Another female chick from the 2009 nest, White 91 landed on the nest at Loch of the Lowes last year. The Glaslyn birds certainly seem to enjoy being in the limelight. This year’s two chicks were both given their leg rings this week and they will hopefully add to the tally of chicks that fledged and maybe one or both of these will return to Wales one day.

Click on the first image below and view them as a gallery. Click on the family image to enlarge it. All images (c) RSPB.

 

YA and family - he is front left, dad behind him

YA and family – he is front left, dad behind him

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