River rover

Everyone at Kielder was delighted to hear that UV had returned safely on 1 May. But how often will we get to see him, over and around Kielder Water and Forest Park this year?

You would think that UV might be a bit peckish after a 5,600 km migration – and he probably is. But Monday’s tracking data showed us that he may have other things on his mind than fish. The instincts surrounding reproduction can be more powerful than mere hunger. On arrival in Northumberland, UV headed straight for the Park. His movements there provide a beautifully clear confirmation of something that we’ve known about ospreys for a long time: they remember the exact location of each and every nest site they have previously visited.

Using landmarks that are also imprinted in his long-term visual memory, UV headed directly to three active nests in the Park, in turn. He did not linger long at any of them, because the purpose of this flight was simply to check if each was still occupied by a bonded pair – information that he had gathered last year. He did NOT visit the nest area of his own parents, and this too is in line with our ideas about the more general population dynamics in ospreys. With this inspection completed, UV then headed westwards and began to forage down a nearby river valley, visiting hunting spots which, again, he had frequented at the end of last season.

So… does UV have a “secret sweetheart” waiting for him in the north country? Our analysis of the data suggests not. There is no evidence that he is focused on one particular area, which is what we would expect to see if that was happening. We’ll be watching his daily activity closely, for any signs of it.

Overall, UV’s migration has had a completely different “look and feel” when compared that of 2016. Admittedly this is very much a subjective assessment but, at almost every stage of it, he has displayed a more “decisive” approach (if that term can be applied to an osprey.) His stopovers have been shorter, his average speeds higher, and his changes of course much less frequent. In short, the pattern has been much closer in scope to those recorded by mature adult ospreys in other tracking studies.

How quickly they do grow up…

Yesterday UV did return to Kielder but en route to explore the North Tyne. His passage was noted by the occupants of two nests as he flew on with purpose. EB on Nest 2 reacted as usual!

EB looks in UV’s direction of travel
(c) Forestry Commission England

UV followed the North Tyne from the dam and had a brief stop at lunchtime by the riverside. In the afternoon he travelled further downriver with frequent stops before deciding to head north again around 18.00 UTC. The data downloaded as he was moving north and headed in the direction of ‘chez moi’. Regular readers may recall last year UV was perched a mile away and last night it was search mode again, up and down a stretch of the river for an hour. No joy.

Today the email was early. A fix at 19.21 showed UV was perched in an area of deciduous trees by the river. This photo was taken one minute earlier.

UV was perched in trees beyond the conifers
(c) Joanna Dailey

Despite microscopic analysis of the tops of the deciduous trees visible just beyond the tall conifers no potential osprey can be found!

UV travelled away from the river to roost in a stand of trees. This morning he had a very early start and had travelled back to Kielder by 04.41 when he was perched on the north side of Bull Crag, possibly with Rainbow Trout for breakfast.

a breakfast spot?

A couple of hours later UV was flying away heading west. But will he return later today? All eyes on the nestcams!

This entry was posted in Blue UV, Osprey updates, UK and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to River rover

  1. M Simmonds says:

    Thank you Jaydee. What a superb report and analysis.

  2. Jo says:

    What a lovely subjective report Joanna – thank you both ….. the boy’s behaviour is fascinating …. Is it generic for all ospreys to mature so quickly mentally?

    • We did say that this a subjective assessment, and it very much is one. But the contrast between UV’s carefree meandering progress last time, and this year’s migration is very pronounced, We will be in contact with other tracking groups to compare notes – but here’s the thing…

      So few young male returnees (to western Europe) have been studied so far into their life-cycle, that any such conclusions would be interesting at best, and not “scientific” in any sense. The “maturity” of various behaviours would be expected at this age, and it’s probably an ongoing process. Much of what birds do is dictated by instinct, but they certainly gain the benefits of experience also. UV appears to know exactly what he is doing. It’s for us to interpret what he’s doing, if we can.

  3. Cirrus says:

    A lovely Blog, thank you Joanna – and thanks to Paul too for always providing such helpful graphics . It would be wonderful if, in his travels. this year UV did find a sweetheart

  4. Emyr says:

    I cannot overstate how important this research is of returning ospreys in the UK.

    This amount of forensic behavioural analysis is invaluable and will greatly add to our understanding of juvenile natal dispersal – and hopefully breeding dispersal, south of the border.

    A big thank-you to Joanna, Paul and all involved with this great project. Keep up the great work.

    • joannadailey says:

      Diolch, Emyr. We appreciate the importance of this opportunity and will do our best to use it well.

  5. Dolly Cox says:

    Very interesting to read too, it is so important we understand about young maturing returnees and their behaviour.

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