After a close encounter with an 'intruder' osprey last Tuesday, the Glaslyn female instigated a neighbourhood watch vigil from her nest and was taking no prisoners. She was in a foul mood on Friday, and more aggressive than usual, chasing off anything that came by including a couple of crows and a male peregrine that has a nest in the area. The poor peregrine was just passing, minding his own business, but she shot up off her perch and warned it away.
Meanwhile, the male osprey was taking his fatherly duties seriously and spending some quality time sat on the eggs. He has been doing it more this year than in previous years. Perhaps he has gained more confidence as a father now and feels comfortable incubating. He is also more familiar with the surrounding area so he knows where to go for the best fish, which means hunting trips are more concise and he has more time for doing his share at the nest - a thoroughly modern male!
He has not lost his taste for exploration though and flew off in a different direction to usual on Saturday afternoon. He was heading north west toward Llyn y Adair, and has only been seen heading there once or twice over the years. It was a relatively unfamiliar journey but it paid off and he came back within half an hour with a brown trout clasped in his talons.
It's been a lazy, sunny day today, if a little breezy. As I write, the female is sat on the eggs and the male is perched on the nest tree, above the camera. He must be stretching his legs, as he has been on the eggs more than his mate today. She has been perched in a fir tree to the left of the nest for much of the day - a tree that they pair use quite often for perching and feeding in.
When all the visitors have left and night falls, a whole new world of wildlife comes alive. The 24-hour protection team have been lucky enough to see badgers on their late night patrols. The badgers come scratching across the field at dusk looking for food. They may look cute and cuddly as they snuffle around but have fearsome teeth and claws and would put up a vicious fight if provoked.
We are now halfway through the incubation period, which means we can expect our first chick in around two-and-a-half weeks from now. The textbook incubation period for an osprey egg is 37 days, so if we count from Easter Monday when the first egg was laid, we reach Wednesday 16 May. Could this be the golden date? History would suggest so, as this pair have been spot on in previous years. Circle the date on your calendar and keep checking this diary to find out...
The third osprey was seen once again yesterday. It seems to be an early riser, as it was around 8am when it passed over the nest site, clutching a fish. The Glaslyn pair showed little interest. Their feathers won't be ruffled by the parade of some puny fish overhead - especially not when the Glaslyn male has such a skill for catching whoppers. At around 3pm yesterday he brought a big fish - around one foot long - into the nest. We often see him bringing mullet back but a couple of keen fishermen that were in the visitor centre at the time studied the screen and informed us that this was a sea bass, which he must have caught in the Cob in Porthmadog.
As usual, he had already eaten the head. Sometimes it looks as though he is a reluctant provider, because he seems to hang on to the fish and not want to give it up. Really it is only because he occasionally has trouble pulling his big talons out from the flesh and it can take a few moments to make the hand over to his mate. Ospreys have long arched claws which are brilliant at grasping fish when he emerges from the water with it slippery wet and thrashing around but do make it tricky to let go when the time comes.
We had fantastic views of a female peregrine on Tuesday afternoon. She was hovering over the field about 50 yards away from the hide. Peregrines are amazingly fast hunters and can reach speeds of up to 112 mph on the stoop (dive) when they hunt. She made a couple of dives to the ground, which were pretty spectacular and she was there for a good ten minutes but didn't seem to catch anything. Our 'Aren't birds brilliant!' comrades in south Wales are busy showing visitors the nesting peregrines in the Dare Valley Country Park in Aberdare and on the clock tower of City Hall, right in the middle of Cardiff city centre! Follow the Aren't birds brilliant! Link on the right of this page to find out how to visit these other viewing schemes.
On Tuesday we heard the first cuckoos of the season - a little later than elswhere perhaps but very special and now we regularly hear three or four of them in the woods, mostly in the morning and then late afternoon. A true sign of spring!
Help the Glaslyn ospreys
Lots of people coming to see the ospreys are so impressed that they want to support the project and the other important work that the RSPB carries out in Wales and across the globe. We couldn't do any of it without the support of our RSPB members. It costs as little as £2.67 per month to join but makes a huge difference. If you would like to join or find out more about our membership, please contact Ellen Perry (029) 2035 3045 email@example.com
Or, why not raise money to help projects like the Glaslyn ospreys? You could become one of our wonderful team of fundraising volunteers across Wales and it can take just half an hour a month. For more information, please contact Nick Bates (029) 2035 3009 firstname.lastname@example.org
The Glaslyn osprey pair were called on early yesterday morning and it wasn't a particularly welcome visitor. A third osprey made it's appearance at 6:40 am to mix things up a bit. It flew over the nest and the female shot up off the eggs, calling the whole time, probably warning this intruder to back off. She is as fiercely protective of her family as any mother and made a formidable opponent in flight, with her legs dangling down below.
The male got involved too and at one point, all three birds were in the air together calling and flying close to each other - the intruder got within a foot or two of the nest but the Glaslyn pair performed wonderfully together and managed to ward it off. The altercation didn't actually get physical but it was a tense ten minutes. Towards the end, the female went back to sit on the eggs and the male escorted his visitor off the premises - they flew off north together into the early morning mist. When the male came back at around 8am he had a fish with him, so had obviously combined his territory protection flight with a spot of fishing - resourceful chap! At first, the female didn't seem to want to eat, she could have been feeling a bit churned up from the morning's upset, but eventually she took it off to a feeding tree and had a nibble.
So who was the guest osprey and what was it doing? It could be looking towards mating and trying to get into the territory. From the views we got at the protection site, it was hard to identify as male or female. When Iolo Williams turned up later to film for his new series of Iolo's Welsh Safari, he told visitors that ospreys often try and interfere with each other and each other's nests. We will wait and see if it puts in another appearance. By the way, Iolo spent quite a bit of time filming with us - you can catch the piece on Iolo's Welsh Safari on BBC One Wales, Monday 14 May at 7:30pm.
As for this morning, well, it's a good job the osprey nest is so high up, they are about the only ones around here not getting their feet wet at the moment. After pelting rain all day yesterday and through the night, the river is high and raging and the ground is sodden.
That's the peril of having a viewing site on the flood plain. We are able to use the nest cameras to zoom in and see the bird's efficient waterproof plumage in action. The rain is just running in rivulets off their backs. Down on the ground it is flowing rather less glamorously down the tops of our wellies.
The pair's ongoing attempts to build up the nest caused a bit of drama yesterday. Always eager to please, the male has been bringing back nesting material to make the nest more secure, comfortable and chick-friendly. Somewhat misguidedly, he is of the opinion that if a big stick is good then an even bigger stick must be better.
That is how he came to land on the nest with a three foot long branch yeterday morning. Not content with dropping it in gently into the nest, he plunged in with a triumphant 'look what I've found' approach and deposited himself and the stick on his partner's head, pinning her head to the floor of the nest.
It looked pretty uncomfortable to say the least and it was ten seconds or more until he moved. In the visitor centre we were yelling at the screen for him to get off, fearing that he might have hurt his mate. Ospreys are made of strong stuff though and she seemed no worse for wear when he got off - a little disgruntled perhaps but she accepted the 'gift' and made room for it in the nest.
He did this last year too, almost knocking her clean out of the nest by swinging around too quickly with a branch in his beak. For all his agility and skillfulness, he is still capable of the odd 'Frank Spencer' moment.
Spring is a great time of year to get outdoors. There's always a flurry of wildlife activity as the breeding season gets underway. There are certainly lots of other birds to see as well as the ospreys up here, as you'll know if you've already been to visit us. The red kite has been seen several times flying around over the glaslyn. It is always alone, and usually quite high up in the air. We have seen a handful of red-breasted mergansers, half a dozen curlews demostrating their melancholic call, and several lapwings flying around, roughly half a mile from the viewing hide - they have such a unique and interesting flying style.
On a smaller (but no less important) scale, the feeders hanging in our mini wildlife garden have been attracting long-tailed tits and a variety of finches, entertaining people as they eat their picnics in the lovely sunshine we've been having this week.
The male has been taking it easy to an extent over the last few days and has not been fishing very much - both their energy needs are very small right now. The female's day is mostly taken up with sitting on the nest perforimg her role as a living egg-cosy. On the occasions when she does feel peckish and her mate brings back a fish, she will take it off to a nearby feeding tree (the male will take over the egg-sitting duties whilst she's away) pick at it awhile, have a little fly around to stretch her wings, and maybe do a little poo, then back to the nest to resume sitting.
It's not a strenuous life really. Similarly, the male isn't too hungry himself either, as he spends lots of time lounging around the place. Of course, all that is bound to change when the eggs hatch and they have three hungry chicks to feed, so they should try and make the most of their leisure time whilst they still can.
The male is bringing back plenty of sticks, moss and clods of earth to build up the nest with. They will add to the nest in this way throughout the season, as they did last year. In this warm weather, the clods dry out quite quickly and must get scratchy and uncomfortable, so to combat that, the female tears at and teases them to break the earth down into softer, powdery material.
Naturally, when visitors come along to the viewing site to see the birds for themselves, they want to know which is the male and which is the female. Once you know how to tell them apart, there really is no way of getting them mixed up, as they have quite pronounced differences. For one thing, she is visibly bigger - that is to say, a couple of inches longer and much broader - she makes him look quite slight by comparison. Also, female ospreys have a kind of speckly brown necklace around their breast, whilst males are much whiter.
In the Glaslyn pair, this is particularly clear, the female's necklace is really deeply dark and chocolatey, whilst the male's breast is washing powder white - he fairly gleams like a beacon when he is facing the camera head on.