This morning we switched on the screens to see a dank, fine mist smothering the tops of the Scots Pines and poor old EJ soaked through and huddled over her eggs, rain dripping from her beak. Yes, you’ve guessed it, our Scottish summer has gone and passed us by, leaving us lot donning waterproofs in preparation for a early Autumn. *sigh*
Week three of incubation has passed us by in a blur it seems. I can’t believe there’s only two weeks until the chicks hatch out to become EJ and Odin’s third successive offspring. We are suspecting the first egg might hatch around the 21st or 22nd of May in keeping with last years first arrival on the 21st May. Odin has proved himself to be a really cooperative mate, doing his third of the incubation duties and yesterday did far more than his fair share of the work whilst EJ was either ‘away’ or complacently preening herself on a nearby perch. She clearly seems to be enjoying time to herself whilst she can, which is fair enough as her responsibilities of working mum are fast approaching!
So what? You might think. Is that all that’s been going on?! Far from it....
A few persistent intruders have been spotted on numerous occasions, in fact two minutes ago Abbi popped her head around the door to announce that an intruder Osprey had been spotted displaying and thankfully Odin had dutifully escorted him away from the property. Earlier this week we saw a very bold male vying for her attention and even flew over the nest, screeching and dangling what appeared to be a recent catch. Fortunately EJ did not seem particularly bothered by the attentions lavished on her and being a wizened Osprey of many years experience has probably seen her fair share of these showy young upstarts.
We think that these intruders may be young males, and possibly first time breeders who have recently returned from their migrations, later than most other Ospreys and are frantically trying to set up territory in a favourable area and settle down with a lady. A few might not even be ready for breeding until their third year, but that won’t stop them from trying to find a potential mate. It seems as if they’ll have to learn the hard way!
Other news on the site is that Wednesday’s guided walks are in full swing now. Walks start at 9.20 from the main carpark and last about 2-3 hours. Steph joined on one of the walks last week and was treated to some stunning views of Redstart, Willow Warbler and Goldcrest amongst many other treats. There’s only another two weeks until Caper watch finishes on the 20th of May but of late we’ve still been seeing a regular turn out of displaying cocks in the morning.
I hope this finds you all well and enjoying the onset of ‘Summer’. We might moan about the rain but we do need it in the highlands, after all.
Sorry to confuse you but this is actually John. I’m the new member of the Osprey Team but haven’t got a login yet. I’m settling in well to the job and it’s hard to believe that just over two weeks ago I was sitting behind a desk in London. Everything changes!
It’s great to be part of the team, in what’s a really fun job in a beautiful location. It really is a pleasure to spend my days watching these amazing birds and talking to so many people from all over the world who care so much about birds and wildlife.
We’re still enjoying amazing weather up here. It’s been warm and sunny pretty much every day since I arrived. Apparently it’s not always like this in the Highlands, so I’m making the most of it by exploring the wonderful Abernethy Reserve and surrounding areas.
So as you can probably see from the webcam, EJ and Odin are getting on nicely and enjoying the weather. In stark contrast to the other morning when EJ had a layer of frost on her back, she has been sitting on the nest, panting to cool down. I’m sure she prefers the sunshine.
There’s been plenty of activity on the nest in the past few days. EJ and Odin have had to see off several intruders who got a bit too close to the nest. There have been a couple of other ospreys and even a buzzard sniffing around. At one point yesterday morning, Odin was up in the air for a good few minutes protecting EJ and the eggs. He certainly is a devoted partner and proud father to be...
The other excitement is that a pair of redstarts appear to be building a nest.... under the osprey nest! They have been seen coming and going with nesting material over the past couple of days, so maybe we will have more than three chicks fledging from the nest this year. It’s certainly a safe place for them with our hardy team of volunteers on 24 hour surveillance. Watch this space for further updates.
In other news, Vernon the vole has been keeping the visitors entertained even when the ospreys have been quiet. Along with the red squirrels and the pair of great spotted woodpeckers who regularly visit the feeders, and the otter which can often be seen swimming in Loch Garten, there is always plenty of wildlife activity.
Finally, a big hello to Miss Briggs’ class at East Stanley school in Durham - thank you so much for all of your letters & your drawings, I really enjoyed reading them all. I hope you are all enjoying watching and reading about EJ and Odin and maybe we’ll see some of you over the summer.
Hello to Miss McIntosh’s Class P4 at Mile End School in Aberdeen!
EDIT - Rothes Update
Rothes is fishing off the west side of II ha de Unhocomozinho, and visiting a small island on the South east side of Il ha de Unhocomozinho.
PS. Hello to Corporal Hay - John tells us you're following from Germany, hope you enjoy our blogs!
Well bloggers, it’s been a busy week!
The wind has really picked up again today, and the head of Loch Garten looks more like Cape Horn. At this rate, the centre staff will be able to have a ‘Sponsored Surf’ for Love Nature Week 2011... Just hang on while I grab that wet-suit...
The last few days have also brought a splash of colour to the centre feeders – Siskins! The adult birds have arrived at our doorstep en masse with their newly fledged offspring, which are a delicate pattern of creamy-brown stripes and custard yellow wing bars. These juveniles in particular seem to enjoy our new window feeder, and are remarkably bold for their diminutive size.
As for a certain someone who is anything but diminutive, yes, it’s Chick No. 1...
Nine and a half days after hatching, it’s become clear that EJ and Odin have created a little terror. Friday’s brief spell of sunshine spurred EJ into a frenzy of housework: following a slapstick-comedy manoeuvre with a branch (not our EJ’s finest moment), Chick No. 1 threw a full-on toddler tantrum! It dropped it’s wings, puffed out it’s chest, and took repeated lunges at our leading lady as she tidied the nest - even managing to pull out a couple of feathers! Meanwhile, Chick No. 2 just kept a low profile which was probably a wise decision?!
Chick No. 2 seems to be doing splendidly though, and is getting plenty of food. Since Monday we’ve had 29 Brown Trout, 3 Rainbow Trout (probably courtesy of the fish farm) and a token Pike. Fishing looks slow this afternoon however, and we’ve had some rather unusual behaviour from Odin.
As the wind picked up around 3pm, he returned to the nest and clung on tight next to EJ. It’s difficult not to conclude from his forlorn stance that he was thoroughly fed up! Seeing our pair together on the nest without food being present is uncommon in itself at this time of year, but he was also making the ‘food soliciting call’ – yes folks, that’s the call mostly employed by hungry females (not males, Odin!). EJ played it cool though, and didn’t show a flicker of sympathy for her man.
Could it be that the weather was making fishing tough? If the water’s surface is disrupted by strong winds, that must make seeing the fish quite a challenge... Not to mention hovering to have a look in the first place! Perhaps Odin was hoping for some scraps from the nest; he certainly appeared to be having a sneaky peek under her whenever she re-settled on the chicks.
Just to let you all know as well, the strong winds do occasionally cause the camera to flicker. This is no cause for concern, despite the fact that EJ sometimes looks like she’s sitting in the ‘Crow’s Nest’ of a sailing ship!
So, I hope you’re all well out there... Odin’s just brought a fish to the nest and then scarpered with it! Was he hoping EJ wouldn’t notice??? You know she will Odin...
Until next time...
It’s been an exciting couple of days here! Yesterday morning Charlotte, David & I were all in the centre with visitors when our second chick was revealed to the world. Later we watched it being fed for the first time, and then the second & third time as Odin brought in a whopping 6 fish yesterday! We’ve also been watching EJ see off a female intruder who tried to land on the nest earlier.
We’re short staffed today, so with the busy centre and all the excitement I was glad of a break - grabbing a quick bite to eat & checking my emails at the same time when a new email pops up from our administrator Jayne, ‘Satellite tracking is getting interesting’. Every week Jayne downloads the satellite data and plots it into Google maps to give an update on Rothes (EJ & Odin’s first chick in 2009), and every week she emails Richard & I with the latest, and every week it’s the same... ‘still on Ilha de Unhocomozinho’. This week however.... ‘Rothes heads north!’
I quickly scanned it, jumped up from the computer and ran out into the centre where Richard was covering – Odin had just delivered a fish, and EJ was standing up to reveal the chicks. All the visitors were enthralled watching the chicks being fed when I ran in shouting to Richard - ‘Rothes is in Senegal! She’s moving north!’. I ran out again and phoned David on the kiosk – ‘Rothes is in Senegal!!’. ‘Brilliant!’ he exclaimed... ‘Where’s Senegal?!’. ‘Um, I’m not sure exactly... but it’s definitely north, she’s definitely moving!’. Then I ran round to find Abbi who was having her lunch ‘Rothes is in Senegal!’ You get the picture, I was pretty excited!!
Rothes hatched here on 22nd May 2009, the first of a clutch of 3 that year, and EJ & Odin’s first ever chick. On 22nd May 2011, exactly 2 years old, she started heading north!
Sunday saw her leave Ilha de Unhocomozinho, a small island off the coast of Guinea Bissau that has been her home for the last 20 months, and headed to the nearby Ilha Formosa. By Monday she was already flying high above a forest reserve in central Senegal and the final data point we received saw her at Louge-Richard (close to a large wetland area according to Richard, who has been there) and heading north towards the coast on the border with Mauritania. We can even tell you that she was flying at a height of 81 metres above the ground, isn’t technology amazing?!
This really is exciting news, not just for us here at Loch Garten but for everyone involved in osprey conservation. For many years, the information we know about ospreys and their migration has come from ringing records, which has been great and we’ve learned a lot but satellite tracking allows us to follow the entire migration journey, giving us their position to within 15 metres anywhere in the world. Watching her moving north will provide answers to some of the many questions surrounding osprey migration. Will she make a part migration or come the whole way to Scotland? Will she take the same course north as she did going south? When she does return to breed, will she come close to her old nest here at LG or go somewhere else entirely?’
Well, we’ll just have to wait and see. You can see her journey for yourself, and find out more about satellite tracking, here: http://www.rspb.org.uk/wildlife/tracking/lochgartenospreys/index.aspx
You just never know what a day at Loch Garten will hold, I love my job!!
Last night I had the privilege of sitting in Loch Garten’s famous ‘forward hide’, covering the overnight shift. I settled down excitedly as the last light faded from the cloudy sky. Within minutes of my arrival in the hide, EJ stood up and flew from the nest. I examined the eggs closely on the screen and realised that one was moving. It then broke in half and out flopped our first chick of 2011!
Prior to this, EJ had become quite restless on the nest, moving about and paying close attention to the eggs. She could obviously sense that hatching was imminent, and could possibly even hear the chick calling from inside the egg.
So the chick was hatched just after 10:10 last night. EJ soon returned to the nest to cover the newest addition to her family and protect it from the elements, as well as continuing to incubate the two remaining eggs. The weather throughout the early morning was awful. Cold, wind and heavy rain, which later turned into snow! A lovely welcome to the world of Loch Garten for the helpless little mite.
It wasn’t until later this morning after the conditions had improved, that we got a good view of the chick trying to stand up and wobbling its head as EJ offered it tiny pieces of fish for its first meal.
So there we have it. The waiting is over. The new chick is definitely the star of the show today with visitors flocking in to catch a glimpse. One out, two to go....