This is actually a blog from Charlotte, not Caroline!
After the drama and excitement of Thursday night, events at Osprey towers have settled down despite a few interruptions from a battle scarred female Osprey missing a wing feather. We have kept a rather smelly reminder of the Osprey chicks’ presence in the visitor centre, namely an unsightly white splatter across the entrance to the visitor centre. Visitors don’t seem to mind this at all, in fact a large German group were keen to take photos of it as a ‘souvenir’ of their visit. Keeping calm for twenty or so minutes in the presence of strange human folk whilst being held by even stranger hands must be a pretty scary task for a wriggling Osprey tot. When it was time for little Bynack’s minute of fame in front of the cameras, he just couldn’t take the excitement and pooed down Richard’s trousers and onto the carpet! Poor Bynack!
As you will know it’s fairly hard to gauge the size of the juveniles, from the camera view on the webcam. It’s impossible to believe that only after six weeks the chicks are almost fully grown. EJ has moved her place of residence to the camera tree to keep a stern eye on the kids. Of late Tore and Bynack have started to develop an interest in the art of nest building and sometimes take it upon themselves to rearrange twigs and carefully undo all of EJ’s fine construction work. It’ll be another fortnight until they’re both airborne but for the moment they enjoy impressing each other with their huge wingspans, occasionally cuffing each other round the heads with their wing tips.
Yesterday a beautiful male Rosefinch, a first recorded sighting for the reserve was spotted underneath the feeders making the most of the dropped seed. After attempting to cycle back from the kiosk to the centre as stealthily as I could to avoid disturbing the bird the Rosefinch had mysteriously disappeared. Could today bring a reappearance of this elusive migrant? On the Loch, there are several groups of female Wigeon shepherding their fluffy broods around. One female and her five chicks have taken to exploring the beach on the north shore of Loch Garten and can frequently be seen bumbling around the shore , haphazardly crashing into sticks and rocks. Let’s hope they develop an idea of spatial awareness soon!
Last but certainly not least an update on Rothes. I was talking to a group of visitors in the centre about the wonders of Osprey migration on Friday when a couple inquired: ‘How far will she make it this year?’ To which I confidently replied, ‘Spain, Portugal?’ By the time she’s hit Spain it’ll be time to head back down with the Autumn migration’. No sooner had I said this, an excited Julie, (our shop manager) poked her head round the door and exclaimed ‘France! She’s crossed the border!
‘France ?! France???’ I repeated incredulously. Yes, it’s true. Our Rothes has just flown over the Southern Pyrenees and is heading over Bayonne, a small town famous for it’s smoked ham. It’s incredible to believe it’s taken her less than a week to cross over Spain and Portugal, Presumably she’s been helped along by excellent weather and some strong thermals. At the rate she’s flying who knows? She might even reach the UK before the season is over. Just when you think you know birds they always surprise you with a trick or two!
A big thank you and shout out to Mile End primary school who visited the Osprey Centre this week, presenting us with a cheque for £260!! The enterprising classes raised funds by washing cars and having an art sale to get enough money to pay for their coach from Aberdeen, and a donation towards the work that we do here with the ospreys. The pupils were presented with an osprey print and their own certificate. We hope you all enjoyed your time here at the Osprey Centre and out in Abernethy forest. Thank you so much for the amazing amount you raised, you’re all brilliant!
Finally, Patrick Preston, one of our long standing volunteers has just summed up Thursdays drama in an amusing ode to ringing and tagging. He has just enjoyed his twentieth year volunteering with us and received his own silver badge for his service to the RSPB. Thanks again Patrick for all your hard work and support.
Ring in the new
The time has come the experts said to talk of many things,
Of gender and identity, it’s time they had their rings
Where do they go in winter time? We need to keep a track,
A wee transmitter-solar powered- to strap upon their back
So to the tree the ladder goes and climb up to the nest,
In harness, hard hat-by the rules-lashed rungs and all the rest,
Alarmed, EJ takes to the air and circles overhead
The chicks do as they’re told, of course, and lie down playing dead
Meanwhile indoors the table’s set prepared for every need,
A cushion where the bird can sit while they do the deed,
The gathered guests are told the rules of how they should behave,
In order not to stress the chick, it’s dignity to save
The first chick comes, the bigger one nestles in big hands,
While it’s measured checked and scrutinised as Osprey chicks demand,
The rings go on, her name announced, for yes it is a she,
The backpack with it’s aerial is plain for all to see,
Then a photo call with all the team to mark the happy day,
And in the bag, back to the nest, all done without delay,
The younger chick then takes the stage for all the same attention,
A he this time, who voids his bowels where you really wouldn’t mention
Back in the nest calm is restored to EJ and the brood,
And what they really want right now is some piscine food,
So right on one Odin returns, attention not in doubt,
And puts into the nest for the them the very best brown trout!
With that we’ll leave you to enjoy the sunshine, we certainly are. Until next time folks!
What a lot can happen in two days! I’ve just come back to work today after a couple of days off to find that both Tore and Bynack have spent a lot of time in recent days, vigorously flapping their wings aimed at strengthening the flight muscles in wings and chests in readiness for their big, big day. Someone even managed to catch some great footage of Tore getting a good bit of air between her and the nest. Will it be this weekend?!
Certainly on Thursday which was quite a blustery day here, they took advantage of the high wind and up-draughts at the nest to get used to being buffeted by gusts and get used to the sensation of lift, gaining skill at poise, balance and control of their movements. Many were the heart-in-mouth moments when Tore especially, was perilously poised on the nest rim, wings thrashing vigourously, that we thought, this is it, lift off, she's going to go. But no, not this time. Wings were re-folded, hopes were dashed and calm resumed, with Tore flopping back down inton the nest to recover from her exertions, phew!
Fledging though, could be any day now. Today (Saturday) it is 51 days since Tore's hatching and last year Rothes fledged on day 51. So watch this space (screen!). Despite much practice-flapping, what we haven't seen much of yet though, is either of them lifting off and rising up, up and up and over the nest, flapping and holding station for many seconds, progressively rising higher and higher, sometimes 10-20 ft or more, only to then drop back down again. Be warned, when this happens, for you they will disappear from view off-camera, for several seconds or more, so don't assume a fledge or be alarmed.
Though yet to fledged, Tore has reached another milestone. When a fish came on Thursday evening, Tore grabbed it from EJ and for the first time, attempted to feed herself, picking and pulling at the fish. This is a good sign of pending independence, though a little precocious perhaps as today she reverted to being fed by EJ.
Intruders have also been a feature of the last couple of days when at one point, for our lucky visitors at the time, no less than six ospreys were in view - our family of four plus two chancers, a failed pair perhaps with mischief on thier minds calling in to pester the neighbours, from wherever they came. These interlopers cause angst for EJ and Odin but such incidents are a healthy sign. These birds are on the look out for an unoccupied nest or an unpaired bird - all too late for this year of course, but it's an opportunity to put down a marker for next year perhaps. By visiting other nests, it's Nature's way of ensuring nests are rarely unused and birds rarely unpaired.
Talking of intruders... it has been great to be visited by so many of our bloggers and put faces to names for both them and us. On Friday, blogger and volunteer Val took Leen, Crafter and their families to the Forward Hide for a behind-the-scenes taste of what volunteering entails in the hope that they might be tempted to get further involved and coming to help us in future seasons! Lovely to meet you (although I missed Crafter, maybe next time?!) Oh, and thanks for the cake too! (Pics to follow - for some reason the blog won't allow me to input it at the moment..)
With all that excitement to come back to, I reckon I need another couple of days off! Or maybe just a cuppa and a piece of that cake..
.............to introduce you to............?
Well, this year we made it, we managed to ring and tag our osprey youngsters. Last year you’ll recall we were delayed, and delayed and eventually thwarted by inclement weather, preventing us from tagging last year’s young. To be honest, it was a bit touch and go yesterday too. Squalls of heavy rain passed over throughout the day, coupled with blasts of quite strong winds. However, last evening, with this year’s chicks, not quite yet at the vulnerable jumping up and down stage, we were able to watch for a gap in the weather and proceed. Our window was tight though it was to be either last evening, or today – Roy Dennis’ only available opportunities to tag our birds, in his busy schedule of ringing and tagging birds at this time of year. Even so, he called me whilst on his way to us as he drove through a torrential downpour to see fit-like it was with us here, luckily it was better, phew!
The weather in fact turned out perfectly. A shower an hour beforehand had dampened the chicks a little, which can help to subdue them, but as you saw last night, once EJ spots us coming towards the tree, she flies off, gives an alarm call to her young, a message to lie still and flat in the nest. Once the ladder was in place, our trained rope-man Ian, climbed up to the nest. The larger of the two chicks was carefully bagged-up first, and taken back to the Centre for ringing and tagging.
The reason why we removed one chick at a time is as follows. Whilst just ringing two chicks would take little time, maybe 10 minutes or so, whilst out at the tree, fitting tags to two, takes a lot longer. Last night the whole process from going out with the ladder to coming back with it at the end, took nigh-on 1 ½ hours. For this reason, by removing one chick at a time, it gave EJ time to return to the nest. You will not have seen her on screen, but she soon came back and was perched in the dead tree immediately adjacent to the nest. This served to reassure both her and the other chick still in the nest. (Had we had three chicks we would have just promptly ringed the third and smallest and popped it straight back, for the same reason).
Fitting tags is quite tricky, so each chick in turn was taken to the Centre, where Roy could sit at a table, in good light and away from the midges, to get on with tagging. This also gave those in attendance – all staff, current volunteers, and a few invited guests, the chance to watch closely. The birds were ringed first, metal BTO ring on right leg and colour ring on left leg, measurements were taken, and then the tags fitted.
Once the second chick was fitted with its bling, Ian took it back up to the nest, and you will not have seen this either but at that point Odin returned brandishing a fish and made a determined swoop at Ian atop the ladder. He didn’t see it, he was too busy concentrating, but the ladder-detail beneath him looking up, saw it and heard the swoooosh of Odin’s wings as he made his pass. If no other, this was our cue to get out of there asap, to enable Odin to bring that fish in and for the family to get on with feeding. As you will have seen, no sooner were we back from the nest, than both EJ and Odin were reunited with their brood.
Incidentally, I did ask Ian to remove that big stick, which being bleached white, in bright sunlight can “flare” on camera. He tried, but it was too well imbedded and we needed to be out of there, so we left it. As you will have seen, he did though, under licence, remove the un-hatched egg. On examination and when given a wee shake, it is sloshy & watery inside.
So, the chick details. But first, a confession – we didn’t weigh them! Yeah, yeah, groans all ‘round, I know, but Roy forgot his scales. He apologises, he had been ringing and tagging golden eagles earlier in the day for which he needed his more robust weighing scales and, being pulled from pillar to post, as he is at this time of year, he was running late and coming straight on to us to tag ospreys. On arrival, he realised he had not brought with him the finer weighing balance required for ospreys, but no matter.
...........and the names..........cue the drum roll..........TORE and BYNACK. Tore as in Tore Hill the wooded hill, part of the reserve that immediately overlooks the osprey’s nest, and Bynack as in Bynack More, the 1090m brooding mountain in the background, also part of the reserve, that overlooks both Tore Hill and the nest.
The above picture shows a happy, gleeful Osprey Team 2011, from left to right; Stephanie Cope, Charlotte Beskeen, Caroline Rance, Richard Thaxton; Abbi Jinks and John Ingham. Richard is holding Bynack, the second, smaller, younger of the two chicks. At the bottom of the picture, you can just see, where, by way of thanks, Bynack poo-ed all over Richard’s trousers!
The new tracking page is in prep. and will be up and running come fledging in a few weeks time, so we can follow the fortunes of Tore and Bynack and learn more about the migrations of these amazing birds.
Well, this is hardly a "hold the press", breaking news-type moment is it? You all know already that yes, Bynack has fledged, at last! At least you, our cyber-viewers saw it - I missed it, having missed Tore's inaugural flight too.
He took his time though eh? All week, there have been will he / wont he moments, rigorous flapping, pumping of wings, lifting off and much teetering on the nest rim, peering down over the side, into the abyss, trying to summon the courage to take the plunge. To appreciate what must goes through their minds, I guess you have to imagine yourselves at the open door of an aircraft, about to make your first ever parachute jump. It must be nerve-wracking.
Several times he came oh so close to fledging, the tension in the Centre was palpable, we were urging him on all week whenever he got to his feet. He must have been able to hear our encouragement - and our groans, when he re-folded his wings, sat back down again, exhausted. It feels like we have had the same visitors all week, as so many of them came back day after day to try to coincide with Bynack's big moment.
EJ and Tore have been sat in the nearby tree a lot this week, and Bynack eyed them enviously wheeling about above him. And now he's done it. Lift-off was at 10.16am this morning, just a brief 3 minute sortie around the immediate nest area, before returning to the safety & comfort of the nest. By the time I left the Centre at 2pm today, he hadn't taken off for a second time. The heavy rain (again!) today will have dampened his enthusiasm, made him sodden and heavier, all of which might have made him think twice about flying.
Bynack's first flight was fairly typical, just a wee fly about, going no-where. Tore, on the other hand, cleared off and was not seen between 10am and 5pm on Tuesday. As we began to close for the evening on Tuesday, I asked John to post a comment, to let you all know that Tore was back, but perched where we could see her but you couldn't, just to reassure you that all was well. Then at just that moment Tore came back to the nest back in view for you all.
Since Tore's first flight, she hasn't been very far, choosing to perch with EJ in the adjacent dead tree. But where did she go on Tuesday for all that time? Well, sorry to disappoint you, but we don't know! We were as intrigued as you were to find out, but when Alice checked data yesterday, we only had three data points for her on that day; one at 5am Tuesday, when she hadn't even fledged, one at 9pm Tuesday when she'd been and gone but was back, and the third point of the data at 1pm, which was to be the all-telling clue to her whereabouts said "no fix" !!! This might mean that, Tore was perched under cover somewhere, beneath the canpoy of a tree perhaps, and/or coupled with heavy cloud maybe, and she simply was not picked up by the satellite's sweep at that time, bah!
The data did though, report on Rothes and showed her to still be on the Gironde River, near Bordeaux. I reckon, she'll come no further north now, but will bide a while there and then get caught up in the stirrings of southerly moving ospreys in a matter of weeks now.
What a small world, the world of osprey enthusiasts is, well it's massive actually, but let me explain. I received an e-mail today from Iain MacLeod, an erstwhile colleague of mine of many moons ago, who now lives in America and has done so for most of that time. Unbeknown to me all this time, he avidly watches what goes on here, and passed on his congrats re Tore & Bynack. He has got back in touch to let me know that he too is now involved in ospreys State-side and has attached trackers to two osprey chicks over there. He thought that I, and you all, would like to follow the fortunes of his birds too. The link is: http://www.nhnature.org/osprey_project/overview.html If you're reading this Ian, thanks for getting in touch mate, I'm happy to pass on the link and I'm now guessing that at the stoke of a keyboard, you now have a massive virtual-audience of osprey enthusiasts. And there's a twist. Back in the mid-1970s, Ian went to Mile End school in Aberdeen, who have featured in our blogs recently since they came across to visit us. Spooky eh?
R the B was asking about a strange noise heard over the nest microphone. Not sure quite what type of noise he heard, but if it was martens, then the duty volunteers would I feel, have let me know. Could it have been roe deer beneath the nest? They wouldn't bother to report that to me. The roe deer rutt starts about now, so perhaps it was their amorous cavorting that was heard.
Phew! It's been a busy week, lots of visitors, many of you bloggers amongst them - nice to meet you all, and thanks for coming to see us. An exciting and rewarding week too, with both our ospreys fledging successfully and on their way to independence.
Have a good weekend everybody.
I'm afraid this is going to be a very quick post - the main RSPB system is down for maintenance, so I'm hurredly typing on the shop till whilst serving our lovely visitors...
Well, this week has been full of the usual LG excitement and intrigue: a tale of exploration, swashbuckling encounters with strange ospreys and fish that Moby Dick would think twice before tackling. The terrible twosome have been keeping the team on their collective toes as we try and follow their movements on camera (not easy!).
The red squirrels are much occupied at the moment searching for tasty morsels in the blaeberry. As they bound through the field layer, their blonde tails stream behind like animated question marks. The contrast of this blonde with their rich chestnut pelt is quite remarkable; it looks like they're wearing a tail that belongs to someone else!
On the centre path, millipedes are trundling stoically along like sticks of polished liquorice and little common lizards skitter away from curious children after a snooze in the sunshine. It's amazing how much wildlife goes about its daily business in and around the Centre grounds.
Tore seems to have taken fledging well and truly into her stride, making frequent recconaisance trips that range some distance over the reserve. Bynack, however, is still clutching desperately to EJ's apron strings... and I have to say, she indulges him! His wheezy begging calls are an almost constant feature of the Centre ambiance, no matter how much fish he gets!
Odin is largely keeping a low profile, although he did make quite a timely return yesterday as a strange osprey landed in camera tree. Outraged by this intrusion, he took after it with gusto (and also a trout, which did somewhat hamper his heroic charge). Even Bynack managed to pluck-up an alarm call and some mantling for the occasion!
The fish that EJ brought this morning was an absolute world beater. An estimated 25" in length, it's a wonder she managed to carry it back to the nest! Naturally Tore snatched it from her without ceremony and hunkered down grumpily to feed. Bynack, fishless and disappointed, wheezed quietly to himself and cast wistful looks at the tail. When Tore had finished, EJ returned to the nest and fed Bynack with the trout - what mummy's boy!
So, with that warm picture of maternal devotion, I'll leave you.
Hope you're all well out there!