July, 2011

Loch Garten ospreys

Loch Garten ospreys
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Loch Garten osprey diary

The ospreys at Loch Garten have people across the world gripped in their tale of violence, adultery and... well... fishing.
  • Wee chicks no more...

    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!


  • Fledging weekend ?

    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..

  • It gives us great pleasure.........

    .............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.

    • BTO ring right leg:1410562   colour ring, left leg: blue/white 48. female. wing 335mm, tail 140mm. Sat tag: ptt  57088
    • BTO ring right leg:1410563   colour ring, left leg: blue/white 47. male. wing 325mm, tail 125mm. Sat tag: ptt  57089

       ...........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.


    Photo: Ian Maltravers


    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.