As our season here grinds to a steady close with less than a week to go until we close for the season attentions are rapidly drawn to our migrating Ospreys and their progress southwards.
Has Tore plucked up the courage to make it over the channel? Is Bynack still enjoying the fine piscine cuisine of Fresnes-sur-Escaut? Well, don’t get your hopes up folks... As the title might suggest our girl is still dallying on the coast of England, this time moving westwards into deepest Cornwall, just ten miles south of St Austell. Might we see her cross into Brittany in the next few days or will she hang on for calm weather before she gathers the courage to head south? Hardy Bynack, on the other hand is making steady progress through France and is currently flying a good few miles west of Metz, on a parallel with Luxembourg. Will he stop to relax, take stock and fuel up before too long? Rothes on the other hand, stays comfortably in the Gironde area
In the meantime, visitors continue to report sightings of Ospreys in the area. Since Richard’s last post we haven’t spotted any visiting Ospreys or those from the neighbouring sites, but in the next fortnight we may see a few stragglers heading south on their quest for warmer climes. As autumn creeps southwards might she pack her metaphorical bags and head back to Guinea Bissau in the next few weeks?
Despite seeing our nest empty and wrecked by a frenzy of autumnal breezes, a wealth of wildlife continues to flourish here. Our Red Squirrels continue to flaunt themselves at the feeders, eagerly gathering the beginnings of autumnal windfall for their winter larders. Our resident male Sparrowhawk has kept an almost omniscient presence over our feeder area, steely eyes trained on the multitude of Siskins and Greenfinches squabbling at the feeders. On the paths, bizarre fungi of all shape and description seem to sprout and erupt overnight, providing shelter and and a tasty treat for the smaller of our inhabitants
The staff, mourning the loss of our Scottish Summer huddle feverishly under the heater with cups of tea, dreading the inescapable task of cleaning and packing up for the winter...Such is life.
So what next for Tore and Bynack? As ever, stay tuned to find out....
More coming soon...
In haste, a wee blogette on the latest on Tore and Bynack. The atmosphere remains febrile as to their whereabouts and we are trying to keep on top of the data as it comes in, and oh, how your loyalties have swithered!
Bynack the Bold - hang your heads in shame, those of you who just a week ago labelled the pour soul a whinging, wimpish, Mummy's Boy - has pressed on! He has crossed the border from Belgium into France, and at 9pm last night (Tuesday) he was near a place called Fresnes-sur-Escaut. I can't access Google Earth here at home and can only look at an Atlas (!) but there looks to be a lot of rivers and lakes in that area from which he can re-fuel.
So our much-maligned laddie is making-on, whereas in the meatime, his older, would-be bolder sister's courage has deserted her, as Tore languishes on the south coast of England, appearing to be pacing along the coast looking out to sea, trying to muster the courage to take the plunge (not literally, hopefully!) and head out to sea and cross The Channel / La Manche. So who's the wooss now, eh? From Portsmouth, she went west along the coast, by-passing Weymouth and at 5am this morning (Wednesday) she was at Steer Point, east of the Sound of Plymouth.
We'll look again tomorrow for any fresh data and keep you posted.
Meantime, back here at the rez. it's all quiet on the osprey front. No sightings of Odin for two days now, so he too must surely have left us. Nevertheless we keep our eyes peeled, because late season, we can sometimes get visiting ospreys calling-in, birds from further north in Scotland, or further north still too perhaps, from Scandinavia, passing down through Scotland en route. Nothing seen yet this week though.
Despite the word being out that our birds have gone, and with schools now back, we are nevertheless still quite busy with visitors coming to see us and hear about the season's events, and to enjoy the other wildlife to be seen at the Osprey Centre. Red squirrels woodpeckers siskins, and more besides, all still showing well. Some of today's visitors were treated to a glimpse of a roe doe in the woodland just off the Centre path, seemingly unconcerned by the to-ing & fro-ing of folk heading back & forth to the Centre. At one point common buzzard hove into view, momentarily raising hopes that it might be an ospreys, but no.
There is an unsettling end-of term, autumnal feeling now, with our ospreys gone, the heather's purple beginning to fade, the birches sheepishly showing their first yellowing leaves and there's a nip in the air at night now too. But then the sun comes out, the midges scarper under its warmth and a brave tardy willow warbler gives us a heartening blast of song, albeit weak now, to remind us that summer isn't over just quite yet.
What did I say in yesterday’s blog about migrating birds affecting your emotional stability..?! Well, it’s been yet another day of excitement here at LG – I hope you’re keeping up with all this!
As we came in this morning and opened the hide flaps onto the empty nest it was Charlotte’s turn to feel a bit teary as we realised that Bynack too had probably left us. The volunteers on duty yesterday evening and overnight hadn’t seen a single osprey, could this really be it?
As I mentioned, I’m due to be on annual leave from tomorrow, so I walked down the path first thing to do my last stint of the season at the entry kiosk, reflecting on the season and wondering where the birds had got to. The kiosk isn’t a great place for phone signal, so I kept hopping out, anxiously checking my phone to see if I had any news about the satellite data.
Mid morning an email came in from Jason with the following report...
Tore headed off SE from Anglesey on Thursday afternoon, spending the night in the Menai Straights area, then on Friday headed across Wales and the English Midlands to the Cambridge area, where she stayed the night and all day Saturday. On Sunday she headed across to the Suffolk coast and was still there this morning near The Meare, Thorpeness.
And as for Bynack? He had been here yesterday morning, sitting in the camera tree as we opened the hide flaps. At precisely 10am, I watched him fly off south of the nest. Jason’s download showed that he had then suddenly taken off to fly high over the Cairngorms, with the last sighting high over Ballater just a couple of hours later.
Excitement all round! I phoned up to the centre and told Abbi & Charlotte; texts went out to John & Richard: “Tore on Suffolk coast, Bynack in Ballater”. Then I went home for lunch, popped a comment on the blog and came back into the centre to relieve Abbi. No sooner was I in the door when Julie Q pops round the corner “That was Nigel from the Lodge, Tore has been spotted in Suffolk and Bynack is now in...” Well now, I won’t tell you quite yet...!
Anyway, incredulous at what Julie had just told me I went into the office and phoned Nigel back.
First up he tells me that one of our colleagues, Robin, down on our Minsmere reserve in Suffolk had been out and about this morning, doing his usual wardening thing, when he looked up and saw an osprey flying overhead. Not particularly unusual down there at this time of year, but a closer look revealed that this osprey had an aerial!! Robin put out the word, trying to find where this bird might have come from, and somehow this was picked up by Nigel, who works in the IT department at the Lodge. Now Nigel had just happened to be downloading satellite data for another project at the time, knew our birds were on the move and thought he would double check to see if the bird at Minsmere was one of ours. Yes, it was Tore! On a tour of RSPB reserves it would seem!! First landing near South Stack in Wales and now at Minsmere! I was so excited to know that she had been spotted, and I think I was probably shouting with glee for the whole centre to hear!!
But then came the really exciting news...
“Bynack”, he announced, “is in Bruge.”
Bruge? Bruge! Yes, Belguim! In Ballater yesterday noon, in Bruge this morning!
I googled it, and if you go down the A1 (which, incidentally is where Richard was when I phoned to tell him the news) and through the channel tunnel it’s a distance of 682 miles!
We have yet to plot the exact points on Google earth but according to Nigel’s data, he flew east from the Scottish coast out into the North Sea yesterday. A further point saw him at zero altitude over the North Sea yesterday evening. Concerned, Nigel searched for more data, eventually finding Bynack back on land near Bruge at 8am this morning.
This just goes to show the hazards facing juvenile ospreys on their first migration - did Bynack get blown out into the North Sea by wind? Or was he always going the wrong direction, that zero altitude reading showing him flagging over water before a gust of wind lifted him up and allowed him to carry on towards land? Did he hitch a ride on a passing boat?! Whatever, he seemingly flew over the sea throughout the night and was clearly lucky to find land this morning.
At just 3 months old with no one to show them where to go or how to fish, it is pretty remarkable that any of these birds make it at all. An epic 3500 mile migration across vast lands and oceans, facing bad weather and hazards both natural & human. Just how does a young bird even know which way is south?! Clearly, not all of them do, and not all of them will make it. But that’s just nature isn’t it?
Fingers crossed, now that Bynack has reached land he’ll be fine and keep heading south, but we can only watch and wait. Jason will update the data again tomorrow morning and plot the points so far, so we’ll have to wait and see.
And just to add another twist to this tale, when I phoned Richard today he was making his way north again having been at the Birdfair in Rutland this weekend. I told him about Tore being spotted at Minsmere and he recounted how, before he joined the RSPB here at Abernethy, he had volunteered at Minsmere and in August 1981 saw his very first osprey passing over the reserve, and a juvenile too. Could that have been a Loch Garten juvenile all those years ago? You just never know with these birds do you?!
What a roller coaster of emotions we’re on this week! I have to admit to shedding a wee tear when we thought EJ had gone on Tuesday, only to find out that she was actually still here! Then on Wednesday, David & I watched Odin come in, deliver a fish, and circle higher and higher above the nest for about 8 minutes, reaching the thermals and heading off. Would that be the last we would see of him for 2011? No. He was back 2 hours later with another fish! Never work with migrating birds; it’s not good for your emotional stability!
On my day off on Friday I was out walking with a friend when I got a text from John ‘Tore is in north wales!’. I phoned him straight back – ‘North Wales? North Wales?! North bloomin Wales!’ I was, as you can imagine, quite excited!
John was lucky enough to be on duty in the forward hide on the night of 19th May, watching the nest on infrared camera when EJ flew off to reveal her first chick hatching out of its egg. We since watched her have her first feed and grow from that tiny wee chick to a proper osprey, we came face to face with her at ringing and tagging and saw her take her first flight. To know that she is now on her way south, fully independent, finding her own way and catching her own fish is completely overwhelming and awe-inspiring.
Satellite tracking is a completely new experience for me, as you well know we weren’t able to ring or tag our youngsters last year and when they left, that was it. I remember watching from the hide on a sunny day late August – the 2 remaining juveniles sitting in the camera tree. One flew off its perch and circled higher and higher until it was just a tiny speck in the blue sky. I didn’t know it at the time, but that was the last that I, or anyone here, would see of it. It really is a privilege to watch these birds daily throughout the breeding season, and to be able to follow their migration even more so. From Loch Garten to North Wales in a couple of days, any guesses for where she’ll be when we check again next week?!
As for the rest of our family, well I think it is safe to say this time that EJ has finally left us. She was last seen on Friday 19th at 10.15am. She dropped off a fish, took a bit of moss off the nest, sat on the camera tree for a last look around and then she too, circled high up to reach the thermals and soared off south.
A fantastic 9th season for her here at LG, her 3rd with Odin, raising her 15th & 16th chicks from this nest. Not a bad record! At just 14, we hope we’ll see her back here again next year.
Bynack was around this morning and Odin has just flown in with his 2nd fish of the day. Bynack hasn’t been around to share them, but even if he was, Odin might not bring the fish to the nest for him. He has to start encouraging Bynack to go fishing for himself so that he too, can head south.
Autumn is definitely in the air here at LG - the leaves are turning, the forest is getting quiet and even the siskins have followed EJ & Tore to warmer climes. Geese are already coming in from further norht and we even spotted some very early barnacle geese in the fields below the chalets this week. But that’s the great thing about bird watching, and wildlife in general – as one thing goes, another comes in – an ever changing and exciting landscape!
As I head off on the last of my annual leave now to soak up the wonders of this fantastic place for the remaining few weeks, as I note the change in the seasons and the movement of the birds, my mind wanders to west Africa and to the fishermen of Senegal and Gambia who are getting ready to celebrate the arrival of ospreys there, heralding the beginning of spring for them as it did for us here just a few months ago.
So don’t mourn the loss of the ospreys for another season or worry about the next satellite download – enjoy every glimpse you get of them and remember just how lucky we are to watch like this at all.
It is with a mixture of sadness and pride that I bring you the news that Tore, our oldest chick has left Loch Garten and begun her migration south. The latest satellite information we have is that she has flown all the way to Holyhead in North Wales. Tore was last seen at the nest site at 9.27 on Wednesday morning, when she flew off with a fish.
So what of the others? Well, Bynack is still here; I’ve just seen him. He’s sitting on a tree behind the nest finishing off a fish brought by EJ this morning. Odin hasn’t been seen since Wednesday evening, so we fear he may have gone too.
As mentioned above, EJ brought a fish to the nest this morning, which Bynack helped himself to. She then flirted around the nest for a short while, before removing a clump of moss, and flying off out of sight. Our volunteer Loraine later reported seeing her circling and gaining height, before flying, with purpose, away to the south.
After Abbi’s faux pas earlier in the week, I’m not jumping to any conclusions, but it appears that we may only have one osprey left. Bynack certainly cuts quite a lonely figure sat on that dead tree. If both his parents have gone, how much longer will he stay before he realises he is no longer going to be fed....?