Not a very exciting title I know…but I think it pretty well sums up the past two days, during which we seem to have been more or less swimming in fish up on the nest!
I don’t know where to start with yesterday, it was so exciting, with eight fish in total and two delivered at once, all during fairly inclement weather! Here is a run down of yesterday’s key events;
03.59 – EJ tries to shelter the chicks from heavy rain and wind.
04.49 – Chicks try out early morning exercise moves.
04.55 – Odin arrives with breakfast – 9” brown trout.
05.08 – 07.55 EJ flies off to the south, and rests there, returning a few hours later. In the meantime, a chaffinch is spotted on the side of the nest forging, when it realises it is being watched intently by three chicks, it is understandably more than a little spooked and flies away!
08.45 – Odin delivers the second fish of the day.
10.20 – Odin delivers the third fish of the day & sees off an intruding osprey!
13.04 – Odin arrives with a 16”” brown trout – the fourth fish of the day!
14.40 – EJ flies off.
15.09 – EJ and Odin both return to the nest with fish, number five and six! EJ’s is at least 18”! One of the chicks eats Odin’s smaller fish, while EJ flies to the camera tree to feast on her enormous fish!
16.53 – Odin arrives with the seventh fish of the day. EJ returns, still carrying her enormous fish, difficult to tell which one they are eating!
And finally …. 21.55 Odin arrives with the eighth and final fish of the day! Phew… it makes you tired just writing it!
The feast of fish continues today, with Odin bringing in 5 fish so far, at 05.48, 08.56, 10.26, 12.25 & 16.15!
And now for a few hellos, as we have had several bloggers visiting the centre in recent weeks! It was nice to meet blogger Alison, here at the Osprey Centre, a few weeks back, who has sparked an interest in the Loch Garten ospreys amongst her colleagues at Stour Surgery. "Hi everyone". We hope you're all still watching and thanks for spreading the word Alison. It was great to meet Amy and Trevor when they visited the centre yesterday, and they were lucky enough to be in the Centre when EJ arrived with her giant fish! Quiet Lady it was lovely to meet you again, and thank you very much for the cake and shortbread! And John, I haven’t managed to meet you myself, but great to hear that you had a good time!
Just an aside, but judging by your comments, many more of you are planning to visit us in person in the coming weeks, which is great and we look forward to meeting you. Many of you will undoubtedly be RSPB members, but some, perhaps not. If not, then please consider joining RSPB here on site when you visit, or perhaps consider joining a family member, friend or neighbour, and take advantage of a free limited-edition print of an osprey by wildlife artist Andrew Hutchinson, free when you join us, by Direct Debit here on site only. Doing this is a great way to help the Team LG. Many thanks.
In the meantime…as always…we await the next fish…
Yesterday was such a bizarre day! In the morning, there were seven ospreys to be seen from the centre, of which, four were intruders. We hadn’t seen EJ since late the previous night and Odin had not been back to deliver a fish. No doubt, he wants to encourage our chicks to have a go at fishing themselves. Earlier, that morning, we had seen an osprey having a look at Loch Garten for a short while.
By the afternoon we were starting to wonder whether we were at the right centre. Where were our ospreys? Who were these ospreys on the camera tree and in the nest? An un-ringed male (not Odin) landed in the nest and started to make contact calls. Another intruder then appeared in the nest, White TF , who we’ve seen quite a few times, but never close enough to see that it was a female. We could now see the brown bib and much more brown on the head.
The next thing to happen made us wonder whether we had been somehow transported back to April. The two intruders flew around and one landed on the camera tree. The second one then attempted to mate! They then returned to the nest and looked very much at home.
At 15.38 Odin returned and tried to land on the nest, repeatedly, with a small fish, but, the un- ringed intruder prevented him from doing so. There was no sign of our chicks at this point. Even when we can’t see them, they usually appear fairly rapidly if a fish is brought in. At 15.51 Odin gave up and decided to eat the fish himself. That took all of two minutes!
Just before we closed, Garten and Mallachie appeared at the nest calling for fish. They had to wait until 21.52, when EJ returned with a very small fish. Perhaps she thought there would be less chance of the chicks dropping it!
Today, Odin delivered two fish to the nest, both before 07.00. EJ brought her usual huge fish into the nest at about 10.20. Unfortunately, the same un-ringed male was sat in the nest and he took the fish! EJ looked really confused. Mallachie flew in and pecked the intruder and he flew off. EJ sat and shrieked and mantled her wings, before pursuing and dive bombing the intruder. Odin suddenly appeared in the sky, display calling, with a fish. Rothes is now sat happily eating the fish he brought. The intruder must have thought it was his lucky day!
We wonder what will happen next!!!!
The Loch Garten emotional rollercoaster ride continues, and presently we're climbing, thankfully.
Odin seems to be back on form now, in fact back on better form than before! He delivered no less than six fish to the nest yesterday. This return to form strongly suggests that he has now overcome the dual problems he was having early last week, of possible impaired fishing ability due to injury, and a relentless onslaught of intruding ospreys to deal with.
As you know, on Wednesday last week we added a few trout to the nest. This was in order to tide-over EJ and newly hatched brood, at what for them was a very vulnerable time, and to buy some time until we knew quite where Odin was at, in terms of possible injury and trauma following his entanglement with fishing line.
We are firmly of the view that he had sustained some sort of damage after what we think was a struggle with fishing line, for example strained muscles perhaps, when fighting to free himself? This, at a time when he needed to be fishing fervently, and perhaps requiring all the more time to do so, due to reduced efficiency because of injury. And yet he had his work cut out repelling intruders too.
Given that his change in behaviour appeared to have resulted from an anthropogenic (man-made)cause - the fishing line - rather than a more natural mishap, after much careful thought and deliberation, we decided to intervene and add a few fish to the nest. We did this just once last week and it was our hope that he would get through whatever was ailing him, that the incidence of intruding ospreys would subside and that Odin would return to full fitness and to being the in-form osprey he had proved himself to be thus far.
At the time we couldn't know what the outcome for Odin would be - would he survive at all, would he recuperate fully, and would he get through this problem period, caused by man and his activities.
Our actions would appear to have helped and to have worked. Those added fish, just eased the situation for hungry EJ and brood, eased the pressure on the recovering Odin, and in so doing gave him some respite from dual duties, enabling him to concentrate on dishing out short-shrift to the marauders.
Odin seems to have made a complete recovery and the smiles amongst us here have not just returned, but have got broader and broader at each arriving fish. The huge relief, glee and excitement were palpable yesterday amongst us all; oursleves here, our visitors, those involved in the conference-call between the recently convened Odin think-tank group, formed to review the situation, and of course you all out there in the ether. When checking the blog comments late last night as that sixth fish of the day came in, it was abundantly clear that you were all also ecstatic.
A day at a time, mind. Odin does seem to be back on form, but given what's happened, I think we cannot take everything for granted and we should be pleased, but measured in our confidence. The three chicks would appear to have had a surfeit of food in the past few days, to the point, as some of you have commented, that EJ almost has to force feed them. When stuffed full, they are likely to just lie there motionless which I know can alarm you, as and when you first log on, but they are currently doing very well.
I know also, that the rivalry between siblings concerns some of you too. This is perfectly natural behaviour. We tend to see more of it, when food is short and they are sparring with each other for dominance in the nest in order to secure the lion's share of fish. Nevertheless, such bickering between chicks can occur at any time, its just the chicks asserting themselves, learning combative skills, learning to live alongside each other - all of which may serve them well in later life etc.
We've seen it all before, many times and have always shared your concerns, especially when it gets particularly brutal and unpalatable to watch. But as I type this, this sort of behaviour is going on in every bird of prey nest with young, the world over - it's just what happens. In this case, it's the down-side of being able to watch & witness all the other amazing, fascinating and enjoyable behaviour. A classic case of the rough with the smooth, I'm afraid.
If my memory serves me (and it does so, less than it did), such bullying hasn't led to the death of a chick here at Loch Garten, except last year, when we lost the smallest one due to a lack of food, because OVS was just so utterly useless at provisioning EJ - (cue howls from OVS fans, no doubt). We didn't step in then and supplimentary feed, because as far as we knew the short-fall in food was a result of OVS' natural incompetence.
Another year, the third and smallest chick took one hell of a battering from his siblings to the point where his proudly, newly acquired brand new head feathering lasted about a week before it was all pecked out - Baldrick, I think we called him that year! But he made it through to fledging.
So, with Odin seemingly back on the best of form, even if the youngest chick were to go into a natural decline, we will not be intervening with fish, and from this point on we will let nature take its course. Quite frankly the way fish are arriving, I feel confident all three chicks will survive. Some have suggested removing the larger chick to alleviate the attacks on the younger two. We'll not be doing that either. They will be left to their own devices now, unless some further unforeseen anthropogenic problem arises, and then we will review the situation.
It has to be the way. Some of you will no doubt disagree and think us heartless if anything were to happen, but that just has to be the way forward now. If a chick goes under for natural reasons, that was its fate, its destiny. Lending a helping hand might never turn that weakling into a viable, healthy, thriving young osprey, capable of migrating successfully. Think Deshar, last year. With hindsight, was he in poor condition through a lack of food?
Honestly though, looking at these rotund, weeble-like chicks lolling around in the nest, replete to the point of bursting, I am confident all three will succeed, especially given how many of you have reported how large our chicks are in comparison to those at The Lowes, who are at least a week ahead of ours, I think.
It's up to them now. Here's hoping.
Our ospreys of course steal the show here at Loch Garten, but there is a varied supporting cast too. Currently redstarts are nesting right in front of the Osprey Centre and showing very well. Red squirrels - a rare mammal in UK terms - are a fixture, with up to six present throughout the day. Even capercaillie sometimes still show, in the afternoons, seen from the Centre.
Talking of Caper, our fingers are crossed this week, for them and Black Grouse, two iconic species here at Aberenthy. It is this week, that we can expect and hope to see the first broods appearing. The weather has been reasonably kind so far, though typically just when we need it to least, it has turned showery, but at least it is not heavy rain. It's turned a wee bit cool too, which seems to be the pattern nowadays, just when grouse chicks need fine weather to get them through there first few weeks of life. But we've had it worse, at this time of year, so we are desperately hoping that the current spell of weather, ideally improves or at least stays as is, to help the fortunes of these two species.
Finally, this weekend marks 50 years since we started showing people ospreys at Loch Garten. If you are able to come along on Saturday (or at any time), please do. We'd be delighted to see you. Given the events of the past two weeks, it's further cause to celebrate. Hope you can come along.
Through a somewhat convoluted route, we are now in contact with the sturgeon farm where Rothes is currently located. Thanks to a string of e-mails from Tony to Nick to Yvette, word eventually got through to Dr Alan Jones of Sturgeon SCEA, who then e-mailed me and I just this minute phoned him in France to chat. Thank goodness his secretary spoke excellent English, is all I can say! Though I did just manage parlez vous Anglais - phew!
Anyway, when Dr Jones went on Google Earth, he was delighted to see that Rothes has decided to take a break on one of his sturgeon farms at St Fort sur Gironde. He told me that he is very honoured to have such a celebrity to stay. He spoke to his staff there, to see if they had actually seen Rothes but they haven't. She seems to be largely just roosting there, perhaps coming and going after the staff have gone home, hence no actual sightings. She is obviously fishing elsewhere in the vicinity, and Dr Jones confirmed that there are extensive wetlands on both sides of La Gironde river. He doesn't think it very likely that Rothes is eating his sturgeon as on that particular farm they only keep the females destined for caviar production and they weigh from about 5 to 15 Kgs! This would be an impossible challenge for her.
Dr Jones has now become a regular blogger to check if Rothes is still gracing his farm with her presence, and he wonders if it will become a regular stopping off point for more ospreys in the future. When Rothes does eventually leave the area, he told me he hopes the rest of her journey is completed safely and he hopes that she will come and visit them on her return in years to come. He's already pondering on introducing a new “Osprey” brand of caviar to mark the occasion! Needless to say, this is very welcome news indeed, to know that Rothes is welcome there and that the farm staff will be keeping an eye out for her during her stay with them. He has my contact number so he can keep me informed of any news.
I have checked the latest data this afternoon and Rothes is still in the same general area - her last fix was at 8am this morning. On checking the data, for some odd reason there are no fixes at all for yesterday (27th). I've spoken to a techi-colleague at HQ who tells me that sometimes there can be blips in the satellite transmission cycle, a loss of sychronicity or some such explanation, to be frank, he lost me a bit (sorry Nigel). Anyway, in short more data will be out there in the ether somewhere and will arrive at some point, so until then I shall not up-date the map. I'll try and take a look over the weekend, but otherwise it will be on Monday morning. Have a good weekend.
In summary: Rothes in France. No Odin since 22nd. No Garten since 8.30pm on 26th. No EJ since 8am 27th. Just Mallachie here now on her tod, oh plus the intruder juvenile who's still hanging about.
You've no doubt just been watching so will know that we have had two fish in this evening, plus that one at 05.11am this morning. So it is all together looking much better.
There is some debate out there as to who that male was, on the nest this afternoon. The team at the Centre phoned to tell me they thought that it wasn't Odin. I went down to Centre at 6.30pm to look at some footage that they had recorded, and I concur. Yes I know, EJ seemed accepting of him suggesting that it was Odin, but she must be full of uncertainty at the moment about Odin's behaviour and this could well make her more tolerant towards male intruders, in the hope that they might take her on and bring her fish, even if Odin doesn't.
This evening, I didn't see the fish arrive, but trusty duty volunteer Dan kept me informed by phone as to events and he is of the opinion that it was indeed Odin who delivered the goods tonight, and I have no cause to doubt him. And hey, in any case, whilst it would be interesting and preferrable to know that it was Odin for sure, and I'm sure it would have been, what is important is that today EJ and chicks have had three fish and all is well. With light fading, it couldn't be easy to tell for sure, but I for one will sleep easy in my bed tonight, and you should too, but remember, a day at a time. That's all for now.
By the way, thanks Soosin.