Good morning all.
This week I spent a splendid few days at Manton Bay, Rutland Water and would like to thank Tim, Paul, Michelle, Lynda and each of the volunteers for their time and valuable information that they pass on to visitors on a daily basis. They have a wonderful reserve that they manage and upkeep and must be applauded for what they bring to us all. Their dedication is second to none and I was sad to be leaving on Thursday. Following on from Nick’s update yesterday, I would just like to tell you about the trip I took aboard The Rutland Belle on Wednesday evening:
The evening commenced with an educational talk in the Visitor Centre at Egleton, given by Tim and Paul. There were around 30 people present and we were treated to a projector show of some of the Rutland birds together with a brief history of the reintroduction of ospreys from Scotland in the mid 1990′s. Having looked at the information which is gathered over a period of time in relation to fishing times that the birds seem to prefer, the cruises have been adapted to coincide with these times for the benefit of close-up viewing if possible of a fishing osprey. Following a short Q & A session we then headed to Whitwell Harbour to board the Rutland Belle which would take us around the reservoir and along the north and south shores. Tim, Paul, Michelle and Abigail were in constant contact with the team on land and were being informed of which birds were currently fishing in which areas. Although it was sunny when we first boarded, black clouds loomed overhead and a clap of thunder added to the experience. Wet weather gear at the ready, we boarded and headed to the open topped deck. Tim and Paul were given directions in which to head and the Captain took us first toward the north shore but doubled back when it looked like we would hit the heavy weather. As we cruised along to the south shore, we were greeted by common terns, swans, great crested grebes and cormorants. Following directions toward the south shore we were unsuccessful in locating a fishing osprey there and turned back to the north shore at which point the heavens opened and we were deluged with heavy rain. Having stuck it out long enough to get a good soaking I decided it was time to head downstairs to the dry deck with everyone else where the bar was serving tea, coffee and an assortment of cold drinks (yes, there was wine, but I was driving so could not partake). The heavy rain turned to hail and a total white-out ensued, we could not see out of the windows to the water but thankfully this soon passed and we continued on with the beautiful views. As we reached Manton Bay, the pinnacle of the trip was our delight in witnessing 5R return to the nest site following the heavy storm from which he must surely have taken shelter and all cameras were at the ready. It was fabulous to see him flying overhead and returning to his family and I am sure that many viewers got some brilliant photos of him. It was a most enjoyable trip around the bay and I would urge anyone who is able to visit Rutland Water to take on the experience. Thank you again to Tim, Paul, Michelle, and the whole team for what you bring to us, your followers, and the splendid way in which you do so.
Just before I leave you to go about your chores for the day, I must just share with you this photo that I took from aboard the Rutland Belle. As the reservoir is currently 102% full from this years’ incessant rainfall, this seat is actually standing in the water which would normally be a good distance away from it. Interesting fact!
And now to our weekly summary of Lady, Laddie and little Blue 44 at Loch of the Lowes.
© Screenshot pictures copyright Scottish Wildlife Trust
Sunday, 15th July
Lady sits upon her observation perch watching Blue 44 sleep as he rests with his head tilted down onto his chest. It is the dead of night and all is silent, save for the flurry of moths that regularly visit the nest site and the resident nocturnal wildlife down at the loch. At first light they are both awake, stretching and preening while they await Laddie on his morning visit. They don’t have to wait long as at 5:06am he flies in to greet them good morning carrying with him a fresh breakfast delivery. Once feeding is finished Lady breaks off from nest duties at 5:25am leaving Blue 44 alone. Laddie, having departed on his daily business, successfully lands another catch and is back at the nest an hour or so later and both Lady and Blue 44 delight in another early morning meal. She now spends the majority of her time on the dead tree perch below the nest while the eager juvenile continues with his wing flapping. He is lifting himself high up off the nest bed now helicoptering, but has still not yet achieved that all-important maiden flight. Despite the wind that is whipping up around the loch, Laddie has been able to fish particularly well so far and delivers a third meal at 8:32am. The remainder of the morning is occupied with high leaps from Blue 44 and, when back in-situ, Lady busies herself with a bit of stick shifting.
Around midday Lady and Blue 44 search skywards and keep a close watch on something that has caught their attention. She begins to mantle and issues alarm calls which bring Laddie straight in defensively. At this stage no action is necessary and he departs to continue with his tasks, bringing back a large live perch and depositing it on the nest. Blue 44 immediately investigates and grabs it tightly wrapping his talons around it, Lady also makes a grab with her break and a tussle ensues but as ever, the matriarch wins! Later in the afternoon Blue 44 is testing his new-found agility and takes a flying rush towards the outer rim of the nest, he is carried by the wind and lands on his head with his bottom in the air, leaving feathers and down blowing wild and free. He won’t try that again in a hurry and goes back to the rather less dangerous task of napping! Laddie is on his approach with fish number five at 4:40pm when an intruder creates a disturbance, Lady swoops quickly in and they both mantle alarm calling. Without a second to spare, Laddie takes to the skies and gives chase, he hasn’t even had chance to release his fish and chases the intruder around the loch and past the nest site several times. Lady joins them in combat and the interloper is successfully evicted from their territory. Laddie then takes advantage of the situation and locates a suitable tree on which to land and consume the head of the still tightly clutched fish. He finally delivers the remainder of the fleshy body to the nest at 5:20pm and undertakes a little nest maintenance while Lady gets on with feeding Blue 44.
It has been a sunny but extremely windy day and a final meal is delivered just before 8:30pm. It has been mentally exhausting for Blue 44 to watch all of that action so, following his feed, he settles himself down in the central cup to reflect on what being an osprey really means! He will try harder with his wing flapping tomorrow and then may be able to help dad chase off those bothersome intruders!
Monday, 16th July
At 6:15am all is still and quiet around the loch, Blue 44 occupies the nest and Lady arrives back just as Laddie presents with a fish but leaves without depositing it. He returns shortly after and Lady grabs it before he has chance to abscond a second time. Later in the morning he has caught a large fish and takes this to his feeding perch to consume the head, delivering the remainder to the nest which Lady drags to the centre of the nest cup and begins to feed the hungry juvenile. As feeding gets underway two intruder ospreys make their presence known as they circle the nest from above but Lady and Laddie defend it with valour and Blue 44 adopts his now well-practiced thanatotic stance.
Just prior to midday, Blue 44 stands on the rim of the nest exercising his flight muscles and takes a step closer to the edge. Suddenly, he is gone, down below the nest structure and then soars, flying twice around the tree area to be joined by Laddie who flew alongside him before descending behind the nest tree. Laddie took to a perch nearby and continued to watch over him while Lady roosted in close proximity. At one point during the latter part of the afternoon, both birds were witnessed swooping down behind the nest and it is therefore possible that they were attempting to encourage Blue 44 to become airborne once again. However, they did not appear to be exhibiting any signs of distress and all is therefore assumed to be well at this moment in time. Laddie did however attempt unsuccessfully to mate with Lady once back at the nest; it seems that now the nest is empty he has other things on his mind again!
As the evening commences Laddie has been fishing and delivers a meal which Lady is able to take for herself. Blue 44 did not show back at the nest but this is not unusual as newly fledged chicks can sometimes not return for up to twenty four hours. When he’s hungry he’ll come back home!
Tuesday, 17th July
Blue 44 has remained away from the nest overnight but Lady and Laddie have been keeping vigil and returning regularly to the site. As dawn approached Laddie swooped in and attempted to mate with Lady for a second time. Mating this late in the season can often indicate that ospreys deem their nest to have failed, but maybe Laddie has other reasons for his behaviour. He continues to go about his duties collecting moss and branches which he brings in and places about the nest structure.
As the day gets underway, the staff and volunteers at Loch of The Lowes organise a search of the area to ensure that Blue 44 has not become entangled in undergrowth or is maybe injured and cannot manoeuvre himself to move freely. The team undertake an extensive search on foot, wading through the water and checking the grounds under and around the bracken and searching above head level also in case he has become fastened onto a branch. The search proves negative and once the light begins to fade in the area of woodland that was the focus of their attention, they announce their intention to return the following day and pick up where they leave off. There will hopefully be a transmitter signal available by then from the transmitter that he wears for them to concentrate in a more constricted area as the signal transmits its location on a four day basis and tomorrow will be day four!
Wednesday, 18th July
Blue 44 has still not voluntarily returned to the nest and Lady and Laddie continue to go about their routines with the minimum of fuss. She has arrived at the nest just after midnight and remains there as the rain falls, but to Lady, all that is required is a wing flap and a shake of the head. She remains in-situ until 4:07am whereupon she takes flight and departs. Laddie arrives at 8:37am with a large breakfast and she follows him in trying to remove it from his grasp. He mantles and appears to not be prepared to give this one up then takes to the skies with the fish still clutched tight. Unfortunately it doesn’t look like Lady is going to get any of this one!
The manned search for Blue 44 continues and the satellite transmitter has now provided a signal giving his last known co-ordinates. A canoe is launched and taken out over the loch and moored in an area where the search can now resume. It is interesting to note that where the signal was last transmitted from, there is fresh evidence of feeding activity having taken place. It is therefore possible that Lady or Laddie have delivered a fish to the lost youngster to prevent him from going hungry and dehydrating. This may be where the fish from earlier this morning ended up and why Laddie was so reluctant to leave it on the nest. Lady appears to be spending more time in wait at present but is not displaying any signs of distress so far. She is a highly skilled parent with more juveniles to her name than any other osprey, having reared forty nine to date and she will know best how to deal with the situation. If she can get Blue 44 back up and flying, then she will do so without exception.
Late afternoon sees an intruder land on the nest and Laddie mantles defensively. On close inspection it is noted that although the intruder has no metal BTO ring, it does however carry a white Darvic leg ring bearing the number 91. This is consequently identified as 91(09) being a Welsh female and one of three chicks which fledged from the Glaslyn nest in 2009. Having strayed north, she has been lured by the sight and beauty of a potential future nest site for herself at Loch of The Lowes. At three years of age, she will still be a non-breeding youngster and will be searching out such a home to call her own at some time in the future. As the evening draws to a close the woodcock has made another appearance in the area and can be heard around the nest tree.
The satellite data images that have been downloaded indicate that since fledging, Blue 44 has remained close-by but has either been using his wings or bunny-hopping through the trees and shrubbery between The Loch of The Lowes and Craiglush Loch. From the activity meter on the transmitter he carries, the altitude log and the distance recorded between the readings, indications all suggest that he is alive, which is a welcome relief. It would also appear that Lady and Laddie have remained in close proximity to him within the area around the inlet between the two lochs and may well have attempted to encourage him with food given the signs of fresh fish having been consumed there. Tomorrow is another day and may bring the news we all await!
Thursday, 19th July
Laddie visits the nest at first light with the only other occupant being the resident moth that had previously kept the nightly company of Blue 44. Lady is back at the site at 6:45am and sat upon her observation perch. It would appear to be a better day weather-wise and therefore once the search for the missing juvenile is resumed it may prove to be more positive than of the previous two days. Later in the morning Lady stands within the nest cup pecking about and undertaking a little light maintenance while a small passerine can be heard calling in a neighbouring tree. She is joined by Laddie at 8:17am and takes back to her perch where she looks out over the fresh waters of the loch. They both spend the remainder of the morning on and off the nest and appear to be keeping watch over Blue 44 from a selection of perches surrounding his presumed location. Their demeanour suggests that he is still grounded as they watch in a downwards direction rather than out across the vista as they would normally do.
As the afternoon gets underway, the skies have darkened with rain looming overhead. Laddie is not hampered from fishing though and successfully secures a fresh catch which he promptly delivers to the nest at 2:08pm. Lady wastes no time and snatches it immediately, giving him no chance to take off with it as he has done recently and takes flight with her precious cargo in the direction of Craiglush Loch, which, as we now know is the last known position transmitted of Blue 44. It is possible therefore, that she has intentions other than feeding herself with this meal and we must remain hopeful that young Blue 44 is still receiving the vital nourishment he needs to carry him through this harrowing time. He will not be able to fish for himself yet as he needs to learn such activities from dad in preparation for his long migration south and generally will not fish until such time as he is flying solo! Laddie arrived back at the nest at 4:40pm carrying with him the tail end of what is presumed to be the fish from earlier, and this therefore suggests that it has been consumed by one of the other birds and he had retrieved the remnant for his own purposes. Lady was witnessed fishing in the loch in front of the visitor hides and made three unsuccessful attempts, so it is therefore quite possible that it was not herself that had eaten the earlier meal!
As daylight fades, Lady occupies the nest and Laddie joins her at 10:00pm depositing a fresh catch for her supper. She retrieves this and departs immediately with him following closely behind. The resident moth pays its nightly visit to check on the status of the nest, and seeing that Blue 44 is still not back in residence it flutters away to occupy itself elsewhere.
Friday, 20th July
It is a windy morning around the loch and Lady is already back on the nest at 6:30am with another no-show from Blue 44. Laddie has been fishing and brings a fresh meal in at 7:00am which she grabs and heads straight off with. She may be making her way to where the juvenile sits in wait and if so, he will at least have breakfast to keep him going. Providing he is not injured in any way, he may well be looking upon this experience as a huge adventure with the ground being one big nest. It would be easy to imagine him in all sorts of trouble, but I think that if this were the case, the parent birds would be displaying greater signs of distress. As it is, they appear to be maintaining careful watch over him and if what we believe is true, feeding him also. Remember what a strong blood line he emanates from, Lady stood the sternest of tests two years ago when she fell ill on the nest in the blistering sun rearing two young chicks much smaller than Blue 44 is now. The wave of public anguish is not dissimilar to that experienced then as we watched and waited, so we should try and remain positive at this time. Just before 8:00am an intruder lands upon the nest just as Laddie drops by. He mantles and retreats to the edge of the nest before evicting him from his territory. The nest later receives two small visitors in the form of a coal tit and a blue tit that hop around pecking at the grassy bedding but otherwise all remains quiet.
Almost ninety six hours after stepping over the side of the nest on Monday and to cheers and tears, Blue 44 was escorted back home by his mum. We knew that if any bird could do it, this old bird would! He decides he’s had enough of this migration lark for now and really doesn’t know what all the fuss is about. He’s not sure how far he got but at least he made a start, wandered about for a few days and then turned back. There’s really nothing to it, you just jump off the edge, find some undergrowth to play in, get food parcels delivered each day by mum and dad and then come back when migration time is over – don’t you?
It was just before 11.30 this morning that he appeared back on the nest joined by mum who was quite possibly not too thrilled about his antics as she flapped and pecked at him and gave him what looked to be a good old ear bashing! However, he made it through his time in the jungle proving beyond any doubt that he’s a hardy little osprey! Once back safely he was food begging from dad and shouting for Scotland. This little one has definitely found his voice since fledging. When Laddie appears with a freshly caught trout, Blue 44 grabs it from him and mantles over it. His first display of ‘leave off – it’s mine’ however, neither of the parent birds were actually interested in it and both stood back leaving him to it. He consumed the entire fish with no assistance in dissection from mum whatsoever and has proved that he will be able to feed himself when the time comes; all he now needs to do is catch something! Just an hour later, Laddie is back in with another trout and Blue 44 springs into action again. It is tiring stuff this growing up! He finally walks away from the fish at 6:30pm and slumps into the central nest bowl. He will hopefully sleep well tonight after his little holiday away at ‘Ground Camp’.
Saturday, 21st July
A bright sunny morning dawns at the loch and Blue 44 has spent his first night back home, feet firmly fixed on the nest. He calls for breakfast, and emits that now unmistakable voice so like his mother’s that we could easily be fooled into thinking it was actually her. The loch is already awake and busy with its resident life and a skein of geese pass overhead on their way to one of their favoured watering grounds. Breakfast is delivered by Laddie at 9:45am and Blue 44 makes straight for it. Lady is in hot pursuit but if she wanted any she would have to wait as Junior mantles over his meal and tucks in with relish. She calmly sits to one side and watches his progress. She is still sat watching him eat at 10:55am though it would seem that there will be little, if any, left for her to finish. She is well adept at looking after herself though and it is far more important that Blue 44 takes the meal at this crucial time in his development.
While poor old Blue 44 remains in detention, Laddie has been away fishing and shows up with a fresh catch at 12:50pm and in his haste to get to it, the juvenile almost pushes him over. Feasting ferociously, he is joined by mum at 1:20pm but looks like he might well finish it all so after a while she takes off to get on with her own business. At 2:16pm Laddie is back in with a headless catch. Keeping tight hold of it in his talons he stands and looks about for six minutes, then takes off without leaving it when Lady fails to show up. He returns at 3:08pm and still has the fish with him but this time she has spotted him and follows in just behind. She retrieves the remaining portion from him and takes flight; it would therefore seem that this one was always intended for her! Blue 44 settles back down into the nest cup but at 4:51pm, having now had her own meal, mum brings the tail end in for junior and feeds him from it. Then tearing away a large chunk she passes this to him and lets him continue with self-feeding.
Laddie delivers supper at 8:07pm and allows Blue 44 to retrieve it from him who then begins to feed himself. The fish is still alive and is therefore another test of the juvenile’s ability as he aims straight for the head area and tears into it. Once he has sufficiently feasted he settles quietly and snuggly in the central cup of his safe and secure nest. He has been fed and is content to stay in the place he knows best. He has not attempted to vacate it today and it might be reasonable therefore to assume that he may not have actually fully fledged on Monday and will now wait a while before trying again although I am sure that when he does finally take off it will be the real thing this time!
The Dyfi Osprey Project and the Scottish wildlife Trust have kindly given their permission for us to post still and video images from their webcams. To visit their sites please click on the relevant link. Loch of the Lowes. Dyfi Osprey Project.