Archives for July 2009

Ospreys are fledging

After being in England for a few days, I went round the local ospreys this afternoon. Morven was feeding her large single chick and several times it spread its wings and flapped; it won’t be long until it flies. Nimrod is busy hunting for fish and has at least one young, but on several recent occasions when I’ve tried to see how many, it’s been raining so the chick or chicks have been laying flat in the nest. Beatrice has two young and they have been flying for some days. Just like last year, her behaviour has dramatically changed in the last week, and surprisingly for a female osprey she has been leaving the nest to catch fish. But for her it’s not local, she’s been flying to Speyside and fishing along the river Avon, and on three nights she’s actually roosted there as well – she must be getting fed up with being hassled by her large chicks, when she visits her nest. I guess it won’t be long before she leaves on migration. I also checked out Findhorn Bay, and there as the tide went out, there was a male osprey eating a flatfish on a log out on the mud flats – when the males start spending more time down in the bay it’s an indicator that their chicks are close to fledging or are free flying around the eyries. The ospreys season marches on.

Unringed male osprey eating flatfish, Findhorn Bay

Catching new males for satellite tracking

At last it’s stopped raining, so I decided that we would try to catch two known male ospreys in order to fit satellite transmitters so that I could carry out more research on the hunting behaviour of male ospreys in Scotland and also to study their migrations. Steve and Amy had come up from the Lake District for the weekend to help, so we first of all went to Logie’s old nest in the morning. Her old mate is the regular breeding male, and this year is mated to Morven and they have one big chick. We put out an eagle owl as a decoy and a Dho Gaza net (she is an old eagle owl, named Gandalf, kindly on a short loan from John Barrie of the Bird of Prey Centre near Huntly). Quickly we had caught him, and he was in excellent condition, so I fitted one of our new Microwave Telemetry Argos GPS transmitters (kindly funded by Talisman Energy UK in Aberdeen), and released him in view of his nest. Since then, regular transmissions have shown him travelling as far as Findhorn Bay to bring back fish to the nest for Morven and their chick. Before he migrates, we will set up a page on this website to record details of his life and his migration.

After such a good start, we went in the afternoon to Badenoch and Strathspey, to a new nest established last year, which now has two big young. There we caught both adults, the female was unringed. She was in excellent condition, weighing in at 1872 grams, and was just finishing her summer moult. I marked her with one of our new colour rings, blue/white AB and then released her. Her mate carried a red/white colour ring 8T, which showed that I had ringed him as a chick at a nest on the RSPB Abernethy Forest reserve on 15 July 2001. He has been seen regularly at the Rothiemurchus Fishery near Aviemore and has been photographed there catching rainbow trout. I fitted him with one of the new transmitters and we released him. Since then he’s been regularly back to the fishery catching fish for his family, and on one occasion he was many miles away looking for brown trout in the River Tromie. Red 8T will also have a webpage soon which will give details of his life and migration. We returned home very happy that fieldwork, for once, had been so successful.

Red/white 8T 19th July

Translocating young ospreys in Andalusia

Just back from Inverness airport after sending off seven young ospreys to the Spanish reintroduction project in Andalusia. They have been collected from nests, in Moray, Inverness and Badenoch & Strathspey, on Forestry Commission or private land containing two or more young. This is carried out using a special licence from Scottish Natural Heritage, and it is a continuation of the project started five years ago. The great news this summer is that a young female osprey translocated from Scotland four years ago has mated with a translocated German osprey of the same age and they have reared three young on the Odiel marshes west of Seville. Ospreys had been extinct in mainland Spain for half a century or more, before this project. This year’s chicks were flown by Flybe from Inverness to Malaga, via London Gatwick. Dalcross Cargo organised all the arrangements and Tim Mackrill, from the Rutland Water Osprey project took them from London Gatwick to Southampton and fed them again before departure.

Young ospreys ready for translocation to Spain

Osprey chicks en route via Flybe

Satellite tagging the Loch Garten chicks

I went off early to Loch Garten to ring this year’s young at the RSPB nest and to fit satellite transmitters to the two larger young for Richard Thaxton, the site manager. After several very hot days, it was a cool grey morning when we walked out to the famous nest. I decided to ring the smallest chick at the base of the tree so that it could be then put back in the nest, so that the female could return to the eyrie trees. The two larger chicks were taken back to the osprey centre, where I ringed and measured them, and then fitted the satellite transmitters, exactly the same as last year. It was great to see such well fed young, after the trials and tribulations of earlier in the season, when first of all the male became tangled in nylon fishing line, and then for a short time he stopped bringing fish to the nest. It was a stressful time for the staff at Loch Garten and on both occasions my advice to them was to wait and see – and both times the problem went away. The three chicks were females, weighing between 1646 and 1790 grams. After the radios were fitted the two chicks were replaced in the nest to join their younger sibling. Here’s hoping they have a successful migration to West Africa.

Richard Thaxton and me holding the chicks (RSPB photo)