Archives for September 2009

Probably my last osprey at its nest this year

I called in at Talisman’s nest this morning (or should I still call it Logie’s old nest)- in my record books it is nest B01. It was a beautiful sunny morning with a fresh SW wind, and there was Talisman perched at the top of the dead Scots pine, and below him the old nest with the black plastic wrap blowing in the wind. He called a few times at me when I walked to the field edge to take a distant photograph across the ripe barley field. There was no sign of his chick so maybe he’s gone. Later I checked his transmitter signals and found that he was fishing the low tide channel just off Findhorn village at 7am this morning; and at 12am (just before I watched him) he was flying towards his nest and at 1pm and 2pm he was perched in the trees at the edge of the wood at the far side of the barley field. I expect he will be the last osprey I see at a nest this year as I’m sure he will soon be off on migration. I wonder where he will go – this is the first year we have tracked a male and female from the same nest. Morven, his mate, was this morning migrating south through the deserts of southern Morocco 2060 miles away. She is likely to return to the coast of Mauritania to last winter’s haunts, but where will Talisman go to winter – could be anywhere from Spain to Guinea! Bon voyage.

Talisman at his perch today

Nimrod sets off

It was another beautiful day in Moray, sunny and no wind, so in the morning I went down to Findhorn Bay to look for the last of the ospreys and to see if any interesting migrants had arrived. 11 slavonian grebes swimming with a group of scoters on the sea off Findhorn shore was new, but in the bay it was the usual assortment of waders and ducks. One of my friends had seen two ospreys, and when I went to the south side of the bay, I saw them perched together on an old log on the mud as the tide came in. I checked them out with my telescope but couldn’t see a satellite transmitter, although the heat haze was annoying. Next I scanned the river mouth where I had seen more ospreys perched a few days ago, but there were none. Obviously, these are last days this year for ospreys in the Bay.

This evening when I got the Argos data, I found that Nimrod had left yesterday in the late morning – when it had also been a lovely quiet sunny day. He’s already made a rapid flight south and as I write this he will be in Brittany. It will be fascinating to compare his last autumn’s migration with his new journey south – last night he made a very unusual switch from travelling down the eastern side of England he swung right across into Wales, picking up last year’s westerly track over the West country. Talisman is still here but looking at his GPS movements, he was not one of the two birds perched on the log this morning. The others are on their migrations, with Morven in Morocco, Red 8T in Mauritania and Rothiemurchus resting in Portugal, while Beatrice is wintering in southern Spain.

Recovered and released

A week Friday, I went down to Aviemore to collect a male osprey which had been caught in a net – it was the day of the big flood – and when I checked him out I did not have much hope of him surviving. He was absolutely exhausted and kept falling on his back, but the most hopeful thing was that he was fat. He had put on weight for his migration. He weighed 1372 grams with a wingspan of 460mm. He was unringed so we don’t know where he was living or whether he was breeding this year. I took him home and we fed him on cutup pieces of rainbow trout, and for the first two days he had to be force fed on tiny strips of fish. I logged him in with the bird registration people in Bristol. By Monday, he was able to tear up fish and the next day when I tested his flying ability, attached to a long string, he did just about fly across the lawn.

I put him in a friend’s big aviary and on Friday, he was able to fly from the ground to the roof – a remarkable recovery. So this morning Moira and I weighed him again – he had gained 82 grams to 1454 grams, and was now a powerful osprey again – and a dangerous handful, with deadly talons and a sharp bill. I ringed him with a blue colour ring HA on his left leg, a BTO ring on the other. We returned him to Rothiemurchus and it was great to see him rapidly climb up into the skies and soar around, chased briefly by a buzzard. And then he set off in the general direction of the late chicks’ nest. It was wonderful to see him fly off.

Maybe he was the father of our satellite tagged chick ‘Rothiemurchus’. I will have to wait until next spring to check for colour ring blue/white HA.

Before release

Flying away after release

No news this morning of Rothiemurchus or Red 8T – the next batch of signals will not be due until late today. But news of Morven – yesterday she flew back south to Moray and roosted last night in trees above Loch Romach, just south of Forres. Now I expect her to go south – it’s a clear cold quite day. Last evening, we were down at Findhorn – lovely there with the tide dropping and further up the bay I could see two ospreys fishing. We called by the south end of the bay on the way home when the tide ws lower and saw a total of five ospreys either resting or eating fish on washed up trees out on the mudflats and one male hunting.

Great migrations

September is a month for migrations – with our satellite tracked ospreys, Beatrice has already got to her wintering site in southern Spain, Morven is still fishing away up in Caithness (building up fat reserves for the migration), while the two males, Talisman and Nimrod, are still fishing Findhorn Bay and Culbin Bars to take back fish to their young. But the two inland birds from Badenoch & Strathspey are carrying out long migrations.

The male Red 8T, which fishes at Rothiemurchus Fishery and has been photographed by many bird photographers, has just completed a big non-stop migration, which involved flying all last night over the Bay of Biscay. On the night of the 8th/9th September he roosted just south of Kielder water in Northumberland. He was on his way at dawn and by 2pm he was heading for the Dorset coast. Straight out over the English Channel, he continued to be helped by northerly winds and clear skies, he passed over the Channel Islands at 4pm and an hour later had crossed the French coast. He flew on over Brittany and then straight out into the Bay of Biscay. The winds by now were more to the east and he started to be drifted to the west. Luckily he just clipped the very north-west corner of Spain and 0900 hours GMT this morning he was just south of La Coruna. After 27 hours of non stop flight he had covered 800 miles (1286 kilometres) at a mean speed of 30 mph, and I think he’s still flying. What a fantastic journey and another superb example of a fit experienced male deciding to do a big migration, with a conscious decision to fly over the sea at night through clear skies.

The young chick, Rothiemurchus, reared close to where Red 8T fishes, also reached Northumberland, and then spent the 8th September there. Yesterday, he flew from there via Harrowgate and Stourbridge to roost last night near Lydeard St Lawrence in Somerset. 298 miles with a following wind is a good journey for such a young bird – but he has gone rather far to the west. This morning the first signals show that he was off early and 10am he was off Teignmouth in South Devon, and an hour later he was heading out over the English Channel 7 miles south of Salcombe. At 11am he was 50 miles out to sea, flying SSW at 82km/h. The weather is clear and sunny, but alas the wind is NE and quite fresh. If Rothiemurchus carries on with this heading he will sadly miss the western end of Brittany and then it’s a long slog over the Bay of Biscay, and he could even miss the north-west corner of Spain! My advice would be turn left and head south – but for a young bird, never before been on a migration, he does not know what is ahead. Sincerely hope he makes it.

Several ospreys still fishing down at Findhorn Bay over the last few days. On Friday we had a big flood and the River Findhorn washed down lots of trees, which had toppled over into the rivers during the heavy snows of February, and spread them out over Findhorn Bay, so now the ospreys have even more perching places out on the mud flats. When you see these trees come down after a flood and embed themselves in the estuary, their roots sticking up, it’s easy to understand how ospreys could nest in such trees in the estuaries of big rivers, where there are no surrounding forests. Here, where I’m trying to catch an osprey for satellite tagging, it’s annoying to me that they have so many extra perches and my chances of success are much less.

On Friday, I also went to Aviemore to collect a very tired osprey which had got caught in a net – a sub-adult which was very weak and could have easily died. I force-fed him for the first two days with strips of rainbow trout from the Rothiemurchus fishery, but it was great yesterday to see him eating his own fish and today he tore up a whole trout for himself. I’m hoping he can fly free by the end of the week. And talking of Rothiemurchus, the very late young male osprey which I satellite tagged in August and named Rothiemurchus was off on migration today, after an extended tour of north-east Scotland yesterday. So tonight he’s roosting beside a small lake just north of Morpeth. Finally, Stan Laybourne telephoned me this evening to say thatMorven was eating a fish this afternoon and still in Caithness. The three males are all still here and all now have their webpages up-to-date ready for the migrations to start.

Late news – first data just in for Red 8T – he left after 9am and by this evening was near Kielder Water in Northumberland – 160 miles for the first day – he’s on his way.