Food and feathers
On 20 June, the osprey chicks in the main nest in Tweed Valley were 25 days old and while checking over the recorded footage it was great to see just how well they are growing and developing. Their feathers are coming through and this means that they are no longer at the mercy of the weather in the way that they were, or reliant on their mum shielding them from rain or strong sunlight. Now they can regulate their own temperature and can tolerate periods of absences by Mrs O and PW3. Mrs O has been the parent that has been with them constantly since hatching, whereas PW3 just delivers fish and flies off. He has still not interacted with his offspring at all. Mrs O can now take a break from the nest for brief periods and sit apart from the chicks, although she will be close by and always alert and attentive. Dangers can still loom from a corvid attack or another bird of prey taking a chance opportunity but they are safe under the watchful eye of Mrs O.
Sometimes, when she feeds them, their crop becomes so full it bulges and distends and they struggle to remain standing. A nap usually sorts the problem out and their days are spent, resting, eating, stretching and preening and, all the while, growing too. They no longer have little stubby wing buds as these have also lengthened to the point whereby they have to bend the wrist and elbow joints to tuck them neatly by their sides. Their backs and their bodies are still downy and fluffy but the true feathers are emerging on their wings and stubby tails.
The nest itself is quite colourful at the moment with the main structure being grey, made up of dead sticks which form the huge construction which has been added to over the years, on top of the artificial platform. The flattened area that they occupy is fringed with a bright green growth of grass and the centre is yellow with dried moss, with a bit of fresher green moss covering the blue baling twine dropped in there by one of the adults last week. Another addition this week has been a chunk of bark and a bright green fresh pine sprig. This is perhaps to freshen the area as the forest flies can be seen constantly swarming and buzzing around.
When Mrs O feeds the young, they are given much larger morsels now, which they eagerly swallow down and one of the youngsters was even trying to feed itself, pulling and tugging on a long stringy bit of fish as mum was feeding the other chick. This is indicative of the strengthening neck muscles which they will need for feeding themselves all too soon. Both young birds seem to be well fed and have a fair share at each meal time. Mrs O even gets a chance to take off with the remainder of the meal to feed herself now that the chicks have a little independence from her, but she won’t be far away.
She is always alert and she needs to be, because a few times now, we have seen her become alarmed and drop into a defensive posture, alarm calling as a passing threat flies overhead. It could be another bird of prey flying over or another nosey osprey peeking at their territory. When Mrs O goes into defence mode the chicks know to keep out of the way, they lie flat on the nest and play dead until danger has passed.
To while away the time, Mrs O sometimes does a spot of housekeeping and becomes distracted by nest material. Her piece of choice this week was a chunk of bark which she moved around and around the nest until she was satisfied that she had it in the right place and then later after a spell away from the nest she returned with another new chunk of wood.
A briefest glimpse of a siskin flying across the nest was caught on camera on 21 June as it zoomed past and dived into the thicker pine canopy behind them. It seemed so tiny and fast it could have been mistaken for a dragonfly. Only by freeze framing the recording was it revealed to be a bird.
The new red kite family in the area have successfully reared one chick and it was fitted with a BTO ring this week as part of the monitoring programme by the Raptor study group. Red kites are not fitted with coloured Darvics like the ospreys but the BTO metal ring has a unique identification number. A further two red kites were also ringed at another nest in the Borders, which is encouraging for this species which has so recently returned to breed in this area.
Further good news was the discovery of two new osprey nest sites within the Tweed Valley Osprey Project area this week, one of which is in Peeblesshire and is possibly birds which have moved from a previously abandoned site. Initially, ospreys were encouraged to breed in the Borders by creating artificial platforms for them to nest on and this has proved very successful over the years of the project. Now additional birds are colonising the area and building their own nest sites too.