The osprey family are often away from the nest now that the juveniles have fledged, but they are returning to feed when parents deliver fish. The young birds fly back from their watchful perches atop pine trees with high excitement and much calling at the sight of food.
They no longer require assistance and can feed themselves, so the adult birds are operating a delivery service only. Perhaps Megget (670) and Talla (671), the young ospreys, are not as proficient at devouring every morsel of fish because an opportunistic jay was seen hopping about the empty nest on 3 August and struck gold. The jay found a big chunk of fish that must have been dropped and fallen down between the sticks. With a few jaunty hops, the lucky jay took off with a beak full of food. On 4 August a pair of woodpigeons paid a visit to the nest and briefly landed on the branch beside it but didn’t stay long. A further intrusion of the nest was made by an unringed adult female osprey that was first seen sitting on the branch and then sat in the nest and squatted down in a sitting position before moving back up on to the branch again. In the background another osprey could be heard calling. It was one of the juveniles which flew down onto the nest and the female remained at the perch a while longer before leaving.
On 6 August, following a morning of torrential rain and thunder, PW3 delivered a fish to a waiting Talla at the nest. It was a swift visit and he was gone as soon as the goods were delivered.
Later in the afternoon, Mrs O arrived at the nest with a fish. Megget, who could be heard begging for food, arrived beside her hoping to share but no such luck as Mrs O flew off with it. It won’t be long now before Mrs O will leave our shores to make her migration. She will be the first to break up the family unit but she has done a good job raising these young ospreys this season. The young ospreys will not leave until September when we will be able to follow their journey via their tracking data.
On 7 August both Megget and Talla were at the nest together. Talla had a fish and was feeding while a hungry Megget called and walking around the nest watching on. After half of the fish was gone, Megget could not wait any longer and walked in front of Talla, picking up sticks, moving them around and then, positioned carefully, reached down and grabbed the fish and pulled it from Talla’s outstretched talons. There was a bit of tugging as a reluctant Talla let go and then Megget transferred the remnants from beak to talons and took it to the back of the nest to finish. Talla seemed unconcerned and began freshening up after dinner, swiping the beak on the moss in the nest.
Another raptor monitoring project carried out by Forestry and Land Scotland is the tracking of goshawks raised within the forests. Selected birds have been fitted with trackers to find out where they disperse to when they leave the natal sites. These are non-migratory raptors and their dispersal is a very interesting study. The parent birds lead them further and further from the nest for feeding after fledging and continue to do so for up to 2 months before they disperse. The data can then be used to find out the hunting habitats used and how mostly it is shelter belts on forest and woodland edge which is favoured. It has been discovered that once the birds move on, they range far and wide in search of territory in which to settle. The data maps plot the birds home range into coloured zones on the maps. The red areas are the most frequented, representing territory and nest site. The orange and yellow zones are visited areas where the birds have ranged. Some examples have shown a Borders bird with a home range area of 154 square miles but, further north, one bird has covered extensive ground. With a nest area at Pitlochry and Balintore, this particular goshawk has ranged as far as Inverness, Keith, Montrose and as far south as Dunfermline before settling on their territory. Perhaps not quite the spectacular journeys of the osprey with their north/south migratory life but, nevertheless, impressive for a bird that only calls Scotland home.