This will probably be my last blog of the year as I expect both Samson and Freya to depart shortly. They continue to frustrate attempts to work out any sort of routine for their movements and they appear and disappear from the nest area with gay abandon and no thought at all for us watchers.
Freya has continued her day trips to Kielder (it is spookily always on a Thursday that she is seen on camera there) and the links to the Kielder blogs are here:
Nest 1a, where she went on her first and also on her most recent trip that resulted in her being spotted, is to the north of the area, so perhaps not surprising. But the second occasion where she was seen intruding was at Nest 2, much further away from the other nests and home! In each case, she returned here the same day and her behaviour is still indicative of her classing “our” nest as her home and territory.
Both birds continue to add nest material on a regular basis; the frustration nest did not survive the weather and attempts to rebuild have been abandoned. She often still demands (and he provides) fish although I’m sure she’s also fishing for herself as she builds up her strength for migration. They have also continued to chase any intruders, be they other ospreys, buzzards or even crows, away. I saw her on 18 August dive bombing a buzzard who was down, minding his own business, worming in the newly cut field and she forced him into the air and away. All these various behaviours and their continued occupation of the nest area are very good indicators that their bond to each other and the territory remains strong. I am very optimistic that, should they both survive migration and winter, they will come back here next year. Let’s hope we will see some eggs and chicks in 2019.
Before I close, I thought you might be interested in what has been happening around the other nests in the Borders. My thanks to the Tweed Valley Osprey Project (TVOP) for my use of their published statistics. The TVOP area encompasses the area around the Tweed and its tributaries (and so we are within their study area) and they have reported their worst year since 2007, with only 10 chicks fledged from the whole of the area. 15 nest sites were checked, of which only 11 had one or more adults, and only 5 nests produced chicks. Two nests were lost during Storm Desmond and their chicks perished. On a positive note, on several nests where one of the pair did not return or, in our case, returned and then was lost, the surviving bird has already found a new partner, so its hopeful that they too will breed in 2019. An interesting example is that a nesting platform was erected next to a tree in a dangerous condition that had an osprey nest in it. The nest was moved to the platform before the season started. Unfortunately, the male was the only one to return but he also has recently paired up with a new female and seemed to be content with using the new nest, so fingers crossed for this nest too.
So, the end of a totally unexpected and atypical season at Border Ospreys approaches. I’m sure many of you, like me, mourn the passing of Delilah. She was a magnificent bird, a highly successful parent and a powerful matriarch. I miss her immense presence in the area, whether she was guarding her precious nest, standing on the dead tree surveying her territory or patrolling the sky on outstretched wings. Her genes have been passed on to many chicks, hopefully several of whom have survived, and she has more than played her part in the continuing restoration of these superb birds to the UK.
The mighty Delilah
The 2017 family with Delilah and Samson top right
Now we turn our attention to the anticipation of a new generation. I believe Samson to be quite a young bird, in osprey terms, although we have no means of knowing that for sure and, with the arrival of a young, increasingly feisty mate in the shape of Freya, I am hopeful that, with luck, future years will bring many more successful broods of osprey chicks here. So, although this time of year is always tinged with sadness as the birds depart and concern about the huge journey ahead of them and the perils they will face at their winter homes, we can also look forward with eager anticipation to next Spring. Come next April, let us hope we can view Samson skydancing proudly above his nest while Freya sits below, preparing for her first brood. I’m excited at the prospect and will be there to watch it all. I hope you’ll join me.
Freya. Our hope for the future?
My thanks for your company this year, whether by the nest screen, out in the field or via these pages. My deepest thanks also to those without whom this project could not succeed. John, the owner of Born in the Borders; the staff in the restaurant who often end up fielding questions about the ospreys in my absence; Tony and Malcolm, my osprey and nest gurus and invaluable Raptor Study Group consultants; Jain, my long suffering computer and wiggly amps expert; Mark, our very willing volunteer tree climber and nest restorer (the latter being a complete surprise to him but he did a grand job); and Steve, who converts my blog into computer speak.
See you all for another trip on the Borders Osprey roller coaster in 2019!