Those of you who have read my blog over the past year will know that I firmly believe that the ospreys are included in your numbers. They wait until I put something in writing…and then do the opposite. 3AF/Astra has been no exception, so Samson must have given her the web address. No sooner had I pronounced that they were a close couple on the nest than it was clear that the bonding had come to a grinding halt. I mentioned the examples where she was continuing to demonstrate her independence and unwillingness to conform to the idea of how a breeding bird should behave and these traits became increasingly more pronounced. She was spending even longer away from the nest and sometimes we weren’t seeing her for over 24 hours. She became less and less willing to tolerate Samson’s attempts to mate and he was still mantling in the submissive way males have at the beginning of or the reestablishing of a relationship, far beyond the normal timescale. Finally, she started fishing for herself again and refusing his offerings. It all came to an abrupt end on 26th May when the nest suffered a sustained attack by a buzzard. We have a nesting pair of buzzards on either side of the nest but there is general tolerance as long as everyone keeps to their respective bits of airspace. What prompted this attack I’ll never know, but it was aggressive and he/she forced Astra off the nest perch by diving at her. The picture shows the buzzard attacking. Astra is just out of camera shot below.
Samson fought the buzzard off but Astra flew across to the other side of the river, sat for a while on a favourite perch and then disappeared behind trees and we have had no confirmed sightings of her since. The buzzard did not make contact with her and she was not injured but I think the attack just broke any lingering commitment she felt that she had to the nest and she has moved on to find another partner and safer territory. (Hot news: 3AF intruded on a nest at Kielder 5 Jun 20)
During Astra’s tenure as mistress of the Border Ospreys nest, we had two further intruders. A ringed male appeared on the nest perch on 14 May but I was unable to read the ring number from the recording. The following day, a very cheeky female, ringed JW7, followed Samson onto the nest when he came in with a fish. She was a 2 year old hatched from a nest near the Lake of Menteith and she was the first of three birds from the same area to intrude either here or at Kielder. We and Kielder must be on the osprey equivalent of the AA route finder (other migration route finders are available) to that area. She stayed for about an hour before giving up and moving on.
We of course were not to know immediately that Astra had left and just assumed that she was off on one of her regular absences. However, on the afternoon of the 29th May, an unringed female landed on the nest and, within 2 minutes of Samson arriving to join her, she had allowed him to mate successfully with her! She is still with us and her behaviour could not be more different to that of 3AF/Astra. As an unringed bird we have no means of knowing how old or experienced she is but she and Samson seem to have formed an immediate and close bond with her doing all the things she is supposed to, unlike Astra, and Samson seemingly much more relaxed around her. Nest refurbishment has been carried out by both birds, with him bringing his usual rubbish, her diplomatically pushing it aside when he’s not looking and both rearranging material and nest cupping (ie forming a dip in the centre of the nest for the eggs by lying in the nest and scuffing out a hollow with their feet). She has demanded and accepted fish from him and they have regularly mated.
Now, the latest known egg laying that led to successful fledging of chicks we think was at Threave in 2012 and I am grateful to them for confirming the timings for me. I’m sure any of my colleagues reading this and being aware of a later brood will let me know. They were laid about 20 May and the later of the two chicks that hatched departed on migration on 3 Oct. So our pair are way behind schedule and outside the normal window for laying. However, nature isn’t interested in what humans think or their statistics and, in this case, the hormones are still telling this pair to continue preparing for eggs to be laid. I have no way of knowing at this stage how this story will develop and I leave you with a bit of a cliffhanger. It’s strange but here we are, nearly a month after my last blog, and I am now (however unreasonably) a bit more confident of there being a brood at Border Ospreys than I was on the day I wrote that blog. I can only go on what the birds are doing and so I hope that they are too busy to read this and scupper my hopes but I will let you know as soon as I have news.
In the meantime, Born in the Borders and Border Ospreys remains closed and the coronavirus guidelines remain in place, but we look forward to welcoming you as soon as we can.
Finally, you may be interested to know that the female from last year, KX7, who decided to make Kielder her home instead, now appears to have at least one chick at her new nest. I wish her the very best of luck at the start of her breeding life.
5 June 2020