I must apologise to you all and particularly those of you holding your breath since my last blog. It was never intended to be such a gap before I let you know what was happening; life, however, caught up with me so here we are with me writing the next blog in the series and also the last for the season.
3AF (Astra) reassumed her position as matriarch of the nest after successfully ousting Unringed by indirectly starving her out!! It was interesting to see that she seemed to get far more amenable to Samson and stayed much closer to the nest than before. We had several more intruders during Jul and Aug including KS1, a female hatched in 2018 at Glaslyn in Wales, a nest with an internet camera. We were therefore able to get lots of information about her, including the fact that she was greedy and would aggressively hoard her food on the nest, not even letting the parents come close. It was therefore no surprise to see her behaving the same way during her two day stay around our nest. On one occasion, Astra was already on the nest food begging as Samson arrived with a fish, hotly pursued by KS1. She “elbowed” Samson out of the way and stole the fish from under his beak before Astra had even moved! The second of these photographs is of all 3 of them on the nest, KS1 on the back left and Astra on the back right of the nest with Samson just wanting to stay out of the way!
Astra seemed a little wary of chasing her off but eventually she managed it the following day and KS1 was last seen departing to the north east, with Astra right behind, checking she wasn’t coming back.
One other interesting intruder was KX7, who visited the nest briefly on 11 Aug. You will recall that she was the female that stayed with us all last summer, but decided this Spring to settle down at Kielder and she raised two chicks with a new partner. I have no idea why she popped across to see us, especially as her own chicks had only just fledged, but it was nevertheless a pleasant surprise and rather nice that, for once we could report a Kielder bird intruding on our nest, rather than the other way around!
In early Aug, Astra did one of her “absences” and we thought maybe she had migrated, although it would have been quite early. She was away for 4 days and, within a couple of hours, Unringed was back on the nest, suggesting she was keeping a very close eye on what was happening, even though she seemed to have disappeared the previous month. Unfortunately for her, Astra reappeared and again, she was forced to retreat, and wasn’t seen on camera again before I expect she migrated.
The final time Samson was seen this season was on the morning of 27 Aug, when he was on one of the river perches, eating a sizeable fish. I imagine he probably set off on migration once he’d finished the fish. I wished him “bon voyage” when I saw him there, just in case. That evening, Astra was caught on camera, yelling for all she was worth for a fish, but without apparent success. Next morning, she intruded at Kielder and had an empty crop, suggesting that she had not fed since being seen by us. From 2-6 Sep she was seen daily, fishing near Abbotsbury Swannery, Dorset on the south coast. She has not been spotted since and probably took advantage of some friendly wind blowing from the north to cross the Channel and start on her migration proper.
It was very encouraging to have regular reports of PX9 and PY0, the males from the 2017 Border Ospreys brood, both back in the UK and fishing in Derwent Reservoir, Whittle Dene Reservoir and intruding at Kielder, all locations close “as the osprey flies” to us. We think PX9 also came to our nest but we were unable to confirm the ring number. Samson was away at the time but would have chased him off if he’d seen him; no family loyalty where nest sites and territories are concerned! PX9 also appeared to have found a mate and was seen sitting alongside her on a number of occasions at Whittle Dene; there was however no sign seen of any nest building.
So yet another barren year at Border Ospreys but much to encourage us. Unlike previous years, Samson seemed to have a queue of females wanting to share his nest with him and, if Unringed and Astra both make it back in the Spring, I reckon that there could be a real bun fight between them for breeding rights!
Before I sign off for this season, I’d like to thank John Henderson, the owner of Born in the Borders, for his support despite all the stresses and strains he has undergone as an owner of a hospitality and retail business during this pandemic; Jain Jameson for her electronics and IT expertise; Steven Craig for creating sense out of my ramblings and turning them into a smart looking blog; Kirsty Smith for her crazy exploits at height doing nest and tree work; and, finally, Joanne Dailey my opposite number at Kielder for her constant reassurance, knowledge and upbeat support to keep me from tearing my hair out, and of course for regular pictures and videos of any intruding birds at Kielder with Border Ospreys connections.
It’s been a really strange year for so many reasons but I’m hoping some normality can return next year, including us being able to hear the pattern of tiny talons at long last. We’ve got some work to do before Spring, primarily by removing a lot of the branches on the nest and moving it back to where it was originally so it is fully supported by the base structure and not such a heavy strain on the tree branch. You’ll see the difference between these two pictures taken in 2016 and this year.
We also, inevitably, have some maintenance work on wiring and electronics to do but come next March we will hopefully be fully sorted and raring to go. We hope you’ll join us in 2021; I can’t guarantee anything as far as the birds are concerned but I can promise we’ll be there to bring whatever they get up to to you. See you next year.
12 Oct 20