FIFTY SHADES OF (OS)PREY

My regular readers know that as soon as I declare something to be so, the ospreys nearly always proceed to do the opposite. Well, Covid restrictions haven’t dampened my ability (or theirs) in that respect and, no sooner had I said how settled 3AF (Astra) was than she upped and disappeared, just like she did last year, and hasn’t been seen since Monday (12th) afternoon! Samson was on his own for a few days and took up his waiting and watching position again, either in the dead tree or on the nest perch.

Early on Thursday (15th) afternoon, the sky was suddenly full of wheeling ospreys as two more appeared from the south and approached the nest. One didn’t stay long enough to even be identified as male or female but the other landed on the nest, to great excitement from Samson. It was Unringed from last year! He had some fish ready for just such an eventuality and she seemed appreciative. They were quickly comfortable with each other and several mating attempts appeared successful.

Unringed surveying the view

Unringed was on the nest first thing on the Friday (16th) morning and, having breakfasted on a fish brought in by Samson, she disappeared down river to have a bath and a look around. It could have been an extremely costly bath because, less than an hour later, another female arrived on the nest and it was the female with the broad bandit-like eyeband, last seen on the previous Saturday (10th). She settled down as if she hadn’t been away and, when a distinctly wet Unringed arrived on the dead tree, she was quickly chased off by the bandit.

Bandit flying off

Heads reeling from this osprey musical chairs, we waited to see what happened next. The crows buzzed her a couple of times and the aggressive buzzard got fairly close to test her mettle, but she was unmoved. Then, about an hour after chasing off Unringed, she got airborne, mooched around for a couple of circuits and then disappeared and, as I write, has not been confirmed as returning. Samson spent the rest of Friday and Saturday on his own but, as we switched the nest camera on on Sunday (18th), there was Unringed sharing a fish with Samson! She then stayed until about 1100 and then wandered off and nothing more was seen until lunchtime today (19th) when there were two females engaging in wary aerial combat over the nest while Samson was sky dancing with a small pike in his talons. The females were too high to identify but I couldn’t see any rings. All three eventually moved off to the north and Samson returned about 90 minutes later, still clutching his fish.

Samson sky dancing

So we’re all confused, including Samson, although he will just accept whichever female ends up on the nest! They all seem willing to breed but no female has yet been in possession of the nest for more than 2 days. There has been no fighting seen until today, apart from the one chase off on the 16th, so goodness knows what will happen next. I almost feel like I need one of those boards, with people pushing symbols around signifying who is where at any time.

I’ll try to keep you posted and attempt to make sense of it all. The good thing from today is that there are clearly two females who are prepared to do battle for the nest and territory (and male). We must hope that they can sort it out quickly and the victor can then settle down to breed.

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