Well, it has been over two weeks since we have seen (or heard!) JW6 around the nest site, so we can safely assume that she has started her migration. I’m not aware of any sightings of her as she journeyed south through England and she should be well on her way back to coastal Central West Africa or the Iberian peninsula, wherever it is that she spends her winters. Samson stayed on longer and I last spotted him on 22 Aug. None of those who walk regularly along by the river and tell me about anything of interest happening with the birds, have seen him since either, so it looks like he too has left for warmer climes. I wish them both well in their travels now and next Spring. We hope to see them back at the end of March or the beginning of April.
For those of you who have followed the Border Osprey birds for a while, you will recall that PX9 and PY0, the males from the 2017 brood have been seen regularly at Kielder. They have continued to intrude and generally make nuisances of themselves and are clearly eyeing up grabbing an existing nest if they can next year. Neither seem to have attracted a mate and might be hoping that any nest will come with a sitting female tenant but a more likely outcome might be that they build a nest for themselves in the area and settle down with a mate as part of the growing Kielder “colony”. The last sighting Kielder had of either bird was PX9 on 26 Aug when he intruded on Nest 6, much to the annoyance of one of this year’s resident juveniles. Again, fingers crossed for successful migrations South and North for both these young males who have decided their permanent home lies close to the rich fishing waters of Kielder Reservoir.
In the meantime, there is plenty of work to be done to make things ready for our own birds’ return. I’ve taken lots of advice on why females seemed reluctant to settle down, particularly this year, and while we will never really know, one reason might be that the nest is being more and more overshadowed by branches growing up and around it. Ospreys seem to prefer nesting as close as possible to the highest point in a tree and certainly the incubating or brooding female needs to be able to see all around to watch for approaching danger, especially when the male is away fishing. This is certainly no longer the case with our nest, although it probably was when the then pair of ospreys first built there about a decade ago. Samson is very bonded to this nest and probably doesn’t see it as an issue but new females would be unwilling to settle down in a nest where vision was so obscured. You may recall that JW6 was very reluctant to sit in the centre of the nest, even when encouraged to do so by Samson. So, during the next month or so, we will be doing some cutting back of the branches obscuring the view from the nest and we hope that it will solve Samson’s problem of not being able to retain the sustained interest of a female osprey. We will also do our normal tidying of the nest and clearing up of the rubbish brought in by Samson, including removing the brown plastic croc shoe that has graced the nest for most of the year! The tree branches shading the solar panels will also be trimmed back so that the battery can remain charged far more efficiently than was the case this year.
In summary of my blogs this season, it has been, without doubt, a very disappointing year as we had such hopes that 3AF would return and breed with Samson. However, in her numerous trips around last year, it seems she found other likely sites and, after staying for a couple of days with him, she disappeared and I can only hope that she did find another partner and may have even bred. I don’t think we’ve ever had so many intruding females and poor Samson’s head must have been spinning. I think he brought 3 fish in on one day and, on each occasion, there was a different demanding female on the nest! If the exposing of the nest doesn’t work, we’ll have to find him a book on attaining and retaining the perfect mate and see if that helps. I’m running out of ideas otherwise. I really am hopeful about next year, especially once we’ve carried out the tree work because much of what happened here this year can be explained if that was the problem. I hope JW6 comes back willing to settle down and breed. She is a feisty bird and excellent at defending the nest and, with a positive attitude to breeding, will make a great mate for Samson. However, she only gets a name if she does so! Until then she remains JW6.
It only remains for me to thank various people without whom I could not operate Border Ospreys. To the owner of Born in Scotland, John Henderson, for his support and to the staff there who have supplied endless cups of tea, brownies and humour as well as patiently enduring update briefs from me about the birds so that they can answer any questions asked by the public in the restaurant. To Brian Clark, my invaluable friend and fellow volunteer who travels from his home in Devon to assist with monitoring for the season, helping with talking to the public and answering questions and producing such wonderful photographs, despite his reluctance to accept praise for them. To Jain Jameson from Techstar for her computer wizardry and eternal good humour; Chris Mutter from Scott & Foggon for his electronics expertise and guidance; Kirsty Smith from Dragon Wood Forestry for her tree climbing and surgery skills; and, latterly, Michael Thomson from MT Tree Care, who was able to do some emergency repairs in the tree and who was still up the tree when Samson arrived a week earlier than previously, reacting rapidly and without question to to my panic calls to remove himself rapidly from the vicinity of the nest! To Tony Lightley, my guide and, for the last 4 years unused, ringer. Finally, to Joanna Dailey from Kielder Ospreys, a source of knowledge, regular correspondence, often of the “your bird is intruding on one of my nests” type, but mainly of unstinting support and encouragement.
I must not forget my thanks to you all for bearing with me during another barren season. It’s been an interesting ride this year and I wouldn’t have missed it for the world but I really think we need some chicks next year. So anyone with links to fairy godmothers, tooth fairies, Hogwarts, Gandalf or anyone else who might help, please put in a special request for 2022 to be a successful breeding year for the Border Ospreys. Until then, I wish you a happy and safe rest of this year and hope to see you in person at Born in Scotland or via here in your comments when next season comes around.