Coincidentally, exactly 6 years after the first chicks were ringed following the rebuild of the nest and the installation of the osprey nest camera, we were back again to ring the 2022 class. Both chicks have grown exponentially since they hatched and were starting to wing flap and exercise their flight muscles ready for the big day of fledging.
Tragically, it was not to be for one of the chicks. Since it was last seen clearly on the nest camera, it sustained a serious injury to its eye, probably as a result of an accidental piercing by either its sibling’s or a parent’s talon. An osprey cannot survive with only one eye as both eyes are needed to judge perspective during the dive and the loss of that would have meant a slow death by starvation. I rushed the chick to the vet in a vain hope that the damage might have been limited and the eye saved, but the vet confirmed that the eye was lost and the heartbreaking decision was taken to put the chick to sleep.
Samson was away from the nest when ringing took place but Juno stayed close throughout, circling and warning her chicks to “play dead” in the nest. Both chicks were lowered to the ground, and it was confirmed that the one bird needed the attentions of a vet. The surviving chick was weighed and measured as normal, was found to be 1400g and therefore, in all likelihood, male, and was ringed as Blue 688. Many of you will know I have a Ukrainian family staying with me. The ringer kindly invited them to watch the ringing and so Blue 688 will be known as Sasha, a common name in Ukraine.
The remaining chick was returned to the nest, just in time for Samson to return with a fish to add to the one already lying there. As I left, I could see Juno feeding Sasha enthusiastically, seemingly unaffected by the events of the day and the fact that there was only one chick in the nest. It was good to see that she had returned quickly once we left the immediate vicinity and taken up her maternal duties again, and also that Sasha was ready to feed straight after his ringing adventure.
The demise of the chick had a very sobering effect on what is normally an exciting day but we can be glad that the injury was found and dealt with so quickly, minimising any distress and pain. Any loss is difficult to bear but it was so close to feeling the wind under its wings, that it seems particularly poignant. Nevertheless, we still have one chick that will, in about 10 days’ time, hopefully launch himself off into the next stage of his rapidly changing life by fledging and starting to explore the area he has been studying since he could peer over the edge of the nest. I’ll let you know how he gets on.