SAMSON IS BACK…NOW WHERE’S FREYA?

Wow! Who forgot to tell the weather powers that be that it was a public holiday this weekend? What a scorcher, unlike the wet, cold, miserable conditions that we normally suffer on such occasions.

Samson returned to us on 11th but spent the first few days rarely visiting the nest or the immediate area so we weren’t exactly sure what he was doing but assumed he was keeping an eye on things from a distance.Continue reading “SAMSON IS BACK…NOW WHERE’S FREYA?”

THE 2019 ROLLER COASTER RIDE IS READY TO DEPART

Welcome to the 2019 osprey season. This is just a very short note to remind you that we are expecting our birds back at any time and, if you are in the area, to keep your eyes to the sky. For the previous 3 years, Samson has returned on 2nd, 9th and 7th April so it’s likely that he’s well on his way. We have no idea when Freya might return.Continue reading “THE 2019 ROLLER COASTER RIDE IS READY TO DEPART”

GETTING READY TO GO?

This will probably be my last blog of the year as I expect both Samson and Freya to depart shortly. They continue to frustrate attempts to work out any sort of routine for their movements and they appear and disappear from the nest area with gay abandon and no thought at all for us watchers.

Freya has continued her day trips to Kielder (it is spookily always on a Thursday that she is seen on camera there) and the links to the Kielder blogs are here:

https://kielderospreys.wordpress.com/2018/08/03/day-trippers

https://kielderospreys.wordpress.com/2018/08/16/a-couple-of-visitors-for-nest-1a-and-news-of-the-adult-females/

Nest 1a, where she went on her first and also on her most recent trip that resulted in her being spotted, is to the north of the area, so perhaps not surprising. But the second occasion where she was seen intruding was at Nest 2, much further away from the other nests and home! In each case, she returned here the same day and her behaviour is still indicative of her classing “our” nest as her home and territory.

Both birds continue to add nest material on a regular basis; the frustration nest did not survive the weather and attempts to rebuild have been abandoned. She often still demands (and he provides) fish although I’m sure she’s also fishing for herself as she builds up her strength for migration. They have also continued to chase any intruders, be they other ospreys, buzzards or even crows, away. I saw her on 18 August dive bombing a buzzard who was down, minding his own business, worming in the newly cut field and she forced him into the air and away. All these various behaviours and their continued occupation of the nest area are very good indicators that their bond to each other and the territory remains strong. I am very optimistic that, should they both survive migration and winter, they will come back here next year. Let’s hope we will see some eggs and chicks in 2019.

Before I close, I thought you might be interested in what has been happening around the other nests in the Borders. My thanks to the Tweed Valley Osprey Project (TVOP) for my use of their published statistics. The TVOP area encompasses the area around the Tweed and its tributaries (and so we are within their study area) and they have reported their worst year since 2007, with only 10 chicks fledged from the whole of the area. 15 nest sites were checked, of which only 11 had one or more adults, and only 5 nests produced chicks. Two nests were lost during Storm Desmond and their chicks perished. On a positive note, on several nests where one of the pair did not return or, in our case, returned and then was lost, the surviving bird has already found a new partner, so its hopeful that they too will breed in 2019. An interesting example is that a nesting platform was erected next to a tree in a dangerous condition that had an osprey nest in it. The nest was moved to the platform before the season started. Unfortunately, the male was the only one to return but he also has recently paired up with a new female and seemed to be content with using the new nest, so fingers crossed for this nest too.

So, the end of a totally unexpected and atypical season at Border Ospreys approaches. I’m sure many of you, like me, mourn the passing of Delilah. She was a magnificent bird, a highly successful parent and a powerful matriarch. I miss her immense presence in the area, whether she was guarding her precious nest, standing on the dead tree surveying her territory or patrolling the sky on outstretched wings. Her genes have been passed on to many chicks, hopefully several of whom have survived, and she has more than played her part in the continuing restoration of these superb birds to the UK.

The mighty Delilah

The 2017 family with Delilah and Samson top right

Now we turn our attention to the anticipation of a new generation. I believe Samson to be quite a young bird, in osprey terms, although we have no means of knowing that for sure and, with the arrival of a young, increasingly feisty mate in the shape of Freya, I am hopeful that, with luck, future years will bring many more successful broods of osprey chicks here. So, although this time of year is always tinged with sadness as the birds depart and concern about the huge journey ahead of them and the perils they will face at their winter homes, we can also look forward with eager anticipation to next Spring. Come next April, let us hope we can view Samson skydancing proudly above his nest while Freya sits below, preparing for her first brood. I’m excited at the prospect and will be there to watch it all. I hope you’ll join me.

Freya. Our hope for the future?

My thanks for your company this year, whether by the nest screen, out in the field or via these pages. My deepest thanks also to those without whom this project could not succeed. John, the owner of Born in the Borders; the staff in the restaurant who often end up fielding questions about the ospreys in my absence; Tony and Malcolm, my osprey and nest gurus and invaluable Raptor Study Group consultants; Jain, my long suffering computer and wiggly amps expert; Mark, our very willing volunteer tree climber and nest restorer (the latter being a complete surprise to him but he did a grand job); and Steve, who converts my blog into computer speak.

See you all for another trip on the Borders Osprey roller coaster in 2019!

 

Rosie Shields

OSPREY WANDERINGS

This is just a quick update to say that Samson and Freya are still with us but are often spending much of the day out of immediate sight so there’s little to report……except that Freya went visiting the neighbours on 5 Jul and intruded on an osprey nest full of chicks at Kielder, much to the annoyance of the resident female. For the full story, read the link below.

https://kielderospreys.wordpress.com/2018/07/07/an-interesting-visitor-on-nest-1a-and-other-nest-1a-news/

She returned home later on and was probably just exploring slightly further afield than normal. She might have even hoped to snatch an unguarded bit of fish, but no such luck! The low level of water in the Teviot and other sites they use must make fishing more difficult, so some wandering is not surprising but it at least answers the questions as to whether or not she knows her way back to her own nest area.

There’s a definite lull at present but I still expect the pair to stay for a few more weeks yet. I cannot guarantee a good time to see them as they have no routine that I can recognise. It feels more like cat and mouse than birdwatching but it’s worth the frustration of their absence when they do deign to show themselves. They are very comfortable with each other and always seem to come back to the nest area overnight which augurs well for next year. Let us hope that we can enjoy seeing them for a little while longer before they set off on their migration.

 

Rosie Shields

15 July 2018

HAPPY RINGING ANNIVERSARY

(My apologies for the quality of the photos which were taken in extremely challenging conditions of intense sunlight, often straight towards the cameras, and heat haze. My thanks to Brian Clark for the first photo of Freya and the two of Samson bringing back nesting material, and to Kate Sumner Wilson for the two of the fish delivery and subsequent carry out).

 Our new female was ringed two years ago today, as a chick probably about 6 weeks old, a couple of weeks before she fledged. What a journey she could tell us she’d been on since then!

There’s not much new in the way of activity to report from Border Ospreys. Our birds are continuing to enjoy each other’s company and our new female is bonding closely with both Samson and the nest area. She’s now been with us for 2 months so we took the step to ask our customers, the readers of this blog and the staff to come up with suggestions for a name for her. We had some “interesting” ideas but she was never going to suit Osprey MacOsprey Face (thank you to whoever it was who suggested that one!) and we eventually settled on Freya. Freya was the Norse goddess of love, beauty and fertility, among other things (she was clearly a busy goddess), and we thought it a very appropriate name for our beautiful young female who hopefully will start a whole new dynasty of Border Ospreys next year; no pressure now, Freya!

Freya giving us the once over

I also promised to let you know about the ringed bird that intruded on the nest and dead tree. Unfortunately, I have yet to hear from the ringer so I can’t tell you anything more about its origins. The ringers are busy ringing and logging all the new chicks at the moment so it’s perhaps not surprising that I haven’t heard back but I’ll keep you informed.

Both Samson and Freya have been continuing to bring back nesting material to the nest but have also been making a few attempts to create another nest in the nearby dead tree. This is quite a common thing and is known as a so-called “frustration nest”, often built by birds that have no family to raise for whatever reason in a particular year. Sometimes it goes on to become the main nest if the previous nest had been damaged, for example, but often nothing more comes of it. I hope it’s the latter in this instance as the dead tree is not very strong and I would hate the idea of the pair starting to raise a family in a newly built nest and then the whole thing collapsing. The efforts to build this new structure are, to say the least, casual with only one or occasionally two sticks being brought in each day mainly by Samson. At this rate, it wouldn’t be finished by the end of next year, let alone the beginning of the breeding season, so I don’t think their hearts are in it.

Samson bringing in some material to the “frustration nest”

People visiting often ask me when the birds will leave as they have no chicks to look after, and the honest answer is that I don’t know. We have built up an idea of when the birds do certain things during the season when they are breeding; how long eggs take to hatch, how long before the chicks fly, how often does Samson bringing a fish etc etc. I’ve never seen Samson in this situation before and, of course, we are learning all the time with Freya. I imagine they will stay for a while yet. They will need to defend their territory from wandering ospreys and their migrating instincts probably won’t kick in just yet, so I guess that they will be around until next month. As you will remember from last year, Delilah left in mid Aug and Samson didn’t leave until the end of the month. It will be interesting to see what Samson and Freya do this year. All I can hope is that she makes sure that she puts the correct post code into her satnav so that she comes back here in Spring 2019. One thing we can be fairly confident that she will do is that, if she survives her migration south and the subsequent winter, she will come north again earlier than she did this year now she’s got a nest, a territory and a mate to which to return.

The pair are still exciting interest down by the river, spending hours just sitting(posing?), occasionally coming in with a stick (Freya is now very competent at dropping sticks onto the nest unlike I reported in my last blog) or some dead grass and sometimes just floating around the sky, seemingly with little plan as to why they are airborne. They are absent for part of each day either fishing or bathing but patience is often rewarded by them then returning to eat or dry out and preen. Lucky observers can watch when Samson brings back a fish when Freya is on the nest and can see him hand over the fish to her or, sometimes eat at least part of it himself which causes her to scream at him, angrily food begging at maximum volume!

Samson bringing in a nice bit of dinner with his usual dive to the nest and Freya flying off with what he left her.

I will write again when I have more news. Thank you for your invariably positive comments either by writing on this blog or chatting when I see you when you visit. It’s nice to know you’re out there!

 

Rosie Shields

1 July 2018

A STEEP LEARNING CURVE FOR EVERYONE

This year continues to throw up new surprises and new experiences and so I thought I’d better update you all on what is happening at Border Ospreys. Our new female is gaining familiarity with the area and spent a lot of the time during her first couple of weeks here flying around, fishing and fending off Samson’s frequent and clumsy amorous advances! Things are now beginning to settle down and, dare I say it, the pair are even starting to create a pattern of behavior. It is fascinating to see her learning and starting to behave as the mistress of a nest site and territory. It reminds me of a set of Christmas lights. When you first get them out of the box, the odd one or two work but, as you work on them, more and more light up. There’s a sense of that with NH0. Slowly but surely her instincts are starting to activate, often as a result of Samson’s coaxing. She’s staying much closer to home, usually waiting for him to provide a meal for her and returning to the nest to collect it from him (although her impatience/appetite sometimes gets the better of her and she goes off and fishes for herself). She has successfully seen off a couple of intruders and, most excitingly, she has started to bring nesting material in, a sure sign of the way her thoughts are turning. She still has a way to go. She was seen twice bringing in a long stick last week and then being unable to fathom out how to land on the nest with it clutched vertically in her talons. The problem was solved on both occasions by her catching the trailing end on the edge of the nest during a low pass and having the other end wrenched out of her grasp!

NH0 trying to work out how to land on the nest with a vital stick!

Samson has also settled down and is content to fish for her on demand, although he sometimes eats part of his catch in front of her before handing it over which means he is subjected to outraged food begging calls from her. He still is keen to attempt mating and, although this will continue throughout the season and hopefully help strengthen the bond for following years, it is most unlikely that there will be eggs or chicks this year.

On Thursday last week, we had some excitement when a male intruding osprey came into the area. He landed on the nest perch and seemed quite content to stay. Samson was a little slow initially to take action but then started dive-bombing him from the top of the nest tree and forced him to move to the dead tree where our female was sitting. Another circuit by Samson and then he dived in, talons extended, and knocked the intruder out of the tree. Eventually, after some aerial combat, the intruder headed away downstream with Samson in close escort and peace resumed. A family happened to be standing by me looking through my scope at our birds and witnessed the whole incident. I am grateful to my two young assistants, William and Noah, who kept a running commentary of which birds were where and, in particular, to William whose eagle eyes picked out the combatants returning from distance at one stage. I hope that both boys enjoyed their visit and will have exciting memories of the spectacle they witnessed. This bird was ringed and I have therefore asked for more information about him and I’ll let you know when I hear back.

Samson sees off the male intruder from the dead tree while NH0 looks on from lower down.

 

The male intruder’s leg ring. Who is he?

Two days later, an unringed female osprey intruded and NH0 displayed very aggressively to see her off, mantling (half extending her wings and flapping them to make herself look as big as possible) and screaming. As is usually the case, the resident bird of the same sex as the intruder takes the leading role in deterring the incomer. It was another encouraging sign that NH0 now sees the nest area as “hers” to be defended from other females, although she did need Samson’s assistance to ensure that the intruder left the area.

So, although there is little action to be seen on the camera, outside it is a very different picture and I would encourage visitors to take the time to walk alongside the river. You may well be treated to some exciting behavior and flying and I’m often there to interpret what’s going on.

In my next blog, I’ll let you know about the ringed male intruder. We’re also asking for suggestions from staff and customers alike for names for our beautiful young female osprey. You can contact us via email, comments under this blog or by dropping a note in our suggestions box at the restaurant. The closing date for suggestions is Sunday 17th June and we will announce our female’s new name in the next blog.

Rosie Shields

8th June 2018

BORDER OSPREYS ROLLER COASTER

Where to begin? What a few weeks it’s been since I wrote the first blog this year and that was traumatic enough. You will recall that Delilah had returned, albeit two weeks later, and we hoped that the ospreys season’s timing would just have shifted later by the same period. We were very wrong and there has been good news and bad news since.Continue reading “BORDER OSPREYS ROLLER COASTER”

SAMSON AND (EVENTUALLY) DELILAH’S RETURN

This is my first blog of 2018 and has been delayed waiting the arrival of both of our ospreys. Samson arrived on 7 April, 2 days earlier than last year and we waited and waited for Delilah and, after 2 weeks beyond her arrival date in 2017, we were starting to have considerable doubts as to whether she had survived.Continue reading “SAMSON AND (EVENTUALLY) DELILAH’S RETURN”