The post-fledging period is a very dangerous time for young Ospreys and yesterday John Wright and I were very lucky to be in the right place at the right time. Following the first successful flight of 1F(12) on July 7th, his younger sister 2F(12) quickly followed and took to the air for the first time on July 9th. As we got close to the nest yesterday afternoon we saw the youngest chick sitting tight on the nest with Mum, 1F enjoying himself in the air and 2F sitting on the ‘T perch’ close to the nest tree. We still can’t quite believe what happened next. Within seconds of stopping the truck the oldest chick, 1F, attempted to land next to his younger sister on the T perch but she wasn’t quite prepared. Just as she spread her wings to take off, a huge gust of wind knocked her out of the air and forced her to the ground.
After visiting the nest two weeks ago to ring the chicks we knew the vegetation around the bottom of the T perch was around five foot tall so there’s no way that 2F would be able to get off the ground. Without even having to think about it, we drove round to where we thought she had landed as volunteers Mick Ward and Andy Strang watched the nest to make sure 3F(12), the youngest male, didn’t jump prematurely. We quickly started to scour the nettles trying to see any signs of the fallen eight week old chick. Not long after we started looking we saw a patch of nettles that had obviously been recently disturbed… and there she was!
Very few people have had the amazing privilege of seeing a recently fledged chick so close and all I can say is, what a difference two weeks makes! The chicks were ringed at six weeks old when they still had some growing to do but with an average wingspan of 160cm we know that fully-grown Ospreys are large birds. We saw 2F only two weeks ago but yesterday we were able to see the sheer size and strength of a fully grown Osprey and we were lost for words. Not only was she bigger and stronger, she was certainly a lot feistier than the chicks we had recently ringed. It was a struggle but eventually John managed to pick her up and walked her out the nettles. With no suitable perches to put her on safely John decided that all he could do was launch her in to the air. As soon as he let her go she started flying and circled in front of the nest before landing back on the T perch. Before we had time to think about what had happened we jumped in to the truck and drove back to the monitoring shed.
Since 2001, 03(97), has successfully raised 27 chicks. Unfortunately, two of those chicks were lost before they were able to leave Rutland Water. It worries me to say that if we hadn’t been there to watch 2F’s fall, she may have been the third chick to be lost before the time came for her to begin her journey south. This highlights the importance of monitoring the nests at this most dangerous time of a young Ospreys life. We are, as always, incredibly grateful to all of our volunteers who give up their valuable time to help us give the chicks the best start in life. I’m pleased to report that yesterday evening 2F returned to the nest and joined her siblings in having a good feed and today she has been flying as though nothing ever happened.