It’s seven weeks (including a holiday) since I last wrote in this diary about what I refer to as an ‘Osprey Moment’, and as the season seems to be disappearing all too quickly, I have been racking my brain about how to remedy this ‘writer’s block’.
This morning as I walked to Site B I decided to just write about everything that happened between 8am and noon – I’m tempted to say here, exciting or otherwise, but that would be so wrong because for me every shift is exciting, just some more so than others. I parked the car and started walking – I had forgotten my stick that we are all advised to carry to scare off any horses or cattle who get a little too close. Personally, I’m fine with horses, but bullocks I find a little more intimidating – 34 of them this morning but no time to go back for the stick – they kept a polite distance thank goodness.
07.45 I reached the gate into the field where the hide is and paused. I always love this moment; where are the Ospreys? To my surprise 03(97) was sitting on the small oak, a favourite perch of his but one that I have not seen him frequent this season. And so the perfect picture greeted me; 03(97) clean-breasted and standing proud in the sunshine and some serious wing-flapping and jumping going on in the nest from 33(11) with the female watching. One thing that I had forgotten in the four weeks since my last visit to Site B and that was that the grass would have grown considerably and with last night’s welcome rain I realised that I should also have remembered my waterproofs. I approached the hide to take over from Chris who informed me that when she had arrived at 6am they already had a fish and that 33(11) was feeding himself and then the female took over. We chatted about our respective holidays and then, as ever, noticed that 03(97) had flown off.
08.10 Ten minutes later he was back with a very large stick and as he flew past I remarked to Chris that he looked like a witch on a broomstick, which prompted us to remember that at one of the end of season parties when the team always make a comedy video of the Ospreys’ antics throughout the season, there had been a similar clip of an Osprey on a ‘broomstick’. These videos really are very funny – we’ve had Osprey Eastenders, Osprey Neighbours, etc. They are very cleverly produced.
08.15 Chris then departed and I started to make some notes. I glanced up – uh, oh, the female was no longer on the nest. I stepped outside the hide to look around only to see four Ospreys in the air over the nest and Chris hurrying back to the hide. We both assumed that the two intruders were probably 5N and 09(98) and she tried to get the scope on them in the hope of seeing if one had a satellite tag (09) but they were flying around too fast. One of them was ‘chipping’ loudly, a sound I have not heard all season. They were circling and tumbling, feet dangling and they eventually disappeared, two chasing two. This had begun at 8.20 and as the female returned at 8.37, Chris departed once again.
08.53 With the female on the nest and 33(11) keeping a low profile in the nest, an Osprey flew over the nest ‘chipping’ loudly. He flew almost directly over the hide and at first I assumed that it was 03, however, this was not the case as 03 appeared from the same direction and chased off this intruder and then returned to the nest.
09.05 The female flew up from the nest and flew to the west of the wood to collect a twig, on her way, flying over the nest, climbing and then as if motionless against the wind. She returned to the nest and 33(11) immediately was more alert, even more so when a pigeon flew over the nest, his eyes widening.
09.10 Exactly on cue, as I looked down to make a few notes, 03 disappeared – I can’t begin to remember how many times 03 has done this to me – 08(97) was pretty good at it too!
09.32 The weather was extremely changeable today; the wind began to whip up and whilst there were heavy black clouds over the nest and it was raining, the sun was out and it was fine over the hide, no rainbow though.
09.42 03 returned after 32 minutes with a mini ‘branch’. He landed on the nest with it much to the chagrin of the female and whilst he tried to position it, she busied herself with a smaller twig and 33(11) kept dodging the ‘branch’ – I always find these antics absolutely hilarious to watch. What would she be saying to him – ‘I don’t know what you’ve brought that home for, it just doesn’t fit!’
09.55 Once again the female flew up and this time put on a show, soaring and tumbling through 360 degrees. I’m sure she does this to exhibit the art of flying to the juvenile and also to gain back her own strength in flying, after such a prolonged period of inactivity.
10.00 She was still soaring high and disappeared out of sight. At this stage of the season, one’s thoughts turn to the day when once again they will all disappear South and all that we will be left with is Ken’s honey buzzard/black and white minstrel for company, which incidentally was rather more friendly looking today than when I glimpsed it through the night sight on a nightshift.
10.30 03 on watch and no sign of 33(11).
10.40 03 dropped on to the lower nest perch and still the female was absent.
10.50 03 flew over the hide but returned instantly – was he searching for her?
10.53 The female breezed in with a tiny leafy twig, perhaps she was trying to tell him something. 33(11) was alert at once and 03 dropped to the lower perch. The female had been away 53 minutes; regaining her independence and giving the chick a taste of what is in store for him, to be alone and self-reliant.
11.10 03 was preening, the female was on the nest, one wing was idly stretched by 33(11).
11.15 I looked down to write and looked up and he’d done it again – 03 had disappeared.
11.22 03 returned with a stick. To the left of the nest, but some distance away, I watched a buzzard playing in the wind and decided that he looked a bit wobbly and must be a juvenile. 03 was on the lower nest perch, the female on the nest and 33(11) deep in the nest.
11.55 The female flew up and suddenly she was attacking the buzzard, climbing and freefalling to almost grapple with it. Suddenly, the parents (I assume) of this young buzzard appeared on the scene and quite a battle ensued. And then, as I was intently watching this battle through my binoculars, two huge monsters appeared right in front of me and I nearly jumped out of my skin, (well only one really, Ann is not scary at all !) It was Ann and Andy arriving to take over. We watched as the female continued to battle with the three buzzards, 03 watching from the lower nest perch. Finally, as they flew nearer to the nest he decided to intervene and the buzzards retreated hastily.
12.00 03 returned to the nest perch, the female to the nest and finally 33(11) was wing flapping furiously.
After chatting with them, I left them to enjoy their shift. As I approached the gate where first I glimpsed 03 on the small oak earlier, I turned to take one last look until next time – the family of three were all still on the nest tree. I turned and right in front of me was an Osprey being mobbed by three crows – it disappeared and the crows flew off – I wonder who that was?
Only yesterday, I remarked on how few butterflies I had seen in the garden this year but today I saw hundreds over the field between the nest and the hide. There were swifts screaming around, a very loud pheasant, an adorable little rabbit who obligingly posed for the camera, a cheeky chaffinch on the roof of the hide listening to us chat and a honey buzzard morphing into a black and white minstrel.
A routine shift …..