Manton Bay

Days of the dinosaurs

What a fabulous bank holiday weekend! It’s been so busy at the Lyndon Centre, particularly in the lovely sunshine of yesterday, and this afternoon when it eventually came out. Yesterday evening was the first osprey cruise of the season, and it was a great trip, albeit a bit windy out there on the water! We had a lovely view of two ospreys displaying to each other in the north arm.

11 on celebrity cruise (Phillip Ward (2)

Photo by Philip Ward

 

The chicks in Manton Bay are enormous compared to the tiny things that popped out of their eggs just two weeks ago! The growth rate of ospreys always amazes me – over the next week they will start getting their pin feathers, another two after that and they will be ringed, then two weeks later they will be ready to fledge!

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At this stage the chicks take on a sort of reptilian look, and comments have often been made that they like dinosaurs. This is closer to the truth than we might think, as birds are incredibly closely related to the dinosaurs.

It was the discovery of the primitive bird Archaeopteryx in Germany in the nineteenth century that first led to the belief in a close relationship between birds and dinosaurs. They share many features, including hollow bones, gastroliths (also known as gizzard stones) in the digestive system, and several behaviours such as nest building and brooding young. Fossils of dinosaurs have also been found with preserved feathers. It has been discovered that birds and the T-Rex are more closely related to each other than either are to alligators – reptiles who evolved in the cretaceous period.

Of course, by next week these young ospreys will be looking a lot more like birds!

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Cloudy skies

It’s been a much colder, breezier day today, and the wind has been creating waves on the surface of the reservoir. The chicks were fed early this morning, and when we arrived at the centre they were all huddled up underneath Maya, keeping warm. Maya appeared very content, and looked as though she was falling asleep too.

Relaxed Maya

She left the chicks on their own for about 30 seconds while she stretched her wings, then returned to brood them again.

Chicks changing

33 had been having a bit of trouble catching a fish in the choppy waters, but eventually he brought in another fish for his family. The fish was a pike, caught in the bay, and it was entire – 33 had not eaten any of it yet. When the birds are incubating, the male generally eats the head of each fish he catches, and brings the rest to the female. When there are chicks, he usually brings the whole fish straight to the nest, sometimes coming back for the remains later. If there is plentiful fish and there is still some left on the nest, 33 might catch another one and eat some while Maya finishes the earlier one.

Here are the chicks happily scoffing the pike.

Feeding

 

 

 

Fight it out

As osprey chicks grow and develop so quickly, they change very fast and we can see a difference in them almost every day. They all look bigger today, and it’s not just the largest one losing its brown down and turning a darker colour, they all are! Here is a close up shot of one of the chicks today.

Close up

All three chicks are becoming a lot more mobile, and are even attempting to stand up on their large feet. They are shuffling around the nest and getting a bit more adventurous, using their wings to help them move. Despite their new-found curiosity, they are still spending most of their time in the middle of the nest, sleeping in a bunch in the comfort of the nest cup. They usually look peaceful and content together, but this morning one of the larger chicks seemed to have some anger issues, and began savagely biting at anything it could, the nest material, the fish, and its sibling!

The smaller chick either didn’t care it was being attacked or pretended not to, for it didn’t get up or move – perhaps it didn’t even wake up! The large chick was clearly feeling the need to vent its frustration, as it then began to attach the other chick! This chick was wide awake and fought back admirably, and it looked like an even fight, until the attacker eventually won out over the attackee, who lay down in defeat.

This sort of behaviour is common in chicks, particularly when food is involved, and it helps them to develop a hierarchy. It will only end badly if there is not enough food to keep all three chicks sated. That will never be a problem here, because even if the weather makes it difficult for 33 to fish in the reservoir, he can always pop to the River Gwash Trout Farm!

The fight between the two larger chicks did appear to be food related, as they usually are, as Maya was holding onto half a roach at the time. She was patiently waiting for the chicks to look at her so that she could feed them, which she did when they had calmed down!

Sleeping

The adult birds are still very nest proud, and continue to bring sticks in to the nest and painstakingly arrange them. Today, 33 brought in a very long stick, which caused them a bit of trouble to move about, and it ended up on top of the chicks a couple of times! No harm came to the chicks, and the stick was eventually moved to a suitable location.

Stick (1)

 

 

 

A spike in pike

It’s been another lovely day full of sunshine and fish, well, pike to be precise! The little ospreys are looking very healthy, and they have been relaxing together on the nest in the shade of Maya’s shadow, when they weren’t eating, of course. Maya always makes sure all the chicks are full before she stops feeding them, and often tries to continue feeding them when they’ve had enough! This morning, at about 10:30, 33 brought in a lovely fresh pike, which Maya immediately took from him and fed to the chicks.

Feeding

33 watching Maya feed the chicks

Fish

Little chick getting its fill of pike

 

In the second video above, you can see that the smaller chick is at the front, getting most of the fish, and it is the largest chick that’s stuck at the back behind the others. This makes a change from the usual order of play, that the smallest chick is left until last. No matter which chick it is that gets left at the back, they will still get fed, as the ones in front will get full and stop eating, and Maya will feed the next one in line. It’s easy to tell that the one at the back is the oldest chick, as it’s noticeable that a black hue is beginning to come through the brown down on the back of its head. This change will occur gradually to all three of them over the next week, and the cute little fluffy brown chicks will turn darker and a bit gangly as their wings grow in length. Here’s a picture of what the chicks will look like soon:

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Two week old chick, 2015

 

Later in the afternoon, 33 delivered another pike to the nest, and it was quite a monster! He seemed keen to keep it, and Maya was still feeding the rest of the other pike to the chicks, so he flew off with it. Pike seems to be 33’s fish of choice today! There are a lot of them around at the moment, as they spawn at this time of year to coincide with the increase in water temperature, and they venture into shallow water to do so. Consequently there are plenty of pike in Manton Bay, and they are very easy to catch!

33 with the pike

33 with the pike

 

33 brought the fish back a little later, minus its head, and Maya took it from him this time. The smallest chick got stuck in again, and one of the others was still fast asleep!

Big pike

Maya feeding the big pike to the chicks

 

 

Don’t blame it on sunshine

Haven’t the chicks grown?! Raptor chicks develop incredibly fast. They are already becoming more active, shuffling round the nest on their bellies using their little wings to propel them! One chick in particular seems to have grown the most, and there is a smaller one of the three, but this always happens and the smaller chicks tend to catch up with the bigger ones fairly quickly. It’s no surprise, really, that these chicks are growing so quickly, when you consider that they are being fed pure protein, and lots of it! 33 is delivering masses of fish, and Maya is happily feeding their cute little faces with it! This morning, 33 brought in an enormous roach – the fish was so big there was still some left at half past three!

Huge roach

Chicks snuggling up to the big fish

Chicks snuggling up to the big fish

 

We don’t usually see much aggression between the osprey chicks in Manton Bay, there is so much food there’s always enough to go around, therefore there’s no need to squabble over it. However, today we saw a bit of aggression from the larger chick towards the other two. It had been fast asleep whilst Maya fed the others a bit more roach, and then it woke up it seemed to smell the fish on its siblings’ beaks, and realised it had missed out! It wasn’t very happy to say the least, and took out its anger on its brothers/sisters. A case of “how dare you eat fish without me!” Maya soon fed it, so all was OK in the end.

33 took the big fish away to eat a couple of times, always bringing it back to the chicks and Maya when he’d had enough. They do a very good job of sharing out the food! The chicks spent most of the day sleeping off each portion of roach they ate, usually on top of each other in a bunch, underneath Maya when it was chilly, and in her shadow when it got warm.

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It’s been a beautiful day, and the reserve is slowly and subtly changing with each coming week. The meadows are filling up with buttercups, and will soon be resplendent in yellow!

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One of my favourite things at Lyndon is the wild garlic (ramsons) that lines the path from the door of the centre to the main track. The smell that greets you as you open the door is wonderful!

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Pete Murray, education officer and photographer, is running a series of photographic walks at Lyndon in the coming months, to take advantage of the reserve’s beauty and the opportunities this time of year offers in terms of taking pictures. The dates of these walks are 28th May, 18th June and 16th July. Click here for more details and to book!

Our first osprey cruise of the season – 28th May – is now sold out, as is our next dawn cruise. The next available afternoon cruise is on 4th June, and there are only three spaces left on it – click here to book them!

All cruise dates can be viewed by clicking here.

Before we set off for a 2014 Dawn Cruise, by passenger Valerie Webber

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