Blogs

Finally Fledged

Yesterday I received a call from Paul Stammers our Information Officer, he had just spent the morning in the hide watching the two juveniles helicoptering on the nest, finally at 08:50 3AU the male, lifted high off the nest and circled before landing on the camera perch. 3AU spent the subsequent day hopping on and off the nest, learning how to swoop and soar, or more importantly how to land. He seemed to be almost taunting his sister with his amazing flying abilities. Unusually, he even spent the entire first night off the nest, leaving at 21:39 and arriving back in the morning at 04:25, it can only be presumed he spent the night on the camera perch with Maya and 33(11).

Before, he left for the night 3AU did give us a little present; he has covered our wide-angle camera by landing a very well-aimed defecation right on the camera lens.

It wasn’t until late this morning that the female chick 3AW finally made the leap, she had been helicoptering for most of the morning and just before 12:00 she managed to lift off the nest! She made her way over to the T-perch and not very gracefully managed to land on the perch next to 33(11).

Even though both chicks are now flying, they are still relying on 33(11) and Maya to catch fish and feed them. While the chicks have been enjoying their new found freedom, both Maya and 33(11) have kept a close eye on them both. Hopefully the chicks are picking up skills and experiences that will help them to fish, fly and maybe even fledge chicks of their own one day.

The Warm Up

It’s been a lovely warm day on the Lyndon reserve today, the hazy sunshine was coupled with a light breeze, bringing the meadows to life with butterflies and damselflies.  The weather last night was also perfect osprey cruise weather, the water was the calmest I have seen it for weeks. This was ideal for the osprey and we had lots of great sightings, including ospreys fishing.

 

Down in Manton Bay the chicks look very close to fledging both have been stretching and flapping those beautiful long wings, getting them warmed up for flight.  It’s so exciting to think that this time next week they could be flying round the bay, causing all sorts of trouble!

 

3AU trying out his wings

3AU

The Next Step

We’ve had a very busy week on the osprey project, on Wednesday we were lucky enough to be invited to the launch of Tim Mackrill’s new charity, the Osprey Leadership Foundation. “The foundation will work with young people from different cultures and contrasting backgrounds to inspire them about the natural world and help them to develop into conservation leaders who can make an impact at an international level”. If you would like to find out more and support the charity please see their website here.


The ospreys themselves have are also very busy in Manton Bay; the chicks have been taking every opportunity to practices their flying skills, even doing some night flapping. We expect that they will be fledging in the next couple of weeks.

We are getting lots of osprey intrusions into the bay, Maya and 33(11) are doing a great job of seeing them off. The chicks don’t seem to mind at all and are becoming very independent with both of them happily feeding themselves, once the intruder has been chased away.

They are also still learning about the world around them, with both chicks showing great interest in a lump of grass that Maya brought in.

20th June

Last Saturday we had our first late osprey cruise, we left Whitwell Harbour at 07:30 pm, two hours later than any of our other cruises so far this year. Lucky we were rewarded for venturing out at this later time, spotting multiple ospreys and were even lucky enough to see one osprey catch a fish. We were in the basin of the reservoir at the time, the osprey was spotted and the boat turned so we could head towards the spot it was fishing. We saw the characteristic shape and behaviour this bird was definitely fishing, the osprey had a few false dives before finally right in front of the dam it dived into the water, with great difficulty the bird hauled itself from the water with a large fish clutched in it’s talons.

The Manton Bay chicks have been getting accustomed to their new accessories over the last few days. It looks like the nest might be getting a bit cosy especially with the chicks starting to train up those wing muscles. They are jumping up and down on the nest flapping their wings as hard as they can manage, maybe not quite helicoptering yet, but it won’t be long!

Both chicks are also starting to become more independent and on many occasions feeding themselves, however, it doesn’t always go to plan, which is why it is good that Maya is still on hand whenever she is needed.

Work experience with the osprey team – a blog by Lizzie Waring

Arriving at the visitor centre, I was greeted by glorious vegetation framing a view out over the water, and the brilliant news that the two osprey chicks, 3AW and 3AU, had been successfully ringed. The atmosphere of the team at the centre that morning gave me my first impression of just how special these birds are.  Everyone was abuzz with the good news, with beautiful pictures of the ringing happily being shared throughout the office. As can be seen from the pictures on the previous blog post, seeing such incredible birds in detail, bathed in morning light, instills a reverence and admiration that is often lost through webcam images; it was a real treat to share in the joy.

View from the Swan hide, visited during my lunch break. This part of the reserve is often overlooked by visitors, who head in the opposite direction to see the ospreys. (Own source)

I was set to work inputting into excel the data recorded by volunteers monitoring the nest, giving me my first insight into the care and attention paid to the birds. Recordings included the activities of Maya and 33, intruders to the nest, and even species of fish brought in. The patchwork of note styles by the wealth of volunteers (4 hour shifts in pairs) was fun to decipher. The enthusiasm and dedication was evident, with new sticks added to the nest being marked with a jubilant “Stick!” in the notes margin. Analysing the intruders and the reactions of the parents, I could begin to get an idea of the behaviours and habits of the birds. For instance, intruding ospreys often merited a chasing off, whereas buzzards were more likely to be left to move on, with some mantling over the chicks as a safety measure.

After a lunch sat deep in wildflowers and bugs, and a small walk to a nearby hide, I met with a pair of volunteers who were to take me to see the ospreys in person. With my only experience watching ospreys being a dark blob flapping off into the distance, to say I was excited was an understatement.

Walking off across the reserve, it was as if I was stepping into a dream. Wildflower meadows and lush, billowing trees, alive with moths and butterflies, damselflies and spiders; it was a wildlife lover’s haven. With clouds scudding across a pale blue sky, we discussed the history of the project and the work that goes on to maintain and enhance the reserve’s osprey population. Remarkably, when numbers were lower, nests were monitored 24/7 by volunteers, with military grade night vision goggles used to watch for egg collectors and poachers in the night. It astonished me, the complete dedication of volunteers to these birds, willing to spend hours in a wooden hide in the dead of night, trading sleep shifts in bunks in a nearby shed, all to ensure these incredible birds and their chicks were safe.

The long list of firsts on this short walk illustrates brilliantly the quality of the habitats and their management, and shows what a concentrated area of wildlife the reserve is. Spots included my first common whitethroat, chimney sweep moth, common spotted orchids, and further along in the hide, my first water rail. Top of the list though was my first real view of an osprey, a male displaying high up in the sky, ending with a dramatic dive back behind the trees to the water. We hypothesised it was our male, 33, who left the nest on the webcam around this time, strengthening his bond with Maya after the eventful morning ringing the chicks. It was breath-taking to see, and was a great first introduction to the sweeping beauty of these birds.

Some views through binoculars at the Waderscrape hide. Top, a grazing greylag goose. Bottom, common terns perching. The tern on the right would occasionally display to the perched female. (Own source)

Watching from the high tech and comfy Waderscrape hide (assembled by volunteers of course), with the volunteer on watch filling us in, we could see Maya and 33 keeping a stern watch over the nest. Later on, we saw 33 chasing off an intruding osprey. These ‘intruders’ seem to be doing not much more than flying in the general vicinity of the nest, yet still these devoted parents wouldn’t stand for it, determined to expel even the possibility of a threat to their chicks.

Overall, my time here has been excellently spent. As I’ve found, staff and volunteers at the reserve are endlessly friendly and patient, with a wealth of knowledge to impart. To have had the opportunity to learn about their work, and to work so closely with the wildlife on the reserve, has been a fantastic opportunity. I highly recommend anyone thinking of gaining experience in this field to see what they can get involved in, as the opportunities here are wonderful.