Having been on the wing for more than two weeks, this year’s chicks – or to be more accurate, juveniles – are now getting more and more adventurous. It is great to see them growing in confidence. On Thursday morning this week myself, Michelle and the group we were leading on an early morning guided walk, enjoyed fantastic views of 22(11) repeatedly splashing into the water in Manton Bay – not really full-blown fishing attempts, more playful practising. Whatever the case, it was great to watch. The fact that the Manton Bay nest is surrounded by water is certainly an advantage for the juveniles – the youngsters at the other nests all have to fly some distance to get to the nearest water. There is no doubt that the Manton Bay nest is a des-res for the local Ospreys!
Talking of flying some distance from the nest, we had a worrying 24 hours on Thursday and into Friday. By the middle of the week, 33(11) was starting to venture away from the Site B nest for the first time. Like all young Ospreys this is an important time for 33 – these exploratory flights will be helping him to learn about his home-range – all valuable information for when, we hope, he returns in two years’ time. Despite the fact that he has only been on the wing for a couple of weeks he is already remarkably skilful in the air – often tussling with the young buzzards which have recently fledged from a neighbouring nest. After one such tussle on Thursday morning 33 and one of the buzzards began circling together over the nest. With apparently no effort they quickly gained height and drifted off to the north. And that was the last we saw of the young male.
By 8pm 33 still hadn’t returned and I drove to Site B to join up with volunteer Mick Lewin who was on duty at the nest. We were worried. Yes, 33 was a strong flier, but it was very unusual for him to be away this long. At this stage juvenile Ospreys are still very much dependent on their father for food and usually return to the nest as soon as hunger gets the better of them. So where was 33? 03 returned to the nest with a trout at about 9pm, but still there was no sign of the young male. By dark we were really worried. We have lost young birds at Site B at about this time in the season before and it looked like it had happened again.
Next morning I joined Dennis and Sally on the 6-8am shift and still there was no sign of 33. At 8 o’clock the female arrived back at the nest with a large trout – the first fish we have seen her bring back to the nest this year – but 33 remained AWOL. Rather than eating the fish at the nest, she flew north with it. It appeared that she was looking for 33. I followed in the vehicle, scouring the farmland to the north of Site B for any signs. But there was nothing.
Sadly it seemed that we probably wouldn’t see 33 again. I asked Clive who had taken over from Dennis and Sally to ring me if the young male turned up, but I wasn’t holding out much hope.
By lunchtime he still wasn’t back, but at 1 o’clock my phone rang. It was Sue at Site B. “A juvenile has just landed back on the nest!”. Amazingly, after 26 hours away, 33 was back. What a relief! He was clearly very hungry and food-begged incessantly until 03 delivered a fish to the nest. 33 snatched it from him and took it to a nearby oak tree to eat it. He remained there until dark – wherever he had been he was evidently very tired!
We will never know exactly where 33 went, but to be absent for more than a day suggests that it was more than just a short flight to the reservoir. He was obviously exploring much further a field. Whatever the case, it was great to see him back!