Just when we thought we had got through the worst of the fledging-related problems this year, it’s happened again.
I know that many of you were watching the webcam when 9F finally flew for the first time just before 2pm this afternoon. After a flight of several minutes she attempted to land on the t perch where 5R was eating a trout. Her attempt at landing, though, was a poor one and she knocked 5R off the perch. We can only assume that this made 5R think she was an intruding Osprey because what came next was inexplicable. 5R circled the bay, still carrying the fish and then aggressively dive-bombed 9F who had now successfully landed on the perch. He then retreated to the other t perch before delivering the fish to 8F who was food-begging on the nest. 5R then headed straight back at high speed towards 9F and knocked her clean off the perch; again suggesting that he had mistaken her for an intruder. Having knocked her off the perch, 5R continued to chase the young female, forcing her to land on the water’s edge a few hundred metres from the nest. Even once she was on the ground, he continued to dive at her, at one point forcing her into the water. Fortunately she managed to get back to land, but it was clear at that point that we had to intervene. John Wright and I went and collected her from the shoreline.
Our initial plan was to dry her off and release her, but before we had a chance to do that we noticed a wound on her right wing – presumably caused by 5R’s attack. Several people watching in Waderscrape hide had seen him actually strike the youngster. The wound was a nasty one and so we took her to the Oakham Veterinary Hospital where vet Luke Knowles examined her. Fortunately Luke was able to stitch the wound up relatively easily with the loss of only one secondary feather. The first time he had ever treated an Osprey!
It was now 5:30pm and Luke saw no reason why we couldn’t try and release 9F straight away. He left the decision up to us, though, and we concluded that the best thing would be for us to let her go close to the nest. We headed to the south shore of Manton Bay where the wind would be in her favour. I launched her in to the air and, as we hoped, she flew away from us, towards the nest. Suddenly, though, she changed direction and headed off south-west towards Manton village. To make matters worse she was chased first by a Buzzard, and then again by 5R. We lost her behind the trees, fearing the worst.
Fortunately, though, after a search of the sheep fields close to the village, we found her perched on the ground. We slowly walked up to her and picked her up again. It was clear that releasing her for a second time was not an option and so instead we decided to keep her overnight – just as we had 1F earlier in the week – and then release her in the morning. This time, we will only do so when 5R is away from the nest. We’ll report with more news tomorrow – and hopefully at some point you will be able to see her on the webcam, back on the safety of the nest.
This once again highlights the real dangers young Ospreys face when they fly for the first time. I would like to thank volunteers Sue Walton and Doreen Thompson for their vigilance when 9F crash-landed at the water’s edge and also to Luke Knowles for treating 9F at such short notice. Without the intervention of Sue, Doreen and Luke there is no way 9F would have survived. Once at the water’s edge there is no way she would have had the strength to get back to the nest on her own – and she would have been at risk of being predated by a fox.