BREAKING NEWS – having just written the report below, 3F has just turned up on the nest. On my way to see him now. Will update with more news later. In the meatime, here’s what I had just posted…
Fledging is always a hazardous time for young Ospreys and this year more so than ever. Like the rest of the country Rutland has suffered at the hands of the jet stream – with what seems like day after day of wet and windy weather. Its certainly not the sort of conditions you need if you are a young Osprey taking flight for the first time.
Of all the bad weather we have experienced recently, yesterday was about as bad as it has got. The day started off promisingly enough – admittedly it was overcast, but it was dry and there was a gentle breeze. Perfect conditions for a juvenile Osprey to fledge. Sure enough, at 6:34am, 8F made his maiden flight in Manton Bay. At Site B all three juveniles were already on the wing – and growing increasingly confident. The volunteers on duty noted numerous acrobatic flights that suggested the main danger period was over.
Sadly though, the weather then intervened. At midday it started raining; and it didn’t stop until after dark. As the day progressed the chicks at all of our nests got wetter and wetter. At 3:30pm I got a call from volunteer Mick Ward who was on the way to Site B for his 4 o’clock shift. As he was walking to the monitoring hide he had stumbled across 1F sprawled out on the ground in front of him. The young male – who had been flying for more than a week – was completely water-logged and unable to take off. Fortunately, when John Wright and I arrived, we found that he wasn’t injured, just very wet. We decided that given how sodden he was, the best course of action would be to keep him overnight to allow him to dry off. Releasing him straight away may have resulted in him crash landing again – and that’s assuming he would have been able to fly, which we doubted.
2F and 3F, meanwhile, were flying backwards and forwards to the nest. At 6:20, their mother left the nest and dropped down to the nearby t perch. As she did, 3F sneaked off the nest and out of sight. This is not uncomon – the youngsters often perch out of view for an hour or more. We assumed that this was what 3F was doing, but when the young male – who only fledged on Saturday – hadn’t returned by dark, we were extremely worried. If the strongest flier of the brood, 1F, had been grounded by the bad weather, then something similar could easily have happened to his more inexperienced sibling.
More worryingly 3F was still missing this morning. There was some good news, though. 1F ,who had spent the night drying off in the Lyndon Visitor Centre ,was now looking bright and alert and so we released him just before 7am. I launched him into the air and he flew back to the nest as if nothing had happened. An hour or so later 03(97) delivered a fish to the nest and the young male had a good feed. His first for more than 24 hours (he hadn’t touched the food we had left in the cage overnight).
Sadly, though, there was still no sign of 3F. Despite an extensive search of the thick vegetation surrounding the nest and neighbouring perches, we couldn’t find him. The adults didn’t seem to know where he was either; neither bird was giving any indication that they knew where the young male had gone down.
Since then we’ve been hoping 3F would re-appear, but sadly it hasn’t happened. The fact that all three youngsters have been grounded by the poor weather in the last week (John and Michelle had to rescue 2F last week) is totally unprecedented and demonstrates how difficult the rain and wind have made the birds’ first few days on the wing. It is fortunate that we have been able to save two of them. If we hadn’t been monitoring the nest all three chicks would have been lost. This goes to show what a hazardous period this is for the young Ospreys – and the vital work our extremely dedicated team of volunteers undertake.
The weather has been vastly improved today and both 1F and 2F have been flying well. Let’s hope that no further rescues are needed at Site B, or any of the nests, for the rest of this year.