Monday, May 12th, 09.00 – 13.00
I was supposed to be at Site B today, but was called in to man the Waderscrape Hide instead.
It was a cool day with a slight breeze and patches of blue amongst the clouds. As I arrived at the hide an unidentified Osprey flew off towards Egleton and for almost half an hour there were no Ospreys to be seen in the bay. Just before 9.30 33(11) and Maya both flew in together from the south, landed on the nest and 33 then flew to the near perch. At 9.45 he flew west, past the Lyndon Centre. Only twenty minutes later I caught sight of him flying low over the water with an enormous large and lively roach which he took first to the fallen poplar, and then still struggling with it, to the fallen tree to the left of the nest and Maya began food begging. He was still on the fallen tree fifty minutes later, being constantly hassled by magpies, jackdaws and a very large raven and although he had been eating it for well over half an hour, it still looked enormous. He was so engrossed that he was oblivious to the large hare which ran behind him on the far shore. All around the hide there were goldfinches, tufted ducks, gadwalls, Egyptian geese, cormorants, swifts, crested grebes, reed buntings, sedge warblers, etc. At 11am 33 delivered a large piece of fish to Maya who took it to the near perch to eat. 33 was flying between perches and the nest. Almost an hour later Maya finished eating and surprisingly left the large tail of the fish on the perch. She flew low over the water, skimming her feet to wash them and then landed on the nest and they mated successfully. 33 flew to the near perch and seemed to look strangely at the piece of fish at the other end. They both settled on the fallen poplar, completely disinterested in the fish and obviously sated, but as soon as a crow flew towards the fish, they both flew very swiftly together to see it off, but then left the fish on the perch again and returned to the poplar. Whilst it is very sad that they have not bred this year and therefore there are no youngsters to see on the webcam, from Waderscrape and Shallow Water hides there is a lot of action to be seen between the pair, who seem extremely comfortable together. It bodes well for next year.
Monday, May 19th , Site B 12.00 – 16.00
It was a beautifully warm and sunny day but with a very keen breeze. I saw that all the horses and cattle were under the trees to the right as I started the walk to the hide, but as I approached, the bullocks began to stir, some walking in front of me across the track and once again I had to walk through the middle of them.
As I reached the final gate I could see a white head on the nest and 03 on the pruned ash. Once I’d arrived at the hide I could see through the telescope that the female was feeding the chicks. For three or four minutes she leaned down to two different places with small morsels of fish, confirming that there were at least two chicks.
12.38 03 and the female are watching a buzzard flying around behind the nest.
12.40 03 to nest and takes a smallish piece of fish to T perch. Female takes a short comfort flight and returns to the nest and tidies.
12.45 Having fed for 5 mins, 03 returns to the nest with the fish and feeds himself and the female and both parents feed the chicks.
12.59 03 flies to the top of the pruned ash.
13.20 Female flies around and returns to the nest with a small twig. 03 is on the top of the pruned ash, dozing in the strong breeze.
13.39 03 flies to the the far righthand trees and lands high in one of them.
13.43 He makes 3 or 4 attempts to grasp a twig at the far righthand end and then returns to the nest. The female is standing.
13.44 The female flies right and left of the nest, really enjoying playing in the wind which is very strong now. She does this for five minutes and returns to the nest.
13.52 03 flies swiftly SW.
At 14.05 03 returned to the nest, I didn’t see him arrive as I was watching a song thrush on a fence post at the edge of the rape field, but I was aware that he had landed on the nest. He immediately circled to the right of the nest and swooped down, out of sight between the nest tree and pruned ash. He flew up and once again circled and swooped down low to the same area. To my complete amazement he came up clutching a pike and took it to the T perch. I was really taken back as I had never seen an Osprey retrieve a dropped fish and when I mentioned it later to Kayleigh, she too had never seen such behaviour.
14.11 03 lands on the nest with the fish which certainly has a tail and stripes like a pike but the female doesn’t get up and he just stands there.
14.13 03 flies with the fish to the back of the far lefthand ash and it is really difficult to see him, but I can see the tail of the fish and it certainly looks like a pike.
14.31 03 takes the fish to the nest and they wait.
14.36 The female starts feeding the chicks.
14.40 03 flies to the top of the pruned ash to doze again.
14.51 Female stops feeding.
There is an almost constant presence of buzzards and red kites at Site B this year, far more so than other years. One buzzard flew from left to right behind the nest, it too enjoying playing in the wind. 03 eventually awoke and noticed it and kept a watchful eye. At 15.30 as I was watching this scene, a field mouse shot out from a hole in front of the hide, looked at me and shot back in again. In the very moment that it happened 03 disappeared from the pruned ash and I could not find him anywhere. I really hate finishing a shift with a question mark hanging in the air – it would not have been so bad had I seen him fly away, it’s the ‘not knowing’ that I dislike. At 15.50 03 returned and I walked back to the car in the knowledge that they were all safe and at home.
Wednesday, May 28th, Site B 08.00 – 12.00
The weather was once again atrocious, pouring with rain, quite cold with a very strong north easterly wind. The bullocks presented the normal problem but I coped. The sheep have moved to pastures new, as too have the mares and foals and there are now three different mares. A male pheasant and two hens conspired to frighten the life out of me by flying up in the air as I threaded my way through the long grass, but I had spotted them from afar so was not quite so startled. From a tiny gap in the windows of the hide, a hand appeared and waved. Janis had battened down the hatches and one window was open the width of the telescope. We had a good chat about Africa – Janis visited for the first time this year with the project team – and I wanted to hear how she had fared. She made me laugh when telling me that Chris Wood, a fellow volunteer who visited The Gambia in December 2013 and discovered 5F(12) on Tanji Marsh, had left a message in the sand for when the team arrived in January, it read “5F ?”. I told her about my last shift when 03 had retrieved the pike from the ground and she reminded me that Monty at the Cors Dyfi nest had done the same thing last year. We discussed the fact that 03 had possibly dropped it because it was a pike. So although not a first, it was certainly a rare occurrence. She told me that she hadn’t seen 03 for a while that morning, hardly surprising in the conditions, but at 08.15 just as she was about to leave, I spotted him coming in from the south, over the hide. I swiftly moved to the telescope but then good manners took over and I let Janis take a look first as she had been there for a couple of hours in the wet and cold. She couldn’t see him, so I stepped out of the hide and there he was, circling in front of the hide as if to say to us “Here I am, I’ve caught a fish!” It was a large roach which he took to the nest and although the female stood up, she didn’t feed at all. She moved a twig around, left the fish and covered the chicks. At about 08.30 03 came to the nest and started eating the fish and then took it to the T perch and and carried on eating.
The female looked so wet and bedraggled and I felt so sorry for her, as the forecast was for the wet weather to continue until lunchtime the next day.
9.15 03 has just finished eating and is hanging on to the fish but is having a bit of a doze on the T perch. The female is resting too, she looks so bedraggled and I keep having to dry the lenses – the wind is quite ferocious at times and it’s just constant fine rain blowing in waves in front of me.
09.30 03 still on the T perch with the fish and dozing. The female has half lifted and amazingly enough, a little white squirt came from one of the chicks. Incredible how they know to do that at such an early stage.
09.40 03 starts eating again. I don’t know whether the chicks are a little bit restless, having been covered up for so long because of this relentless rain that went on all through the night as well, but I think they are wriggling around and I think she’s having to wriggle with them to keep them covered. She is constantly shaking the water off her head, she must be absolutely soaked, but she’s doing a good job.
10.05 It’s torrential rain now with strong gusts of wind. 03 is still on the T perch with his fish and the female, is still on the nest, wriggling and very, very wet.
The weather is actually getting worse by the minute. The trees are swirling around and the rain is just pelting down. I can barely see the top of the female’s head; she must be struggling to keep the chicks dry now, as the water must be seeping down into the nest cup. If 03 didn’t move his head every now and then, I could believe that he was a stuffed toy Osprey or even one of those polystyrene ones that Roy Dennis experimented with down in the south of England.
10.25 03 still on T perch with the fish. Torrential rain now and very blustery. Can’t really see the female. Chicks finished their last feed at 06.55 but the rain is too heavy for them to be fed at the moment.
10.42 Still raining but 03 finally delivers the fish to the nest. The female stands up and stretches and starts feeding the two chicks – one is so much bigger than the other. In the conditions I was struggling to count the chicks, there were definitely two, but a I peered down the telescope so much so that it felt as if my eyeball was being extruded, as much as my heart said three, my head said two.
10.52 Feeding stops. She stretched her wings right out and the wind is so strong that it almost takes her off the nest. She moves round to the back of the nest and is furniture arranging, picking bits out and moving twigs. 03 didn’t stay on the nest very long, just flew straight to the pruned ash . He’s perched there, his white chest glaring at me after the gloom of the rain, looking very regal. She’s still fiddling around. If there are three chicks in the nest, then she has a job on to keep them warm and dry in this weather – it really is horrendous and I hope it clears soon for all their sakes. Female sorts the nest out and covers the chicks.
The rain and wind continued and I left the Site B family to the elements.
Wednesday, June 4th, Manton Bay 09.00 – 13.00
I spent a very busy shift in Waderscrape Hide, first a visit from Edith Weston School, which is in the next village to the Lyndon Centre. Most of the children from years 1 and 2 had never used a telescope before but were very attentive and careful in learning and were extremely excited to see Maya and 33(11) on various perches. They were very eager to learn about them and they were all extremely polite.
Soon after they left the hide, Tim and Kayleigh arrived with a group of adults on a ‘Nature Walk’. I had had several sightings of water voles during the morning, but they were quite elusive whilst the group was in the hide. Maya and 33(11) were both present for most of the morning, collecting twigs, chasing a gull, 33(11) diving down as if to fish but pulling out at the last minute. As my shift finished, 33 flew south and out of sight.
Thursday, June 5th, Site B 12.00 – 16.00
It was a cool day and again very windy, a westerly which had dried the grass out. The cattle and horses were well to the left as I walked along the track. As I moved on through the second field a cuckoo flew in front of me and then a red kite appeared. It circled just in front of me and was so low that I didn’t need my binoculars to look it in the eye. I was feeling in a frivolous mood, so many good things happening in my personal life compared to my annus horibilis of 2013 and I started to think silly thoughts. It had often occurred to me that Site B was a similar place to one written about in some of my favourite childhood books, Enid Blyton’s ‘The Enchanted Wood’ and ‘The Folk of the Faraway Tree’. I was thinking about Moonface and the cookies which in a matter of seconds turned from icy cold to scalding hot. The Osprey Nest was the top of the tree and the hide was Jo and her friends’ house.
As I arrived at the hide, 03 was eating a fish on the T perch but then immediately delivered it to the nest where the female started to feed one of the chicks, the larger one of the two.
At 12.14 03 flew to the pruned ash and immediately flew up to see off a large bird, which I didn’t identify. He chased it off and came back to the pruned ash. A very low flying aircraft, came straight over the nest and just to the left of the hide at a ‘rakish’ angle, I could almost see the pilot’s face. I should have known better than to let my mind wander and think about childish things, because just like a child, I started to get spooked. Firstly, the female Osprey appeared to look straight over my head, just like one of my cats does when I’m home alone at night, and made me think that there was someone behind me. Twigs and bits of wood were falling on the roof of the hide making me jump and the wind was rushing through the wood behind the hide. I’ve been scared enough at Site B on night duty with muntjac deer barking and owls hooting in the middle of the night, etc., but even in the broad daylight today I was beginning to get goosebumps.
I mistook a buzzard for an osprey; it had primaries missing from its right wing which made me think that it could be 30(10) but then when I got my binoculars to it, its tail looked as if the cat had got it, very weathered and worn, and as he came closer and flew over the hide, I realised that it was a buzzard and not an osprey, it looked in very poor condition.
12.40 She finishes feeding the chicks and she’s fed well herself. She starts moving one or two twigs around the nest, cleaning her beak, tidying up. 03 is still on the top of the pruned ash, looking all around and facing into the keen westerly wind.
12.42 Female leaves the nest, 03 stays on the pruned ash. She’s having a stretch and once again playing in the wind, gliding along and out of sight to the left of the hide. Nothing to be seen on the nest, 03 still on the pruned ash. Instantly she reappears, flies quite low over the rape field and lands on the nest with a twig, moving that around. Two heads appear, watching what she is doing with the twigs, one chick is much larger than the other, but still only two seen.
At 12.47 precisely I heard a ‘chip’ and the female flew off again, maybe she was alerting 03 to the fact that she was off the nest. She flew over the trees well to the left of the hide, slowly, just a little flap, feeling the wind beneath her wings. She flew down low over the rape field. There were two buzzards in sight, one quite close and one in the distance, circling over the area of trees where the female had now dropped behind. I had lost sight of her. Back at the nest one little head was bobbing up and down and doing the swaying of head, from left to right. He was certainly not doing what he should have been doing at this stage, and lying low in the nest.
12.55 There is an osprey high above the nest. I have a feeling that it’s not her though. 03 is looking a bit anxious and about to leave his perch. The sky is darkening. This osprey is soaring very high above the righthand trees, but I’m convinced it’s not her. There is also a buzzard around the nest. It’s actually quite confusing at the moment.
13.00 03 flies to the nest perch and looks all around. The female is still not back.
13.03 03 on the nest now, looking at the chicks and looking around.
13.10 03 leaves the nest and is flying over the trees right of the nest and then back to the T perch.
13.35 03 flies right of the nest, north east. He circles and climbs higher and higher and I’ve lost sight of him.
So there were two chicks in the nest, me in the hide, no parents and there was a red kite circling around. I started to panic a little and telephoned Kayleigh and although I realised that there was absolutely nothing that anyone could do, I felt the need for someone else to know. There was a little thought going round and round in my head ‘Please don’t let anything terrible happen on my shift’. We decided that I should telephone Tim and just as I was finishing the call with Kayleigh, the female returned.
13.47 Exactly an hour after she disappeared, she flies in from the right, to the nest. Panic over. Chicks have been quite lively, one standing up and stretching its wings and showing its body. The female has obviously had a bath.
13.58 Red kite, buzzard and a crow all having a bit of a spat in the sky to the right of the nest. Thank goodness one of the parents is back on the nest.
15.40 03 still absent, female has remained on the nest.
Wednesday, June 11th Site B 08.00 – 12.00
As I set out from the car it was really sunny and warm. The cattle were to the left of the track, some lying down and some standing and (hoorah!) none of them stirred. As I came towards the first gate, I saw two Egyptian geese, which was only the second time that I’ve seen them along this walk and I presume the same pair. I don’t know where the secret nest is and goodness only knows I’ve looked hard. It occurred to me then that many people walk this same walk year after year and we all see and hear things differently and at different moments in time. I know Ken mentioned a few weeks ago in his diary that it was the first time that he’d seen 03 feeding the female and the chicks and yet I saw it several times last year, as did others when I read the notes. We all have a unique experience when we visit and I began to wonder what on earth would befall me today, all I know is that I am very privileged to visit Site B.
When I reached the hide the female was on the nest and 03 on the T perch. The two chicks were visible, they had really grown in just one week. Once I was settled in the hide, I anxiously read back in the notes to find out when 03 had returned to the nest after my last shift – the female was missing for exactly an hour, but there were twelve vital minutes when the two chicks were left alone. I was stunned to see that 03, having flown north east at 13.35, did not return to the site until 19.20, with a large trout. It was a very windy day and fishing must have been extremely difficult.
At 08.20 the female flew south, to the right of the hide and I prayed that she would be back soon. Sure enough two or three minutes later she brought a large stick to the nest. At 08.36 03 flew from the T perch, collected a twig and returned to the nest. Whilst he was arranging it one of the chicks was pecking at his tail ! He stayed on the nest and some twenty minutes later the female started alarm calling very loudly. There was a very menacing red kite circling over the nest, a cream coloured bird looking very smart and clean. It circled for two or three minutes and then another red kite appeared and they circled together, playing or sparring, and drifted off to the north east.
08.55 03 flies away from the nest, swiftly south, quite close to the hide.
08.58 03 returns to the nest with a very tiny twig and then starts eating what must be the remains of a fish that was already on the nest. He is now feeding one of the chicks, the female is at the back of the nest and the other chick is just to the left. He is feeding the chick such tiny pieces, much smaller than when the female feeds them. The other chick is standing up now and really stretching his wings, and probably thinking he wants some fish too. It has now moved across the middle of the nest, between 03 and the female and come to the other side of 03. Will he feed that one as well?
09.05 Female flies off and collects a twig and returns. 03 is still feeding the first chick, the other one can’t get a look in and has returned to the other side of the nest. Another red kite, much darker in colour, is over the nest and both parents peer up at it. Whilst 03 is pulling at a bit of fish skin, the chick stoops down and starts feeding itself.
A bird flew in front of the hide, left to right, a few minutes ago. Initially I didn’t recognise it. It has now flown back and 03 actually started alarm calling. It was a hobby.
09.20 Female leaves nest to see off a red kite. 03 looks round to watch her , red kite drifts left and she has dropped down behind the trees and he’s now resumed feeding and started feeding other chick now. Female flying around trees at right of nest, looking to gather another stick
09.32 03 is intent on sorting the fish out, the skin and bones, etc and then turns back to feed the chick, but it has now sunk down in the nest. 03 eats the piece and then turns to feed the chick again, which is still lying down, he keeps doing it, offering food but there is no head up to take it.
09.35 Female is also eating, so there must be two pieces of fish on the nest and now the second chick has lifted up and is being fed by both parents. The first chick lifts up and 03 starts feeding that one whilst the female is feeding the second chick. Now the first chick has ducked down and the second chick is being fed by 03 and the female – getting very complicated.
Buzzard ever present at the left hand end of the wood, just seen one dropping down into the wood with food in its mouth
09.45 03 finishes eating and feeding the chicks, cleans his beak on a twig and flies away from the nest and returns to the lower nest perch. Red kite circling again and the female is now cleaning her beak and there is no sign of the chicks.
09.52 One chick is looking over the rim of the nest. The female sets about cleaning herself up and tidying the nest and 03 meanwhile is resting on the lower nest perch.
09.55 Female takes a brief flight and returns.
10.00 She flies south.
10.10 Both chicks are at the edge of the nest, looking out – female is still away and 03 is directly under them.
10.25 Female still absent, 03 still on lower nest perch . Intruding osprey with scruffy primaries on both wings, flies in from the south and circles over the nest. 03 chips loudly to the chicks several times and the osprey drifts back south. You think the chicks are down but when you actually examine the nest you can see their little heads to the left hand side, among the twigs, quite camouflaged but not as hunkered down as they should be when 03 tells them.
10.30 Just as if 03 has heard me thinking that they were misbehaving, he flies up and circles over the nest and lands on the very top of the pruned ash.
10.35 Two red kites and a buzzard over the nest.03 still on the pruned ash. Kites circling around over the nest.
10.37 03 to top nest perch , female still away.
10.41 Same intruding osprey returns from the south and circles over the nest. 03 is chipping loudly, he’s still on the top nest perch and then the intruder flies off north east and sinks down in the distance.
10.48 female returns to the nest after 48 mins and starts preening.
10.51 03 chips loudly and flies south out of site. There are two intruding ospreys far left of the nest, but some distance apart.
11.35 Female flies slowly west and out of sight. Chicks home alone.
11.37 Female circles over the nest and lands.
11.48 Female is on the nest and looking quite anxious, looking all around.
11.55 03 flies in with a very small fish.
A little before 12.00, the end of my shift, I was leaning on a post and a little field mouse crossed straight in front of me and disappeared into the nettles. Earlier I had taken some photos of common blue damsel flies. There were so many of them over these high nettles, and some were settling on the grass around my feet. I was completely mesmerised by them but did actually remember to switch to ‘macro’ lens and was very pleased with the results. Maybe the hobby was enjoying the damsel flies too ! A chequered skipper landed fleetingly on the grass but I was not quick enough to capture that.
I walked back to the car, happy in the thought that all were ‘present and correct’ as I left Site B, and so too were the bullocks.