This post is by Abigail Mustard who has been volunteering this summer following on from her work experience last year.
Having done my Work Experience last year with the Osprey Project I was really looking forward to doing another two shifts up at Site B with Ken this season. Both shifts were completely different being three weeks apart and the development of the juveniles was incredible. Here are my accounts of the two shifts!
Compared to today’s temperature it was a cool but sunny Tuesday morning at the end of June when I first met up with Ken to monitor the Ospreys at Site B. As we climbed over the first gate the cows in the field looked up curiously, but after realizing that we weren’t bringing them food they soon settled down to continue grazing. As we near the second gate we stopped to admire the landscape and took our first glimpse of the nest. We easily spotted 03(97) perched on the branch attached to the nest and soon after found the female sitting on the nest.
After setting up the hide Ken and I resolved to sitting outside in the sun for the shift – why waste the good weather? We sat, observed and listened to the surrounding wildlife, focusing our attention on the Ospreys. At first we could only identify two of the chicks but after moving to a different angle the third was just visible above the nest. They were five weeks old and would be flying in the next couple of weeks.
20 minutes into the shift 03 left and headed south towards the water only to return five minutes later with a stick. The adults will continue to maintain the nest throughout the season. Half an hour later 03 departed again and returned nearly an hour later having been successful in catching a medium sized trout. As soon as he dropped the trout in the nest he heads off to sit on the new perch, leaving the female to feed all three chicks.
The best part of being at Site B is that you can observe more than just birds as I soon found out. As we were sitting listening to Blackcaps, Green Woodpeckers and Great Tits all of a sudden a Fallow Deer emerges from the trees and very ably jumps over the fence and disappears into the barley field across from the hide. The deer was a Pricket which is a male in its second year before the antlers have fully developed.
In the final hour of the shift 03 sets off again and hadn’t returned by the end of the shift. The female throughout the shift stayed on the nest although frequently completing a circuit to stretch her wings. As we headed back to the car we stop and take a final glance at the nest where the female sat quietly on the nest with the three chicks.
It was already sunny and warm when I met Ken on Tuesday for my second shift monitoring the Ospreys at Site B. We greeted the cows who we assumed were awaiting the farmer and after relieving the volunteer, who had been monitoring the Ospreys from 06.00 am, we brought all the equipment outside and settled down to watch the Ospreys. We had been told by the previous volunteer that 03(97) had not brought a fish in so it was expected that 03 would soon head off to fish.
All three juveniles had flown for the first time on Monday so we had to keep an eye on each juvenile when they flew. To start with two of the juveniles were sitting on the nest with the female, the third juvenile perched on the branch and 03 sitting on the new perch. In the first 10 minutes we heard the juveniles food begging call but 03 refused to move.
For quite a while all five Ospreys were sitting on the nest (03 had moved and was perched next to the juvenile on the branch) and it was amazing to see how much bigger the juveniles had become in three weeks as they were nearly as big as the adults. At 09.00 am one of the juveniles takes flight and we identify it as being 4J and soon after 6J follows and they return safely to the nest. As they land the female leaves the nest and heads southwest and out of sight.
Throughout the morning the female leaves the nest and returns with either twigs or moss in order to build up the nest. As we admire the landscape there were Meadow Brown Butterflies flitting just above the grass never once stopping to land.
4J decides to again leave the nest and does a circuit, never straying too far and soon returns to the nest and whilst 4J is in flight the female shadows her to ensure safety. At last 03 leaves the nest and south, but comes straight back without going out of sight. We heard him utter intruding calls but as Ken and I look around in the sky we couldn’t see anything, although we did hear another Osprey behind us which wasn’t the female or 03.
At 10.20 am 03 leaves the nest and goes to sit on a fir tree, north of the nest after seeing off a Buzzard and a few minutes later he leaves the tree and heads out of sight. Whilst waiting for his return we sit two heads emerge in the barley field across from us. The Fallow Deer make their appearance once again this time it is a female and a fawn. They stop to graze on our side of the fence but then they disappear as suddenly as they had come leaving tranquility in their path.
Out of all of the juveniles 6J seems the most adventurous as he leaves the nest to sit on a small oak and even when 03 returns, with a medium sized trout, does not return to the nest.
By the end of the shift 6J is still comfortably perched in the small oak, with 4J, 5J, 03 and the female sitting on the nest. We have seen all three juveniles fly, 03 bring back a trout and the female build up the nest. Perfect.
It has been great to see the difference three weeks has made to, not only the juveniles size, but also to their confidence.