Site B Diary – 2010 Season

03(97) has raised twenty chicks at the Site B nest since first breeding in 2001. In 2009 he raised two chicks with an unringed female (his third mate). The nest is away from the reservoir and in one of the most remote corners of Rutland, well away from all public rights of way.

31st August

For the past three weeks the Site B nest has reverberated to the sound of almost incessant food begging. Suddenly though, it is quiet, the nest is empty and another Osprey season has come to an end. In the space of six days the entire family have set out on migration.
As expected, the female was the first bird to depart. She was last seen at the nest early on 25th August. We think 27 followed her south the same day; just before Rutland was battered by almost three inches of rain in 36 hours. The rain meant that 26 and 28 stayed for another couple of days but when it cleared on Friday, 26 was off. As is often the case, this left 03 and a lingering juvenile male – 28. 28 remained in the area for most of the Bank Holiday weekend, but only made sporadic visits to the nest – preferring instead to spend most of his time sitting on a dead tree in Burley Fishponds at the reservoir. We thought he may stay into September, but by lunchtime on Monday both he and 03 had set out on migration. We wish them, and the rest of the family, well.

17th August

Like at Manton Bay, the Site B youngsters are beginning to make lengthy excursions away from the nest. This is an important phase in the imprinting process for the juveniles; these first exploratory flights help them to learn where they’re from. They are also important in helping the juveniles to become more confident on the wing; essential if they are to survive the 3000 mile migration to West Africa. A good supply of fish also helps, and trout and roach have been in plentiful supply at the nest in the past week. In addition to the fish provided by 03, the female is also making regular fishing trips. This afternoon she brought a huge trout back to the nest and this supplemented the three fish 03 delivered between 6 and 8am this morning. Such a prolific supply of fish should mean that all three juveniles begin their migration in excellent condition.
The female is likely to be the first of the family to depart and with her youngsters now flying well she could decide to head south in the next few days.

28th July

After several days on the wing, 26 and 27 are growing in confidence. The young females have been making numerous short flights around the nest area, chasing each other, skilfully negotiating their way around trees and playfully diving at pigeons on the stubble field below the nest. 28 meanwhile has been looking on with interest from the nest. No doubt inspired by the exploits of his sisters he began to jump and helicopter above the nest on Saturday afternoon. He just didn’t have confidence to make that final leap.

24 hours later 28 was at it again, helicoptering four foot above the nest. Surely it was now or never. At around 3:30 he helicoptered up, was caught by the wind and was away. After a short circuit of the nest he came in for that all important first landing. As is often the case after first flights he misjudged it, and landed on his mother’s back and knocked her off the nest. 28 plummeted towards the ground, but amazingly for such an inexperienced bird he quickly managed to regain control, gain height, and return to the nest. A few moments later the female landed next to him.

Since then 28 has made numerous short flights to and from the nest. Landing is still proving the most troubling aspect of the whole business, but he is improving all the time.
On Saturday afternoon though he seemed to have finally plucked up the courage to fly for the first time. He helicoptered across to the branch immediately adjacent to the nest; exactly as 26 and 27 had done before they flew for the first time (see right). Just when he seemed sure to fly, his mother returned to the nest with a roach; almost certainly one she had been given 09 (98) at Site C. Not wanting to miss out on a meal, 29 jumped back across to the nest, and the moment was lost.

24 hours later 28 was at it again, helicoptering four foot above the nest. Surely it was now or never. At around 3:30 he helicoptered up, was caught by the wind and was away. After a short circuit of the nest he came in for that all important first landing. As is often the case after first flights he misjudged it, and landed on his mother’s back and knocked her off the nest. 28 plummeted towards the ground, but amazingly for such an inexperienced bird he quickly managed to regain control, gain height, and return to the nest. A few moments later the female landed next to him, followed by the two female chicks. The photo on the left shows the four birds together. The three chicks are at the front of the nest, with 28 the left hand bird.
Over the past couple of days 28 has made numerous short flights to and from the nest. Landing is still proving the most troubling aspect of the whole business, but he is improving all the time.

22nd July

Over the past few days 26 has been enjoying her new found freedom, making numerous increasingly skilful flights to and from the nest. With their sister in the air it seemed only a matter of time before 27 and 28 would follow suit. 27, in particular, seemed very close to making her maiden flight; helicoptering higher and higher above the nest. She just didn’t seem to have the courage to make that final leap. Finally, yesterday afternoon, she helicoptered out onto the branch adjacent to the nest; exactly as 26 had done three days previously. Surely her first flight was now imminent. Well, not exactly. Another three hours passed with 27 teetering on the brink. Her talons were locked firmly to the branch as she flapped her now fully-developed wings with increasing power. A few minutes later she helicoptered several feet above the branch, but then lost her nerve at the last minute. Would she ever fly?

Half an hour later the young female helicoptered up again. This time though she thrust herself forward and, with uneasy wing beats, headed away from the nest. Her mother immediately took to the air, exactly as 03 had done when 26 made her first flight. 27 completed several circuits of the nest before landing very skilfully back on the same branch. She had done it!
With her first flight successfully negotiated 27 visibly grew in confidence. Over the course of the next two hours she made a further nine short flights to and from the nest tree. She was soon joined in the air by her sister and the two birds playfully chased each other around the nest.

The sight of his sisters in the air seemed to invigorate 28, and he began helicoptering above the nest. Suddenly though the female began alarm calling, prompting 28 to lie flat in the nest. Moments later an intruding Osprey appeared and headed straight for the nest – it was 09(98). As on Sunday he actually landed on the female’s back and attempted to copulate with her. Her reaction though was more aggressive than at the weekend and she chased the rogue male away.

By 8pm 26 and 27 were back on the nest and all three youngsters were food-begging loudly. Right on cue 03 returned with a trout, creating bedlam on the nest as the chicks fought over the fish. 26 won the tug of war and mantled over the fish as she ate it. 27 and 28 would have to wait their turn.

20th July

The Site B chicks are now almost eight weeks old and by Sunday afternoon all three youngsters had been recorded helicoptering above the nest. First flights were clearly imminent, but who would be first?
All three chicks had looked in good condition when they were ringed, just over a week previously. The birds were fitted with a blue ring on their right leg; 26 and 27 were thought to be females and 28 a male. Although 28 was slightly lighter than the two males in the Manton Bay nest, he still appeared in good health.

After a relatively quiet morning, a fresh south-westerly breeze encouraged the chicks to become more active during the afternoon. At 2:30pm, 26 half-hovered, half-flew across to a branch adjacent to the nest. This series of three photos (right and below) shows the young female helicoptering up and away as the two other chicks look on.

Once on the branch (left), there was no going back. Ten minutes later the young female opened her wings and flopped, uneasily at first, away from the nest.
Recognising the significance (and obvious dangers) 03, who had been sitting nearby, immediately took to the air and shadowed 26 throughout her four minute flight. The photo on the right shows the two birds in the air together – with 03 (top left) looking down at his daughter.

After an increasingly confident flight, 26 eventually returned to the nest. The photos asbove and left show her coming in to land on the side of the nest as 03 (right) and the female look on.
As the afternoon progressed the young female made several more flights. We’re sure that her siblings won’t be far behind.
Shortly after 26 had made her maiden flight, 03 headed off towards the reservoir on a fishing trip. During his absence 09(98) intruded at the nest and attempted to copulate with the female. Remarkably the female actually allowed 09 to land on her back – she knows he is a good source of fish, so needs to keep him on side!

Soon afterwards 03 returned with a good sized trout – none the wiser that 09 had visited.
26 eagerly tucked into the fish. She had worked up a good appetite with all that flying!
Two days later, 27 and 28 still haven’t flown…more news as it happens.

7th July

Last year, from late June onwards, the Site B female began to accept fish from 09(98). With 09 unpaired again this year, we wondered if the female may once again take advantage of his generosity. Sure enough, on Tuesday afternoon last week, the female returned to the nest with a partly-eaten trout. Whilst it was possible that she had caught the fish herself and then eaten the head away from the nest, she flew in from the direction of Site C making it highly likely that she had in fact been given the fish by 09. When she did the same thing two days later, our suspicions were just about confirmed!

Although 03 doesn’t seem to have struggled to catch fish in the same was as last year, it seems that the female knows that 09 is another very good source of fish. So why ignore it?!
Like in Manton Bay, the chicks are now starting to wing flap for the first time, and could be taking to the air within three weeks. How time flies.

24th June

Unlike last year, when intruding ospreys made frequent visits, 03 (above right) has had a relatively quiet summer. This has allowed him to concentrate on fishing; and like 5R, he is catching four to five fish every day. The photo, above left, shows him delivering the remains of a catch to the nest.

03’s three chicks are slightly older than their counterparts in Manton Bay but the sides of the nest are so high that the youngsters are not always visible, even when the female is feeding them (below left). You can however see two heads in the photo below right – on this occasion the two chicks were obviously settling some kind of dispute!

9th June

As hoped, by Saturday evening it was possible to see three chicks at Site B for the first time. Since then the volunteers monitoring the nest have regularly seen all three, particularly when lined up to be fed by their mother.

4th June

We now know that there are at least two chicks in the Site B nest. Yesterday evening, when 03 returned with a fish, volunteer Mick Lewin could see the heads of at least two chicks straining to be fed. Within a few days it should be possible to see if there is a third. Watch this space!

29th May

It has been a quiet incubation at Site B as always, with the male bringing in regular supplies of fish to his mate, eating his share and the passing the rest of the fish on to the female, who would fly to a nearby perch to eat. However on Friday morning, the birds’ behaviour began to change. 03(97) returned with a small fish which, instead of eating, he took directly to the nest. The female then began to eat the fish on the side of the nest instead of moving off to a tree. This was a very encouraging sign that there was either a small chick in the nest, although perhaps too small or too newly hatched to be given its first feed. or that a chick was in the middle of hatching.
We had to wait until the afternoon for a second fish. This time the female not only ate on the nest but was seen offering small pieces of fish down into the nest cup for the newly hatched chick. We will not know for definite how many chicks have successfully hatched at Site B until they are big enough to be seen over the side of the nest, but hopefully we will have more news on this in the coming weeks.

11th May

03 and his mate (left) are now three weeks into the incubation period. Aside from occasional intrusions by 09(98) and, more recently, 05(08) things are very settled at the nest.

21st April

As we hoped, incubation began at Site B today. All seems very settled at the nest site – more news as it happens.

14th April

In contrast to the battles in Manton Bay, Site B remains quiet and settled as always. The pair have been copulating and nest building and with luck they should be laying their first egg early next week.

7th April

Elsewhere, last year’s breeding female returned to the Site B nest (on private land) on Sunday morning. Her distinctive head and underwing patterns identified her as the same unringed female as 2009. She is already looking very settled with 03(97) and the female who was present for several days last week has, rather predictably, moved on.

2nd April

Having been alone at his nest site for almost two weeks, 03 has been joined by a female. But not the one we were expecting.

The female 03 raised two chicks with last year has yet to return, but earlier this week he was joined by another (presumably) Scottish female. Past experience suggests that she will continue her migration in a few days, but at present she is readily accepting fish from 03.

She might be more than willing to take a free meal when it is offered, but so far she’s not been quite so receptive when it comes to copulation. It will be interesting to see how things develop over the coming days, particulary if 03’s mate returns while the imposter is still in residence. Watch this space!

26th March

03 continues to build up the Site B nest in prepration for the return of his mate. Certain sticks prove more troublesome than others, as John Wright’s sequence of photos shows…

22nd March

Last year, aided by fine clear weather in southern Europe, 03(97) returned to the Site B nest on 20th March; two days earlier than his earliest ever arrival date. We suspected that he wouldn’t return quite so early this year. Well, we were wrong. When we checked the nest early on Friday morning, 03 was sitting prominently close to the nest tree with a party-eaten pike! He was a day earlier than the previous March. In fact he may even have arrived the previous evening.

So why return so early? It seems that like last year 03 wanted to be sure he was first back at the nest; before a rival male had the opportunity to move in. He may well have to wait two weeks before his mate returns, but better to have a longer wait than to loose your nest.

After finishing a pike he had caught earlier in the morning 03 set about re-furbishing the nest, scraping out the old lining and adding numerous sticks and clumps of turf over a period of a few hours.

In recent years Ravens have become increasingly common in the Rutland area. In spring young pairs often range over a large area in search of a territory and on Friday a pair intruded at the Site B nest. A ferocious aerial battle ensued; the considerable bulk of the Ravens making them very difficult for 03 to see off.

After several minutes of chasing and grappling, the Ravens drifted off north, turning their attentions instead to a Red Kite and leaving 03 in peace.