If you follow our website regularly you will know that the webcam went down on Wednesday last week and sadly wasn’t repaired until yesterday. When Tim rang me to confirm my shift for this morning, we discussed how much we had missed having the webcam, I’m sure we were not alone. When we got the picture back I could not believe how these three juveniles had grown so much, just in the space of five days, and were looking so much like fully grown adults with juvenile plumage – a testimony to 5R’s fishing skills. As I peeped at the webcam throughout the day I saw 52(11) helicopter so high that he was almost out of the camera view and at one stage I said to myself ‘There he goes!’ but he landed straight down in the nest. I discussed with another volunteer, Moira, that he surely would fledge yesterday and quietly said a prayer for him to hang on until my shift, Wednesday, 9am – 1pm. As I watched my laptop whilst ironing in the evening, he looked so feisty and alert, I was sure that by the time my shift began, he would already be flying.
I arrived at Lyndon on Wednesday morning and enquired whether anything was to be taken down to Waderscrape – extra telescopes, batteries for the radio, etc. I also enquired about the status of 52(11) and was assured by Tim that he had not fledged. Some of the team, Paul, Liz and Michelle had visited Cors Dyfi Osprey Project over the last couple of days to take a look at one of our 2008 Site B females, 03(08), who is currently feeding three chicks. Tim was replaying to Paul and Michelle, the antics of 52(11) from the previous day, when he was helicoptering out of sight. I arrived at Waderscrape Hide at 8.55am and was greeted by Don, co-volunteer, and Monica – I have mentioned Monica in one of my previous reports – she and her husband take stunning photos and are regular visitors to Lyndon. As at every changeover of shift, there is a chat about where the birds are and we naturally catch up with each other’s health, holidays, etc., since we last met. I discovered that Don had arrived at the hide at 8.30am and that Moira, with whom I had been discussing the imminent fledging of 52(11) only the day before, had sadly had an accident when cycling to Waderscrape to do the 6 – 9am shift, and was at A & E. 5R was absent when Don arrived and the female and three juveniles were on the nest.
The three of us turned our attention to the nest and watched as one of the juveniles started wing-flapping and helicoptering and then suddenly, at 9.10am, he was airborn. He flew up and around Manton Bay and then tried to land on the T perch but failed and embarked on another small circuit of Manton Bay. This time he was joined by the female – it never ceases to amaze me how a parent Osprey guides and teaches a juvenile, reassuring all the time. Once again he tried to land on the T perch and was unsuccessful. He seemed to glide towards the French Perch and then just plopped down into the nest. We were all so excited and once again, like last year, I juggled with the radio, the binoculars and the camera. Those of you who have read my diary from last year may remember that Don and I shared a similar shift when 30(10) fledged; I told you then that Don had been involved with the project since the beginning and until that day had never seen a juvenile fledge, nor too had I, but then I’m a relative beginner compared to many volunteers. So how lucky were we to be there this year and have a repeat – amazingly lucky! I don’t think the smiles on Don’s and my face disappeared all morning, well probably all day – we were so excited. Monica too was in the right place at the right time and took some fantastic photos and once she had analysed her footage, she informed us that 52(11) had been up in the air for 2 minutes 40 seconds on his inaugural flight. She had a wonderful capture of him badly missing the perch on his first attempt.
52(11)’s fledging was very different to 30(10); 30 did two big circuits of Manton Bay before landing on the dead tree in front of Waderscrape, where he stayed for seven hours and then eventually plucked up the courage to return home for tea. 52(11) had made six flights by the time I left at 13.40pm. I learned from Tim later in the day that his was the more normal fledging behaviour. In the initial excitement of watching, radioing and marvelling, we discovered that 5R had sneaked back and was quietly breakfasting on a very large Roach on the far perch. I confidently say Roach but it was only when we examined Monica’s photo of him bringing it to the nest that the fish was identified. Having eaten his share, he flew to the nest with it and the juveniles and the female all fed very well, even leaving a sizeable chunk. Once the female had finished eating she flew up and then proceeded to wash her feet in the bay, dragging them through the water. She returned to the T perch to join 5R.
At this stage we thought that maybe we would not see 52 attempt any more flying for a while. However, after preening, at 12.00pm he was up and away again and five minutes later, a third flight, this time being mobbed by a tern, which I think must be quite scary at this early stage of flight – on both these two short flights he attempted to land on the perch between 5R and the female but failed and put down in the nest. 12.15, he was up in the air again making a short circuit around the bay and going a little higher this time, he wasn’t giving up. He flew towards the perch and with both parents and siblings watching, legs dangling, he gingerly touched down on to the perch between his parents. What a lovely picture that made! He must have stayed there for five or ten minutes and then he was back to the nest again. At 12.35 he was off yet again, proud parents watching – nothing to this flying he seemed to be saying to his two siblings – and once again he landed between the two adults, but not before he had flown in front of the poplars, turned and tipped a wing immediately over the nest. He was definitely feeling confident and showing off.
On the nest one of the other juveniles was wingflapping and helicoptering just a few inches into the air, but the third one was staying low in the nest and being decidedly lazy – I did learn from Paul at the centre, who had been watching the camera, that he was actually lying on the remains of the fish!
I stayed on a little longer than normal to help a new volunteer, Anna, who was concerned that she might not be able to keep tracks on the whole family with one juvenile now flying around and the possibility of at least one more fledging. Vigilance is so important at this crucial stage and I could well understand her concern. She need not have worried – she came well prepared with notes that she had made of dates of the Manton Bay family’s progress through the season, etc., to help her when talking with the visitors. Her enthusiasm was tangible and it took me back a few years to my first season – very heady stuff. The excitement never fades as each season arrives and my only regret is that I did not get involved with the project years ago. I could have easily stayed a few more hours but was due to help on the Osprey Cruise that evening, so reluctantly made my way back to Lyndon and Anna was joined by Tim and Michelle. There were quite a few visitors to Waderscrape throughout the morning and I was delighted to catch up with some of them later in the day on the Osprey Cruise.
Don and I had been very fortunate to experience a first fledging for a second year, I’m still smiling about it as I type and I’d like to bet that he too is still smiling. Same time, same place next year, Don – will the Dynamic Duo strike lucky for a third time?