We ring all of the Osprey chicks that hatch at Rutland, each with two rings – a metal BTO ring and a coloured plastic ring with a distinct number/letter combination. Rings are a great way of identifying our birds, discerning where they hatched from and in what year, and providing information on their whereabouts, if someone spots one elsewhere and is able to read the ring. It helps to indicate how successful the Project is, from the number of Rutland-fledged Ospreys that are returning to the area and breeding.
It is also nice to see that Rutland Ospreys are venturing further afield and have helped the Osprey population to spread into other areas of the UK. For example, from ring numbers we know that the current female at Dyfi and the one before her were both Rutland-fledged birds, and a translocated male is breeding at Glaslyn.
Chicks are ringed at about six weeks old, when they are big enough to take a ring, but not so well advanced that they might spook and fledge early. The chicks at Site B have just reached the correct age, and yesterday I had the privilege of watching them getting adorned with their rings!
The chicks were removed from the nest, brought to ground level and ringed with efficiency. Both were calm and quiet throughout the process. The adult birds circled overhead, occasionally calling. They are probably used to this process by now, having seen it happen many times before.
Of the two chicks, one is a male (now with ring 6K) and the other a female (ring 7K). The size difference between the two was apparent, as you can see in the photographs below.
As you can also see from the photos, these juvenile Ospreys are absolutely beautiful! Both chicks looked in excellent condition. Their juvenile plumage is designed to keep them camouflaged in the nest, the pale tip to each feather making them look speckled. They will get their adult plumage at about eighteen months old. Another characteristic of juvenile Ospreys that differs from adults is their eye colour. Adult Ospreys usually have bright yellow eyes, whereas the juveniles’ eyes are more orange, or amber.
Over the next couple of weeks, these chicks will be doing a lot of wing flapping in order to strengthen their wing muscles in preparation for fledging! They will get steadily braver, and hover increasingly higher above the nest, until the day, at roughly seven or eight weeks old, when they will take that first great leap of faith and fly for the first time!
But for now, they can relax and enjoy the rest of this idyllic life of plentiful food, constant protection and dozing in the sun! It’s a fine life when you’re an Osprey chick!