Bird World Nest Spotlight: Foulshaw Moss (plus Glaslyn update)

The weather has calmed down in the United Kingdom. The birds are getting a break from those Force 11 winds and the heavy rains that caused flooding in several areas. The sun must feel really good on those feathers!

My focus today is on the Osprey Nest at Foulshaw Moss in Cumbria. Foulshaw Moss is one of the rarest and most threatened habitats in all of the United Kingdom and Europe. It is a raised bog. What is a bog? why is it so rare? and why do Ospreys and other wetland birds love this area in Cumbria so much?

Raised bogs are rare in lowland Britain because 94% of them have been drained so that trees could be planted. By planting the trees, which require water to grow, these former wetlands are anything but wet! The Foulshaw Moss raised bog is unique because of its peat. A Google search tells me that peat is “a brown deposit resembling soil, formed by the partial decomposition of vegetable matter in the wet acidic conditions of bogs and fens, and often cut out and dried for use as fuel and in gardening.” Peat was cut at the Cumbria site but the area still has a ‘dome’ of peat that is higher than the surrounding area.

In 1998, the Cumbria Wildlife Trust purchased the property. Their goal was to reverse the damage caused by drainage and afforestation. It is now designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest and is highly protected. Natural England has provided funds for the Cumbria Wildlife Trust and the British Dragonfly Society to reintroduce the White-faced Darter, an extremely rare species of dragonfly.

“White Faced Darter” by Martijn Nijenhuis is licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0

The acid pools, the mosses and the bog grasses are home to many other species of bird and insects. It is a very unique area that includes the rare Emperor Dragonfly, seen in the image below.

“Dragonfly – Foulshaw Moss” by Stephen Childs is licensed under CC BY 2.0

This is the female Emperor Dragonfly living in the wetlands.

“Female Emperor Dragonfly” by tsbl2000 is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
“Bog Rosemary” by DenaliNPS is licensed under CC BY 2.0
“bog cranberry” by troutcolor is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

The moss and pools are perfect places for nests and feeding for many wetland birds including the moorhen, snipe and water rail. The area is also home to many birds of prey such as Peregrine falcons, Sparrowhawks, and Buzzards.

“Grey Wagtail – Foulshaw Moss” by Stephen Childs is licensed under CC BY 2.0

It is also home to Ospreys – and that is what this blog is about – The Foulshaw Moss Osprey Nest! They live in an incredible environment and grateful thanks to all those who made this raised bogland possible! Here is a short introduction to the conservation of the area and the Ospreys.

“Osprey (Foulshaw Moss) – Leighton Moss” by Stephen Childs is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Ospreys have been at the mossy bog since 2008 but it appears that they have only been nesting there and breeding since 2014. Like all other UK Ospreys, the couple migrate. They return to Foulshaw Moss in late March or April and leave for Africa or Southern Spain in August and September. The resident couple are White YW (male) born at Bassenthwaite in 2008. The female is Blue 35 and she was born in Kielder Forest in 2010. Both of them returned to the nest at Foulshaw Moss on the same day – 26 March 2021 -within hours of one another. So this begs a question.

UK Ospreys normally travel to either The Gambia or Senegal for winter; some stay in Southern Spain. This is a trip of 4000 km there and 4000 km back. It has always been assumed that the Ospreys do not stay in the same spot together. The females normally leave a few weeks earlier while the males remain at the nest feeding the fledglings only departing in September when the chicks are gone. Maya and Blue 33 (11) adore one another. Blue 33 often spends time in the nest with Maya. They simply like to be around one another and they, too, arrive – this year – within half an hour of one another. What if they do stay together in Africa? what if they travel together? I wish these couples had satellite trackers!!!!!!! Besides Foulshaw Moss, Rutland Manton Bay, two other UK Osprey couples arrived back at their nest within hours of one another and they were the resident pair at Bassenthwaite and Loch Doon.

Blue 35 and White YW’s first egg was laid on 10 April, the second on the 13th, and the last on the 16th. Hatches were 21 May, 23 May, and 25 May. There was some concern about the little one but here they are all thriving and loving their fish. Blue 35 always makes sure the little one gets fed.

Indeed, in 2015, Blue 35 worked hard to ensure that another little chick, Blue V4 always had food and fledged. She kept a close eye on the older siblings. Fantastic mother this Blue 35.

@ Cumbria Wildlife Trust

Blue 35 (f) and White YW (m) appear to have hatched twenty-two chicks since 2014. Here is the information:

2014 – 3 chicks (Blue 5A f, Blue 6A f, Blue 7A m)

2015 – 3 chicks (Blue V2 f, Blue V3 f, Blue V4 m)

2016- 3 chicks (Blue V8 f, Blue V9 m, third died after 3 days)

2017 – 3 chicks (Blue U9 m, Blue V0 f, Blue N0 m)

2018- 3 chicks (Blue 5N m, Blue 9N f, Blue 7N m)

2019 – 2 chicks out of 3 eggs (Blue 3N f, Blue 2N m). Note: Blue 3N was the largest chick they had ever seen. At six weeks when she was banded she weighed 1810 grams. Known as ‘Biggie’ no one thought she would be able to fledge she was so large but she did!

2020-2 chicks out of 3 eggs (Blue 410 f, Blue 411 f)

2021 – 3 chicks

So why do I include all of these coloured ring numbers? Numbered rings can immediately tell you where a bird is from. They are coloured. In Scotland, the coloured bands are on the left leg while in England and Wales, the Darvic ring is on the right leg. The chicks are normally ringed at around six weeks of age when their leg is fully grown. Without satellite trackers which are expensive, we cannot possibly know where the birds travel. Even if ringed, you still have to be able to read the numbers which is not always easy. Those pesky Osprey like to hide them for some reason!

Right now, there have been confirmed sightings or images of six of the nineteen fledges from Foulshaw Moss. One, Male Blue 7A (14) is mated with an unringed female at Esthwaite in the Lake District and they have three eggs ready to hatch in 2021. They have been breading there since 2017. Male Blue N0 (17) is at an unmonitored nest in Wales; he was seen at Montgomeryshire in Wales in May 2020. Male Blue V8 (16) was seen in January 2021 in The Gambia and also at Leighton Moss. Female Blue V3 was seen at a Kielder Nest in 2017. The two males from 2018, 5N and 7N (the tiny one) were seen in The Gambia and Spain, respectively. Not all sightings are recorded and I am still trying to see if there is a comprehensive listing. Tiger Mozone’s website has a list of returning two year olds and it is helpful. It is interesting, also, that of the six sightings, five were for male fledges. I wish I had more data (yes, I am a data nut!). Does this mean that males are more likely to survive the first migration? and if so, why? Why does one answer always lead to ten more questions???!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Here is the link to the Cumbria Osprey Cam. You will not find it on YouTube. I personally think cam 2 is the best. There is no rewind feature.

I would like to close with the latest news from Glaslyn:

“We would like to say thank you to each and every one of you for your support since we shared yesterday evening’s update from the Glaslyn Nest. It means a lot to us.
Aran has been looking stronger again today, taking longer flights around the nest area and making more of an attempt at chasing away persistent intruding ospreys. Mrs G has been bothered much less by the crows and both chicks have fed well.
We know how much you miss watching the Glaslyn family online and we are happy to announce that Live Streaming will return tomorrow morning. We will be live streaming from the nest between 8am-8pm for the time being. We can’t wait to ‘chat’ with you all again!”

That is just the best news that I can imagine on a late Wednesday afternoon on the Canadian prairies. Take care everyone. Thanks so much for joining me today!

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