Ospreys – the raging mad and the wonderful

My daughter asked me today if I would continue to watch the Achieva Osprey Nest in St Petersburg, Florida. She had a very good point. Tiny Tot or 3 (some call it Tumbles) was born on 5 March. Since the 12th of March, I have notes indicating that Jack, the male, needs to bring in more fish. I have notes that Tiny Tot was fed well one day and had no food for two days. That was three weeks ago. Many have invested in their own stress level height since food procurement on this nest became a visible problem – not only to streaming cam watchers but to the older osprey. The perception or the reality that there is not enough contributes to food competition and siblicide. This nest has literally been like a rollercoaster ride for everyone including Diane, the mother, who found as many morsels as she could to feed Tiny from 1:15-1:53 today. He had a bit of a crop. Continued large fish coming into the nest on a regular basis – a real effort on the part of Jack – is required.

There are ‘good’ Osprey nests to watch. Everyone has their favourite. I am going to only mention five today so if you have a favourite, let me know – and tell me why you like that nest so much! I am going to start with the first one because the female has already laid two eggs this season. That nest belongs to Maya and Blue 33 (11). This is a dad that cuddles with the female. They almost arrive together from their winter migration to Africa. They are an amazing duo. Blue 33 (11) does not have another nest with chicks to feed! He is totally devoted to Maya and their chicks and their nest is Rutland Mantou Bay.

Mary Kerr did the hearts on this image for the Loch Arkaig FB group. I want to make sure she gets the credit, not me. And one of the things Mary said was, ‘Maya really lucked out when she got him in 2014 as a mate’.

You can watch these two lovebirds on the Rutland Mantou Bay Nest at the following link:

The second nest is at Loch Arkaig, home to Louis and Aila. They are due to be back at the nest around 5 April. I will put in the highlights from their 2020 season. I like this nest because Louis works day and night to feed those babies. Last year Aila laid three eggs and they all hatched. I watched a tandem feeding when the little one, Captain, was fed by itself while the two bigger, older chicks were fed by the other parent. It was joyful and it brought my faith back in ospreys after seeing little Tapps die at Port Lincoln. Here is the video of the highlights from the 2020 nest at Loch Arkaig. The three siblings are believed to be 2 males and a female. Doddie the first born is a male, Vera the female, and Little Captain, a male is banded Blue JJ7. Enjoy it! When Louis and Aila return, I will be sure to let you know. The link to their nest is below the video.

And the link to the Loch Arkaig site for when Louis and Aila return in a few days:

All of these nests are wonderful and I have not listed them in rank order. My third nest is that of Idris and Blue 33 Telyn at the Dfyi Nest in Wales. Idris is known to be loyal, a great protector, and provider! You can access this popular couples nest here:

And I have two other nests to mention. One is in the UK and the other is in San Francisco.

I could not leave this page and not have included the nest of Mrs G and Aran. Mrs G is the oldest osprey in the United Kingdom, believed to be twenty-one years old. She is a powerhouse. This couple are at the Glaslyn Osprey Nest in Wales and here is the link:

And the last of the Osprey nests is the one in San Francisco Bay with Richmond and Rosie. Richmond is more known for his antics of bringing objects – aprons, toys, etc – to the nest but the two actually work well together. Richmond lives in San Francisco year round and Rosie migrates for the winter. Rosie is now incubating three eggs. The first was laid on 24 March, the second on 27 March, and the third on 30 March. That will keep Richmond busy bringing in fish when they hatch! Here is the link to their nest:

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC1gn6yIRa_cBKExVmHdg3jQ

That link provides you to a number of past videos, too.

A fish came into the Achieva Osprey nest in St Petersburg, Florida at 5:33:51. Tiny Tot got a few bites after the two bigger ones but he still has a crop from his earlier feeding. This is much better than being sunk in all over as he had been. I live in hope that the momentum of fish – some big fish – a small one is not enough – come in and Tiny makes it.

I have written in-depth about many of the ospreys on these nests in other blogs. That information often includes their biography. When everything goes well, there is nothing more wonderful than seeing these amazing fish eagles thrive and fledge. They have a difficult life – the ones that migrate. The trip is 4000 miles one way over large bodies of water, mountains, and deserts. 50% do not make it.

Thank you for joining me today. All of the other nests that I follow seem to be doing really well today. For those of you that celebrate Easter – have a Happy Easter Weekend. Take care everyone.

Thank you so much to the following for their streaming cams. This is where I get my screen shots: the Achieva Credit Union in St Petersburg, Florida; the Bywd Gwyllt Glaslyun Wildlife, Bay Osprey by Golden Gate Audubon, Scottish Wildlife Trust and the Friends of Loch Arkaig, Rutland Wildlife at the Mantou Bay Nest, Mary Kerr for her cute FB image of Maya and Blue 33 (11), the Woodland Trust and People Play Lottery, and the LRWT Rutland Osprey Project.

Loch Arkaig Ospreys

What can I say? Spring is in the air everywhere and the folks in the United Kingdom are anxiously awaiting the arrival of their beloved Ospreys. There are now sightings for some of the nests and, we are, like them, getting ready for World Osprey Week. Today, the focus is on Loch Arkaig.

The staff at Loch Arkaig were shocked – pleasantly so – when the numbers of viewers of their streaming cam jumped from 60,000 to 400,000. Can you imagine? Many of the viewers during the pandemic were first time visitors to streaming cams. It is delightful because so many who began watching in the spring of 2020 now realize how much they enjoy the birds and how precarious their lives are. The people advocating for safety measures and donating to streaming cams has increased significantly. Many fell in love with the Scottish wilderness and the beautiful Osprey. Loch Arkaig is located in one of the only remaining Caledonian pine forest. These trees are part of the very first pine trees to be brought into Scotland during the Late Glacial period, about 7000 BCE.

Despite the fact that the Loch appears to be far away from Glasgow, it isn’t. If you travel to Scotland and like hiking, this area is a place not to miss. There are no less than twenty different trails near Loch Arkaig ranging from an easy walk of 9.5 km or 6 miles to a very hard walk of 224 km or nearly 15 miles. There are moors and there are hills, some of the highest in the area. And if you are a Harry Potter fan, you can catch the Harry Potter train at Fort William.

“LOCH ARKAIG: Forest road above the loch (5/16 an038)” by Ted and Jen is licensed under CC BY 2.0
“File:Beinn Bhan from Loch Arkaig woods.JPG” by Mick Knapton is licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0

As elsewhere, the Scottish Osprey disappeared during the twentieth century. In Scotland, the game keepers of the large estates killed the Osprey because they believed they were a threat to the wildlife on the grounds. The other major destruction came from egg collectors. Breeding pairs were seen before World War II at Loch Garten but it was not until 1954 when a pair of Scandinavian Ospreys arrived at the Loch that the modern era of Ospreys began in Scotland. In 2011, there were 202 known pairs and a decade later, there are more than 300 breeding pairs. Today, the Osprey is a Scottish icon.

In the United Kingdom, the ospreys grow to about 55-62 cm or 21 to 24 inches in length. Their wings span ranges from 145-180 cm or 57 to 71 inches. Their heads are white with the tell tale brown band running from the gorgeous yellow eyes. The breast of the female has a darker apron than the males with beautiful brown plumage on the backs and wings. They weigh 1.2-2 kg or 2.6 or 4.4 lbs. They have Reverse sex-size diamorphism meaning that the female is larger than the male.

The Scottish Ospreys are a migratory species. They return to Scotland in late March (or early April) where they will stay til September raising their young before returning to Senegal or The Gambia for the winter. The clutch has an average of three eggs which are incubated for five weeks (35 days). The female does most of the incubation and brooding while the male provides the food and security. The Osplets will fledge between 51-56 days. About 21 days after the young fledge, the female leaves the nest for Africa. The male remains feeding any chicks for another 7-14 days. Then the male leaves for Africa. The juveniles also go to Senegal or The Gambia although some have been noted to remain on the southern coast of Spain and Portugal. The juveniles will not return to Scotland until they are two years old. To avoid interbreeding, the males tend to return to their natal nest area while the females go elsewhere.

The return of the Osprey is being celebrated during World Albatross Week from 22-26 March – the return of the Osprey to Wales, England, and Scotland! It is a joyous time with birders tracking the bands from the south of England and posting the notices on various FB pages. Indeed, it appears that the Ospreys in Scotland could be arriving back early. The bands on the Perth and Kinross Osprey were seen at Glen Shee flying west today, 21 March 2021 at 15:54. Wow!

Last year I marvelled at Louis and Aila at the Loch Arkaig Osprey nest. Louis first appeared in 2017 and was later joined by Aila. Their first Osplet was named Lachlan by the public and hatched in 2017. They lost their clutch in 2018 to Pine Martens (many sites are putting up protections for the Osprey from the Pine Martens) but fledged two in 2019, Mallie and Rannoch. And in 2020, nearly half a million people watched Doddie, Vera, and little Captain. To aid in identification, Scottish Osprey have a blue/white Darvic ring (blue band, 3 white letters/numbers) on their left leg and a metal British Ornithological band on their right. This is reversed for Welsh and English Ospreys. In Scotland they are called tags and in North American, they are called bands.

The unique letter and number code for Loch Arkaig Ospreys is:

JH4 – Lachlan, male, fledged in 2017
JJ0 – Mallie, female, fledged in 2019
JJ2 – Rannoch, female, fledged in 2019
JJ6 – Doddie, male, fledged in 2020
JJ8 – Vera, female, fledged in 2020
JJ7 – Captain, male, fledged in 2020

The family keeps Louis busy fishing. Loch Arkaig is 19 km or 12 miles long. Louis has brought in both fresh and salt water fish meaning that he also fishes at sea. That is apparently a little farther distance than if the fished at the very far end of Loch Arkaig. The favourite fish on the nest appear to be Brown Trout and Salmon.

In 2020, Louis brought in 553 fish. Ailia fished and brought 26 to the nest late in the breeding season. Breaking this down, information from the Loch shows that of those 579 fish there were 459 trout, 64 flat fish, 34 mackerel, 11 sea trout and grilse, 7 Arctic Char and 4 pike. Impressive.

Here is a video of the highlights from the 2020 season:

And another. Enjoy!

None of the offspring of Louis and Aila have been spotted except when Doddie stopped in at Somerset on his first migration in the fall of 2020. The journey of more than 6400 km to migrate is treacherous. They get in storms, the winds, they can be shot, there was Avian Pox in Senegal in 2021, there are droughts, water shortage, and they can simply starve to death being in the wrong place at the wrong time. The little ones are young when they leave the nest. They have a long way to travel and find food and manage on their own without their parents or siblings there to help. Let us hope that some of them are spotted this year. That would be grand. It is heartbreaking to watch them hatch, grow, and fledge and never hear another word. It is one reason I am very grateful that some of these birds have satellite trackers like Solly from the Port Lincoln Osprey nest. (The Australian Osprey do not have to migrate but the young ones still have a daunting time surviving to adulthood).

I have to admit that the Osprey have become one of my favourite birds to watch. While I am counting down to World Osprey Week in the United Kingdom, I will also be looking forward to the arrival of the Osprey in Manitoba. More on that in the late spring.

Thank you for joining me today.

Cover photo credit: “Osprey (Pandion haliaetus)” by Allan Hopkins is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0