World Osprey Week 22-26 March 2021

What is World Osprey Week? It is when the world joins with all our friends in the United Kingdom to celebrate the return of the Ospreys from their winter migration. It is a time for celebration, educational fun, and competitions – especially for children. There will also be a lot of videos for those of us who do not live in the UK. Congratulations to the Leicestershire and Rutland Wildlife Trust who are celebrating the 25th anniversary of Osprey Week!

Ospreys are large ‘fish hawks’. In fact, they used to be included with all species of hawk but, now, they have their own category among avians. They live near water. It can be either fresh water or salt water – rivers like the one show in the image below or coastal estuaries, lakes, reservoirs, or fish hatching ponds. You will find them anywhere there are large numbers of fish. They are known for their ability to hover, like a helicopter. They do this often when landing at their nest or when fishing where they will hover over the fish until they plunge into catch that fish – feet first!

“One More Shot of the Wales Countryside” by Monkey Boson is licensed under CC BY 2.0

The history of Ospreys in the United Kingdom is a sad one. By the middle of World War I (1916), they were almost extinct. The demise of the Ospreys was due to shootings and egg collecting. Later, in the twentieth century, more were dying because of pesticides like DDT. Indeed, the Ospreys were one of the first of the large birds to alert the world to the threat of these harmful chemicals. Electricity is something that each of us use daily. My laptop computer is plugged in right now recharging as I write. The lamp to my right allows me to see. But this modern convenience – electricity – is a real threat to raptors such as the Osprey. Indeed, the main threats today are loss of habitat, power line collisions, and electrocution.

“Ospreys Mean Spring” by Me in ME is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Operation Jimmy honours Blue CU2 ‘Jimmy’ an Osprey born in Scotland. On his migration home, Jimmy stopped in Wales and continued to return. Jimmy was very popular. Sadly, he was electrocuted on a killer pole on a windy rainy day after he had caught his last fish. People were sad and angry. But they got to work. In an effort to stop birds from landing on these electrical poles and being killed, artificial nests started being constructed for the Osprey. In this video you can see one being installed. With the addition of natural perches, it is hoped that there will not be another electrocution.

Last year there were four breeding pairs in Wales. Today I will take a quick peek at two of those nests: Glaslyn and Dyfi. The streaming cam links are posted so you can join in the fun welcoming back these very famous Osprey.

Bywyd Gwyllt Glaslyn Wildlife (BGGW) started when the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) ended his stewardship program of the Glaslyn Ospreys in 2013. BGGW is a small community not-for-profit group that is dedicated to the care of the wildlife in the Glaslyn Valley including the current resident pair of Ospreys, Mrs G and Aran (since 2015).

What a gorgeous place for an Osprey nest!

“Llyn Gwynant” by Joe Dunckley is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Mrs G is the oldest breeding female Osprey in Wales. She has been breeding at the Glaslyn nest since 2004. She is estimated to be nineteen or twenty years old. Mrs G has laid at least fifty-one known eggs to date. Forty-one of those hatched and thirty-eight fledged. Mrs G has at least eight-five grandchildren – some have revised this figure to 100. Whew! Those are the ones they know about. What a legacy! Here is the link to their live streaming cam:

Another nest in Wales is the Dyfi Ospreys near Machynlleth. The current resident pair are Idris and Telyn and they are passionately adored by their followers. This project began in 2009 with the erection of artificial nest and perches. The first breeding pair were Monty and Nora. Nora, however, did not return from the winter migration. A new female Blue 12/10 took Nora’s place and was subsequently named Glensi. The couple fledged thirteen chicks between 2009 and including 2017. Glensi did not return to the nest in 2018. Did I say that migrating back and forth from the United Kingdom to Africa is dangerous? That spring Monty bonded with Blue 3J/13 named Telyn. Together the pair have raised six to fledge – three females and three males in the 2018 and 2019 season. Monty did not return after the 2019 season.

“Storm clouds over the Dyfi estuary” by Ruth and Dave is licensed under CC BY 2.0

I love seeing Osprey catch fish to feed their little ones. Here is a look at Monty and Telyn in 2019 when there were three hungry mouths. Sadly, this will be Monty’s last clutch. He was an incredible provider:

We are related to dinosaurs, can you tell?

Here is the link to the Dyfi Osprey Project and its streaming cam:

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCk70QelhKG9mVuj7jN4I5Cg

All over the United Kingdom individuals are posting their sightings of returning Ospreys. There are currently contests at many nests to predict when the resident pair will land. One of those is Loch Arkaig and I will be taking a look at that nest tomorrow.

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I have not checked in on Solly lately and it is time. Solly, the Eastern Osprey born on the barge in Port Lincoln is 172 days old today. She has been moving between the Streaky Bay area and Eba Anchorage with a couple of flights to Haslam for several weeks. Today she is back in Streaky Bay! These satellite trackers are really quite amazing.

These three images show her movements for today (the top one) and yesterday (the bottom one). This girl loves to fly around.

It is unclear if there have been any sightings of her sibling, DEW.

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Thank you so much for joining me today. Stay safe!

Thank you to the Port Lincoln Osprey Project for the satellite tracking imagery of Solly.

Kakapo and more

Everyone is talking about the Kakapo today because two of the 208 died. These events are always full of sadness.

Have you heard of Kakapo?

They live in New Zealand and they are parrots that cannot fly. Wings are only for balance and support. Some people think they look like an owl. In fact, they are nocturnal and only move around at night. Their plumage is a beautiful moss green with some yellow and black. Their feathers are very soft because they do not need them for flight. Their bill, legs, and feet are grey. Using those grey feet they run all over the ground and climb trees. They blend in perfectly to the forests of the small islands where they now live. These islands are designated nature reserves and only authorized personnel can go on them.

Before humans arrived on the shores of new Zealand, the forests were full of these amazing creatures. Many of the early settlers kept them as pets saying that they were as friendly as dogs. They are still friendly towards humans today. In the 1990s, only fifty existed. The predators of the adults were cats and stoats while rats were known to eat the eggs and the chicks. The New Zealand Department of Conservation undertook an amazing intervention in order to try and save the Kakapo. They literally gathered up the fifty that were alive and moved them to islands where there were no predators. In June there were 210. Sadly, today there are now 206. Every Kakapo has a radio transmitter whose battery needs to be changed at least once a year. They are carefully monitored and health checks are undertaken on a regular basis. Birds may receive supplemental feeds and eggs and chicks can be rescued and raised by hand. Because there are so few, the genetic diversity is extremely low and there is also a very low fertility rate. The Kakapo are managed on three islands and there is now managed mating using artificial insemination to help manage genetic loss. They are currently sequencing the genomes of all living kakapo to aid in their conservation. The females start breeding around five years but the males are not able to fertilize the eggs until they are about ten years old. They are said to only breed when the fruit of the Rimu trees bloom which is every 2-4 years. The males get off pretty easy. The females have to incubate the 1-4 eggs, feed themselves and their chicks, and also protect their nest and young. That is the reason that so many fell victim to cats and stoats in the past. They are strict vegetarians. Kakapo generally live to be ninety years old if they do not come to harm by predators or viruses.

They are so very cute. They love to hide from the Rangers when they come to change their transmitters but they also love their almond treats after!

If you would like to learn more about the Kakapo, this is a seven minute video that is quite good:

And if you are a teacher or you know someone who is and who might like to show their students this amazing non-flying parrot – that is so utterly sweet – head over to this site sponsored by the NZ Government:

https://www.doc.govt.nz/get-involved/conservation-education/resources/kakapo-recovery/

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It’s time for updates:

That Great Horned Owl on the Bald Eagle nest near Kansas City is still there. The Bald Eagles have not evicted her. Poor thing. That snow is really packed around her. The flakes stopped coming down and while it has warmed up, it is still a frigid -4 F. Our owl (I was tempted to say little but they really are not little) is trying to sleep and keep those eggs warm. Her mate, Clyde (gosh that was my dad’s name- who would name their little son Clyde???????) is very good at bringing her prey during the night. Last mouse deposit was right before dawn broke this morning.

Bonnie took a break – less than two minutes off those eggs. Gosh she was fast! That got me to wondering how quickly that -5 temperature would impact those eggs.

It doesn’t look like any of the snow fell in over the eggs. I wondered if the warmth of Bonnie’s body would have made a bit of a crust??? Just a silly thought but, maybe.

The Bald Eagle sitting on the nest in Hillsborough, New Jersey at Duke Farms is getting some relief. The snow has stopped falling and is actually melting there. We can finally see the nest. Let’s hope she catches a break and doesn’t get hit by the system moving through on Wednesday. This poor mother has had snow for twice as long as anyone else with eggs underneath them. She should get some kind of endurance prize!

And there is some really good news on the nest of Gaby and Samson over at NEFL. Little E24 was having problems with its right eye. This morning it was completely closed again but later in the day it opened up. I could not see any discharge. Let’s keep our fingers crossed that it just got a poke from some of that nest material. And give a hand to Samson who brought in five big fish. I wonder if he is expecting bad weather to set in?

Oh, just look. There is the little one’s tiny little foot close by its mom. How precious.

Samson can be my weatherman any day. He brought in such a big pile of fish earlier. Now you can hardly make out his silhouette as the rain pelts down at the nest near St. Augustine, Florida. There are also thunderstorms in the area but no tornadoes. Smart dad. That little one will be under its mother staying dry while she continues to incubate an egg that will never hatch.

It has been a beautiful day out at Big Bear. That snow and chilly winds are gone! How nice for Jackie and Shadow.

I am also very happy to report that there was so much food on the SWFL Eagle nest of Harriet and M15 that the bopping of 17 towards 18 was next to nothing today. In fact, I hope they are growing out of that behaviour. There is lots and lots of food. Indeed, hold on. Harriet even brought in some road kill today in the form of a grey tabby cat. So again, if you ever find yourself near someone who is saying eagles only eat fish, well they sure don’t on Harriet and M15’s nest. They are great opportunistic eagles. At the same time it is extremely worrying when the hawks, falcons and eagles land on the streets and highways to get the carrion and get hit themselves. It is also, of course, tragic when someone’s pet gets hit by a car.

And last, let’s check up on Solly to see what she is up to. To date Solly has re-written a lot of aspects of Osprey behaviour in Australia. That is fabulous news and supports putting satellite transmitters on birds for additional research and learning. Of course, the streaming cameras that I watch, like you, are invaluable as are the BOGs (Birders on the Ground).

Solly is 149 days old and she is still enjoying Eba Anchorage and flying over to Kiffin Island to find her dinner. Look at that seabird go!

And speaking of Ospreys, one of the Scottish Kieldner Ospreys Blue Y6, White EB’s youngest daughter, that hatched in 2016 was seen at Tanji Marsh Bird Reserve in The Gambia by bird guide, Fansu Bojang. This is just excellent news. You might recall that Avian Flu went through the Pelican population in Senegal and there was some worry for the UK Ospreys. This is just wonderful news! Last year was Blue Y6’s first year to raise chicks. She had two with her mate at a nest in Perthshire. Let’s hope she does it again this year.

There is lots of good news all around in the bird world. Even the Kakapo Recovery said that they are grateful for the growth in the numbers and with that also comes higher numbers of those dying.

The Ospreys will be making their way back to their nests across the UK and Europe soon. We wish them all safe travels. The hawks and falcons will be finding twigs for their nests and in a few weeks we will begin to welcome another group of baby eagles.

I am keeping a particularly close eye on that nest of Big Red and Arthur.

Stay safe and stay warm! Thank you for joining me today. See you tomorrow!

Thank you to the Kakapo Recovery, the AEF for the streaming cams at Big Bear and NEFL, the SWFL streaming cam and the D. Pritchett family, Derek the Farmer’s streaming cam, Port Lincoln Osprey for the tracking information on Solly, Duke Farms streaming cam, and Kielder Ospreys.