Osprey Lessons and Sharpie pays a visit

A couple of weeks ago, a really good book landed on my desk. It is The Rutland Water Ospreys. It is beautiful, full of colour photographs, drawings, and brimming with all the information that Roy Dennis, Tim Appleton, Tim Mackrill, and Helen McIntryre learned when Rutland Water set about to increase the number of Ospreys in the United Kingdom. What they and other researchers learned through direct observation, banding, and using satellite monitored trackers has changed many commonly held beliefs about Osprey. I hope, over the course of the next weeks to introduce you to some of the things they learned, along with others.

Translocating. When Roy Dennis set about to take young osprey from their nests in Scotland and introduce them to Rutland, the team learned one big important aspect that increased their success. I mention this first because I am once again hoping there would be a break at the Achieva Osprey Nest in Dunedin, Florida. Tiny Tot has not had anything to eat since 11 am on April 11. Despite fish deliveries including a whopper by Diane, Tiny did not get that much food. How could Tiny thrive too? I wished that the rangers in Florida that work with USFWS would remove Tiny from the nest and hand feed him til he was strong enough to be introduced. And this is precisely what they did at Rutland in the beginning. What they learned is you do not remove the runt from the nest. Instead you take one of the larger, older chicks leaving the little one with its parents and possibly another sibling. By removing the bigger older chick that required more food and was being the most aggressive, the little one grew and thrived. At the same time the bigger old chick did better being translocated. It did not have to be fed by hand but could eat on its own and did not have difficulties being removed from the nest.

The image below is of the 2011 chicks of Monty and Nora from the Cors Dyfi Nest in Wales. There they are: Einion Blue DH, Dulas Blue 99, and Leri Blue DJ. They have just received their trackers. Look how the trackers fit in a little pack on their backs. [Note: 3 healthy Osprey chicks raised in the same nest. No problems with rivalry].

The satellite trackers do not harm the birds. There are various models, some are battery powered while some are solar. Many weight only 0.15 grams. They get very sophisticated and expensive depending on what data the researchers want. Some fit directly on the feathers while others are inside a kind of backpack. Using super glue, some plastic tubing, and some dental floss the tracker is fitted onto the central shaft of the tail feather if it was a tail mounted device or on the back.

Researchers check to make sure that the feathers of the young Osprey are hard-penned. When feathers begin to grow, there is blood flowing through the shaft. As the birds ready to fledge, the blood supply to the feather stops flowing and the shaft turns white. At that stage, the feather is hard penned. Some of you might remember that Joe and Connie’s oldest chick, Hope, in the Captiva Florida Bald Eagle Nest on Santibel Island died from a broken blood feather. The real cause was rodenticide but the young bird, having ingested the poison from prey she was fed, broke off one of her feathers jumping about the nest. Because the poison was an anti-coagulant, she literally bled to death. Blood feather versus hard penned.

Solly, the Port Lincoln Osprey is wearing a tracker positioned on her back that is expected to last for seven years. Others are only intended to last a year – for short term research projects. They will come off during the moult. That is the kind that the two Royal Albatross, LGL and LGK, have on their back.

Solly is 205 days old. From her backpack satellite transmitter, we know that she spent last night at Eba Anchorage. We have also learned from Solly that juvenile Eastern Osprey travel as much as 200 kilometres from their natal nest. The assumption had always been that juvenile osprey stayed closer to home. Not true!

Another common held belief was that male Ospreys always return to the area of their natal nest after their first migration to breed. The evidence this time came from banding, the coloured Darvic rings. The sighting of a male Osprey, orange/black 11 (98), a Rutland bird, in a Scots pine in north Wales, some 200 miles west of Rutland, proved that belief to be wrong. In fact, the sighting of orange/black 11 (98) in Wales did something else – it confirmed that the bird had survived. When it did not return to Rutland, it was wrongly assumed to be dead. Another sighting on that trip enroute home was of another Rutland male. This time 07 (97) was not dead either but had a female and a chick in a nest in mid-Wales.

These are only a few of the common beliefs that have been debunked through the use of logic, banding, or satellite transmitters. Every day researchers are learning something new and exciting. It is a great time to be learning about birds.

———————————————————————————-Some fun images to close off. Louis at the Loch Arkaig Osprey Nest. Instead of pacing and waiting for Aila to arrive, Louis (pronounced Lou-ee) is using his talons to dig up the nest and refurbish it. His digging is quite efficient. Everyone is holding their breath waiting for Aila to arrive.

12 April 2021. Louis is doing nestorations.

Louis continues to wait for Aila on the 13th. Oh that she would arrive. The migration is so difficult. A healthy Kielder Osprey, Blue Y6 (18) female was spotted in Santander, Spain a couple of days ago. She was healthy. Then she was found a couple of days later dehydrated and with a broken leg. All of Louis and Aila’s fans are hoping that she is in the last group of ospreys moving north from Africa into the United Kingdom.

And a glimpse at the cutes little baby osprey – the first hatch of the year in the Savannah, Georgia Osprey nest on 13 April. The pip started at 10:58 on the 12th. There are three eggs on this nest. If you want to follow this new little one and its siblings, I have posted the information below.

Sharpie must have known that I am feeling a ‘little blue’ over Tiny Tot and he decided to pay me an early morning visit. He caused quite the commotion on his arrival. There had been a glut of European Starlings at the feeders. I am not exaggerating when I say that there were no less than 35. And then we got the most beautiful murmurations – two of them – thanks to Sharpie! It is always a treat to see that Sharpie is surviving. He stays with us in the cold Canadian winter, never migrates and made a bit of history on Cornell birds because of that. Here he is today another snowy day – in April!

Thank you for joining me today – as I wait, impatiently, for Tiny Tot to be fed enough to survive. It is lovely hearing from you, too. Stay safe. Enjoy the birds!

Thanks to the following for their streaming cams where I took my screen shots: Woodland Trust and Post Code Lottery and Rutland Water, Cornell Lab & Skidaway Audubon. Thanks also to the Port Lincoln Osprey Project and the telemetry they post on their FB Page.

Fantastic Osprey News

First up, Louis has landed on the Loch Arkaig Nest – no joke. He touched down at 18:14pm on 11 April to begin the 2021 season at Loch Arkaig. No more worries about the intruder bird (we hope) that was making itself comfortable. Let us all hope that Alia is right behind. What a relief! There were cheers around the world, literally. And tears of great joy rolling down hundreds of eyes.

Over at the Loch of the Lowes, Blue NC0 now called Nessie – has laid her and Laddie’s first egg for the 2021 season. And this is a huge relief just like the arrival of Louis. How grand. It will be wonderful to see little ones on this nest. Note: Laddie and NC0 raised one chick in the 2020 season.

At the Foulshaw Moss Nest, Blue 35, who arrived back on 26 March, has laid her first egg in the snow! Her mate is White YW. Their nest is in a bog in Cumbria. Fantastic! The nest bowl is very deep. We might get a glimpse of the egg during an incubation exchange but, for now, it is nice and cosy in this wintery weather.

And the very first sighting of Blue 222 born on Kielder Nest 1A in 2018 was on 8 April in Aberdeenshire! I mean how wonderful is this. The migration is difficult, especially for just fledged ospreys. To have one survive and to see it catching a huge fish is marvellous. The image was taken by Rob MacDonald and posted on the Loch Arkaig FB page. I hope he does not mind my using you to tell you of this wondrous event. Imagine from the fall of 2018 to now – not knowing anything about the survival of this bird and here she is! Splendid.

There she is with a gorgeous fish she has caught – big enough she has to use both talons. Her name is Binkey after Binkey Burn, a tributary of the Cranecleugh Burn that flows into the Kielder.

Over at the Glaslyn, Aran comes in and gives Mrs G a break to eat. Mrs G has been eating for more than an hour! We also get a glimpse of the egg in the exchange of incubation duties!

Aran on incubation duty while Mrs G enjoys her fish. 11 April 2021.
Mrs G enjoying her fish. 11 April 2021.
A great look at Mrs G’s first egg of the 2021 season. 11 April 2021.

I wish the news of the weather down in Dunedin, Florida were better. The Achieva Osprey nest is soaked to its core.

I am happy to report that two fish did arrive on the nest during breaks in the weather. Tiny Tot ate from 7:27:45-7:48 and then again from 10:32:03 to 10:44:44. Tiny Tot had dropped the crop that he went to sleep with on the 10th of April. It is unclear if he had any of the fish that was delivered right before the skies opened to rain last night. He has not had a crop from the amount of food he has eaten but he has eaten and that is a good thing!

There is Tiny with his juvenile plumage coming in being fed by Diane.

It is nearly 3:30pm nest time in Florida. The water is still dripping off the birds but it looks like there is a lull in the weather. There is rain but no thunderstorms. From the weather report that heavy rain and thunderstorms will begin in about half an hour and continue past 7pm. Let us hope that Jack can sneak in a fish. It is 19 degrees going up to 23 Celsius. The weather for Monday thru Wednesday is better. Hoping to get Tiny Tot some more crops then before the storms start again next weekend.

3:30 pm 11 April 2021. Diane keeping the babies dry as best she can.

Thank you for joining me today. I hope that the good news will rub off on Tiny Tot’s nest with the arrival of a big fish during a break. Have a good rest of the weekend everyone. Take care.

Thanks to the following for their streaming cams or their FB postings: Woodland Trust Loch Arkaig, Post Code Lottery, Friends of Loch Arkaig FB Page, Achieva Credit Union, Cumbria Wildlife Trust, Bywyd Gwyllt Wildlife Trust, and Friends of Loch of the Lowes and Scottish Wildlife Trust.

Happy Saturday in Bird World

It might be hot and windy but Jack has delivered one big fish and another piece onto the Achieva Osprey nest this morning. Thank you, Jack! All is well on that nest! Tiny Tot still had his crop from yesterdays big feed when a big fish arrived at 7:16:50. Despite the fact that he was right there when that whopper landed, Diane pulled the fish around to feed the bigger ones first. She knows what she is doing. Feeding them first kept peace on the nest and she knew there would be enough left for her and Tiny.

Tiny Tot remained in his position when the fish arrived while the older sibs ate their breakfast. Without calling attention to himself, he pivots so that he can eat when they are finished. Very smart.

Tiny Tot is a survivor. He is clever and he keeps his eye on everything that is going on in the nest. Today, there have been no attacks on him. Did the arrival of all that fish yesterday help calm the food competition on the nest?

Tiny eats! At 9:20:03 Tiny Tot looks like he has swallowed a beach ball! Look at that crop. I just think this is the silliest pose I have ever seen in a bird. Tiny is preening his tail.

In the image below you can also get an idea of how much bigger the older sibling is than Tiny. Look at the difference in their wings. Tiny is getting his juvenile feathering on his back and wings. For sure, a total of about 7 full days without food (if you add it all up) stunted his growth. Let’s hope that these good feedings help him get bigger quicker.

Jack is working on more gold stars today. Everyone is looking up as the second food item arrives at 11:10:22. It is hard to tell but it looks like a piece of fish not a whole fish. Once again our little trooper is jolly on the spot.

This time Diane did not move the fish. She kept it by Tiny Tot and started feeding him immediately. The older ones were watching the traffic together.

At some point the older siblings came over to get a few bites. There was no bonking. Tiny had eaten a lot and he quietly turned to the rim of the nest. When they left, he turned back to mom to eat some more. Diane also ate some very good bites but before she finished the last bit, she stretched her neck to Tiny who, at first, refused any more food. In the end, he did eat a little more at 11:46:44 after mom insisting. Here he is full, Diane tidying up the tail, and a very happy nest on a hot, very windy day in St Pete’s.

In other Osprey news, Mrs G has laid her first egg of the 2021 season! Mrs G is the oldest Osprey in the United Kingdom and is the mate of the unringed male known as Aran at the Glaslyn nest in Wales. Congratulations!

And poor Dylan. The weather in the United Kingdom has been strange. It snowed on the Clywedog nest in Wales on the afternoon of 10 April. Here is that beautiful Dylan posing for us.

The mystery at the Loch Arkaig nest continues. Everyone believed that Louis had arrived the other day but it looks like it was a male intruder who is still hanging around the nest. As far as anyone knows, Louis and Aila have not returned. (I erroneously reported Louis had arrived as did everyone else!) The weather and the winds continue to be an issue and this very popular Osprey couple could be waiting it out. Meanwhile, the nice looking male looks like he owns the place.

I really wish Louis and Aila had trackers so we knew they are alright and just progressing slowly. In the satellite image below, we can see Rutland 4K (13) making his way through France on his return trip from Africa. In this 250 kilometre or 155 mile section, Rutland 4K (13) reached heights of 650 metres or 2132 feet above sea level.

These advanced backpack transmitters are amazing. They can tell you where the raptor went for their migration and if they are near to any dangerous issues such as Avian Pox along the coast of Senegal in 2021. They tell us their travel speed, the height, where they are enroute during migration. Researchers can then match this data with wind thermals. We are learning so much!

This is the most recent tracking data on Solly, the female osprey from the Port Lincoln Osprey nest. Solly is 203 days old today and she spent the night up at Eba Anchorage. Ever since she left her natal nest on the barge at Port Lincoln, Solly has been traveling north but she has continually returned, if she went much beyond Perlubie, to either Streaky Bay or Eba Anchorage. Solly has already provided the researchers in Australia with a dirth of material. We know where she spends the night, where she goes to fish, how she responds to crowds on a beach and how far away from her natal nest she went – which changed our understanding of the distance juveniles travel when they leave home.

Switching over to the United States again, it is a beautiful sunny day in Ithaca, New York and our favourite male Red-tail Hawk has been on incubation duty. In fact it is 23 degrees C and no snow in sight! Arthur, you really are a cutie. Look at that gorgeous red tail. Big Red seems to be trusting you more with nest duties.

The little eaglets born on the Minnesota DNR nest are growing. The eldest stretches its neck and watches Nancy, the female, eat the fish tail. Look at that little crop. This nest is doing really well. Everyone has learned how to feed or eat and the supply of food seems just right.

It is a good day just to pop in and check on those Great Horn Owlets, Tiger and Lily. Here is Tiger this morning standing next to Bonnie. How is that for growth? The time passed so quickly from the day the pair of owls decided to take over this Bald Eagle nest for their owlets. That was 1 February. The owlets were born on 7 and 9 March and are now 33 and 31 days old. We will see them climbing all over the nest and upon the branches soon. In a little over two weeks, around 47 days old, the owlets should be trying to fly. That should be around 24-26th of April. They will stay around the nest, improving their flying and hunting skills before dispersing to their own territory.

Thank you so much for joining me today. I hope that your Saturday is as beautiful as it is here on the Canadian prairie – gorgeous blue sky and no wind. Looking forward to 14 Celsius about the time for my walk. Take care everyone. Enjoy your weekend.

Thank you to the following streaming cams where I get my screen shots: Farmer Derek, the MN DNR, Cornell Bird Lab Red-Tail Hawk Cam at Ithaca, Achieva Osprey, Bywyd Gwyllt Glaslyn Wildlife, Woodland Trust, Lyn Clywedog and Cyfoeth Natural Resources

Iris is home!

At 8:06:48 cheers rang out around the world. It was touch down for Iris, the oldest Osprey in the entire world! Believed to be 25 or more years old, according to Dr Ericke Green of the University of Montana.She is just landing from her winter migration. All the worrying about whether or not she survived another year is put to rest.

Welcome home, Iris!

Welcome home, Iris. 7 April 2021

Isn’t she a beauty? Imagine making that 4000 mile migration every year for 25 years successfully? And for those of you that have watched Iris, you know that she is a great fisher!

Iris’s nest, prior to this one, was on a hydro pole about 68 metres or 200 feet from this one. This artificial nest was built for Iris because of the high rate of electrocutions on power lines – all birds, not just Osprey. The power lines are high enough and have a clear view that they appear to be desirable. The new nest, erected in 2007, is all set up with a high resolution camera. Iris took to the new nest right away, thankfully.

Iris had a wonderful mate. His name was Stanley. Stanley did not return from migration in 2016. Unfortunately, she teamed up with Louis who also has a nest over at the baseball field with Star. Their relationship has been tragic for this fantastic Osprey mother who fledged no less than 30 chicks before meeting Louis.

Iris fully on her nest after landing. Gosh, she looks to be in good shape! 7 April 2021

Iris is already making renovations to her nest. Let us all send her positive energy for a new mate and a successful breeding season. She certainly does deserve it.

In terms of Osprey research, Iris can change all of the statistics if she mates, lays fertile eggs, and raises more successful chicks!

Welcome home, Iris! The world is watching and sending you the best wishes for a new mate and a very happy, full of fish breeding season and a successful fledge to your children!!!!!!

Oh, she must be tired and it must feel good to be home on your perch. Iris doesn’t have to go far to catch fish – the fork of the river is just 15 metres or 50 feet away.

Iris suns herself on her perch. 7 April 2021

You can watch Iris and hope with the rest of the Osprey world here:

Meanwhile, everyone continues to monitor the Loch Arkaig nest in Scotland for the arrival of Louis and Aila.

Here is the link to one of the finest Osprey nests on the planet because of these amazing parents:

Update on the Achieva Osprey Nest: Sadness returns at the Achieva Osprey nest. It is day 2 and 2pm nest time. Tiny Tot has had 2 or 3 bites of food. Diane, the mother, has not left the nest to fish due to an intruder. Raptors will generally protect their territory first. A small piece of fish came in this morning. Tiny Tot got under Diane’s legs and had a good spot. He got a couple of bites and then #1 – who is losing the dominant position – wanted under mum and got him out.

Tiny Tot under Diane hoping to grab more than 2 bites. 7 April 2021

Thank you for checking in today. And what a glorious day it is. Iris, it is so nice to see you. You are literally amazing.

Thank you to the Montana Osprey Project, the Cornell Lab for Birds, Woodland Trust and People’s Play Lottery, and the Achieva Osprey nest for their streaming cameras. That is where I get my screen captures.

Today in Bird World

After watching the Port Lincoln Osprey Nest last year and Iris at Hellsgate in Montana, I vowed ‘never again’. The death of the third hatch, little Tapps, was simply too much. I vowed to stick with watching Big Red and Arthur at the Fernow Nest in Ithaca, New York, two or three Peregrine Falcon nests, and I would check in occasionally on the Royal Albatross at Taiaroa Head. But then something happened and the Achieva Osprey nest became a constant while I waited for Big Red and Arthur to start their nest renovations and the eggs to arrive and watched others periodically. I remember before the notion of competition set in that it was so lovely to see the three politely standing and being fed. It gave me hope. I watched the 2020 highlights of the Loch Arkaig Osprey nest and fell in love with Louis, Aila, Doddie, Vera, and of course, JJ7 – Captain. Tiny Tot reminds me, in a way, of the challenges that JJ7 could have had but, didn’t. Louis fished day and night to feed his family and he was on the nest helping Aila tandem feed. One took JJ7, the tiny little male, third born – the ‘tercel’. The other parent fed the two bigger ones. Everyone thrived! Just thinking about it puts a smile on my face.

27 June 2020 Loch Arkaig Osprey Nest
5 July 2020. Loch Arkaig Osprey Nest

It was a very good thing that Tiny Tot, the youngest on the Achieva Osprey nest had its own private feeding yesterday from 4:27-4:48. Tiny was so full that even with Diane insisting, he could not hold another bite. Today, he had only about five small morsels of fish. The two early fish deliveries were too small to fill Tiny up never mind 1 and 2. But Tiny did bide his time and got up when there was some fish left to have 2 step in and decide it was not full enough. Having waited long enough for Jack to deliver food, Diane brought in a nice sized fish to feed all at 7:22. Then Jack showed up, with a crop, and took it before she could even feed a bite to the chicks. It was dark when Jack returned the fish but, I bet he ate the nice head. Normally, I would agree he should. It is hard work fishing – they say that they have a 20% success rate. But Jack had a crop. Neither Diane or Tiny got more than a couple of bites. Of course, the question remains ‘why’. The pattern is roughly three good days and three relatively poor ones. I hope that tomorrow Jack proves me wrong.

Just as I hope Jack surprises me tomorrow, an article on Ospreys surprised me today. It wasn’t actually the article – the world needs more stories about these magnificent birds. Rather, it was the glossy weekly magazine that is known more for politics and its reviews of art, restaurants, books, and the theatre-The New Yorker. ‘The Joy of Watching the Ospreys Return.’ is by Alexander Aciman. Aciman shares his love of one particular Osprey nest that he has watched for many, many years. The article describes the incredible abilities of the Osprey including the fact that the mated pair leave separately, winter in different locations yet return to ‘their’ nest in the spring. The author is amazed by the ability of these fish eating birds to travel from the United States to Mexico, Central or South America and return to a spot no bigger than a sofa cushion, annually. There was sadness at the nest in 2020 – all three chicks died. Park rangers determined that the cause was parasites living in the nest and to avoid the same catastrophic event again, they tore down the old nest after the couple had migrated. Aciman wonders if the mated pair will return after such sadness. To date, the female has arrived and is rebuilding the nest.

In my post were two books. Population Ecology of Raptors by Ian Newton is ex-library. Published in 1979, the book covers dispersion, breeding density and everything else to do with breeding, mortality rates at the time and causes, as well as conservation ecology. It came highly recommended but with a word of caution – we have learned much because of streaming cams, tagging, and satellite transmitters and facts about raptors have changed since 1979. You might want to have a peek. Maybe your library still has a copy or can order it for you.

UC Berkeley Peregrine Falcon Nest. Hatch watch beings on 17 April!

The second book is Becoming Wild. How Animal Cultures Raise Families, Create Beauty, and Achieve Peace by Carl Safina. As one of the reviewers states, ‘Safina has the potential to change our relationship with the natural world.’ I like Safina for his directness. The book examines the lives of three non-human species: Sperm Whales, Scarlet Macaws, and Chimpanzees.

Safina tells us how they live, how they teach one another, and how they learn. And then he hits his readers with the question: ‘Will we let them continue to exist or will we finalize their annihilation?’ I am looking forward to writing a full review of this book for you when I have finished reading it and digested its contents. My speed reading of the Introduction and part of chapter 1 tells me this book is going to be more than interesting.

Just checking in on some of the Osprey nests in the United Kingdom today. They sure were having nasty weather for April the past couple of days with snow and gale force winds.

Laddie (LM12) and Blue NC0 have had to deal with the high winds tearing up their nest and then snow.

There was wet snow over at the Clywedog Nest in Wales. This is Dylan bringing a gift of a pinecone for Seren (Blue F5).

A soaked Dylan comes in with a beautiful pinecone as a gift for Seren. 6 April 2021

The Loch Arkaig Osprey Nest has been experiencing blizzard like conditions. Everyone is hoping that Louis and Aila will arrive anytime but the bad weather might have slowed them down. Even so, Osprey are perfectly capable of being covered in snow and incubating their eggs with no dire results.

Over at the Rutland Mantou Bay nest, Blue 33 (11) has been bringing in more nesting materials for Maya who is incubating the couples three eggs. Today, she has also had to defend her nest against another intruder. Maya is formidable and I wouldn’t want to land on her nest by mistake!

Blue 33 (11) brings in nesting materials.

I love how Blue 33 (11) loves to spend time with Maya on the nest cuddled together. He is a great catch! Maya, you are sooooooo lucky!

Thank you for joining me today and for sharing your lives with these wonderful birds. More news tomorrow on any more arrivals of UK Osprey and a look at satellite tracking and its benefits. Take care!

Thank you to the following streaming cams where I obtained my screen shots: Rutland Mantou Bay Ospreys, Woodland Trust and Peoples Play Lottery, Scottish Wildlife Trust, Carnyx Wild Wales YouTube channel, and UC Berkeley Peregrine Falcon Cam.

Ups and Downs in Bird World

The Scottish Osprey nests were almost blown off their platforms on Sunday. Laddie (LM12) had no more brought a fish to the nest for NC0 than the wind began to stir. You can see the choppy waves beginning on the Loch of the Lowes. Thank goodness there were no eggs in the nest! At the beginning of the migration season, Laddie arrived early in hopes that NC0 would return to his nest and be his mate. He worked daily making sure that everything was perfect for her arrival.

In the image below, NC0 has accepted Laddie’s gift of a fish. In the background you might not be able to tell the branches are blowing but you can begin to see that the water is getting choppy. Look at their fine nest and hold that image in your mind.

Now look at the image below. This is the same nest that Laddie and NC0 were standing on. There are huge waves on the loch. The trees are twisting and the winds simply picked up the part of the nest facing away from the loch and dumped it over the egg cup.

The running joke is that the situation is so dire it would make an Osprey sea sick.

Blue NC0 stands on the nest the morning after the winds, Monday 5 April. Laddie must have been disappointed after all his hard work. They are so close to needing the nest for NC0 to lay her eggs.

NC0 got busy cleaning up undaunted by the task!

Wow. NC0 worked hard and got everything back in order. And Laddie who was MIA most of the rebuilding rewarded her with a nice fish after!

Louis is expected on the Loch Arkaig Nest on 5 April to be followed by his mate, Aila. The snow and blowing winds could cause a delayed return. We will keep an eye out! Some snow remains on the nest.

In contrast Mrs G and Aran at the Bywyd Gwyllt Glaslyn Nest in Wales had a partially sunny day with no strong winds. And it wasn’t pitching down rain.

The new parent, Harry, on the Minnesota DNR Nest, stared at his eaglets for quite a long time today. Was he admiring them? was he wondering why they weren’t moving? did he think they were dead? Well, they weren’t dead. Just food comas!

The drama at the Durbes White Tailed Eagle Nest in Latvia continues. Milda and her mate, Raimis, had been together for six years when Raimis disappeared on 27 March. It is not known if he is severely injured and cannot return or if he is dead. It is a long time for him to be away from the nest. Milda is incubating three eggs and has been protecting it from a male intruder. She has gone without food to keep her precious eggs warm. The touching story of this female eagle protecting her eggs and not leaving the nest to hunt so she can eat has captured the attention of people in Latvia and around the world. She was the feature of a recent Latvian Panorama television programme. 4 April marks what would be her eighth day without food. Today, however, Milda left with the male intruder. It is not known but is assumed that she ate while she was away from the nest. She returned with a large crop. The unringed male could form a bond with Milda and feed her while she incubates her eggs. As we have learned from the nest of Spilve, a Golden Eagle, a single parent cannot forage, incubate, feed, and protect little ones alone. The next few days should clarify the situation at the nest in Kurzeme, Durbe County, in western Latvia. This is a short video of Milda flying in with the male intruder who has been named Mr. X.

Milda had her own bad weather with high winds and snow with clearing up in the late afternoon. Milda left the nest for a few minutes when the snow cleared. There is some indication that there is some fighting going on on the ground. Is it dogs? or is it Milda’s new potential mate and another male?

Some of you might be wondering what is happening at some of the other Bald Eagle nests. It is hard to keep up this time of year with Ospreys landing in the UK, eggs hatching all over the US, eggs being laid, birds coming and going and migration still on going in Manitoba. I will try and bring news of a few nests over the next few days that I have been following just to keep you up to speed.

One of those nests is The Trio over near Fulton, Illinois on the Mississippi River. There was a streaming cam on their old nest but the high winds last year destroyed it and they rebuilt. All images are from birders on the ground with their cameras. One of those is Dennis Becht. He caught this image today. If you squint you will see the head of a wee eaglet sticking up between the adults.

Solly, the Port Lincoln female Osprey, is 198 days old today. She spent Easter Sunday at Eba Anchorage and today she is back at her favourite haunts in Streaky Bay. It is wonderful to ‘see’ the satellite tracking on Solly and to know that she is well. Birders on the ground saw her with a salmon on Easter Sunday eating on a post. How grand.

Tiny Tot’s crop has gone up and then down and back up again. He had two feedings today at the Osprey Nest in St Petersburg. Jack brought in a very large fish yesterday that came and went 3 times and today, a large fish arrived at 8:02. The two older ate and Tiny Tot had a private feeding from around 8:36-9:07. He was eating again around 10:27 with the others. The regular delivery of large fish and the energy that Tiny has derived from eating plus his being clever are helping this little one to start growing and get its confidence back. Tiny hangs back and let the others eat – it protects his head and neck from bonking. But he also keeps a sharp eye on what is going on and when he senses it is nearly his time to eat, he moves up carefully without causing attention. He is extremely clever and we are all hoping that the good feedings continue. His growth is a little slowed because of so many days without food. No doubt the very large fish that have come in are working to his advantage. There is always food left for him and Diane. Gold stars for Jack.

Tiny had dropped his crop (moving food from the holding area to the stomach) this morning. There had been some concern by chatters yesterday that he might not be able to do this after he was so dehydrated from not eating for three days but, luckily that was not the case. He ate for approximately 43 minutes and then ate again. Tiny is full! And the nest is peaceful.

I wonder if Jack has found a new place to fish? The fish brought in the last two days have been much larger than some of the deliveries a few days ago.

Thank you so much for joining me today. I don’t know about the rest of you but if Tiny has a full crop in the morning my day is much brighter! Stay safe. Wish for good weather for all the birds and large fish on the Achieva Osprey nest!

Thank you to all the streaming cams where I get my screen shots: the Achieva Osprey Nest in St Petersburg, The LTV Juras erglis Durbe, the MN DNR, the FB Page and Dennis Becht for the Trio, The Woodland Trust and People Play Lottery, Scottish Wildlife and Friends of Loch of the Lowes, Port Lincoln Osprey FB page, and Bywyd Gwyllt Glaslyn.

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