NEW high definition cameras have improved the experience of watching ospreys for visitors to the Tweed Valley.
Osprey project officer Diane Bennett said the high definition cameras – installed for this summer along with live sound – had allowed viewers to get more of the atmosphere of the forest.
“Having the season filmed in high definition, the detail and clarity of the picture was fantastic, the best it has ever been. There was live sound which accompanied the live footage and that made the centres as atmospheric as actually being there in the forest,” she said.
“The background forest sounds could be heard and throughout the early part of the season a chaffinch sang all day long next to the osprey nest,” she continued.
“A cheeky jay family moved in not long after the ospreys fledged and they were great fun to watch, taking sneaky scraps from the nest, they became so bold that they would even pop over to visit when the ospreys were all at home!”
And, unusually for this late in the season as the ospreys get ready to migrate, the male fed the female, she said.
“At the end of the season when the female is usually distancing herself from the family as the urge to head south begins to feel quite strong within her, it was fascinating to see her turn up at the nest and the male gave her a fresh caught fish. We have only ever witnessed this behaviour at the start of the season during courtship and during the raising of the chicks, but never after the chicks have fledged,” said Diane.
“It was a fascinating insight into the bond between this pair. We are constantly learning more about the family life of the ospreys the more we observe them. It is hard not to apply anthropomorphism to this and see it as a touching moment within a relationship between the pair, as he has no duty to continue to bring fish to her at this late stage in the season. It begs the question – are they bound by more than just duty and instinct to raise a family?
“We believe that the parents do not migrate to the same area, that they will split up and not see each other until next season, so a touching end of season gesture just keeps us all guessing about the true nature of their relationship. We will never know. Maybe they do see each other, we have no way of finding out.
“It would seem that they have very individual personalities and they can often exhibit behaviour that surprises us.”
Other season highlights include the visiting osprey pair’s three chicks successfully fledged despite the wet summer, and the surprise of the three hatching as it was not possible to see into the nest to see how many eggs had been laid.
Meanwhile, three osprey chicks at Kielder Water and Forest Park are a little further behind with only one so far taking flight.
The remaining chick in the original nest in the 62,000 hectare (155,000 acre) park was watched on the nest’s live video feed by visitors and staff at Kielder Castle Visitor Centre. “It was quite emotional,” said June Banks, who manages the Forestry Commission shop in the castle. “The youngster perched himself on the edge of the nest and eventually plucked up the courage to take a leap in the dark. Everything else went like clockwork and after a circuit around the nest he arrived back safe and sound.”
As in previous years, three eggs were laid in the tree-top nest, but due to stormy weather in May, only one chick survived.
News of the other nest at Kielder – which for the first time has produced two chicks – is also positive.
The birds have been spotted flexing their wings on the edge of the nest getting ready for take-off.
The ospreys’ development is a few weeks behind previous years because the adults arrived late in the county in the spring.
Now they face a race against time to learn how to fish on Northumbrian Water’s Kielder Reservoir.
By the start of September they will be wanting to head south to avoid the harsh northern European winter.
Kevin Hudson, Leisure Manager at Northumbrian Water said: “With two osprey families on the wing hunting for trout it gives visitors a unique chance to see these majestic creatures.”