New era for osprey project following death of chicks

Happier times, the female osprey shelters her chicks the day before she went missing
Happier times, the female osprey shelters her chicks the day before she went missing

Volunteers were moved to tears on discovering the mother osprey in the Tweed Valley’s filmed nest is missing, leaving her three chicks to perish.

The Tweed Valley Osprey Project – which sees live images of the nest of the rare birds of prey beamed into viewing centres at Glentress and Kailzie – celebrated its 10th anniversary last year, producing a book with Innerleithen schoolchildren to mark the successful decade.

Diane Bennett

Diane Bennett

But on June 5, just days after the Osprey Time Flies book launch, the female osprey went missing and, despite the male’s efforts, their recently-hatched chicks died.

Another unringed female has come onto the site and wants the nest, reports project officer Diane Bennett.

She continued: “The male initially was very threatened, but an uneasy truce seems to have developed.

“The new female wants a partner, a nest site and to breed.

“White leg ring SS (the male) has a nest site, he is a good proven father and he will be likely to mate eventually, if not this season, definitely next, if he is back and his own partner is not around.

“For more than 10 years we have watched the gentle and touchingly affectionate relationship between white leg ring SS (male) and his partner.

“He seems a little lost, to be honest, his world has just been tramped on, three chicks and his partner wiped out.

“What are his instincts telling him to do? It would seem that he is to try to hold his territory, the nest site which has been his home for 10 summers.

“I have always been guilty of attributing human emotions to our ospreys which is not scientific or correct.

“However, my heart goes out to this beautiful male who has been the perfect husband to his partner.

“He is not equipped to reason logically about the next stage of his life, but just to stay with the familiar and hold his ground.

“We absolutely do not know what will happen next. We will have to watch closely and record events carefully ... so that we understand this species further.

“We sometimes think we know all there is to know about ospreys, but we do not. This is new territory for us, watching and trying to analyse what is going on and to interpret it.”

Diane admitted: “I was devastated to lose the chicks and then have the horrible realisation that our female has not returned and the reason must be because there is something wrong with her or she has perhaps perished and we may never find out.

“My science background and curiosity has kicked in which wants to watch and find out more about this species and how they behave, and I am fascinated as well as concerned. I don’t want to lose white leg SS (the male osprey) but we will have to wait and see what happens.

“The volunteers have been very upset too. We have had 10 fantastic, successful years with the Tweed Valley Osprey Project. All sadness apart, we are entering into a new era and need to keep watching, this is breaking ground in terms of finding out about osprey society and hierarchy.”