What a difference a couple of weeks make! From panicky, rapid wing-beating flights and only slightly controlled crash landings, the 3 chicks now are well on their way to mastering the air. They are confident, strong fliers (with only the occasional misjudged landing) and are exploring the surrounding area, going further and further afield as they familiarise themselves with the countryside around them. Lilliard is often absent from sight for several hours at a time and when she comes back, she doesn’t always call incessantly for food, as she did in the past. I am hopeful that means that she has been fishing successfully for herself, although (knowing Lilliard!) it could mean she’s ambushing Samson for his fish before he even gets the chance to bring it back to the nest. Walter has regained his position as Number 2 chick in the precedence order but he and Rabbie are both feeding well. Rabbie still stays closer to the nest site than the other 2 but I have no concerns for his wellbeing and it does mean that he often gets first in line when fish are delivered; he’s not stupid, is our Rabbie! Samson is doing such a great job at providing for his family and is only seen occasionally at the nest site, flying in and dropping off his latest offering (often literally as landing on the nest means that he sometimes ends up getting pecked or his foot pulled as the excited chicks don’t care if it’s foot or fish that they grab in the squabble for the food!) before disappearing off for the next one.
A couple of days ago, I witnessed both Lilliard and Walter displaying aggressive territorial behaviour. Our local buzzard pair’s chicks have recently fledged and there is a lot of noise as they are flying around their nest site. This brings them close to our ospreys and both Lilliard and Walter have not been slow in getting airborne to protect the territory and see off any intruding buzzard. Lilliard took on one of the adults in a high flying combat and the two were joined by a crow. About half an hour later, Walter did not take kindly to a young buzzard flying straight past the nest. In both instances, our youngsters took off after shouting a warning, quickly gained height, and then dive bombed the respective buzzards until successfully clearing them away from the osprey territory. Well done to them and another important step taken in gaining maturity!
You’ll notice that I haven’t mentioned Delilah so far, yet she has demonstrated the biggest change of behaviour of all of them since I last wrote. From being fiercely protective of, and virtually ever-present at the nest, she has quite clearly been loosening the bonds that bind her to the site. She spends much of the day away, has started catching fish for herself (something she hasn’t done since she first arrived back in April) and takes little or notice of the chicks. Her job was to defend the nest and the chicks, to do the vast majority of the incubating and to feed the chicks what Samson provided. Unlike some osprey pairs, she never let her male feed them but shooed him away as soon as he dropped off the fish. Now that the chicks are racing towards independence, they’ve fledged the nest and they don’t need assistance in ripping fish apart to feed themselves, her job is done. Her priority now is to feed herself up and to be in prime condition to undertake the long journey back to Africa (unless she’s one of the small number that only migrate as far as Spain/Portugal and we have no means of knowing where either she or Samson go during our winter). I expect her to leave in the next few days when the weather is right and she feels ready to go. She will probably never see her chicks again and won’t meet up with Samson until, assuming they both survive, they arrive back at the nest next April. What an amazing cycle it is.
The chicks will start to leave later this month and Samson will probably wait until they have all gone before he too flies south. So if you want to see this year’s family you’ll need to get your skates on and come down soon as they might well be away by the end of August. I will continue to be down by the river when I can, with my scope and binoculars, to show anyone who’s interested any of the family that are around.
I must apologise for the lack of aerial photos accompanying this blog. My friend with the lovely camera who takes all the nice pictures that I normally show has returned home and I wouldn’t embarrass myself with showing you my awful snaps – I know the dots in the centre of the picture are ospreys but that’s only because I was there at the time!! I would also like to thank those of you who’ve stopped by and told me that you read my ramblings; it’s nice to know I’m not talking to myself! I will write again shortly with news of the departure of the 2017 family and to look back over an eventful season. I hope you’ll join me and I look forward to continuing to meet some of you down on the riverside.
12 August 2017