This is my first blog of 2018 and has been delayed waiting the arrival of both of our ospreys. Samson arrived on 7 April, 2 days earlier than last year and we waited and waited for Delilah and, after 2 weeks beyond her arrival date in 2017, we were starting to have considerable doubts as to whether she had survived. I took the decision to write the blog and prepare you readers for the possibility that she was not coming back. It took me several hours on 22 April until I was happy with the hopeful yet resigned tone of my writing, saying that we hadn’t given up hope but with every passing day her return looked less likely etc etc. I put the blog aside for a final check later and went to Born in the Borders, expecting to see Samson waiting by the nest as usual. Well, you remember the one about never working with children and animals??? I was met by the news that the owner’s young daughter was convinced that she had seen two birds in the nest. I rushed down to my normal viewing point and, sure enough, there was Samson standing proud, watching a female devouring a fish. I could only see her back but the easy familiarity with which both birds were acting made it likely that it was Delilah and, when she finally finished eating and we got a good look at her it was clear that “our” female was back, 14 days late but oh so welcome! Where she has been and why she is so late, we’ll never know. I just wish that I’d started to write the blog earlier if she was just waiting until I’d done the work before she decided to arrive!
In the intervening 2 weeks, Samson had been busy bringing various materials into the nest. Among the more normal sticks, grass and mud, had been his usual baler twine and plastic sheeting offerings, an unfortunate consequence of human carelessness in disposing of waste. He had also been feeding well as he awaited Delilah. His favourite fish, as in previous years, seems to be pike and he appears to have found a good source of that particular species. However, his instincts were to find a mate and, while he was always likely to rebond with Delilah if/when she returned, he also actively sought an alternative mate in the event of her not returning. This is a natural instinct and perfectly rational when you think that he had no means of knowing whether or not Delilah had survived (they migrate separately and do not spend the winter together) and he has only a small window of opportunity to find a mate (Delilah or anyone else) and raise a family this year. This has meant that he has been wowing spectators down by the river with spectacular “skydances”, comprising steep climbs and stoops while calling loudly. He usually has a fish in his talons at the time and is advertising the fact that he is a successful fisherman, he has a territory and nest….and is available! How could he fail to impress any passing female osprey?
As it happened, Delilah returned before anyone else passed close enough to be enticed, otherwise there would have been a battle for possession of the nest between the rival females. Had she not returned, he would have continued this behaviour for several weeks until he found someone.
Anyway, since they have been reunited, he has caught her several fish (a guaranteed way to a female osprey’s heart) and they have been busy “re-bonding”…frequently! Hopefully eggs will follow in about 2 weeks’ time and the whole cycle of life will begin again, just a little later than we saw in 2017.
Before I sign off I just wanted to say that we have been working hard to prevent similar problems to last year occurring with the serviceability of the camera and screen in the restaurant. We have completely replaced much of the cabling up to the tree and encased it in ducting to prevent “little furries” from nibbling it and have serviced and replaced where necessary several electronics components. For that work, in particular I have to thank Jain Jameson from Techstar in Jedburgh who has been unfailingly positive, despite often working very much outside her area of expertise, and has been instrumental in making it all work. The recent thunderstorm has given us more challenges on the electrical front, and access to the components is now limited due to the ospreys beginning their nesting, but we’ll do our best to keep the screen working in the restaurant. However, the biggest challenge was replacing the fabric of the nest which was destroyed in the numerous winter storms we had. Our job was made more difficult by the fact that our normal “nest expert” was unable to help due to injury and so I’d also like to thank Mark Hume from Hawick who stepped in and volunteered his tree climbing skills to help replace cabling and then found himself constructing his first ever osprey nest! He accepted the challenge of nest building duties and he did a super job, providing pristine accommodation for the birds, We very much appreciate your efforts, Mark, despite the fact that Samson has done his best to “customise” the nest with bits of rubbish.
So I end this blog in a very different mood from that in which I started it. I will of course, keep you informed of developments with the ospreys but, in the meantime, there’s also plenty of other wildlife to see here with kingfishers, oystercatchers, otters and deer to name just a few being spotted and lots of nesting activities already taking place in the fields, along the river and around the buildings. I look forward to seeing you here and receiving any comments you have on what I’ve written.