Well, it’s been a really exciting time watching the chicks now the nest camera picture has been restored and seeing them as they develop their individual characters. Lilliard is certainly the boss chick and only allows the others to eat when she’s finished. Walter had been quite adventurous but took a real knock to his confidence (see below), which has allowed Rabbie to take over as second in the “pecking order” and he’s turned into a really confident bird, despite being by far the smallest of the three.
The big drama over the last week has been the preparation of the chicks to fledge. There has been a great deal of wing exercising carried out by all three birds, meaning that big 1.5m nest has suddenly got very crowded, and both Samson and Delilah spend very little time on it now, preferring the “comfort” of a nearby dead tree where they can watch their family without getting trampled on or having flapping wing feathers poked in their eyes!
On 20th July, all the birds were lifting vertically off the nest (known as helicoptering) but hadn’t officially fledged, which is classed as leaving the area of the nest. Walter was the most bold and managed a hop, step and a jump onto the nest perch and we thought that he might fly from there. However, he didn’t like the look of the long drop below him and completely lost his confidence, remaining “frozen” on the branch, not daring to come back onto the nest. He was there for well over an hour and when he finally struggled back, he collapsed into the bottom of the nest and stayed there for the rest of the day! The following day, Rabbie also ventured out onto the nest perch. He looked more comfortable than his brother but then overbalanced when he tried to turn round and fell rather than took off. There was a heart-stopping couple of seconds when he spun towards the ground out of control before he started flapping his wings and gained height, soaring around and landing back on the nest (landing on Walter in the process) after one overshoot. He flew again about an hour later and hasn’t looked back since. The following day (22nd), Lilliard fledged in a much more controlled and ladylike manner but it wasn’t until the 25th that Rabbie finally plucked up his courage again and followed his siblings into the air.
The parent birds have looked remarkably unconcerned about their chicks’ efforts but we were able to capture one lovely moment when Rabbie overflew Delilah on his maiden flight and she looked up at him.
Since fledging, Lilliard and Rabbie have rapidly gained confidence and Lilliard in particular is already looking a competent flyer. She is certainly her mother’s daughter when it comes to a dislike of crows and has joined Delilah in a bit of “crow bashing” when they’ve come too close, although Delilah had to do a bit of rapid manoeuvring to avoid a mid-air crash with an over-excited Lilliard at one stage!
Samson has continued to bring in a steady supply of fish and still takes it to the nest, being hotly pursued by both the chicks and Delilah during the last few yards; it’s an incredible sight as 5 ospreys converge. Delilah often takes the fish in the first instance to feed herself before bringing the rest back for the chicks to squabble over; they are increasingly being left to feed themselves. As the days go by, Delilah will start feeding herself up, including fishing for the first time since she first arrived back in April, and will be preparing for her migration south. She will leave in the middle of August, having completed her work guarding the nest site, and will not see Samson again until they hopefully both return next year. Samson will continue to provide for the chicks who will be exploring the local area, building up their knowledge and their flying muscles and practising their instinctive fishing skills.
Now is a great time to see the osprey family on the walk by the river and I will be down there as much as I can to point them out to anyone interested. I’ll report their progress to you in my next blog. Please feel free to comment on what I’ve written, or if you have any questions, and I’ll do my best to answer them. Better still, pop down and watch the family for yourselves. If I’m down there, I’ll have my scope and binoculars for you to look through and you can enjoy seeing them in detail. I’ll see you there and leave you with a picture of the whole family sitting in the dead tree; from the left: Walter, Lilliard, Rabbie, Delilah and Samson.