Comings and goings of the osprey family

Osprey © George Cocker

The first week in September usually marks the end of osprey season at Foulshaw Moss Nature Reserve as the birds begin their epic migration.

Mum deserves a rest

Blue 35, our adult female, has already left for southern climes.  

She heads off first for a well-earned break.  She’s had five weeks of incubating eggs and then eight weeks of waiting for the youngsters to fledge.  All that time they had to be guarded and fed.  

Blue 35 osprey shelters chicks  in nest in rainy weather at Foulshaw Moss

Blue 35 osprey shelters her chicks in rainy weather on 31 May 2019

And then she had Blue 3N to contend with.  The older of the two chicks was huge and gave her little brother a rough time of it.  Then she grew even bigger and gave her mum a rough time of it.  When a fish was delivered she seemed to yell, “MINE!” and grab it from whoever had it.  Resistance was futile.

Blue 3N overpowering younger sibling Blue 2N at fish feeding time - Foulshaw Moss ospreys 2019

Blue 3N overpowering her younger sibling Blue 2N at feeding time on 14 June 2019

After dealing with all that, mum deserves a rest.  We don‘t know for certain where she spends her winters, but she was spotted on a previous migration at a reservoir in northern Spain, probably refuelling for the rest of the journey to west Africa. 

Blue 35 Osprey female perched with a fish in talons - spain - copyright Alberto Benito Ruiz

Female osprey Blue 35 at the Aguilar de Campoo reservoir in northern Spain, between León and Bilbao © Alberto Benito Ruiz

Returning chicks from previous years

We’ve been lucky enough to have sightings of several previous chicks from Foulshaw Moss Nature Reserve.  

One of the very first brood from 2014, Blue 7A, returned to Cumbria last year to breed, giving us our first grandchicks. He returned this year, contributing to a total of 8 nests in the county that fledged 17 chicks between them.  Not bad for a bird that was extinct in England for 150 years until 2001.

A 2015 chick, Blue V4 was seen at Kielder a couple of years ago.

Then, a few weeks ago we had an intruder at Foulshaw Moss who was seen off by White YW, our adult male.  The seeing off seemed quite good natured for such a territorial bird and they ended up perched in the same tree.  

Two days later we were sent a photo taken on the day of that intruder’s visit.  It was Blue V8, a 2016 chick, at Leighton Moss, just 4 miles away as the osprey flies.  Perhaps that was our visitor...

Blue V8 ID ringed Osprey flying in air against blue sky

Osprey Blue V8, from 2016 Foulshaw Moss brood, was seen at Leighton Moss in 2019 © Michael Breakell

It’s too soon for our 2017 chicks to have returned yet.  Ospreys normally spend their first three years at their wintering grounds. However, we do know where two of our 2018 chicks ended up...

Blue 7N, the youngest, was spotted at a nature reserve in southern Spain. This was long after migration season so we think he might be settled there.  

His oldest sibling, Blue 5N, was photographed in Gambia by a colleague from the Rutland Osprey Project who was on holiday there.

Wherever they all are, we shall be thinking of them and wishing them a safe return.
Alasdair McKee
Foulshaw Ospreys volunteer
ospreys on nest - family portrait 2019

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