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Eye on the Sky for Osprey this Spring!

This year is an incredibly exciting and potentially pivotal time in our project to re-establish breeding Osprey on the South coast of the UK. After two years in Africa following their first migration, our inaugural ‘class’ of translocated Osprey chicks could be winging their way back to the UK this Spring to check out nesting sites. You can read all about the background of our project, which is run by us in partnership with the Roy Dennis Wildlife Foundation and Wildlife Windowshere.

First-time returning Osprey usually spend the season prospecting for nest sites and looking for potential future partners. Furthermore, migrant birds attracted to the harbour by our chicks and nest platforms may also show signs of attempting to nest. Needless to say, we’re all on tenterhooks waiting for them to arrive in the next few weeks so we can check for the 2017 chicks returning to the harbour and monitor behaviour of visitors! 

“We are now at an incredibly exciting time in the project as 2019 is the first year that we may see some of our 2017 chicks making their first return from Africa!”

That’s not say that we have been passively awaiting their arrival – quite the opposite! In anticipation for this year’s Osprey arrivals, we’ve put up three new Osprey nests, two on private land and one in partnership with RSPB Arne at Middlebere. Big thanks to Phil Stubbington for his kind donation which allowed us to get these nests installed in time the this spring season.

The female below, CJ7, is from Rutland, and is our top pick as the bird most likely to attempt to breed in the harbour first. In 2017, she spent a couple of weeks hanging out with our translocated chicks, and in 2018, she spent the summer prospecting around the harbour. If one of our males joins her this Spring, it’s possible that it could be the beginnings of a future pair-bond. Here she is perched at, RSPB Arne in May 2018.

Female Osprey CJ7, photo credit Paul Morton.

  

 

Here’s a time-lapse of the BoPH team clearing scrub around the new nest pole site at Middlebere – hard but rewarding work!

 

  The new nest, installed by Wildlife Windows, in all it’s glory!

 

All throughout the Spring and Summer, we’ll be closely monitoring and recording all Osprey behavior at our nest sites and around the harbour. This will allow us to assess which sites and habitat characteristics the Osprey are favouring, which will then mean that we can make improvements where necessary and allow us to make sure that any breeding attempts are not disturbed.

One of our biggest challenges will be reading ring numbers from any colour-ringed birds that pay us a visit. These rings will have been put on birds’ legs when they were chicks, to allow Osprey conservation managers to keep track of where the birds are and what they are up to.

A variety of Osprey colour rings, image from the Roy Dennis Wildlife Foundation.

 

When taking colour ring information, there are four key things to note:

1)    the colour of the ring

2)    the colour of the text on the ring

3)    the leg that the ring is on

4)    the code written on it (always read from the foot up)

Here’s an example from one of last year’s chicks. You can see that her ring colour is blue, the text colour is white, the colour ring is on her right leg and the code is 014.

Osprey 014 from the ‘class’ of 2018.

  

With that in mind, and thanks to donations from supporters Jan Toomer, Phil Stubbington and Mike Simmonds, we’ve invested in some brilliant technology – 4G trailcams! These are motion-triggered and will directly email us with images of anything that moves in our nests, making it much easier to read leg rings without disturbing the birds – pretty cool! We’ve already had some lovely (though non-Osprey) images from one camera, including this small flock of beautiful Starling. In terms of Osprey behaviour, we'll have our team out this spring stationed at key locations around the harbour where we believe Osprey activity will be most interesting. Everything from feeding, hunting and perching behaviour will be logged and noted and of course, interaction between two birds will be especially interesting!

1st birds on the new trail cams - a flock of Starling!

If you spot an Osprey in the harbour over the Spring and Summer, we’d love to hear from you! You can Tweet us @harbourbirds, email us at info@birdsofpooleharbour or georgia@birdsofpooleharbour.co.uk, or you can phone us on 01202 641003.

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