Osprey Project04/07/2022

First Poole Harbour Osprey Chicks Ringed!

It was a real privilege to have Roy Dennis present with us today to oversee the first ever ringing of Osprey chicks in Southern Britain!

Just like their parents and other Ospreys ringed in the England, our two chicks were each fitted with a metal BTO ring on the left leg and a plastic Darvic ring on the right leg, with the codes ‘5H1’ and ‘5H2’ for the eldest and youngest respectively.

It was immediately evident that our two chicks were in excellent condition and developing well as soon as they were in the hand. At 4 ½ weeks old the chicks were at the lower end of the target age range for ringing (generally 4-7 weeks old), so still retained some of their downy fluff and many of their true juvenile feathers are still developing. Despite being young however, both were very substantial in size, weighing in at 1.6kg and 1.5kg. In conjunction with their overall size and build, this leads us to believe that both chicks are female, though this is difficult to be certain of at such a young age. It is something we may be able to confirm from their behaviour post-fledging, but will not be absolutely certain of until they hopefully return as adults in two years’ time.

The two Poole Harbour 2022 Osprey chicks, 5H1 (left) & 5H2 (right)

A single egg also remained in the nest, confirming our suspicions that the third egg of the clutch never hatched. This is not uncommon for first time breeders: those of you following the success of our young female 014 during her first breeding season in Wales last year will remember that only one of her three eggs hatched.

CJ7 circled overhead throughout the process, keeping a close eye on proceedings. Meanwhile 022, who was off site hunting when we arrived, returned shortly after the chicks had been replaced in the nest carrying a slightly meagre fish which was nonetheless gratefully received by CJ7 and the hungry chicks. Given 022’s absence since the previous evening, as a precaution we additionally added some locally sourced trout to the nest when alongside the chicks to ensure they would be well nourished after their excursion.

We are especially grateful to Fraser Cormack, whose exceptional climbing abilities brought the chicks securely down to the ground and safely returned them to the nest within just 30 minutes. The safety of the birds is always paramount in all of our work and a great deal of planning went into making this a smooth process. One key consideration for many conservation projects at present are the risks of the transmission of Avian Influenza (Bird Flu). In this case, where a single nest was visited in a currently zero-incidence area, we were comfortable that there was no risk of transmission and happy to proceed in line with BTO and government guidance.

Our translocation project on the other hand, relies on visiting of multiple nests in quick succession in a much higher risk area in Northern Scotland, and movement of collected chicks to Poole Harbour. Given the present uncertainty surrounding the risks and the apparent spread of the virus, we have concluded that it would be irresponsible to go ahead with our Osprey translocation project this year. Not only could it risk the lives of the translocated birds and introducing the virus to the local area, it could also risk the safety of our breeding pair and their two wonderful chicks. Seeing them successfully fledge and eventually leave on migration to West Africa later this summer is our ultimate goal and this is where we will continue to focus our efforts for the rest of the summer.

Birds of Poole Harbour team with the two osprey chicks

It was a real privilege to be able to carry out the ringing today and we’re thrilled to be able to share the details of this momentous occasion with you all. We were prompted, as during many milestones this year, to reflect again today on the ongoing support the local and online communities has provided to us and how this would not be possible without your generosity and enthusiasm. Thank you for being with us on this journey so far and we hope you look forward to following 5H1 and 5H2 as they make their way into the big wide world!

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