Diane Bennett, the project officer at the Tweed Valley Osprey Project, brings us the latest news from the nests...


AT the main Tweed Valley Osprey nest this past week, we have witnessed the growing independence of the young ospreys as they become young adults. They are now adult sized and all three can fly with take- offs and landing skills which are becoming honed daily, as the youngsters gain more experience and confidence.

Sometimes it can be difficult to tell them apart from the adults when they are all present on the nest but the plumage of the juveniles is very pretty compared to the overall drab brown of the adults back and wings.

The juveniles have each brown feather fringed with a golden buff colour and ginger colouring can still be seen when the wind ruffles the back of the neck feathers. The tracking data reveals that none of the young ospreys have left the forest yet and haven’t strayed much beyond a boundary of about 400 metres from the nest itself.

Peeblesshire News: One of the chick landing at the Tweed Valley nest. Photo: Tweed Valley Osprey ProjectOne of the chick landing at the Tweed Valley nest. Photo: Tweed Valley Osprey Project

Mrs O is still with the family but the intensity of her parenting is lessening and she will sit apart from the young, often to the side of the nest but within distance to watch them without having to stay on the platform. PW3 has noticeably reduced his frequency of bringing fish into the nest and yet he has been such a regular provider throughout the season, he must be reducing his visits to entice the young to move further off site.

One of the juveniles was seen at the top of a lopped pine, eating his fish on July 29 and yet the exchange from father to son didn’t happen on the nest. He was learning to handle the prey himself while balancing on the top of a tree and to feed himself.

Occasionally Mrs O has been seen feeding them as well though. Both 706 and 707 were being fed by their mum on August 1 at the nest. It will not be long before she will leave her family now and hopefully PW3 will do a good job of finishing schooling his offspring before they all leave.

Names for all three will be decided this week when some of the team from Conservation Without Borders will be visiting and they will choose the names from the suggestions that we have received so far.

Another very exciting project that Tony Lightley and his team have been working on from Forestry and Land Scotland, over at the Lochar Mosses Complex in Dumfriesshire is nightjar tracking. The land is part of the lowland raised bog restoration sites and is currently home to approximately 80 – 85 per cent of the Scottish population of nightjars which are an amber data listed species for conservation concern.

Peeblesshire News: Nightjars resemble small hawks. Photo: Tweed Valley Osprey ProjectNightjars resemble small hawks. Photo: Tweed Valley Osprey Project

Members of the osprey project were invited along to see the interesting work being done to track the adult nightjars on their breeding grounds which will give vital information to inform future land management for the species at the sites. The project aims to use trackers to precisely identify feeding areas and habitat.

The trackers record every night from 9pm to 5am at a period of two-minute intervals, then the birds are recaptured and trackers removed. The nightjars which resemble mini hawks with wide gaping beaks to hoover up moths on the wing, detected by their large eyes and stout, sensitive bristles around their beaks are amazing to watch.

We were all thrilled to see them flying about the moss and then witnessing them at first hand after capture in mist nets, to be fitted with trackers, or juveniles ringed with BTO rings. The conservation work is intense and carried out during the short period of summer when the birds are here after migrating from Africa to raise two broods before leaving in September to migrate south again on overnight flights, individually or in small groups.

Peeblesshire News: Nightjars are excellent moth hunters, thanks in part to the bristles around their beaks. Photo: Tweed Valley Osprey ProjectNightjars are excellent moth hunters, thanks in part to the bristles around their beaks. Photo: Tweed Valley Osprey Project

Their presence is given away by the churring sound of the male birds at dusk as they fly about, because they are a nocturnal species. Their cryptic plumage makes them blend in to the background and their appearance has earned them the name nighthawks or frogmouths due to the large gaping mouths.

They were even curiously named as goatsuckers in mediaeval times as it was believed they fed from goats’ milk at night.

Work to preserve habitat for this endangered species is essential for their future and it is just one of the many fascinating conservation projects carried out by Forestry and Land Scotland.