Posted: Saturday 12th May 2018 by Emyr MWT

A homage to a perfect osprey.


The first two weeks of April 2013 were not pleasurable. Monty had returned back from migration during his usual seven day window; his partner Nora, however, had not. Every morning as we looked at each other in the 10am daily brief, you could sense a tangible gloom in the air. It was horrible and it got progressively worse as each day went by.

Monty - home alone

Nora returned on 24th March the previous year, so we were more than a bit worried by mid April that she had not showed up. As it turned out, we never did see Nora again. But just in the nick of time, the osprey-gods sent Monty one of Nora's relatives - a niece two years younger, Blue 12.

Rutland's Blue 12(10), or Glesni as we called her, had actually visited the Dyfi nest before. We caught a glimpse of her as she landed briefly in August the previous year - she had been prospecting for suitable nesting sites and males as a two-year-old, not long after returning to the UK for the first time as an adult.

As Nora and Monty's sole surviving chick that year, Ceulan looked at her, not sure whether to food solicit or scream out an intruder call he was still in the process of mastering, Glesni was busy processing all the information she needed to gather about the nest's suitability, location, distance to food and breeding potential.

A moment in time: Ceulan (left) and Glesni - August 29th, 2012


Nora was soon back to usher her niece away (not that they knew they were related of course), but by then Glesni had constructed a mental map of the Dyfi nest. None of us knew it at the time, including Nora, Glesni and Monty, but she would remember the location and potential of this nest well.

Nora (nearest camera) chases Glesni away from her nest in August 2012


The Glesni Years: 2013 - 2017

Glesni raised two chicks with Monty in 2013 - some of the latest on record, both hatching at the very end of June. She had two daughters - Clarach and Cerist.

Clarach - Glesni's first ever offspring


Glesni laid 'only' two eggs in 2013 because of the very late breeding; she didn't hook up with Monty until early May following her unsuccessful search for a breeding nest at her native Rutland.

She laid two eggs the following year too, but this time it was the constant disturbance by Blue 24 that caused her to stop laying after her second. Her cousin Blue 24 was trying to nest on another man-made platform that was situated too close to the main nest; in the end both the females suffered with just Glesni being successful: she had her first son, Gwynant, and her third daughter - the rather noisy Deri.

In 2015 Glesni laid her first clutch of three eggs and all three hatched - Merin, Celyn and Brenig.

Glesni's first three-chick brood: Merin, Celyn and Brenig.

Same again in 2016, three eggs but only two hatched this time - Ceri and Tegid. Sadly Ceri died shortly after fledging, sustaining internal injuries following a night-time fall from the larch perch. We built a new hide on Cors Dyfi Reserve the following spring and named it after her.

Ceri Hide


Last year Glesni laid a hat-trick of hat-tricks, producing her third three-egg clutch in a row and just like in 2015, all three chicks hatched and survived to fledging - Aeron, Menai and Eitha.

The Dyfi Family Tree


What happened to Glesni?

That horrible feeling we had in the pits of our stomachs in early April 2013 returned this year. By the third week of April 2018 it was looking increasingly obvious that our breeding female of the last five years was not going to return.

When birds don't make it back it's human nature to try and figure out the reasons why. Glesni was only seven years old, an established and experienced mother in the prime of her life. But just as with her aunt in 2013, we will never know the reason why she didn't make it back.

I prefer not to get too bogged down with over-thinking all the potential reasons as to why some our ospreys don't return. Glesni must have died at some point between leaving the Dyfi on 14th August last year and early April 2018 - that's all we know and will ever know.

I mentioned in a blog during the second week of April that 25% of all the 'public-domain' UK ospreys hadn't made it back yet and that many were late due to severe weather in southern Europe, but would eventually return. Indeed, most did - 93% in fact; exactly the figure you expect to return each year. Sadly, Glesni was one of the 7% that didn't.


Rutland Relations

There are 47 Wildlife Trusts in the UK covering every square inch of the British Isles, so we have a close working relationship with each other, between individual Trusts. It looks like the ospreys do too, especially between two particular Wildlife Trusts: Montgomeryshire WT and Leicestershire & Rutland WT.

I speak often about the successful and pioneering osprey translocation project that the Rutland guys undertook in the mid-late 1990s - we are still seeing the fruits of their labour over two decades on.

The first two males to breed in Wales for 400 years were birds directly from this project: White 07(1997) at a Welshpool nest and Ochre 11(1998) at Glaslyn. Since then we've had a conveyor belt of Rutland females make the 130 mile journey west of their natal ancestral area to set up home in Wales. How fitting it is that following Nora and Glesni, a third Rutland relative, Telyn (Blue 3J) should choose Monty and the Dyfi nest to be their preferred breeding site.

A fourth Rutland female, Blue 24, is also breeding for the first time this year, currently on eggs - at the grand old age of eight!

Rutland Relatives - Females breeding in Wales with black border


As Dr. Tim Mackrill and Roy Dennis MBE embark on their second year of the Poole Harbour osprey translocation project in a few weeks, all of us at Dyfi wish them well. I have absolutely no doubt that we'll continue to see birds from Rutland and Wales move freely between the three osprey hot-spots for decades to come, enhancing and increasing the English and Welsh population. We may even get the odd French bird popping over - comme c'est bon!

Rutland Replay

How remarkable that just as Glesni did back in August 2012, Telyn also visited the Dyfi nest, prospecting, the year before she actually bred on the same nest.

Telyn landed on the Dyfi nest twice last year, once in May and once again in August - five years to the day almost after Glesni did in 2012.

Intruder! Blue 3J lands on the Dyfi nest in 2017

 

Glesni Legacy

Glesni meant a lot to Monty, he shared five breeding years of his life with her. Glesni also meant a lot to thousands of people - in Wales, at Rutland and all over the world.

People regularly told us how watching Glesni return to the Dyfi every year to breed helped them through difficulties in their own lives, whether it be sickness, disability, bereavement or anything else. Watching a female osprey return to her nest, fighting the elements, predators, intruders and everything else thrown at her gave people a reason to learn more about wildlife and the natural world around them. Switching the computer on every morning to see how Glesni's day was going gave people hope, strength, fortitude, reason.

We all have fond memories of Glesni. If I had to pick just one day in Glesni's life that was the most profound to me, it would be the day she finally regained her nest back in 2014.

Glesni arrived back on 10th April, only to find that Blue 24 had taken her place as Monty's new partner. Weakened from her long migration, Glesni fought hard to regain her nest from her cousin who had already been back 11 days.

It took almost a week of perseverance, determination and all-out doggedness, but on 16th April, she finally usurped her cousin off her nest before finally getting her mate and nest back. It was a horrifyingly frantic few days watching two large adult female ospreys fight it out in the skies above us - it was absolutely frightening.

I've studied birds all my life, got all the degrees and t-shirts, but watching Glesni for those few days back in 2014 taught me something you just don't learn from books and scientific papers. Watching nature take its course, something that is rarely witnessed, was a raw,  highly emotinal and unforgettable experience. It's very hard to put into words.

I remember the first time I saw Monty, I remember watching Ceulan start his migration to Senegal and I remember the afternoon Glesni won her nest back. I'll remember it forever.

Glesni regains her nest from Blue 24 after a week-long battle


Photographs

Below are some images of Glesni we've collected over the years, some of which have never been published before.

Glesni settles down to incubate her first egg on 22nd May 2013
 
Glesni with her first breeding partner - Monty
 
Glesni's first ever chick, just seconds old - Clarach
 
Glesni (right) with Monty
A bit of train spotting

 
Glesni returns from migration in 2015
 
Glesni is upturned by Blue 24, but not upstaged
 
Glesni defends her nest from a Scottish female intruder. Blue 91 is now breeding in Perthshire
 
An egg so white, we called the chick Gwynant - white stream
 
Glesni tries to feed her sick daughter, Ceri
 
A beautiful close-up of Glesni incubating
 
Glesni's talons
 
2017: The last clutch of eggs
 
Glesni's last chicks: Aeron, Menai & Eitha

Well-tempered

Glesni meant something different to all of us. Thank you to everybody that gave us their 'one word' description of Glesni about what she meant to you on Facebook on Friday - you can see some of these adjectives in the opening title of the Glesni Tribute video below.

If I had to pick just one adjective to describe Glesni, it would be well-tempered.

She was a bird that had everything - calmness, brilliant mothering skills, strength, composure, single-mindedness, poise. Glesni was an extremely well-balanced osprey, she had everything a successful female needs. She was calm under pressure, incredibly protective of her offspring and extraordinarily determined. In a job interview, she'd be the stand out candidate every time. 50p

Glesni was also fiercely independent. She called the shots, she was in control.

Here's a fish graph from Glesni's final year at the Dyfi. The orange bars show the amount of fish she caught.

Glesni caught 68 fish in 2017 - that's 14% of the overall total. I have never seen a breeding female osprey catch this amount of fish herself in one season. Some females catch none, leaving all the hunting duties to the male. Some catch a few; 14% is practically unheard of.

Glesni mothered 11 young ospreys to migration age, two of which have already returned as adults: Clarach - her first ever offspring from 2013 and Gwynant, her first male offspring from 2014. There are others out there, make no mistake. Glesni will live on and as the years pass by her legacy will become clear for all to see.

Glesni had it all, she will be deeply missed.

Music: J.S. Bach - Prelude No 1 in C Major BWV 846 from the Well-Tempered Clavier

Piano: 1896 Bechstein Model III concert grand

Performed by: Glesni's biggest fan 

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