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Time to say Goodbye?

Posted: Sunday 11th August 2019 by Emyr MWT

Berthyn, Peris and Hesgyn are around 11 weeks old.

Here's a question that pops up regularly at this time of year for obvious reasons:


Q. Do osprey parents 'teach' their kids how to fish?

A. Not really.

But they have passed on to them all the basic knowledge they need to start fishing for themselves - in their genes.

Berthyn with a Monty-caught mullet


Armed with the 'Basics of Fishing' genetic toolkit, they then learn the finer nuances of hunting successfully via diving by trial-and-error and acquired experience.

An osprey fledgling may go days without a successful catch whereas an experienced osprey will have a success rate of one in two or three dives.

It's common for a fledgling not to catch their first fish until they start to migrate, indeed we think that some birds may not catch a fish at all until they reach Africa.

We've had one of our Dyfi fledglings catch their own fish pre-migration - that was Eitha back in 2017. We suspect Dulas did too in 2011, but we can't confirm this.

Eitha in 2017 with a flounder she caught all by herself


We know this to a high degree of certainty simply because of all the osprey translocation projects around the world over the last 25 years.... the deliberate movement of young chicks - for population range expansion reasons - from a productive nest to an area where ospreys have historically flourished but have been wiped out - either by persecution or pollution.

These youngsters - like those at the current Poole Harbour Project - are fed pieces of fish in pens; they simply do not have adult birds around to mentor them about the intricacies of hunting.

The return rates (as adults) of translocated birds compared to those from natural nests are about the same, driving the final nail into the Victorianesque, romanticised notion of Mum and Dad taking their kids down to the local water park for some fishing tuition. That's simply for the birds...

Berthyn awaits another fish delivery from Monty or Telyn


August Storm

Climate change is real. A few days ago the highest ever temperature was recorded in the UK; the following week we've had national power cuts, August floods and severe storms - even a 200-year old dam failed.

Calm before the storm - Monty always seems to know when bad weather is coming

Thankfully Berthyn, Peris and Hesgyn have been on the wing for three weeks now and are proficient flyers, I fear other birds that have only just fledged may not be so lucky.

Hesgyn has excellent aerobatic skills after just a few weeks in the air

A juvenile kittiwake took shelter on the Glaslyn nest this week, blown inland by the severe 60mph winds in Cardigan Bay.

Just pretend I'm an osprey for a minute guys, nobody will ever know... (©BGGW)

Here's a very quick clip of Monty with Hesgyn and Berthyn fighting the winds yesterday afternoon; we've lowered the volume.

Telyn and Peris

We last saw Mother and first son on Friday - 9th August. Have they gone?

The unseasonal (or is it these days?) August storm has made this determination more difficult than normal.

As we have seen many times in the past, adult female ospreys have a habit of disappearing for several days, waiting for a Facebook update declaring them gone, before suddenly showing up again. I'm convinced they know.

Peris, however, is another kettle of mullet.

Youngsters don't tend to disappear for too long before hunger gets the better of them and they are spotted again. Peris was 74 days old when we last saw him on Friday morning.

Precise migration ages of all Dyfi youngsters to date

So, if Peris has gone, he's migrated a week earlier than the youngest of his half-siblings to date: Clarach and Cerist who journeyed south at 81 days old.

Maybe he's catching his own fish down the estuary? Maybe Telyn is catching fish for him somewhere? He could very well be just down the road in Borth, similarly he could also be just approaching Bordeaux air space.

Peris - he was always destined to be the first off...

And Finally

I often feel that our insatiable thirst for answers, as productive as it is to make sense of the world, also hinders us sometimes.

Where does Monty spend the winter? Does he recognise his offspring as adults? Have Telyn/Peris migrated?

It's always good to keep something back.

Would it be so much fun if we knew everything?

We've reached that stage of the season again where we feel blessed to watch these amazing birds and feel thankful that they've given us so much. We've followed their every movement for the best part of five months with six high-resolution cameras - we know more about ospreys today than we ever thought we would just a few years back.

They will soon be gone, taking along with them a piece of our hearts, leaving a void in our soul. They also take with them some of the answers we crave.

Be thankful, be happy, be fulfilled.

Our ospreys give us so much, the least we can do is let them keep those final pieces of the osprey jigsaw. Every good story needs a mystery.

Will we see Monty and Telyn together again this year?

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