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Up up and away, but not too far!

Posted: Thursday 2nd August 2018 by Karis MWT

With all the excitement of fledging behind us, attention now turns to the biggest challenge these young chicks will have to face.

Today the chicks are 62, 61 and 60 days old, and all three have been gaining confidence on their newly discovered wings. At some point in the last week, one or more of the fledglings has gone AWOL, leaving everyone at DOP waiting eagerly for their return.

Dinas is 60 days old today. Having only taken to the skies 10 days ago, he has since perched on the tallest structure in the valley (the very top of the radio mast!), chased a marsh harrier over the river, and has frequently disappeared over the hills and out of sight for hours on end!
MWT Dinas

As nerve-wrecking as it is for us as we stand watching and waiting for them to come back into sight, this is a completely normal and very important part of their development. Young ospreys need to map out and orientate themselves within the area they fledged in, and all of this flying builds strength and perfects technique to prepare them for the next big, scary and most dangerous chapter in their lives.

All three chicks on the nest, that usually only means one thing at this point in the season…it’s tea time!
MWT all three chicks

The Dyfi nest, as we all know, has been very successful. It is in a prime location with a plentiful supply of fish, and any osprey would jump at the chance of holding this territory (Monty’s offspring included). We have talked about philopatry in the past, and familiarising themselves with the natal nest area is vital if any of the chicks are to attempt to return here in two year's time. The exploration of the Dyfi valley in his early days undoubtedly led Tegid to come back and visit us this year, and with the ‘osprey transfer window’ starting to open again, we will certainly start to see more non-breeding adults moving around the country checking out nest sites. Who else will we see before the window closes?

Don’t mention the ‘M’ word…

Here is a graph showing the ages of previous years' chicks at the time we saw them leave the nest for the last time. Going on the lowest age at migration (Cerist in 2013), we may have as little as 19 days left with Alys. Going with the highest age (Dulas in 2011), we may have as many as 38 days left with Dinas. If genetics account for the timing of migration, i.e. it is passed down from the parents, then we are simply going to have to wait and see what happens this year.

Various factors play a role in determining when the chicks migrate. Genetics, fitness, weather, and probably countless reasons that we are unable to guess or even comprehend!

MWT migration graph 2017

Monty has always left for Africa at the start of September, but as this is Telyn’s first breeding year we have no idea what she will do. Her mother, Maya, usually leaves to start migration later in the season if you compare her with previous Dyfi females Nora and Glesni. If genetics do play a fundamental role in departure times, we may see this trait passed on and present in Telyn, and watch her wave the chicks off days or even weeks before she leaves herself.

We were all a little surprised to see Telyn fishing for herself and the youngsters as early as 1st July, which was over three weeks before Dinas fledged. Since then she has caught almost 20 fish that we know of, and having been absent from the nest area for many hours yesterday, she returned empty handed with a full crop, seemingly having eaten away from the nest and her soliciting chicks. Is she sharing the load with Monty to give the entire family the best chance of surviving migration, or could this be a sign that she is getting herself fed and ready to go? Only time will tell.

Despite the chicks happily tackling live fish deliveries on their own now, Telyn’s maternal instincts to feed them will still kick in if they're asking.
MWT Telyn feeds chicks

Those of you watching the live streaming last night will have seen Alys returning to the nest with mud up past her leg rings! With the land so dry at the moment, the only place she could have reasonably got this mucky was down by the river. Did she go for a paddle to cool off or preen, or had we just seen the aftermath of the first fishing attempt from one of this year’s young?

Muddy feet! The adults do not teach the chicks how to fish. It is a natural instinct and something they must quickly perfect if they are to survive once they leave the Dyfi and head for Africa.
MWT Alys feet

We will continue to see the chicks gain confidence and become even more independent over the coming weeks, and we're sure there will be more surprises in store for us before the season is over. Now is the perfect time to come and see our ospreys before they all head off for the winter, and let's face it (literally!), who wouldn’t want to come and see these beauties in the feather?

Alys getting up close and personal with one of our cameras, with Helyg looking somewhat miffed in the background!
MWT Alys looking cam

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