Flanders Moss NNR
Our volunteer Ralph Brook-Fox is lucky enough to be able to see the Flanders Moss osprey nest from his house so over the season he will keep us posted on progress. Here is his first installment:
We’ve enjoyed the presence of ospreys in the vicinity of Flanders Moss ever since we moved into the area, and our interest was stimulated further when we saw a nest on an SNH/SWT work party a decade ago. It turned out that this was an artificial nest that had been placed to encourage birds into the area, and although it has been since abandoned, new natural nests have followed on from this initial success.
In August 2016, the insistent calling of a youngster attracted our attention to a very large nest at the top of a tall Douglas fir on the western side of the moss. Ornithologist Roy Dennis’s excellent book ‘A Life of Ospreys’ suggests preferred locations for nesting should be in a tree prominent to its neighbours, ideally with a least one dead tree nearby to serve as perches for off-duty birds. As the photo shows, this fir certainly fits the bill, with a very tall dead tree right next door!
In the Highlands Scots pine are the most popular trees, with Douglas firs running second. Nesting in deciduous trees is less common.
Last year, both birds appeared on the nest on 8 April, quite some timing given the birds do not overwinter in Africa together. This year we saw the first bird a day earlier, but again, both birds were there by the next day.
Apparently with younger couples, a courtship ritual involving the male flying a distinct pattern can follow (I might return to this in a later post), but in the case of this pair, they got down to mating straightaway which suggests they may have been together awhile. Another ritual involves the male bringing a fish back to the nest and then mating, although it appears that this requirement does not always have to be met and things are a bit more spontaneous!
Now it is a case of waiting for the eggs to be laid. Judging this event is a bit tricky without the benefit of a webcam. Last year I used the well known Loch of the Lowes pair as a guide (see the excellent Scottish Wildlife Trust webcam – well worth a visit as well). This year their female LF15 arrived on 20 March with first egg on 14 April. For the Flanders female, this suggests we could expect first egg towards the end of the month, although studies suggest it can be as early as two weeks after arrival which would imply any time now. The other clue is that it all quietens down at the nest with the male retreating to take guard and fend off potential predators at the top of the nearby dead tree when not on fishing expeditions. I’ll keep you posted.