Our male osprey is still waiting for his usual mate, our veteran female known to many as Lady, to arrive, but in the meantime, he has been flirting with another female osprey nearby.
This new female bird was first seen earlier this week, and on Wednesday night there was some flirting on the flat top tree, which is between the two lochs on the reserve. Yesterday he continued this pattern, whilst still paying attention to the original nest as well, but this morning there have been several mating attempts and at least one courtship fish delivery between the pair on their alternative site.
This represents more than a wee flirtation, but is not at all unusual, as wild birds will often start another courtship in the absence of a usual mate, in order to ‘hedge their bets’ biologically so to speak- just in case their usual partner doesn’t turn up.
Questions we know the answers to so far:
1. This female osprey is not our resident female osprey and could be a young bird looking for her first nest or another local bird also waiting for a mate and meanwhile ‘hedging her bets’ biologically too. We do not believe this new bird is ringed.
2. The tree the birds are favouring has a history of use by our birds as a ‘frustration eyrie’ (extra construction ospreys sometimes do when they’re unsuccessful in a breeding season to channel their instinct to provide) but is not yet a full nest. It could become one with lots of work by the birds if needs be.
3. This tree is fully visible from the hides and we have a long distance camera on it, but of course it doesn’t have a close-up nest camera like our usual nest.
4. If the birds do settle here, we can of course adapt and continue to monitor and protect the birds as always- we will be extra vigilant to ensure they are undisturbed.
5. The last two years there have been similar flirtations by this male with other females, prior to our resident female’s arrival on the 30th March, with no effect on the subsequent successful breeding on our usual nest.
We must remember it is still perfectly possible our resident female will still turn up and return to her usual nest and she will most likely draw her mate back to join her.
The instinct will be for him to favour the established partner with a proven breeding record. It is far too early to speculate about other possible behaviours at this point.