We have lift off!

It has been an exciting time here at Loch of the Lowes, watching our two Osprey chicks hatch and grow over the last couple of months. From watching them start to flap their wings, learn to feed themselves in the nest and yesterday, 9th July, our first chick, female LR1 took her maiden flight for the first time!

 

After a morning of intense flapping by both young osplets, and showing off her ‘helicoptering skills’ to NC0, LR1 took the leap at 17:01. Her departure from the nest gave her brother LR2 a bit of a fright, who ‘pancaked in defense’, but it wasn’t long before she returned to the nest a minute later with a slightly ungainly landing, closely followed by her mum who landed on top of the camera.

 

By a month old osprey chicks will have already grown to ¾ of their adult body weight and have all their feathers, although they will still have some considerable growing of primary and secondary flight feathers still to do. From 4 to 5 weeks old, the osprey chicks can stand up and begin flapping their wings, getting progressively stronger and more coordinated each day, until by 6 weeks old their wings, being almost fully formed, can make the strong and controlled strokes needed for flight.

 

During the 1-2 weeks before fledging, the chicks’ wing flapping happens more frequently and becomes more and more powerful. They will lift clear of the nest, only for a few seconds and by a centimetre or two, but over the following days this ‘helicoptering’ will continue until they start to hover a few feet above the nest for longer periods of time. They will spend long periods perching on the edge of the nest and staring and at the world beyond, as if they are debating whether to go! At this point, there is no physical barrier holding them back from taking their first flight, it is merely waiting to muster enough courage to launch themselves from the only safe place they’ve ever known, into the big wide world that awaits them.

Most ospreys fledge between 7 and 8 weeks old. At 53 and 50 days respectively LR1 and LR2 are in the perfect fledging window. It can be common for males to fledge before females, due to them being slightly smaller and lighter than the females. Some ospreys regardless of sex just take that bit longer to build up strength and courage to make the leap.It won’t be long though before LR2 joins his sister in the skies.

Post fledging

Once the juveniles have made the leap, both youngsters will continue to build their strength, confidence and control with short flights around the nest. After a week they may start to venture a little further afield, slowly building up to flights that last several hours; a behaviour that is critical in enabling them to imprint upon their natal area – mapping all that lies beneath them, in preparation for returning as young birds searching for their own territory in a few years’ time.

 

The youngsters will continue to feed voraciously, to build up their energy and fat reserves for the long journey that lies ahead.

 

Once the chicks have been flying for a few weeks it is usual for the female to depart first, leaving her mate to provide provide food for the young ospreys, until they too begin their first migration journey. Although the chicks are now beginning to feed themselves, and may even in time make a few practise dives on the loch, they usually will not to start to catch fish for themselves until they are on migration. There is intense sibling competition for fish, and they will soon learn how to carry food away to a different perch. By late August LR1 and LR2 will have likely departed on their first journey south. LM12 will take this as his cue to also leave.

 

We look forward to watching LR1 and hopefully in a few days’ time LR2 fly around the loch, perform some aerial acrobatics, and maybe practice dive or two! It only seems like yesterday since they hatched, and it has been wonderful to watch LM12 and NC0 successfully raise their first family on such a historic nest.

 

Hayley Hodgson
Species protection Officer

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Preface

It has been an exciting time here at Loch of the Lowes, watching our two Osprey chicks hatch and grow over the last couple of months. From watching them start …

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