As I write, it's just over 24 hours since one of the osprey chicks died in the nest. Thursday, May 31st started well - very well actually. Just before 10am the third chick hatched from the third laid egg and right on cue, 37 days. Through heavy rain we could just about see its little pink body struggling out of the egg in the mass of feathers that was covering it and the other two chicks.
A text-book 37 day hatching - welcome to the world
The problem was the rain. It rained and rained and rained for hour after hour. Nora had a dilemma. Did she get up and feed the chicks exposing them all to the heavy rain and strong winds, or did she stay put and keep them as warm and dry as possible?. Both strategies have their pros and cons.
Monty and Nora's determination and resolve in heavy rain and wind was truly inspirational
Both Monty and Nora spent most of the day trying desperately to protect their young family in atrocious conditions, it was very emotional to see live. The pair took the brunt of the weather collectively and without fail. Nora chose that latter strategy and finally stood up off her chicks six hours later at just before 4pm. This is what we saw:
We had our first proper glimpse at the newly hatched chick and chick No 2, but the first hatched was nowhere to be seen at first and then we found him underneath the other two hungry, begging chicks. He was clearly dead. Did Nora do the right thing behaviourally? We may never know, but a day later we have two seemingly healthy chicks in the nest eating away like good ones. She probably did.
The rain finally eased at around 7pm by which time neither chick had fed that day. With the light fading quickly Monty disappeared into the gloom. All the volunteers stayed on in the visitor centre, nobody wanted to leave, all eager to see Monty return with a fish. And return he did after what seemed like an eternity - he had a good sized flounder.
Hurry up Monty - give it up..
By the time Monty had had his share it was gone 8pm and we had great misgivings as to whether the two remaining chicks would survive the evening, let alone the night. One thing was abundantly obvious - if Monty had failed to catch a fish before it had gone dark, both remaining chicks would certainly have died. What an absolute star.
Fast forward a day and things look a lot different. Nora has pushed the dead chick to the side of the nest - neither osprey will eat it, they only eat fish. It will probably be hurled over the edge of the nest in the next day or two.
The sun is out, the wind is calm, and Monty has brought back a handsome looking brown trout. All the family are eating well including the small ones.
When I worked at the RSPB's Glaslyn Osprey Project we lost a chick in the nest both in 2006 and 2007. Not only is it devastating for the osprey parents, but also for all the people that have worked so hard to protect them up to that point. My heart went out yesterday to all those that had done the same at the Dyfi. Alas, nature is nature of course, all looks well with the family of four right now, but more rain is forecast over the weekend. We'll cross that bridge when we get to it.
Growing up as a kid in Caernarfon, I used to go fishing for sea bass and mackerel with my Dad by Victoria dock, just outside the castle. After great initial expectations I invariably, and often, returned with nothing but a flounder or two to show for my day's efforts. A grey, boring, unattractive mud eating flat fish - they even taste like mud. To quash the disappointment, a trip to the local chippy was frequently in order.
How times change - I've never been so happy to see a flounder in all my life as I did last night. Let's hope this rain isn't as bad as forecast for the Jubilee weekend.