August is a funny month for British ospreys. It's an evolutionary 'buffer' month. Those birds that have had text-book breeding up to now will be preparing for migration. Those that were a little late breeding still have enough time to get everything sorted with an African departure date in early September. Late breeders, however, will take advantage of warmer August weather and hope that harsh Autumn rain and winds don't appear before they go. For British ospreys, August is a month of change and preparation.
Ceulan with Mum - Nora migrated on August 14th last year, when will she go this time around?
It has been known for some time that early breeding ospreys tend to have better productivity (fledglings) on average than later breeding birds. The Glaslyn ospreys are a good example of this. They are some of the earliest breeders in the UK each year and they have fledged 15 birds, three each year, for the last five years. That is some going. The Glaslyn chicks tend to fledge during the first week in July.
At the other extreme, Black 80, a Glaslyn (2006) male now breeding in Scotland, currently has two chicks which are not due to fledge for at least another three weeks - the end of August!. These must be some of, if not the, latest breeding ospreys in the UK. These youngsters won't be ready to migrate until early-mid October - let's hope the weather is kind to them.
Ceulan - looking more like an adult everyday. When will he migrate?
The Dyfi ospreys this year are about in the middle, around average. Their chicks hatching at the end of May and fledging (just Ceulan of course) mid July. Ceulan has now been flying for two weeks and he's doing well. After the odd bumpy landing and a few cow encounters at the start, he's now progressed to at least a flight engineer level, so we'll give him his metaphorical second pilot's stripe today.
By adjusting slightly his wing and tail feathers, Ceulan is quickly mastering the art of aerial maneuvering
After the first few days consisting mostly of take-offs and landings, Ceulan has progressively been getting more adventurous. We've seen him land on the T perch, the nest perch as well as perches on the reserve near the Dyfi River. He's spent a few hours on these over the last few days just gazing in to the water - wouldn't you just love to know what he's thinking?
Ceulan's first attempt at landing on the nest perch - not as easy as it looks..
As expected, his tracker information has shown exactly where Ceulan has been for the first two weeks of his short post-fledging life so far. Other than the nest, he seems to spend his time at three main locations. Low down perches by the river, an electricity pole used by his Dad for eating, and the other nest platform (remember that one son!). He's not been more than a mile away from 'home' yet, but we'll probably see his range expand in the next week or two, just like his brothers and sister did last year
Ceulan has not been out of Montgomeryshire yet (green line) - he will do soon though
You can follow Ceulan on his journeys on Google Earth (instructions here). The table below show his transmissions schedule, that is, how often we receive data from his tracker at different times of the year. During those times that we would expect him to be migrating, the transmissions are at every two days, stretching to every six days when he should be more sedentary.
Up to now, the time-keeping of our osprey family has been pretty standard and predictable. Egg laying is determined by how long the birds have been together (around a fortnight usually), incubation by chick development (around 37 days) and fledging by age and development (around 53 days usually, males slightly earlier than females). These key events are determined by factors such as physiology and innate behaviour.
What happens in August is a lot more tricky to predict. During the past week we've seen stonechats on the nest, a mistle thrush chasing Nora off her perch, another osprey on the nest for almost an hour, carrion crows looking for fish scraps and a shrew. A kestrel had the shrew to be honest so that doesn't really count. We've seen Ceulan become more independent and his mother is now catching her own fish. Nora's work is almost done for another year and we will probably see her for the last time this season pretty soon.
Nora is spooked by a hugh mistle thrush..
Ceulan will hang on until at least the end of August and probably into September, as will Monty. But who knows? August is a funny month. A time of sadness that our ospreys will be leaving soon for Africa for sure, but also a time of happiness that they have returned, survived the worst weather on record, and raised one, very special, young bird.
The time-scale of the Dyfi ospreys to date