Monty's Fish Pie - 2011
With 2011 being the first year really that we could look at Monty's fish species breakdown in any scientific way, we have some quite interesting findings. Almost half (47%) of all fish caught were Mullet, a quarter (25%) Sea Trout and a fifth (20%) were Flounder. Sea Bass (3%) seemed to be a restaurant type fish, a bit of a luxury and only available when in season! These four species made up the staple diet - 95% of all the fish caught.
Perhaps the most interesting aspect about Monty's Fish Pie are the fish he caught that made up the remaining 5%. We're pretty sure that there are mitigating reasons why he departed from his usual four fish and caught another five species in total, albeit on a greatly reduced scale (no pun intended!). Weather had probably a big part to play.
Whenever we had high winds and stormy weather we usually saw Monty deviating away from his four main species and bring other types of fish to the nest. His staple estuarine fish, Mullet, Sea Trout, Flounder and Sea Bass are probably hard, if not impossible, to catch in very bad weather. Not just from the point of view of diving accurately into water in strong winds, but also from the fact that much of the Dyfi River and estuary would have silted up in choppy waters making fish practically invisible. The answer of course is to adapt and have a Plan B - fish for prey that survive in other types of water that would not be as affected by the weather.
Monty with a Flounder, which after several months, his partner Nora came to like. © MWT
Up in the hills of mid Wales there are many lakes and reservoirs that are full of fish, mainly Rainbow and Brown Trout, and it was in really bad weather that we usually saw Monty bring one of these species back to the nest. Monty also brought back fish that mainly live in the sea.
The Greater Weeverfish was a surprise. This is a fish that lives on the sea bottom surviving on shrimps, crabs and other small fish but that has ferocious looking spines that can sting you if trodden on resulting in excruciating pain. The poisonous spines were no obstacle to Monty and his family however and you can see the video of the Greater Weeverfish in the osprey nest here.
Another surprise was the Twaite Shad, a member of the herring family. This is a very rare species in British waters, so much so, it is listed in the Red Data List of endangered species. Does Monty have a license?
Perhaps the single most amazing fish that Monty brought back in 2011 was a Garfish. A long, eel type fish that has a protracted mouth a bit like a Marlin. Garfish have green bones due to an excess of a bile pigment, Biliverdin (The same pigment that causes the green colour in bruises). We watched in awe as Monty brought the Garfish back to the nest on the last Sunday in June to the total horror of Nora - she had clearly never seen one of these before! The video of this incredible moment is here.
The long bodied Garfish which has green bones
British ospreys that nest in estuarine habitats probably have an advantage over those that nest far away from the sea around inland fresh water lakes. Nesting close to your food source and having the ability to adapt in adverse conditions, catching 10 different species or more, would seem like a good strategy. Estuarine nesting ospreys also seem to need to bring back less fish back to the nest each season (see Fish Species) thereby conserving energy and reducing the risk of predation and being caught up in fishing tackle. Thousands of years ago there would have been ospreys nesting on all the major estuaries in the British Isles; if you live near one, imagine an osprey diving into the water and taking fish from the sea to their nest along the shore somewhere for the first time in countless centuries. There are many people working in conservation in this country today trying to make this a reality again.