And the excitement begins...

And the excitement begins...

Peter Cairns/2020VISION

Last week was incredibly busy for us all in the Visitor Centre, with a lot of exciting things happening, and what a week we had! It all started on Monday (9th May) afternoon...

Last week was incredibly busy for us all in the Visitor Centre, and what a week we had! It all started on Monday (9th May) afternoon when I thought I spotted the first crack in one of the eggs at roughly 15:50, which we would most likely have missed had we not zoomed in on the main camera.

I think we were all continuously checking the webcam throughout the rest of that evening and by the next morning there was one small, wobbly chick in the nest. When I went back through the footage, it looked like it hatched sometime around 22:45 on 9th May.

We were all very excited in the centre, and we couldn’t believe it when we noticed the second egg had a crack in it – normally the chicks will hatch with at least a day in between, rather than a matter of hours. Finally at 12:00 on 10th May the second chick fully emerged, just over 13 hours after the first!

On that day, BBC East Midlands were here to film the Ospreys, which would feature on that evenings’ show and it couldn’t have been more perfect a time for them to have arrived! We had an amazing day on Tuesday here, but little did we realise what the next day would bring….

It was just like any other Wednesday, we came in, opened up the Visitor Centre ready for the day and were joyous about the first two chicks having hatched and also chatting about what we thought of our moment of fame on the TV, totally unprepared for the rollercoaster we were about to get on. When we switched the webcam on, we realised that one of the chicks – the younger of the two – wasn’t being brooded by Maya and was left exposed to the wet and cold (it was chucking it down with rain). We immediately went back through the morning’s footage to find out what happened, and we found that unfortunately a fish – which was dead, but sometimes the nerve endings still fire – flapped on top of the chicks and the remaining egg. Instead of removing the large Roach, Maya left it and brooded one chick and the fish and was incubating the egg. It didn’t look like she had noticed that one of the chicks had been left out of the safety of the nest cup. At this point, yes, we were truly worried for the chick, for if left exposed for too long, the reality was it would become too weak to pull through. It also wouldn’t have been appropriate for us to intervene, as the risk to the rest of the brood would be too great, and we have to remember, the Ospreys are wild birds and this is sadly part of nature, which we have to allow to play out, no matter how difficult it is for us to watch, which we do of course appreciate.

However! Maya thankfully removed the fish and with a little help from gravity, the chick was pulled back into the nest cup and eventually regained enough energy to beg for food, which Maya obliged to just after 17:00 that afternoon. At that point we were still on tenterhooks as to what we would find in the morning, but nature is incredible - perhaps more resilient than we give it credit for - and miraculously, the chick survived its ordeal and is looking as healthy as ever. But what a whirlwind!

We were a little concerned that the remaining egg was damaged during the events of Wednesday morning, but there was no need, because on Thursday 12th May at 09:00 the third and final chick hatched – phew! In the meantime, 33(11) has been delivering so much fish and I am happy to report all three chicks are doing well, with just 46 hours and 15 minutes between the first and last chick hatching!

Spring has truly sprung elsewhere on the reserve, and the gorse is in flower, vibrant bright yellow in colour and leaving the air filled with a sweet coconut aroma. Gorse is an ideal habitat for shelter and food, for many insects and birds, such as Stonechats, Yellowhammers and Dartford Warblers, but also was historically used for fuel for firing bread ovens, and used as a colourant for painting Easter eggs!

One of my favourite times of the spring – aside from the arrival of the Ospreys – is the chorus of birdsong that erupts upon the arrival of the spring warblers. Walking along the track at lunchtime, I was serenaded by the familiar unrelenting call of the Chiffchaff, the trickle of descending notes of the Willow Warbler, and the cheerful-sounding Blackcap, with its bubbly fluting song.

These three species are all migratory and Blackcaps and Chiffchaffs normally spend the winter months in southern Europe, North Africa and all the way down to Senegal – not too dissimilar to the Ospreys. Willow Warblers travel even further then their cousins, migrating all the way to southern Africa for the winter. However, there is a population of Blackcaps that remain in the UK overwinter, and the abundance of food in our gardens has actively influenced their expanding distribution. As the UK is experiencing improved weather over the winter months, this is also contributing to the reasons why some Blackcaps and Chiffchaffs are staying.

It was also fantastic to hear Common and Lesser Whitethroats singing away next to each other in the hedgerow along the top track towards Deepwater Hide and Marsh Harriers were displaying over the reedbed opposite Waderscrape Hide. The Water Rails in front of Waderscrape are becoming more active, with this lovely shot being captured by one of our visitors, Tim Nightingale.