At 7:30 on Sunday 9th June the middle chick of the Glaslyn brood, hatched from Mrs G’s 50th egg, died on the nest. It became clear the middle chick was unwell on Thursday evening after being fed, although we could not see exactly what the problem was. On Friday morning it regurgitated blood over Mrs G and ate very little throughout the day.
We noticed that Mrs G seemed to respond to the chick being unwell by bringing in oak leaves to the nest and placing them next to the middle chick. Behavioural Ecologist and friend and colleague of BGGW, Emyr Evans says that the leaves of many tree species have antibacterial properties and several times during the past 15 years of observing ospreys in Wales we have seen parent birds bring oak and other deciduous leaves back to their nests, especially in times of distress – for example when a chick is sick.
It happened at the Glaslyn in 2007 when Mrs G seemed to carefully place leaves over her chick that had died in the nest at just over two weeks old and again in 2016 when Glesni (Dyfi) brought oak leaves to the nest when her daughter, Ceri, was unwell with an injury.
It has happened several other times and it looks that Mrs G’s response to her sickly middle chick over the weekend was to bring oak leaves to the nest. It is amazing the sensory powers of these birds and how they can perceive distress such as an injury or sickness in a chick and then summon a healing behavioural response such as introducing a natural antibacterial agent to the nest.
On Saturday, although weak, the chick was fed on three separate occasions during the day and we were hopeful it would turn a corner. However, as we continued to observe its condition we noticed it did not attempt to eat at all during the evening.
By Sunday morning, it was obvious the second chick was extremely unwell and was barely able to lift its head. We sadly watched it pass away around 7:30 am.
The day went from bad to worse as just three hours later we watched as the third chick fell over onto its back and struggled to get up from that position. We waited to see if it could right itself but four hours later it was clear the chick was struggling. After consulting with experts Emyr Evans and Dr Tim Mackrill and considering the terms of our disturbance licence, we took the decision to intervene. This decision was made with the belief that this disturbance would not affect the eldest chick, who is only a few days away from reaching the age at which ringing can begin. Thankfully it looks to have been the right decision as the little chick is now thriving along with its eldest sibling.
The body of the middle chick was removed at the same time and has been sent to IZVG Pathology in Keighley for a post mortem. Although it is a cost we had not planned for we believe it is a worthwhile expense so that we can hopefully establish the reason why our second chick died in the nest. Any donations towards the costs of the post mortem are welcomed. We will, of course, update you on the results of the post mortem when we have the details. We are also hoping that we will be able to get the chick’s remains cremated once the post mortem is completed. We will then scatter the ashes under the nest at the end of the season once the ospreys have left the valley.
It has been over 10 years since a chick has been lost on the Glaslyn nest. Although we’re devastated to have lost our middle chick, we are thankful for currently still having two healthy chicks on the nest. It could have been a very different story.
Thank you for your continued support during the past few days, it has meant a lot to us. We have had to make some difficult decisions at times of great stress and it has not been easy. Diolch yn fawr.