We know 09 arrived back at his nest at 2:10 yesterday afternoon, and we now have the data for his flight from Winchester to Rutland.
09 must have known he was close to home, because he set off from his roost just north of Winchester at first light. By 7am he had already flown 14 miles and was heading purposefully north at 38kph at an altitude of 103 metres. He stopped briefly at 9am, but an hour later he was another 12 miles further north-east, flying over Aylesbury. By midday he was passing Grafham Water and nearing home, maintaining a speed of between 35 and 40kph. By 2pm he would have bee able to see Rutland Water from his altitude of 349m…
…Meanwhile, John Wright and I were at 09’s nest waiting for him. His transmitter’s duty cycle meant that at the time we didn’t know exactly when he would arrive and so all we could do was sit and wait. Given his usual flight speeds on migration we estimated that the flight from Winchester to Rutland could take as little as four or five hours, meaning that he could have been back at his nest as early as 11am. Fortunately there was nothing at the nest (situated on private land and known as Site N) when we arrived. Phew, we hadn’t missed him.
At 11:30, a false alarm. An Osprey appeared from the south and alighted on the nest. It was 5N, the female 09 had paired up with last summer. She remained at the nest for ten minutes, adding a couple of small sticks, before heading off again. Perhaps she was just checking to see if 09 had returned?
By lunchtime, it was a beautiful warm spring day and there were lots of signs of migration. Newly-arrived Chiffchaffs were singing near the nest and a couple of groups of Fieldfare called above our heads as they headed north, back towards their Scandinavian breeding grounds.
We heard from Michelle that 5N was now in Manton Bay; food begging on the nest of her brother, 5R. If only she knew her own mate was about to arrive back in Rutland.
At 2:10pm an Osprey appeared above our heads from the south. It was low down and heading straight for the nest. What’s more, it flew in at such an angle that we could see a transmitter on its back. It was 09! He circled the nest and then folded his wings, dropping spectacularly down onto the T perch beside the nest. He was home.
It is always a very memorable moment to see an Osprey return in this way, but the fact that we knew exactly what 09 had experienced over the sixteen days since he had left his wintering site on the Senegal coast, made it all the more special. He looked in fine condition and certainly displayed no adverse effects of the long and arduous journey, and particularly his near-death experience off the coast of Western Sahara.
At around 2:40 he headed off towards the reservoir, leaving the nest vacant once again. We wondered if 5N would return while he was away, but by the time 09 eventually returned – just before 5pm – she was still absent. As 09 arrived back at the nest he performed a spectacular aerial display above our heads, advertising the part-eaten roach he had brought back to the nest. We thought it would be only a matter of time before 5N returned, but by dark 09 was still alone.
After roosting away from Site N, 09 returned at 7:30 this morning, again displaying with a part-eaten fish as he arrived. Unbeknown to him, 5N was at the Manton Bay nest where she was again hoping for a free meal from 5R! Once she realises 09 is back in Rutland we expect her to return to Site N, but for the time being it is just great to see 09 back safely.