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03’s return

Photos from 03’s first day back at Site B

Naked runners, a smashed Thermos……
and an impressive return!

Sunday March 20th 2011 : We have decided on a pre-season rehearsal today to make sure we are in perfect shape when the Lyndon Reserve opens properly tomorrow. I arrive at 12.15pm to find a few cars in the car-park and the Osprey team in the Centre making final preparations for the opening. Barrie drives in after a few minutes and says he’s had a bizarre experience on the road down to the car-park ~ an encounter with a group of near-naked male runners who are staging some sort of stunt in aid of Comic Relief by running around the Reservoir ~ not a pretty sight! While he recovers, I get kitted up for the walk down to Wader Scrape hide ~ telescope, binoculars, sandwiches, note-book, and a Thermos of nice hot coffee. We’re ready, and I swing the rucksack onto my back ~ a little too enthusiastically it turns out, as one of the flaps flies open and sends the Thermos flying through the air and onto the rock-hard ground of the car-park! The sound of shattered glass is in fact the death-rattle of a flask which has been with me through several seasons at many different Osprey sites. Now it is consigned to the dustbin of Rutland history.

After such an eventful start, the walk down to Wader scrape is blissfully warm, serene and full of birds! We renew acquaintance with the Tree Sparrows in front of the Centre, and track a pair of Bullfinches in the thick hedge. Reed Buntings are here too, a Great-spotted Woodpecker and out on the water winter wildfowl are still lingering ~ among them some superb male Goldeneye. We note all the clearance work which has been done by the winter work parties around the edges of the water, and we call in at Tufted Duck hide, where a few familiar faces greet us. Further on down, a small brownish bird catches our eye in the bare tree-tops, and it’s a Chiffchaff ~ one of three we are to see and hear this afternoon. Then, as the sun breaks through, a splendid Peacock butterfly glides along the path, and bumblebees start to blunder about, seemingly still in a daze after their long winter sleep. We inspect the Badger set, and find it looking good. Maybe there are already cubs down there somewhere. Cormorants are all over the dead tree in the water, one of them with a completely white breast which catches the sun and contrasts starkly with its more sombre companions. Enjoy the peace while you can, we tell them ~ life will not be so relaxed for you when the true guardian of the Bay returns…..

We reach Wader Scrape hide at last. It is deserted, flaps all shut, but it has survived the winter well. The floor is dry, the notices and pictures still bright on the wall, and the end-room (our ‘office’ as one volunteer calls it) is clean and tidy. We set up the ‘scopes and study the Osprey nest on the platform. It has been tidied up and is ready for its tenants. There is no sign of the geese which have been exploring it in the last few days, but a Pied Wagtail is taking interest in the little gaps in the twigs at the base of the structure. The new camera has been installed and, even as we watch, is sending images to the Centre and to anyone who logs in to the website. We settle down and are immediately in ‘volunteer mode’ as a couple come in and greet us with their question : ‘Are they back yet?’ We say ‘No’ ~ but watch this space. Barrie gallantly shares his coffee with me, as mine came to such a calamitous end back at the car-park. Two children run in ahead of their parents, telling us they’ve already had a picnic and where are the Ospreys? A few volunteers drop in, like us, roused to action by the warmer weather, and by the portentous date of March 20th.

We wait, we chat to a steady flow of visitors, we watch Muntjac running about in front of the hide, and we wait again……At 13.47 precisely, both our ‘phones sound at exactly the same moment : ‘One message received’ : from Tim Mackrill : ’03 is back at Site B’. Those few words diffuse all the tension, relieve the suspense, gladden the hearts of all. 03 (97), talisman and patriarch of the entire Rutland Osprey clan, father of 23 chicks in his ten years of breeding……and back in Rutland on March 20th. Brilliant news. We may not be able to see him, but we know he’s there, and that’s all that matters. And others are surely on the way, not far behind him.

We decide to move down to the last hide, Shallow Water, and check for waders and perhaps an early flight of Sand Martins. We find a pair of Oystercatchers and a few Lapwing, plus noisy Shelducks skittering about. A few more visitors join us ~ volunteers on the same quest as us, local residents anxious to hear if there is any news, and casual walkers always keen to see and hear whatever we have got to show them. The main attraction down here ~ apart from the closer proximity of the waiting nest ~ is a wonderful pair of Great Crested Grebes, who are going through the full courtship display sequence just a short distance away from us. Standing up in the water and performing their dance, presenting weed, shaking heads with necks erect and ruffs and ears in full array…..a most impressive performance. The nest they are constructing is slowly being built up in the water. One to watch in the weeks ahead.

As the early evening starts to close in around us, three Buzzards and a Red Kite drift lazily over the Bay on their way back to the woods to roost. Time for us to go too. Back at the Centre, finishing touches are being put to the displays in readiness for opening tomorrow. The return of 03 has put an extra spring into the step of every member of the team. In the car-park, coffee stains mark the spot where my Thermos met its end. On the lane up the hill there are thankfully no naked runners now to disturb my mood of anticipation and excitement. The long dreary winter has already faded into distant memory. The season has begun. We are ready.

03(97) Returns for his Eleventh Year

It felt like spring over the weekend. Chiffchaffs were singing around the reserve, Buzzards and Red Kites were displaying and the first butterflies – Commas and Brimstones – were on the wing. All we needed now was an Osprey. We spent much of Saturday finishing various  last minute jobs – adjusting the Manton Bay nest camera, pruning an Ash tree near the Site B nest (to provide a convenient perching place) and getting the Lyndon Visitor Centre ready for opening today. As we worked it seemed like an Osprey could drop out of the sky at any moment. 03(97) had returned on 19th March last year, so there was every chance…

However by evening all the nest sites were still vacant. Maybe things would change on Sunday? By late morning early cloud had dissipated, giving way to clear skies. Perfect migration weather. As if on cue, a visitor reported an Osprey over the lagoons at Egleton. Could it be a Rutland bird making its long-awaited return?

John Wright drove to Site B, and sure enough there was an Osprey on the nest. It was 03(97), back for what we hope will be his eleventh year of breeding. Fantastic! 03 looked resplendent in the beautiful spring sunlight. IMG_8513-for-blogHe showed no signs of fatigue after his long migration, and immediately set about building up the nest, helping himself to some of the ash branches we had pruned the morning before! As usual the local crows gave him a bit of hassle to welcome him home, but that didn’t last long. 03’s return was 24 hours later than last spring, but exactly the same as 2009. And that after flying 3000 miles. Remarkable.

IMG_8518-for-blog

03 has raised the remarkable tally of 23 chicks since he first bred at Site B in 2001, let’s hope he adds to that this year. Last year his mate returned on 4thApril. I wonder how long he and us will have to wait this year?  It goes without saying that we will be keeping a close eye over the nest over the coming days.

February and March

FEBRUARY.  It’s a grey, drizzly morning in Rutland and I’m still dreaming of the amazing time that we all had in The Gambia and Senegal, but also thinking about our Ospreys preparing for their homecoming. It was such an exciting experience in Africa to see so many Ospreys and witness how differently they behave over there. Volunteering this season will be somewhat different for me having witnessed that kind of behaviour when they are away from their nests.  Many times in the past I have tried to imagine where they were and what they were up to in their wintering grounds – now I know.

MARCH.  The Rutland Project Team have now reconvened and it’s all systems go; 150 volunteers to co-ordinate – daytime shifts, Osprey cruises, night shifts, Family Fun Days,  Birdfair and new this season, Midnight Nightingales and all before we know which nests will be active?  How do we know which birds will return and will there be any disappointments like we had last year with the losses of 32(05) and 06(00) Oh, the sadness when two of our males made that perilous journey back to RW, only to have their lives snatched away.  Many of us who made the trip to sub-Saharan Africa were astounded when we flew for hours over that desert – it is so, so vast and unforgiving.  We had witnessed the miracle of their arrival safely back at RW and there was such promise and then the mystery of their disappearances and finally the realisation that they were gone forever.

Now, whatever it is that makes them leave the warmth and the plentiful fish supply in Africa will be prompting them again and they will set off on that mammoth journey, and last years’ juveniles will have the African paradise to themselves for six months. These magnificent birds bewitch us with their beauty, spirit, energy and courage, oh and their naughtiness, promiscuity and their individuality. In the past I have been very lucky to be in the right place at the right time and witness a few wonderful ‘Osprey Moments’. They will be back here at Rutland Water very soon and I am eagerly awaiting their arrival to witness a few more ‘moments’ that I can tell you about. I’ll be here every week and  hope that you enjoy reading about my encounters.

 

Welcome Back!

For everyone involved in the Rutland Osprey Project, late March is just about the most exciting time of the year. When will the first Osprey return from Africa, and who will it be? News that 11(98) is back at his nest in North Wales has really wetted everyone’s appetite. How long will we have to wait?   Last year 03(97) was the first bird back, on 19th March, so we’re hopeful that the first bird will return some time over the next few days.

From a personal point of view our project trip to West Africa has really put Osprey  migration into context. I find it remarkable to think that the birds will have flown over the vast wilds of the Sahara, the Atlas Mountains and perhaps even the Bay of Biscay, en route to their nest site in Rutland. This point was emphasised last week when I received an e-mail from Rolf Wahl saying that the French colour-ringed Osprey we saw in West Africa was back in Orleans Forest, just a matter of weeks after we had seen it catch a fish in the River Allahein on the border of Gambia and Senegal. Check out Rolf’s website and John Wright’s blog for more.

Competition

As you have probably noticed, the Manton Bay webcam is now online. The person who sends us the first screen grab from the camera showing an Osprey will receive two free Osprey cruise tickets. So be sure to check it at regular intervals over the coming days! By way of a hint, 5R returned on 27th March last year…

We really hope you like the new website. As last year we will be keeping a diary of the summer at Site B and Manton Bay. There will also be regular blogs from members of the project team as well as contributions from project volunteers. Check out the volunteers’ blog for Lynda Berry’s first diary entry of the summer. There are still various pages to be added to the website over the next few weeks, so please bear with us while we get them all online. One other important thing to point our is that you can now reserve places on all of our events online – check out the events page for more. Once you have reserved your tickets we will be in contact with further details.

Finally, a very big thank you to Moira and Dave from Morton Carnie Studio who have done a fantastic job with the website revamp. I can thoroughly recommend them – so be sure to check them out.