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Mollycoddling!

As yet there’s still no movement from the Manton Bay Ospreys.

It’s not surprising that the juveniles have decided it’s not quite time to leave Rutland. This video, taken earlier today, shows the Manton Bay female feeding 9F, the juvenille female. Although both parents are still bringing fish in for the youngsters we wouldn’t expect her to actually be feeding the young birds.

Perhaps she got fed up with the constant food begging coming from 9F; if you’ve visited Waderscrape hide in the last few days you won’t have missed it!

Do Ospreys go to Heaven?

Here is the final instalment of Ken’s Diary…

It’s Sunday (the final day of the brilliant Birdfair), in a packed Waderscrape hide, and a little boy of about eight, who has been watching the Manton Bay Ospreys and all the other birds intently with his family for over an hour and asking really good questions, suddenly says to me ‘Do Ospreys go to Heaven?’ Just at that moment, by pure chance (or ill luck!) the hide is absolutely silent, and there is an almost tangible air of anticipation as twenty or so pairs of ears await a response as they continue to peer through their binoculars and telescopes..…..  It is no good pretending I haven’t heard, or shifting the responsibility to another person. I am on my own.

‘I’m sure they do,’ I hear myself saying, thus in one second revealing, for all to hear, my own spiritual dilemma, unresolved even after several decades, in attempting to effect a reconciliation between Darwinian evolution and religion. I know there will be follow-up questions, and they come thick and fast as my young friend warms to his subject.

‘Is it the same as the Heaven I shall go to?’ 

‘Do all Ospreys go there, even if they’re bad?

And finally :

‘How do you know so much about it?’

My responses are becoming more and more desperate, and my vivid description of this Osprey Valhalla as a fish-filled place of perfect bliss seems to be causing the whole hide to relax into a state of transcendental meditation…….when suddenly I am rescued by the appearance of an altogether different vision in the sky in front of us……

There is only one airworthy example of the Avro Vulcan Bomber left anywhere in the world, and, believe it or not, it is flying towards us at this very moment, heading north to south directly over Waderscrape hide, at no great height, to the consternation of most of the wildfowl on the reservoir, and the delight of all the observers here with me. For a few moments, binoculars are diverted away from the Ospreys, and ~ to my great relief ~ attention is moved away from the philosophical discussions of Osprey Heaven. Never did I think I would be so pleased to see this relic of the Cold War, but as it roars over leaving a trail of smoke behind it, one cannot deny that this is indeed a stirring sight. Codenamed XH558, this one is based at nearby Bruntingthorpe, and now takes part in air shows and flypasts all over the country. It occurs to me that whoever designed this aircraft must surely have been a moth fan ~ for the shape exactly recalls a member of the Geometridae, maybe an Orange Underwing or a Green Carpet (complete with camouflage stripes). Look them up in your moth book!

The Ospreys are unmoved by the Vulcan. I chat to visitors from Brazil and New York, all here for the Birdfair, and keen to tell me about the Ospreys back in their own country. The inquisitive boy and his family eventually leave; I hope I have done no damage to his spiritual development. The hide fills rapidly again, and as my relief team arrives, it literally is standing room only………

Just two days later, and with barely time for recovery after the enjoyable rigours of the three-day Birdfair, I find myself on the familiar walk to Site B, for the twenty–first (and last) time this season. Tim left me a message last night, warning me that there were only two members of the family still there now (03 and 3F), but I was welcome to go if I wanted to. So here I am.

In the distance I see a familiar vehicle coming up the track towards me, so I open the gate and wait for John Wright to pass through. He winds his window down and tells me there are no Ospreys at the site at the moment, but he can see a very distant one on a pylon further away, and wants to go round and check who it is. He says ‘I’m sure you’ll see some action this morning, but it’ll all be over in 24 hours.’ He drives on.

I walk on down towards the watch-point. The cloud is high. It’s dry, still and cool. If last week was ‘late summer’, this is decidedly ‘early autumn.’ 3F, whose gender is now officially female, is alone on the nest, preening, and then staring around. At 8.45 she becomes more animated, hopping around the nest before flying strongly along the front of the wood and away to the south-east.

‘Nothing remains but the nest…….’ I recall quoting Alan Poole a week or so ago. Anticipating that there might be periods today of total inactivity, I have actually brought a book with me. Now only a few days ago reading a book whilst on duty would have been seen as a gross dereliction of duty, a sacking offence even, but today it’s OK, and anyway it’s a super Osprey book by David Gessner ~ I’ve read it before, but never tire of it, especially at this point of imminent departure. No sooner have I found the chapter I want to read, when instinct tells me to look up and I see 3F back on the nest. She was away for just 23 minutes. Her food-begging calls begin, hopefully prompting 03 into action, wherever he is. Minutes later she is off again, away to the east this time. Off to find her Father I think.

I notice JW is back, a few hundred yards away, camera at the ready.  And at 9.45, I see 03 approaching, a nice trout gripped firmly below. Within moments, 3F has also returned and taken the fish from the nest to the nearby perch, where she begins to eat with obvious relish and gusto. Fuelling up no doubt for the flight ahead. Her father looks on from another perch, preening and scratching. Occasionally he stops, stares, looks around ~ checking conditions perhaps, and the state of the flyways. I return my lens to 3F, just in time to see the tail of the trout disappear. She shakes her feathers, cleans her claws, and then launches off. It’s 10.35. I do not see her again.

Three minutes later. 03 is in the air too. Gentle rain is now falling, in keeping with the melancholy mood now pervading the site. He disappears to the back of the wood. 10.38. That could be it for the day. I pick the book up again :

I read aloud : ‘Ornithologists have a specific word for Walt Whitman’s ‘irresistible call to depart’. I know this passage virtually by heart, but I carry on reading anyway. ‘They call it Zugunruhe, a German word for the restlessness birds feel before they migrate…..it is the general unease, the bristling, of a creature about to embark on a journey.’

Well, I can certainly feel it today. Zugunruhe is definitely in the air, to be followed, inevitably, by die Wanderung, the migration itself. German words are so expressive and atmospheric!

The final action of the day ~ and of the season for me ~ comes at 10.44, when a ‘chipping’ intruder comes flying over. This one has a primary feather missing in the right wing. I note that JW’s long lens is already on it, and no doubt he will be able to tell us later who it is. After circling the wood for a while and eliciting no response from either 03 or 3F (if they are here), our visitor drifts away. The rain has stopped. ‘Nothing remains but the nest’, standing like an ancient ruin at the edge of a verdant canopy.

JW has gone, silently slipping away unnoticed. The last hour of my final shift. My own Zugunruhe kicks in as I await my time of departure. My mind goes back two days to the little boy who asked me about Osprey Heaven.

No need to imagine it anymore, or to invent fanciful answers. It’s here all the time, for those of us fortunate enough to visit it. We call it Site B.

Manton Bay female, 8F & 9F on the nest this morning

Three in a nest and the little one said …

It’s not often that we see three birds in the nest at this time of year but earlier today the Manton Bay female, 9F and 8F were all in the nest together briefly. In fact we’re lucky to still have the whole Manton Bay family in Rutland. Over half of the Rutland Ospreys have now begun their migration down to West Africa.

Manton Bay female, 8F & 9F on the nest this morning

5R is evidently not in any great hurry for his offspring to leave yet as he is still supplying them with fish; like this one which he dropped off for 9F this morning.

Andy and Anne Strang at the Birdfair stand last week

Birdfair book sales and a Great North Run

If you’re planning to come to Lyndon, over the bank holiday weekend for one last Osprey-fix of the season, then you’re in luck. As I write, all of the Manton Bay family are still present, with 8F waiting patiently on the nest for a fish. He and his sister obviously aren’t quite  ready to go just yet.

If you visited our Osprey project stand at the Birdfair, you may well have bought one of our superb selection of second-hand books. The sale was arranged by project volunteers Andy and Anne Strang to raise money for our education work in West Africa and elsewhere on the Osprey migration flyway. Sales at the fair totaled over £350, meaning the books alone have now raised £1790 for the project since Andy and Anne started selling them at the Birdfair last year – a fantastic effort. We are incredibly grateful to Andy and Anne for organising the sale and to everyone who has donated books so far.

Andy and Anne Strang at the Birdfair stand last week

The remaining books are now on sale at the Lyndon Visitor Centre and there are plenty of bargains still available, so don’t miss out  – it’s all for a good cause.

We have good reason to be grateful to the Strang family, because Andy and Anne’s daughter Liz is also helping to raise money for the project. Liz is running this year’s Great North Run to help us raise the necessary funds to purchase new GPS satellite transmitters. If you have followed the fortunes of 09(98) over the last year, you’ll know that the transmitters have provided a wealth of new and incredibly valuable information on the bird’s migration and fishing habits. However, this kind of information doesn’t come cheap- each transmitter costs in excess of £2500 – and so we’re very grateful to Liz for helping us with our fund-raising efforts. If you would like to sponsor Liz, you can do so on her online fundraising page. GOOD LUCK LIZ!

0J from Site N intruding at the Manton Bay nest

So long, farewell. Well, not for the Manton Bay family

All four of the Manton Bay family are present again today, but that’s not the case at all of the Rutland nests.

03(97)’s unringed mate at Site B left in early August, and now two of her offspring are on the move too. 1F and 2F must have set off on migration over the weekend, because neither bird has been seen since. As a result, its now not unusual for Site B to be devoid of Ospreys during the day. There is usually one juvenile who lingers longer than its siblings, though, and this year it is 3F. The young female (we initially thought she was a male – but are now confident she’s a female) continues to return to the nest each evening and, as you would expect of an experienced breeding Ospreys, 03(97) is still providing fish for her. Quite how long she will stay,we’re not sure, but with poor weather forecast for the next few days, she may remain into the early part of next week.

Elsewhere, 09(98)’s first-ever family have also set out on migration. Like the Site B youngsters, 0J and 0F departed over the weekend; and it’s amazing to think that they could already be in France. Before setting off on their first extremely hazardous flight south, the two Site N chicks paid a visit to Manton Bay. Here are a couple of photos taken by John Wright at the end of last week.

0J from Site N intruding at the Manton Bay nest

0F intruding at the Manton bay nest

With his two chicks and mate heading south (5N(04) also left at the weekend), 09 himself could leave any day. Thanks to his satellite transmitter we’ll be able to follow his 3000 mile flight to Senegal in incredible detail – and will be providing daily updates on his progress as he flies south. It will be really interesting to see how how this autumn’s journey compares to last year. One thing we can be sure of, is that he’ll be heading for the same stretch of Senegalese coastline as last winter.

Unlike their compatriots at Site B and Site N, the Manton Bay juveniles seem content to stay put for the time being. The two juveniles are providing great views for visitors to Waderscrape and Shallow Water hides at Lyndon at the moment. Here are a couple of photos of 9F playing in the wind earlier this week.

9F playing in the wind

…and enjoying the wind some more

We enjoyed some superb Osprey Cruises over the Birdfair weekend, and we still have some places left for the last cruise of the season, which takes place on Saturday. So if you fancy one last Osprey-fix this summer, you can book online here.