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By Tim on May 26, 2015
If you tuned in to BBC Springwatch this evening you’ll have been introduced to an Osprey with an ever-growing legacy. So what is it that makes 03(97) – or Mr Rutland – such an important bird?
To begin with, we need to go back to July 1997. It is mid-July and eight young Ospreys have just arrived at Rutland Water. Having been collected under special licence from nests in North-east Scotland by world-renowned Osprey-expert Roy Dennis, they had been driven 450 miles south to England’s smallest county. The birds were placed in specially-designed release pens and left to settle in to their new home. At six weeks of age they were still a fortnight away from taking to the air for the first time, and the pens would provide a good opportunity for them to become acclimatised to their new surrounds before they were released. Each bird was fitted with a colour ring to enable the team at Rutland Water to monitor their progress.
The birds were part of a pioneering project that aimed to restore Ospreys to England for the first time in over 150 years. A year earlier we – the Leicestershire and Rutland Wildlife Trust and Rutland Water’s owners, Anglian Water – had been granted a licence to translocate a small number of Ospreys from the annually-increasing Scottish population to the reservoir. Research in Scotland and elsewhere had shown that Ospreys are highly site-faithful and so it was hoped that the translocated birds would recognise Rutland as home and return in future years to breed. In all a total of 64 young Scottish Ospreys were relocated to the reservoir between 1996 and 2001.
We didn’t know it at the time, but of the eight birds who arrived at Rutland Water in July 1997 there was one who would go onto have a profound effect on the future of Ospreys in both England and Wales. 03(97) – 03 being the bird’s ring number and 1997 the year of release – made his first flight just after 8pm on 27th July. He made short, but surprisingly competent, two-minute flight before landing on a nearby dead tree. As the days progressed he grew in confidence on the wing and spent the next six weeks getting to know his adopted home. Then, 40 days after that all-important first flight, he set-off south on the perilous 3000 mile journey to West Africa. He would have to negotiate at least two crossings of the Sahara before we stood a chance of seeing him again.
Remarkably, eighteen years later, 03(97) is still going strong. Over the past 15 years ‘Mr Rutland’ has raised a total of 32 chicks at a nest that he built in the top of an oak tree in the summer of 2000. He bred successfully for the first time in 2001 and hasn’t looked back since. He’s reared young with three different females – including 14 with his latest unringed mate – all at the same nest in the top of the oak tree. It is a suitably regal setting for the most important Osprey in the Rutland colony.
Mortality among young Ospreys is usually very high; as many as 70% of young birds failing to survive the first two years of their life. And yet 40% of 03(97)’s offspring who are old enough to have returned to the UK, have made it back. Prior to this summer those 12 birds had, in turn, reared a total of 43 chicks between them, and, to date, four of those 43 have gone on to breed successfully. So aside from being a grandfather many times over, 03(97) is also a great grandfather to 15 young Ospreys.
Although 03’s own nest has sadly failed this year after repeated intrusions by two young males, his various offspring who are breeding, should help to make up for that. The three Manton Bay chicks which hatched over the bank holiday weekend have made 03 a grandfather for the 46th time; and with his offspring breeding at four other sites this year, that tally should exceed 50 quite easily within the next fortnight.
The Site B dynasty has ensured that there have been plenty of Ospreys to populate the growing Rutland colony. With eight pairs breeding this year, it is very likely that by the end of the summer over 100 young Ospreys will have fledged from nests in the area since 03(97) reared the first chick in 2001. In many ways, however, the Mr Rutland nickname is a bit of a misnomer. It suggests that his legacy is confined to England’s smallest county, but that is most definitely not the case. In 2011 Ospreys returned to breed on the Dyfi Estuary in mid-Wales for the first time in four centuries. The nest, situated on the Montgomeryshire Wildlife Trust’s Cors Dyfi Reserve, attracted the attention of the world through the BBC Springwatch cameras. Although the male was unringed, a white ring on the female’s right leg showed that she had fledged from 03(97)’s Site B nest three years previously, in 2008. 03(08) – or Nora – as she became known – raised four chicks over the course of two successful summers on the Dyfi. When she failed to return in 2013 her place was taken by 03(97)’s granddaughter, 12(10) aka Glesni. The nest on the Dyfi has become highly sought-after and 12(10) had to fight off the aggressive advances of her cousin, 24(10) – another of 03(97)’s granddaughters – to keep hold of the nest.
Events on the Dyfi not only show how the Rutland translocation has completely changed the distribution map of Ospreys in the UK, but how one Osprey in particular, has been integral to the spread of Ospreys through southern Britain. Who would have thought that eighteen years ago on a balmy evening in Rutland, that an Osprey making its maiden flight, would go on to have such a profound and lasting legacy on the Osprey populations of England and Wales.
Although 03’s nets is on private land with no public access, you can see a family of Ospreys at the Lyndon Visitor Centre where 03’s son, 33(11), has three newly-hatched chicks with his mate, Maya. For visiting information, click here.
By Kayleigh Brookes on May 26, 2015
What an idyllic life Osprey chicks have. They have food, shelter, warmth and protection, and all they do all day is eat and sleep! They have eaten well again today, another huge roach that 33 caught lasted them almost all day! He landed on the T-perch with the roach at about 08:15, and stayed there with it for an hour. Maya started to get impatient, and actually flew off the nest and went to sit by him for a bit, as if to hurry him along! Whatever she said to him worked, as he then flew off the perch and landed on the nest with the fish, seconds after Maya did, as you can see from the video below.
All three of the chicks have been fed in turn today, Maya is very good sharing it out between them. To begin with it looked like the youngest chick was stuck behind its siblings and wasn’t getting any food, but later on Maya was seen to lean around the other two and feed the little one. There is no chance there’ll ever be a lack of food for these chicks, all three will be very well fed, without a doubt!
Along with all the fish, 33 also brought in a stick today, which he very nearly dropped on top of the chicks! Maya moved it out of the way later, to a more suitable location.
These three chicks do not know how fortunate they are. They are very lucky to have been born in a place where food is abundant, to a father who catches fish with speed and ease, and to an experienced mother who is so very caring and efficient.
The chicks will grow large and strong, and it won’t take long. Every day they will look a little bit different. It will be fantastic to watch them growing up! However, before we know it, it will have happened… so we must treasure every single moment of this precious time!
Don’t forget to watch Springwatch tonight folks, to learn all about the super-Osprey 03(97), who is the father of 33, and the grandfather of 33’s first ever chicks. 8pm on BB2!
By Kayleigh Brookes on May 25, 2015
Well it has been another amazing day! This weekend has been full of them! It’s days like these we’ll never forget, days when everything is so unbelievably perfect that life couldn’t possibly be any better. Often, we are enjoying it so much we don’t even want to go home… speaking of which, here is a video of Maya feeding the chicks early this morning on the infra-red camera!
If you were watching the webcam around 16:30 this afternoon, you will know what the most exciting moment of the day was – the hatching of the third chick! This morning, at around 08:30, we noticed a hole in the third egg. Naturally, we assumed it wouldn’t be long until the chick popped out. However, we learned patience today as the chick did not emerge from its shell until just before we closed! Maya had been up and down throughout the day, feeding the chicks and turning the egg. We saw that the hole had grown, and even saw a bit of beak poking its way through at one point!
That wasn’t the moment, though. Maya sat back down, and we waited a while longer. Then, eventually, it happened… Maya rose to her feet, and at them the third egg lay, almost completely in half. A moment later, the little chick broke out of the shell and into the air! It was a beautiful moment, and the centre was full of excited, happy people!
Soon after the chick hatched, Maya got up and went to the huge roach 33 had delivered to the nest earlier. The two older chicks immediately turned to her and begged for food, but the youngest was less interested and just lay quietly behind them. This newest chick is still too young to feed, it cannot hold its head up properly yet. Looking at the three of them together, you can see how much the other two have grown in just a couple of days. It won’t be long until their sibling catches up with them.
Not long after, 33 arrived at the nest, and sat watching Maya feed the chicks, looking down at them inquisitively.
33 is a great Osprey, and is fast getting the hang of this fatherhood lark. He has been providing fish frequently – so much so that, earlier in the day, Maya was sitting next to two half-eaten fish, as there was just too much to manage!
Needless to say, the chicks have been fed numerous times today on several different fish – roach, pike, you name it! Roach does appear to be 33’s fish of choice recently, and he has caught some monsters! This proves that 33 is going to have no trouble catching enough fish to feed his family. There will never be a shortage of food for the Manton Bay Ospreys!
By Tim on May 25, 2015
Watching the Manton Bay chicks hatching over the past few days has been wonderful and a real privilege, but sadly, things haven’t gone so well at Site B.
In April we reported that 03(97) had reclaimed the nest after a long battle with two other males 51(11) and 30(10). The initial clutch of eggs were lost in the fighting, but a week later the female laid a second clutch (without being able to see into the nest we don’t know how many eggs, but there was at least one).
For two weeks the birds swapped incubation duties just as we would expect, with very few intrusions from the two males who had caused so much trouble previously. All seemed to be well again.
Then, without warning, and for no obvious reason, 03 and the female suddenly stopped incubating the eggs. There was no fighting, no intrusions, they just simply stopped sitting on the eggs one evening. That happened just over a week ago and since then there have been no indications that the female will attempt to lay again. Exactly what prompted the birds to give up on the second clutch of eggs is unclear, but the most likely explanation is that they weren’t viable in the first place. During the fighting for the nest, the female hardly ate at all and, as a result, was in very poor condition. Bearing this in mind, we were surprised that she laid the replacement clutch so quickly. It is likely that she was deficient in calcium and so perhaps the eggs shells of the second clutch were simply too thin? Whatever the case, the birds were obviously able to sense that they were not going to hatch, and so gave up incubating them.
It is very sad that 03 won’t be adding to his tally of 32 chicks this year, but his various offspring who are breeding, should help to make up for that. The three Manton Bay chicks have made 03 a grandfather for the 46th time; and with his offspring breeding at four other sites this year, that tally should exceed 50 quite easily within the next fortnight. If you add in that he has great grandsons breeding at a further two nests and a great granddaughter breeding at Cors Dyfi in Wales then you really start to realise just how important this one Osprey is.
If you would like to find out more about the legacy of 03(97) – or Mr Rutland – as he is often referred to, then make sure you tune in to BBC Springwatch tomorrow evening at 8pm on BBC 2 when there will be a special feature on the bird who, we hope you’ll agree, is the most important Osprey anywhere in either England or Wales.
By Kayleigh Brookes on May 24, 2015
You’ve got to love Osprey chicks! Unlike many other baby birds, young Ospreys are not pink and ugly, they’re furry and cute! It’s great that they are born with the eye-stripe already in place, making them look like they’re wearing masks. They are a bit wobbly to begin with, and flop around a bit, but already we can see how much they have grown since they hatched, both chicks are looking bigger and stronger, and have no trouble holding their heads up.
Osprey chicks grow incredibly quickly, and in seven weeks will be adult size! This fast rate of growth is due to their diet of pure protein, and they have been very well fed today! Early this morning, Maya got up and fed them the rest of a perch that was brought in even earlier. She seemed to be doling out food in equal proportions to both chicks.
Later in the morning, 33 brought back a huge roach, and there was plenty to go round! 33 ate a bit first, then delivered it to the nest, where Maya took it from him and fed the chicks. I’ll never get over how delicate they are when they’re feeding the chicks, and never tire of watching them! 33 watched her for a while, then left to sit atop his favourite perch and keep an eye from there.
The roach was so big they couldn’t possibly finish it in one go, and, when the chicks had had their fill, Maya left it on the side of the nest. She went back to it a couple of times later on, and fed the chicks again. Then 33 came along and took the rest of it off to the T-perch.
Maya continued to brood the chicks throughout the day – she knows she must ensure they are kept warm. She also must incubate the third and final egg – it could hatch any minute now!