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Osprey catching a fish, photo by John Wright

Osprey Cruises 2016!

It may be October, but we are already planning ahead for next season, and have decided on the dates for the 2016 Osprey Cruises!

Osprey and wildlife cruises are an absolutely brilliant way of seeing Rutland Water and appreciating its scenery and wildlife interest. Even when Ospreys are not visible, there is so much more to look at and learn about. Last season, we ran 18 cruises, working in partnership with the Rutland Belle, and at least one Osprey was seen on each cruise (sometimes there were up to six all at once!). Frequently, the birds flew incredibly close to the boat, and we witnessed Ospreys diving and catching fish numerous times. It is not surprising that these cruises are very popular!

Osprey with fish, photo by Bob Moore

Osprey with fish, taken on a cruise in July 2015. Photo by Bob Moore.

 

We run both afternoon and dawn cruises, from May to August each year. Sailing at that time of year maximises our chances of seeing Ospreys, as they will be out more frequently, catching enough fish to feed their growing chicks. The peak in Osprey fishing activity is early in the morning, or in the early evening, hence why we choose to sail at these times. Afternoon cruises begin with an introductory talk by a member of the Osprey team at the Anglian Water Birdwatching Centre, accompanied by hot drinks and biscuits, then we drive to Whitwell Harbour and board the Rutland Belle for a cruise that lasts an hour and a half. Dawn cruises begin at 6am, when the Rutland Belle leaves promptly from Whitwell. On our return, there is a fabulous cooked breakfast waiting for us at the Anglian Water Birdwatching Centre!

As the cruises are popular and get fully booked very fast, it is recommended that you book well in advance. You can book your tickets anytime from now onwards! Click here to see the list of dates, and links to book tickets. You can also buy vouchers that are not date specific – these make brilliant Christmas and birthday presents, and they can be made out specially in someone’s name. Click here for more information about vouchers.

For more detailed information about Osprey Cruises, click here!

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Osprey with fish, photo by John Wright

Normanton Church, photo by Paul Stammers

Normanton Church from the Rutland Belle, photo by Paul Stammers

The Rutland Belle

The Rutland Belle

 

Still settled in Senegal

Still settled in Senegal

As I mentioned yesterday, the weather this autumn has, for the most part, been lovely! Now that the clocks have gone back, the nights are noticeably and inevitably drawing in. Winter is coming, and the temperatures will soon begin to drop. Whilst we wrap up warm in our thick coats, scarves and gloves, we can think of our satellite-tagged Osprey, 30(05), who has no such weather-related issues! She does not have to counter the cold, and continues to laze about in Senegal, soaking up the sun on the beach. Oddly, according to the data, she did take a 36 mile round-trip into the desert and back on 12th October, for no apparent reason.

30 jolly 12th Oct

30’s trip on 12th October

 

Since then, however, 30 has remained in her usual spot and has not ventured anywhere else but out to sea to fish!

30 usual spot

30 remains in her favourite spot

 

This is exactly the behaviour we would expect from a wintering Osprey. 30 is clearly in her element, and will remain in the same spot in Senegal, until her instinct to come home dictates that she must leave her winter haven. We are very privileged to be able to track the location and movements of 30(05), and look forward with anticipation to following her return journey next spring! For now, though, we can be happy in the knowledge that she is doing just fine and enjoying her relaxing winter months.

The team were on the beach just after 9am on Tuesday

30(05)’s beach, photo by John Wright

Breakfast on the beach

Breakfast on the beach, photo by John Wright

 

A job well done

A job well done

It is safe to say that, so far, we have been incredibly lucky with the weather this autumn! Apart from the odd rainy day, most have been dry and balmy. We have been blessed with bright, sunny days for every work party at Lyndon this month, perfect weather for spending all day outdoors undertaking practical conservation tasks. Yesterday, the team were out once again, clearing an area of Willow near the shore of the reservoir, and cutting and raking the meadow in front of the Lyndon Centre.

The meadows at Lyndon are all cut at the end of the summer, after the flowers have set their seeds, so that the dead vegetation does not enrich the soil with too many nutrients. This would encourage the growth of fast-growing, competitive species such as nettles, docks and thistles, which take over the area and crowd out other species. Managing the meadows as we do means the conditions are such that a number of flowers can flourish, and the meadows remain species-rich and diverse.

Lyndon's front meadow, full of meadow crane's bill

Lyndon’s front meadow in summer

 

Over the past two weeks, the work party team worked hard to pull out the over-dominant reeds in front of Waderscrape hide. The channels were choked with vegetation, and had we not intervened, the reeds would have taken over the entire area and dried up the scrape. Now, thanks to the honest toil of our team, the scrape and channels in front of the hide are clear.

Martin Lusty waderscrape

View from Waderscrape, photo by Martin Lusty

 

Our efforts were clearly worthwhile, as the wildlife is loving it! Volunteer Martin Lusty, Osprey monitor and member of the Monday work party crew, was in Waderscrape hide recently, and was treated to a superb view of a Water Rail! Water Rails are notoriously elusive and very secretive, but Martin’s patience paid off, and the bird revealed itself and inched slowly closer. Many thanks to Martin for letting us share his brilliant photographs!

Martin Lusty Water Rail (3) Martin Lusty Water Rail (2) Martin Lusty Water Rail

 

 

 

Western Power manoeuvering the pole

A platform for life

Putting up nesting platforms for Ospreys is one of the best ways in which to attract them to a specific area, and encourage them to stay in the area and breed. Whilst it is true that Ospreys are perfectly capable of constructing their own nests, they prefer to take-over established ones. It is much more energy efficient, as they do not have to build from scratch, and it saves them the trouble of choosing where to site it. This means that in areas where there are no vacant natural nests, artificial structures are a superb way of encouraging the birds to spread to new areas. Also, the platforms can be sited in areas where nesting Ospreys will be protected from disturbance.

Several artificial nest platforms have been erected over the years at Rutland Water and the surrounding area. We now have eight pairs of Ospreys in Rutland, and six of these pairs are utilizing artificial platforms. Another factor that proves the importance of providing nest platforms is the data we have collated through the use of colour-ringing studies. Sightings of Ospreys elsewhere in the country have highlighted the ability of these birds to cover large distances in very little time. Some Ospreys have been seen to travel between Rutland and Wales on a daily basis. These young birds are looking for vacant sites in which to nest in the future; whether in Wales, Rutland or somewhere in between.

The provision of nest platforms is therefore crucial, in order to provide more opportunities for Ospreys to breed. An Osprey is more likely to stay in an area in which there is a platform, than one where there is not. As such, the Leicestershire and Rutland Wildlife Trust have been working closely with other Wildlife Trusts, organisations and land-owners, both in this area and further afield, in order to put up nest platforms in as many suitable locations as possible.

The construction of nest platforms is ongoing, and I recently attended the installation of some. It was fantastic to see how it is done! We were fortunate to have the assistance of Western Power, who provided the poles, and whose help was essential in order to get the nest poles into the ground. The platform itself is made from a sheet of 3/4 inch-think plywood, cut into a metre-diameter circle, fitted with drainage holes and attached to a framework to secure onto the top of the nest pole.

A naked nest platform

A naked nest platform

 

Before being installed, the requisite French perch was secured to the above platform. Western Power then used their superb equipment to dig a deep enough hole, lifted the pole and placed it in, and then ensured it was straight and secure.

Western Power manoeuvering the pole

Western Power manoeuvring the pole

 

The next job was to build a basic nest structure on top of the platform. Several piles of different sized sticks had already been collected, and Tim went up to the nest in the cherry picker to construct the basis of a nest. Each bunch of sticks was hoisted up using a rope.

Sticks being hoisted

Sticks being hoisted

Tim arranging sticks

Tim arranging sticks

 

Several bunches of sticks were needed, starting large then getting smaller, then turf was collected to make a nice, soft centre. Here is the end result – a perfect Osprey nest!

What a lovely nest!

What a lovely nest!

 

The view now the Willow has gone

I can see clearly now the Willow’s gone

You may recall that last Monday was the first winter work party at Lyndon. It was very well attended by our brilliant team of volunteers. The job was a bit of a dirty one – clearing the excess vegetation out of the muddy channels in front of Waderscrape hide. Yesterday, the Lyndon work party team tackled the rest of the reeds!

Hard at work

Hard at work

Clearing reeds

Clearing reeds

Almost finished

Almost finished

 

The team did a superb job, and didn’t mind getting wet and muddy again in order to do it! Thank you everyone for your hard work!

Working with a smile

Working with a smile

Happy volunteers

Happy volunteers

 

The other job yesterday was to improve the vista from Waderscrape hide, by removing some of the Willow trees that were impeding the view to the right of the hide. Some of the smaller trees were taken out with bowsaws last week, but the larger trees remained, so Lloyd wielded his chainsaw and felled the larger Willow. Some of it was laid out in the water, in order to create a brilliant marginal wetland habitat! The view has much improved now from Waderscrape, so much so that both of the large dead trees can be seen clearly.

Lloyd felling the Willow

Lloyd felling the Willow

The view slowly improves

The view slowly improves

The view now the Willow has gone

The view now the Willow has gone

 

Of course, the team were rewarded for their efforts with another of Paul Stammers’ excellent homemade soups!

All of the above photographs were taken by Paul Stammers.