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Early Bird Catches the Worm

Early Bird Catches the Worm

This morning the whole team was up early to catch one of my favourite wildlife spectacles, the dawn chorus. I was up and out the house by 4:30 making my way along the winding country roads to the Lyndon Centre, my headlight cutting through the peacefulness of the night. Before I had even made it to the nature reserve I had been treated to sightings of a hare and a barn owl.

Getting out of my car the Lyndon Centre was already lit up with welcoming lights, other blurry-eyed staff members and brave members of the public were inside; Joe Davis, the Senior Reserve Officer and Jeff Davies, a regular volunteer, each led a group out into the cold morning. As we walked down the tracks the light seem to seep through the cloud and slowly the world came to life. Even with the less than ideal weather we heard chiff chaff, black cap, garden warbler, tree creeper and even a grasshopper warbler, just to name a few.

Seeing the world in the dim light of the morning was beautiful, it gave us a chance to enjoy the euphony of sounds without any interruption or distraction (apart from the odd early morning joggers). The morning was topped off with a much needed breakfast provided by Paul Stammers (Information Officer) and provided a chance to watch the birds on the feeders enjoy their breakfast.

Manton Bay

One of the highlights of any guided walk at Lyndon is the ospreys; the pair is still patiently sitting on the nest wait for the eggs to hatch. Today has been particularly difficult as the wind has been whipping round the nest, causing the camera perch to wobble quite precariously.

The weather has not stopped 33 from providing fish and sticks for Maya. This morning he brought in a small fish which Maya quickly took off the nest to eat alone.

Shortly after 33 brought in a rather awkward stick, however in this wind he must be applauded as he did very well to get it all the way up to the nest!

As always Maya has had to work pretty hard to get 33 off the eggs when his turn at incubating is over, but who can blame him, in this weather it must be quite nice to hunker down in the nest cup out of the wind for a little while.

Young Osprey Spotters from Ketton Primary.

A Busy Thursday : Visitors from Ketton and Glaslyn

It was ‘all hands on deck’ at the Lyndon Reserve one day last week, as we welcomed two very important groups of visitors – one from nearby Ketton Primary School, and the other from Glaslyn Ospreys in North Wales.

It is always an exciting time when the first group of eager young people come to see the Ospreys, and this year 28  highly motivated Year 5 students from nearby Ketton, together with their equally enthusiastic teachers, arrived bright and early, hurrying into their seats in front of the big screen in the Visitor Centre, ready to start their day. Our first job was to introduce them to all the people who would be h

Young Osprey Spotters from Ketton Primary.

elping them to enjoy their experience here – not only the usual Osprey Education Team (Pete, Jackie and Ken) and the Lyndon Team (Anya and Paul), but also Becky (Senior Reserve Officer) and – drumroll here please – our very special guests from the Glaslyn Osprey Centre in North Wales!!

Rutland Ospreys’ links with North Wales go back a long way – right back to the early days when pioneering translocated Rutland male Osprey 11(98) decided to set up home there, and over the next few years raised more than 20 chicks with his unringed partner. So it is a pleasure to welcome Heather, Gwenan, Rebecca and Steve to Rutland today.

Manager of Glaslyn Ospreys Visitor Centre Heather in conversation with
Rutland Water Senior Reserve Officer Rebecca in Wader Scrape hide, while the
students from Ketton Primary concentrate on the Ospreys!

In common with all Rutland Osprey juveniles (132 up to 2017), all our young visitors (and a few of the ‘mature’ ones!) have to be ringed, so within a few minutes of arrival they are all sporting a unique ring on their right wrists or ankles, bearing their individual designation for the day. I see ‘XJ’, ‘6R’, ‘S6’ and many others! Then, after the issue of binoculars to all, we’re off to see Maya and 33(11) down in the Bay, Jackie setting a brisk pace at the front, and the rest of us following, together with our friends from Glaslyn and one or two members of the public who have decided that this all looks like fun!

Once in the hide, there is so much to do! First and foremost, of course, find the Ospreys and sort out ‘who is who’. Then look at all the other wildlife around – what are those big black birds in the dead tree? Is that a seagull ? No, it’s got a long forked tail – a Common Tern! Is that a little white heron? Yes it is, but it’s got a special name……cue to use the field guide. Then it’s time to complete the ‘Osprey Factfile’ in the activity books, and to look for the answers that have been posted all around the walls of the hide. Soon we have 28 nine and ten year old Osprey Experts around us, sharing newly learnt words such as Pandion Haliaetus and zygodactylic. This is conservation education in action – and just a few hundred yards away from the nest of a rare Schedule 1 breeding bird of prey.

Completing the Osprey Factfile

While we circulate and help with the activities, our visitors take it all in and watch with interest. Newly appointed Glaslyn Osprey Education Officer Rebecca is especially keen to learn as much as she can – she will soon be starting her own programmes for schools in her area.

Soon it is time to pack our things up and make our way back to the Centre for lunch, but before we leave the hide I ask everyone to be quiet and I introduce two very important people who were already in here when we arrived – our two volunteers, Maureen and Lyn, who have been monitoring the Ospreys and welcoming visitors on the 9.00am – 1.00pm shift today. Lyn explains the role and its importance to the Project, and the children listen enthralled. ‘I would love to do what you’re doing,’ says one. Well, in a few years, you can – we need people like you to take over when we are not around any more!

You could hear a pin drop! Osprey volunteer Lyn Howells explains what is
happening in the Bay to the children from Ketton Primary.

We walk back to the Centre to the sound of excited chatter and discussion among our visitors. Packed lunches are eagerly unwrapped in the picnic area. Becky will take the Glaslyn contingent over to our Volunteer Training Centre on the other side of the water for lunch, and they will meet other members of the Rutland Team, including Holly, Sarah, Mat and Lloyd. We stay on with the Ketton group, and prepare for the afternoon activities in Teal Hide, where we will construct Osprey food chains, learn about special Osprey features (including that ‘z’ word again) and end with a question and answer session : ‘How do you get the rings on their legs?’ ‘Who’s your favourite Osprey?’ ‘How does satellite tracking work?’ ……

 

Eventually it’s time to leave, but not before a few minutes of retail therapy in the shop, and a last look at the live pictures on the screen. Two boys have bought field-guides from our second-hand wildlife bookstall, and are already checking out birds they have seen today. Others buy Osprey note-books, Osprey key-rings, Osprey pens and pencils, Osprey fridge magnets and many other Osprey themed gifts. A day to remember.

No sooner has the bus pulled out of the car-park onto the lane up to the road than the Glaslyn team are back, suitably refreshed after lunch, and still full of enquiries about the work we do here at Lyndon – especially on the Education side. Of particular interest is the Osprey Ambassador Scheme, whereby most of our local schools appoint or elect a small number of students who are then trained to act as links between us here at the Reservoir and their school. At monthly Osprey Club meetings, we provide them with updates on memory sticks which they can then use in their own class or school assemblies. Hopefully there will soon be Welsh Osprey Ambassadors too!

Finally, Heather presents a copy of Emyr Evans’ lovely book ‘The Welsh Ospreys’ to the Rutland Osprey Project – signed by all members of the Glaslyn Team. A very kind gesture, appreciated by us all. We hope to see you all again very soon.

Over a welcome cup of tea, we review the day. A great school visit to Lyndon – the first of many in the weeks ahead. And a super opportunity to meet colleagues from one of the other highly successful Osprey centres in the UK – we look forward to forging closer links with other centres doing fantastic work both here in the UK and further afield in  Europe and Africa. We owe it to young people like the ones we have met today to leave flourishing wildlife populations (including Ospreys) throughout the world for them to enjoy, and we will achieve that by co-operation and friendship at all levels, irrespective of geographical and political boundaries which may be in the way. The Osprey is a ‘citizen of the world’ – and so are we.

33's Mishaps

33’s Mishaps

Today has been miserable in Manton Bay, it feels as though winter still has us in its cold grip and the heat wave of a few weeks ago was all a dream. Nonetheless even with the constant down pours and chilly wind, we have had lots of brave visitors today. Those who managed to brave the cold and wet have been rewarded with views of the Manton Bay pair.

 

The pair have been busy taking turns incubating; sometimes they have been forced to leave the nest to chase of the odd intruder. This morning 33 managed to drop Maya’s breakfast before it made it to her, so he must be in the bad books.

 

33 also decided to add what looked like some kind of root to the nest; however, it did not seem to go to plan.

The root looks like it might be a little stuck on Maya’s back! 33 tries to help but in the end Maya has to sort herself out while 33 looks a bit sheepish.

After sitting with the root for a while she eventually manages to get it off completely. Let’s hope 33 makes it up to her by bringing in a nice fish for dinner.

Maya at sunrise today

The Final Countdown

Today marks the 30th day from when the first egg was laid in Manton Bay, this means that we are very close to our hatching date. Maya laid her first egg on the 28th March, there were then three days between each subsequent egg; Osprey typically incubate eggs for around 35-37 days, which means that we should expect to see eggs in the next couple of weeks.  During the last 30 days the weather has been extremely changeable, we have gone from cold, rainy days, barely reaching double figures on the thermometer, to blazing sunshine, reaching well over 20oC, and we now seem to have swung back to the former. These dramatic climatic changes have not made it easy for the Manton Bay ospreys; nonetheless, they have remained diligent parents. Usually male ospreys are only expected to undertake 20-35% of the incubation. However, I expect 33’s percentage will be much higher, with Maya having to push him off the egg’s most of the time.

33 is still bringing in plenty of fish for Maya, soon he’ll be taking the whole fish to the nest allowing Maya to take it off him and feed the chicks.

 

Whenever they get a chance the pair is adding to the nest, in preparation for the new arrivals.

Maya is always keeping an eye on the eggs. 

Maya at sunrise today

Ospreys will fold these deadly talons in when near the eggs or chicks.

How Ospreys Fish

One of the things that set osprey apart from other birds of prey is the simple fact they hunt and eat almost exclusively fish. Here at the reserve we are gearing up for our first osprey cruise of the season:  these trips provide a rare chance to actually see ospreys fishing, so we thought it would be a good idea to look into how ospreys actually manage to achieve this feat.  

Ospreys will fold these deadly talons in when near the eggs or chicks.

Ospreys have evolved extraordinary adaptations helping them become expert fish eaters. Starting with the feet, osprey talons are extremely long and sharp and combined with specialised scales on the toes, the osprey can easily grab and hold on to prey. One of these talon-clad toes is also reversible, this means that instead of having three forward pointing toes and one back, ospreys can point two forward and two back, this creates a powerful grip helping to prevent prey getting away.

Osprey catching a fish, photo by John Wright

The talons are the first thing that will hit the water when an osprey takes a dive; fishing trips often start with ospreys using a perch or simply circling a fishing ground. Ospreys have fantastic eyesight which is around 3-5 times better than humans, allowing them to see fish under the water. Once a fish has been spotted, the osprey may hover above the prey before diving. Once in the dive, the wings fold in, allowing the bird to reach spectacular speed. At the last moment the osprey whips its feet out in front of its body and uses those amazing talons to capture the fish.

Sometimes it can take a fishing Osprey up to a minute to lift its catch out of the water, photo by John Wright 

I find it truly amazing that ospreys are able to fish even in the most terrible conditions including mist, wind and rain. It just shows how amazingly adapted these birds are to catching and eating fish.  Every time I see ospreys  fishing  it amazes me.  It is truly one of the great spectacles of nature so let’s hope we are treated to lots of fishing this year!

If you would like to book a cruise and see the ospreys fish for yourself, please click here, or call 01572 770651

A photo from a previous cruise taken by Tim Merrison of an osprey with a fish at Normanton church