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
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.
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.
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!
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.