A couple of intruders . . . who are not entirely unwelcome

Site B, Saturday morning at 6 am  – I can’t think of a better way to start a weekend than an early morning shift at Site B; a couple of hours of absolute peace and quiet and then return home with the whole weekend ahead. In July, with the juveniles about to or already fledged, it’s exciting to observe their antics and  the family’s behaviour.    

The weather forecast was not that good but when I woke up this morning at 5am it was unbelievably balmy – at 5am ! I have been caught out before though, so waterproofs were de  rigeur.  It was breezy, very overcast but very warm as I walked down to the hide and thankfully the bullocks were some distance away, as once again I had forgotten my stick. I closed the final gate and looked towards the nest and there were the family of three; 03 so prominent with his clean breast, on the nest perch, female on the nest and 33(11) on the lower nest perch.  It is always a huge relief to arrive and see the whole family – once the juveniles have fledged they can land in the oddest of places which results in a worrying ‘hunt the juvenile’.  They obviously haven’t read the script yet – small oak, ash behind the small oak, hidden perch, pruned ash, righthand ash, etc., their parents stick to the map, so why can’t they? But then, why should they, they will not return to this nest again, or will they?

I opened up the hide and set up the telescopes, switched on the radio and telephone and settled down for the shift. I intended to radio Waderscrape Hide – Roger, a fellow volunteer, whom I’d met on the Osprey Cruise this week, was on duty there, 6am – 9am. We had agreed to let one another know what was happening on our shifts. At 6.35 the female made a short flight and as if prompted by this, 33(11) also circled briefly and returned to the perch. He then hopped up to the top perch and after fidgeting around, moved a little closer to 03.  Ten minutes later he flew off again, out of sight a couple of times but then returning to the lower perch. 

07.05  Having made a few notes, I looked up – yes, I think you all know what I am about to say – 03 had disappeared – old habits die hard.  I automatically assumed that he had set off to catch breakfast. Seven minutes later, as I stood outside the hide, an Osprey came into view, flying towards the nest and at first I assumed that it was 03.  Not so, as 03 followed after and landed on the nest with the female, who was mantling feverishly.  33 remained on the lower perch.  This intruder circled immediately over the nest for four minutes.  There was much alarm calling and mantling but both 03 and the female remained on the nest.  The intruder then flew off in a NE direction.

Several minutes later, at 07.20 the intruder reappeared and this time circled over the nest for fifteen minutes – an incredible amount of time for him to stay and not be attacked by one of the parent birds. He was circling, flying very low over the nest and then rising to dangle his feet in display manner.  I had time to take a telescope outside and could see that this Osprey was not 09(98), as I had expected, as he had no satellite aerial. The behaviour of the parents was not what I have witnessed in previous years at various nests when intruders have come to call; it seemed most unusual to me that 03 was not up in the air and escorting this bird off his territory. Both parents stayed on the nest alarm calling furiously and mantling.  In the whole time that this was going on, poor 33(11) was on the lower perch, head bowed, it was almost as if he was trying to make himself invisible as he would have done had he been in the nest – I could almost imagine him closing his eyes and saying to himself ‘Please go away, you’re frightening me!’

The intruder eventually flew south and at 07.40 03 and the female flew up, circling over the nest, checking that the juvenile was still there.  03 returned to the nest and the female flew south.  At 07.46 the female returned and circled over the nest and landed and four minutes later the intruder was back, once again circling low over the nest.  The parents still remained on the nest but this time their alarm calling and mantling was heightened.  At one stage the intruder came very close to the hide and it was at this stage that I could see that he too had an exceptionally clean breast.  He circled around for another five minutes and eventually gave up, flying off low in a NE direction.

Some time after 7.30 Tim called and when I explained what had been happening and described the clean-breasted intruder, he told me that 01(09) had been seen the day before by Field Officer, John Wright. 01(09) returned to Rutland Water on the 19th/20th May but has rarely been seen since. However, if any of you are following the progress of Roy Dennis’ juvenile, Rothiemurchus, another 2009 juvenile to return, you will know that these youngsters are proving to us that they travel far and wide when they return to the UK.  01(09) was one of two fledglings from Site B and so this morning he had merely been calling in at home – sadly he wasn’t entirely welcome but he had not been treated as aggressively as a normal intruder. I wonder where his travels have taken him in the last couple of months.

The second intruder was given a warm welcome – I was accompanied on this shift by my husband –  he thought that we were in for a quiet morning but we were both delighted to have witnessed the excitement of this intrusion; we barely had time for the bacon sandwiches and coffee. Nor too had I time to radio Roger, although by all accounts he was busy himself – 32 took to the air on his shift.