During the summer male and female Ospreys have very clearly defined roles. It’s the male’s job to go out and catch fish for his family – perhaps five or six times a day at the height of the breeding season. His mate, meanwhile, stays at the nest to protect the chicks. It is the same at any Osprey nest anywhere in the world.
This means that by early August the female’s job is effectively done for another year. Whilst the male will continue to provide fish for the youngsters until they set out on migration, there is nothing to keep the female at the nest once her offspring have fledged. This has been very noticeable at both the Site B and Manton Bay nests over the past few days. Both females have been wandering widely – visiting the other nests in the Rutland Water area and making the most of their first bit of freedom for over four months. The semi-colonial nature of Ospreys proves that they like nesting close to other Ospreys and the behaviour of the females at this time of year is a clear example of this. Why else would they visit the other nests, other than pure curiosity? Basically, they’re being nosey neighbours.
All of the breeding females are now starting to catch their own fish too. Until now they have been reliant upon their mate for food, but from early August they become much more independent again. They often share the fish with the juveniles, but beginning to fish for themselves shows that the females are starting to think about leaving. Within a few weeks they will be setting off on migration – often several days or weeks before their chicks. By leaving earlier than their offspring the females guarantee that there will be more fish for the juveniles; helping them to get into the best possible condition for their first migration. This morning the Manton Bay female landed on the nest with a partly-eaten trout; possibly one she had caught herself. All of the juveniles were away from the nest and so she flew off and continued to eat the fish herself. And why not? She’s earned it!