10 Reasons to come to Osprey Family Fun Day

10 Reasons to come to Osprey Family Fun Day

Just in case you were undecided, we thought we’d give you a helping hand with our ten reasons to come to Osprey Family Fun Day…

1. Ospreys are amazing. Duh?

But seriously, even with all the ups and downs from the Manton Bay Nest this year, Rutland Water Nature Reserve is still the best place to see Ospreys in central England, less than an hour away from some major urban areas: Leicester, Nottingham and Peterborough. They’re on view from our Waderscrape Hide at the Lyndon Nature Reserve on the South Shore of the reservoir and there will be helpful ‘Guides in Hides’ throughout the day to chat to you about Ospreys, migration and the individuals around the county. You may be lucky enough to see one fishing, but even when they’re simply perched they’re still majestic and charismatic.

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2. Great for Kids

With our Osprey Passport, your children can become certified Rutland Osprey Rangers: on entry, all children will be given a small goody bag containing their very own Osprey Ring wristband, mask and interactive passport for them to fill in on the way round the Reserve. The wristbands will be personalised with real life Ospreys in the area, so when you get home you’ll be able to log on to our website and read all about your Osprey. The interactive passport will challenge you to complete certain tasks and games whilst you migrate through the reserve to Africa (Waderscrape Hide), and you’ll get a stamp for each activity that you complete. When you’re done, show a member of staff in the Visitor Centre and you’ll be presented with an Osprey certificate, showing you to be a real Osprey expert. Activities include making bug boxes and bird feeders to take home, playing our new game ‘Race to Gambia’, catching fish in our mini reservoir and identifying a real wild Osprey. If you’re a bit shy, we’re happy to let you wander around on your own, but if you want to get more involved, there’ll be great opportunities to make new friends. We’re also hoping for a Ringing Demonstration, so you may get to see birds close up, too.

Bird ringing demonstration

3. Great for Parents

With the holidays looming ahead, this is a cheap and fun day out for all the family. Priced at £10 per family or only £5 for families with a single child, this is your chance to explore the reserve at a discounted cost; your children will be educated and entertained, and they’ll be lots of fresh air, exercise and play. There’s our beautiful picnic area (where Little Owls have been hanging out for the past week!), so you can set up base camp there or simply meander through the meadows and woodlands. Our informative and helpful staff will be able to give you more details about the reservoir and the wider work of the Leicestershire and Rutland Wildlife Trust, too!

4. The Healthy Alternative

Other than the ice creams, spending the day at the Rutland Water Nature Reserve is much healthier than going to the cinema. There are lots of studies from different organisations (the Wildlife Trusts, the RSPB, the National Trust, etc.) and others (Project Wild Thing, the University of Essex, etc.) that suggest that getting children outside and ‘connected’ with nature is vitally important for their health; they’ll concentrate more, they’ll be happier, more relaxed, less stressed, not to mention exhausted after walking the length of the reserve so your guaranteed a good nights’ sleep, too! Bringing kids along to Osprey Family Fun Day is a gentle introduction to wildlife, even for those who don’t see nature as being ‘cool’ – no matter what their age.

family fun day photo 2013

5. Meet the staff

We have so many supporters and it really would be lovely to meet you in person. You’ve read the blogs, seen the photos and maybe spoke to us on the phone, but this is a chance to have  chat with us face to face; we’re always looking for new ideas that can make Lyndon Visitor Centre bigger and better, so share your thoughts with us.

WOW skype

6. We’ll go ahead whatever the weather

If you’re travelling more than a few miles, it’s good to know that when you get to us we’re going to be going ahead: we are! Come rain or shine Osprey Family Fun Day will still be great – the Visitor Centre is comfortable with all the usual facilities, including tea and coffee, cold drinks, ice creams, snacks and a gift shop, toilets, a seating area and even an electronic buggy to hire for the less able. If it’s raining, activities will be placed under marquees or in the Hides, so there’s no worries there and honestly a bit of rain never hurt anyone. I’ve just checked the forecast though, and fingers crossed it’s looking like a sunny day.

7. Other Wildlife

No matter what your preference, Rutland Water has something for everyone. Butterflies, moths, dragonflies and plants sit alongside our gorgeous feathered, furred and scaly nature: birds include Ospreys (of course), warblers, ducks, geese, grebes, egrets, tits, finches, sparrows (including the more scarce Tree Sparrow), buntings, terns, gulls, waders, owls, kites, buzzards, falcons, swifts, hirundines and so much more. Regularly seen on the reserve are Stoats, Bank Voles and the like, and the team will put out some small mammal traps to see what we can show you close up. Water Voles are a star attraction from Waderscrape Hide, too, being seen hourly.

Peacock

8. More than Wildlife

At the Rutland Osprey Project, we’re not content to just talk about Ospreys – culture and community is just as important and by following the Ospreys’ migration, we’ve been able to learn all about different people and places from Senegal and the Gambia all the way to Spain, France and Northern Africa. By undertaking their own mini migration, children will learn all about these human elements of conservation, too.

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9. Get inspired

No matter what your age, we want you to be involved with the Rutland Osprey Project; if you’re a young’un you can talk to us about visiting with your school – or us visiting you! We’re passionate about inspiring the next generation of conservationists, having interacted with over 3,000 children this season alone, and we can chat to you about work experience, future careers or other wildlife activities for you to get involved with. If you’re a bit older but wanting to support us, we can tell you about volunteering opportunities, future events and courses  or membership, too, as well as the wider work of the Wildlife Trusts.

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10. Ice Cream – any excuse.

‘Nuff said!

 

Ciao – hope to see you there! x

Hen Harrier Day

Hen Harrier Day

HHDThere’s no doubt about it: the staff who work at the Rutland Osprey Project are very lucky. We have great volunteers who support us with their time, commitment and enthusiasm; a community of local people and business owners (including landowners, farmers and fish farmers) who understand the importance of conservation; and we can be proud of the fact that our project is considered by many to be a success. Although our work is far from finished, there is now a stable population of Ospreys breeding in central England after 150 years of absence: the whole purpose of the translocation.

We’re also lucky in that hard work and tireless efforts have meant that people – our visitors, supporters, volunteers, sponsors, etc. – actually know what an Osprey is. Engagement, education, entertainment are huge parts of what we do, as well as ecology, and no one part of this is more important than any other. Without the first three, the final one would arguably struggle to exist.

And that’s why I’m worried about the Hen Harrier. I went out for dinner with friends the other night and got going about Hen Harriers, and the fact that they’re facing a very real extinction in England. I was met with polite, but blank stares. So I went back a step further – do you know what a Hen Harrier is? Hmmmm. One thought that maybe she’d heard of it; not even a flickering of recognition from the others. Well, what about just any Harrier? Still no. What about a Bird of Prey? Ahh, that was more familiar territory, but still not entirely confident.

And then I realised; before I took up birding as a hobby and really got addicted to nature, did I know what a Hen Harrier was? Probably not actually. It’s just not a bird that most of us would engage with on a cultural level; they’re not in our gardens or roving across your standard field; they’re not wheeling over the M40; they don’t feature in kid’s books or songs or even really on television, except if you know what to watch. You have to actively go and look for one (now more so than ever) and be able to identify it in remote, windswept locations.

And this shows the importance of socio-cultural factors in nature conservation: deep down, most people need that human connection.

So, what is a Hen Harrier Circus cyaneus?

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Hen Harrier ‘Ringtail’

This is.

They really are gorgeous birds: males are a pale grey colour, elegant and tapering with wingtips that look like they’ve been dipped in ink, yellow legged and yellow eyed; females and juveniles are brown with a white rump and a long, barred tail: ‘ringtail’. They fly with wings held in a shallow ‘V’ across moorlands (or marshes in the winter) gliding low in search of food, which mainly consists of meadow pipits and voles. Identifying your first Harrier can be tricky – the more familiar Kites and Buzzards would dominate your thoughts – but there’s something distinctive about the way that they fly, and once you’ve got it you won’t lose it. 

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Hen Harrier Male

 

What’s the problem?

Hen Harriers are our most persecuted Bird of Prey. They have fallen into conflict over many, many years with Grouse Moor owners, who see the bird as having a direct impact on the populations of Red Grouse bred specifically for the purposes of shooting. Moors are intensively ‘managed’ and whilst some owners now have good relationships with local Trusts and wildlife charities, others continue to abuse the land, abuse the wildlife and abuse some misguided and ill-conceived ‘right’ that makes them believe that they are somehow above the law. Peer-reviewed research suggests that good habitat remains that could support over 300 pairs of Hen Harriers in England, but ‘there are 962-1285 breeding pairs of Hen Harrier ‘missing’ from Scotland and 322 – 339 pairs ‘missing’ from England‘. The killing of Hen Harriers is illegal and we had all hoped that the time when Bird of Prey persecution, which seems so deeply Victorian and parochial, had passed. It hasn’t and as a consequence we are facing the reality that a Bird of Prey will probably go extinct in England in the 21st Century because of direct, human persecution. Wow. In 2014 just three pairs have bred – all have required 24 hour protection. You can read more about this on Mark Avery’s blog, as well as by visiting the websites of Chris Packham and Birders Against Wildlife Crime, the RSPB, the North West Raptor Protection Group and the Wildlife Trusts.

What’s this got to do with Ospreys?

Simply put, the Osprey is a bird with a tumultuous and conflicted history in the UK, just like the Hen Harrier. Without the work of many individuals, organisations and businesses it would not be recovering. Ospreys, and thus the Rutland Osprey Project, does not exist in isolation from the many other habitats and species in the UK (and beyond that, the world!) but has to be placed in a wider conservation and cultural context. We’re doing pretty well overall (apart from a few natural ups and downs), but we can only say that we’re truly successful if we keep working towards a bigger picture. Hence why we, the Wildlife Trusts, are trying to halt the persecution of the Hen Harrier.

What can you do?

Lots! Show your support by adding a ‘twibbon’ to your Facebook or Twitter account, so that you can raise awareness amongst friends and colleagues; learn more by listening to these podcasts by Birders Against Wildlife Crime; or join in with Hen Harrier Day – the 10th August – by attending a peaceful, legal gathering in Derbyshire, Lancashire or Northumberland. There’s lots of blogs and social media support out at the moment, so reading and sharing these is a great way to understand the situation further, too.  You can donate to the cause on the RSPB website, which will help to track the birds movements and support staff with surveillance equipment.

 

33(11) during a brief visit to the nest today

Walking on Sunshine

There’s not a lot to report from the nest today (33 has brought a fish back for Maya and they’ve both been around the nest for most of the day) but it has been a divine day nonetheless. The Dawn Chorus Walk at the reserve this morning went ahead with a great group of people. Tim and Lloyd both led groups which heard Blackcap, Song Thrush, Garden Warbler, Willow Warbler, Chiffchaff, Whitethroat, Lesser Whitethroat, Wren, Robin, Dunnock, Blackbird, Chaffinch, Great Tit, Blue Tit, Bullfinch, Tufted Duck, Goldfinch, Sedge Warbler, Reed Bunting, Long-tailed Tit, Cuckoo, Skylark and a few more, including a sneaky Water Vole sighting!

The reserve is buzzing with life and the meadows are coming into their own, too: butterflies (including Orange Tip, Brimstone and Small Tortoiseshell) and damselflies have been seen abundantly around the centre, the water has looked Mediterranean at times and in short it’s been an absolutely beautiful day here at Lyndon. Come and visit us tomorrow for more of the same!

Here’s a few short videos from the Osprey nest today: check out the colour of that water!

33 brings a fish back for Maya

The pair of them on the nest

 

What have Ospreys ever done for us?

What have Ospreys ever done for us?

On Friday the 20th June 2014, we are hosting our inaugural mid-summer Osprey lecture at the Anglian Birdwatching Centre.

Dr Rob Lambert from the University of Nottingham will be giving an hour-long lecture examining ‘What have Ospreys ever done for us?’. This will include a detailed look at the history of our interaction with the species, from persecution to eco-tourism icon, as well as reflecting on the ways in which Ospreys have benefited local economies right across Britain. Rob will then go on to put the Osprey in to the context of further conservation initiatives, addressing our future relationship with this bird.

Jack Perks, a local filmmaker and photographer, will also be coming along to give a brief introduction to his latest project, attempting to film every freshwater fish in Britain! A bit of Osprey food to whet your appetite!

33 eventually gave up on this fish

33 eventually gave up on this fish

 

But that’s not all…

To really make the evening special, several businesses are kindly sponsoring the event so that we are able to offer a full Ploughman’s Supper. This will include:

Long Clawson Stilton Cheese & Brockleby’s Pork Pies
Plus all the usual accompaniments

An aperitif on arrival, courtesy of Sloeberry Spirits
A glass of wine with your meal, courtesy of Abbey Vineyard Wines

And for the designated drivers, we have delicious Belvoir Cordials

Tickets are £12 (£10 for LRWT members) and include both the Ploughman’s Supper, the talk and a glass of wine.

Doors will open at 18:30

To book, visit the Rutland Water website or contact Sarah Proud: sarahproud@rutlandwater.org.uk or 01572 653024

A bit about the speaker:

“One of just a few experts in environmental history so able to offer the bigger wider pictures of ‘change over time’ in all Nature-People relationships (stories), past, present and future. I give real context to TV natural history series and documentaries, and whilst a university academic by training, I am a passionate advocate of full and real engagement with wider public mass audiences. I have broad experience in radio and television both in front of the camera and working as a consultant/advisor; a confident, charismatic, knowledgeable communicator offering insights on Nature derived from a range of disciplines both uniquely (and of huge public importance and value), the non-scientific.”

Dr Rob Lambert is a multi-disciplinary academic at the University of Nottingham, working in environmental history and tourism & the environment. He holds a MA (Hons) in Modern History and a PhD in Environmental History from the University of St. Andrews in Scotland. He is a programme consultant and talking head expert to the BBC Natural History Unit in Bristol working on a number of major TV and radio wildlife documentaries including series Birds Britannia; Making Scotland’s Landscape; When Britain Went Wild; Why the British Love Wildlife; Cairngorms: A Year in the Wild; In Pursuit of the Ridiculous; Attenborough’s Life Stories; The Great British Wildlife Revival; Grand Tours of Scotland – The Charms of Nature; Torrey Canyon: toxic tide and others. On three occasions Rob has voyaged south to the ice on expedition ships to serve as an IAATO International ‘Observer’ of sustainable tourism in Antarctica, and was part of the Lecture staff on round-Britain expedition cruise in 2009 and 2012. He is a very keen British and global birdwatcher and cetacean-watcher, with around 30 years of field experience, and is passionate about showing people wildlife. Rob lives in Long Clawson in Leicestershire, regularly watching birds at Rutland Water and Eyebrook Reservoir, and has attended the British Birdwatching Fair at Rutland Water for many years, the past few years as part of the Events Marquee team.

Common Buzzard (Buteo buteo)

Raptorscapes

The United Kingdom has little to boast in the way of big mammalian predators: no bears, no wolves, no lynx. Instead, the top carnivores in the UK are our birds of prey.

We have around twenty species of birds of prey that breed in the UK (some are resident all year round, whilst others are migratory): 5 of these are owls, whilst others include hawks, falcons, eagles and buzzards, as well as the Osprey. These majestic raptors are true icons of every British habitat: Peregrine Falcons nesting in city centres; Marsh Harriers soaring over reedbeds; Kestrels hovering over a motorway verge; or Golden Eagles cruising along a rocky ridge in the Scottish mountains. There are few people who won’t pause to watch a Barn Owl gliding like a ghost across a field or glance upwards at the mewing of a circling Common Buzzard.

Common Buzzard (Buteo buteo)

Common Buzzard (Buteo buteo)

Here at the Rutland Osprey Project we have been very lucky. Thanks to the tireless efforts of the team for nearly twenty years now, we have excellent relationships with local landowners: fish farmers, gamekeepers, estate owners and agricultural workers all contribute in a very positive and meaningful way every year to Project, ensuring an expanding breeding population of Ospreys in the area, as do local businesses and residents. We could not have achieved what we have without their support. Furthermore, work all along the flyway with local communities, education programmes in schools and events like World Osprey Week have led to increased understanding of birds of prey and their ecology as far south as Gambia. Our work is far from finished, but the prospects are fair.

Osprey (Pandion haliaetus) - "33"

Osprey (Pandion haliaetus) – “33”

But sadly, whilst the Osprey may be increasing in numbers, there are many birds of prey in Britain that are seriously threatened and in recent weeks this seems to have suddenly gotten a whole lot worse.

In Scotland, at the site of the Red Kite re-introduction on the Black Isle, as many as twenty Red Kites and Common Buzzards have been found dead; it is suspected that these birds have been poisoned, but as yet nothing has been proven. In the past 24 hours, a Red Kite has been reported shot in Northamptonshire – “peppered with bullets”.

Red Kite (Milvus milvus)

Red Kite (Milvus milvus)

The same story is repeated for eagles: both White-tailed Eagles and Golden Eagles (some satellite tagged) have been targeted by poisonings and shootings in Scotland, once again undoing the work of conservationists who have worked hard for the past fifty years to either re-introduce species lost to persecution or to protect the vestiges of populations on the edge.

Hen Harriers are now on the brink of extinction. Imagine that: with only twenty species of raptor in Britain, one of them is about to slip away – victim of persecution as it is seen as a threat to pheasants and other game birds by certain landowners on grouse moors.

And the troubles don’t end in the UK; if you’ve been watching Chris Packham’s Malta: Massacre on Migration you’ll have seen that many birds (raptors and other species) are threatened on spring migration by the attitudes of a minority of hunters, who see this annual killing as a right of passage.

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Kestrel (Falco tinnunculus)

There are a few things to take away from all of these examples of persecution. First of all, in the majority of cases the persecution is being carried out by a minority. In Scotland, a group of farmers and landowners from the Moray Firth have pledged a reward of £12,000 for information about the deaths of birds of prey in the Highlands. The same goes for Maltese hunting; the impression one gets from Packham’s films are that many of the Maltese people despise the mindlessness of the hunting: mere target practice.

Barn Owl (Tyto Alba)

Barn Owl (Tyto Alba)

Secondly, not all is bad for birds of prey in the UK and whilst some populations are in drastic decline, protection over the last 50 years has led to a recovery in the populations of Common Buzzard, Osprey and Peregrine Falcon. Sadly though, whilst persecution continues, even if by a minority, things are far from secure. One of the biggest challenges we face is overcoming a serious lack of empathy and understanding of the ecology of our birds of prey; removing people’s natural prejudices is a major difficulty, especially where economic fears and scapegoats are involved.

Hobby (Falco subbuteo)

Hobby (Falco subbuteo)

Finally, we can only secure the fate of Britain’s raptors with public support; the Osprey Project is very fortunate to have a strong, dedicated and passionate following and we thank every one of you for that, but if you have a chance, do have a read around some of these other issues and show your support – signing petitions, donating, volunteering, writing letters to MPs and promoting the fantastic work of organisations who are combating bird of prey persecution are great ways to start!

Links:

http://www.rspb.org.uk/supporting/campaigns/birdsofprey/why.aspx

http://raptortrust.org.uk/

http://www.birdlifemalta.org/

http://raptorpolitics.org.uk/category/bird-of-prey-persecution/