Juvenile Yellow Wagtail

In Pictures: Thursday in Manton Bay

The Manton Bay chicks are now nearly eleven weeks old and they’re getting more adventurous by the day. Not only are they exploring further away from the nest but they’ve also been fine tuning their diving technique. John spent most of yesterday down in the hide and here is a fantastic selection of his photos. As you can see, it wasn’t just Ospreys that were keeping the visitors entertained!

Juvenile Yellow Wagtail

Juvenile Yellow Wagtail

Manton Bay juveniles

Manton Bay juveniles

Manton Bay juveniles

Manton Bay juveniles

Little Egrets

Little Egrets

2J and 3J

2J and 3J

2J and 3J

2J and 3J

Juvenile 3J

Juvenile 3J

Manton Bay female with manure

Manton Bay female with manure

3J

3J

Yellow-legged Gull with Signal Crayfish

Yellow-legged Gull with Signal Crayfish

Distant splash of 1J diving into the water

Distant splash of 1J diving into the water

1J

1J

2J

2J

5R

5R

1J

1J

Manton Bay

Manton Bay

Juvenile Mediterranean Gull

Juvenile Mediterranean Gull

Juvenile Mediterranean Gull

Juvenile Mediterranean Gull

A walk for Send a Cow

A walk for Send a Cow

It won’t be long before the Ospreys who have spent their summer in Rutland start thinking about leaving England and beginning their incredible 3000 mile journey south to West Africa. With this in mind it was great timing for us to have our annual guided walk for Send a Cow. The walk was organised by Tricia and Martin Lawrence who are ambassadors for the Send a Cow charity. Each year Send a Cow helps to promote self-sustainable living in Africa by helping thousands of families grow their own food to eat and sell. This year, they will help almost 12,000 families along on their journey out of poverty. Each of those will go on to lend a hand to an average of 10 further families, restoring real hope to communities in rural Africa. To read more about this very important work, please visit the Send a Cow website.

After meeting everyone at Lyndon at 7am this morning, Tim gave an inspiring talk about the history of the project, satellite tracking and showed highlights from the Manton Bay camera. Paul and I then joined the group as we walked down to the hide. Along the way we stopped near the recently cut wildflower meadows and Paul told everyone about the habitat managemant that is carried out on the reserve every winter. We then carried on down to Waderscrape hide and met Moira, who had been on duty since 6am, and she told us that 5R had been missing all morning. It was decided that he was probably trying to ignore the incessant food begging coming from the nest. When all the scopes were set up, we had fantastic views of the adult female and two of the chicks, the third youngster was away exploring.

With the walk complete we headed to Tricia and Martin’s house in Manton for a fantastic African themed breakfast where Tricia told the group more about Send a Cow’s valuable work. Below is a photo of the group and you may recognise a couple of famous faces… We were extremely fortunate to be joined on the walk by Judith Chalmers and her husband Neil Durden-Smith who support Send a Cow’s work. I think we can now consider them to be Osprey fans too!

Send a Cow walk

4J helicoptering

So long, and thanks for all the fish

Here is the latest installment from Ken’s Diary…

After fifteen Tuesday morning shifts at Site B since April, and sixty hours spent prying into the private lives of 03(97) and his family, I still keenly anticipate today’s opportunity to bring down the curtain on my summer-long experience at this idyllic spot. Following last week’s spectacular thunderbolts and lightning, today dawns calm and cool, and my pace is brisk and lively as I commence the walk down past all the familiar landmarks. As often happens, my arrival coincides with the visit of the farmer to his hefty bullocks in the field, and they excitedly greet his Land Rover and trailer with bellows as they trot over to the troughs which are being filled with scrumptious cattle food. The earth moves as fifty sturdy beasts (at least) caper past me on their way to breakfast. They have no time for me today, fickle creatures that they are. ‘See you in four hours, boys,’ I say as they trundle past.

From the gate I see that two Ospreys are at home, the adult female and one of her offspring, and a few minutes later I spot another juvenile far away on a dead tree. They are confident on the wing now, well scattered and adventurous. I cannot locate the third juvenile, nor the Lord of the Manor himself, but that is no problem. Hopefully I’ll catch up with them all during the morning. Only a few minutes into the shift, I am in Osprey heaven : no fewer than five Ospreys are in the air in front of me, and the adult female is still on the nest. Clearly one of these circling and chasing above me is an intruder, and I am in luck! I know this one! 28(10) was hatched here three years ago, and has been seen quite regularly both this year and last. He is easy to recognise, as he has some strangely twisted primaries in his right wing, giving him a unique profile when seen in the air. I call him Ragged Wing. He soars around, with no apparent evil intent and no restriction caused by his slight deformity, frustrating the efforts of the other birds to escort him away.

28(10)

28(10)

Finally he disappears to the south, leaving the others to relax again and return to their accustomed perches. I watch them all back in ~ three juveniles to various points within my view, or the nearer more regular perches, and 03 himself to the topmost twig of the distant dead tree, from which high spot his brilliant white breast gleams across at me, even at this distance, proudly surveying all around. Soon, though, he is off again, leaving in an easterly direction to find a morning fish for the young, one of whom is now calling raucously for some nourishment. I check my watch : 8.10. All this action , and only ten minutes into my final shift! Time at last to take my rucksack off my back, set up the ‘scopes properly, settle down. Time for a coffee yet? Bit early, but why not? It’s my last shift after all.

At 8.55 precisely, 03 is back, diving in low with a small piece of fish. He is immediately joined on the nest by two juveniles (4J and 6J as far as I can make out), and he actually starts to feed one of them with dainty pieces of fish, while the other sits there caterwauling and shrieking in protest : ‘I want some!’ This is all too much for the weary-looking adult female, who slips off the nest and disappears to the west. 03 and 6J (probably) eat all the fish between them, totally ignoring the screeching sibling still on the nest. By 9.30 the fish is gone, the noise subsides, 03 departs to the south-west, and the two juveniles also disappear from view, perhaps sitting somewhere nearby with the third member of the brood. Time for reflection, rest…and another coffee.

At 9.50 (almost half-way through the shift) all is still quiet. The three juveniles are out of sight, 03 is absent, leaving just the adult female sitting rather disconsolately on the edge of the nest. She is hunched, barely moving, the membrane flicking across her eye as her head droops. I suspect the time has almost come for her to depart, her role diminished now, her brood dependent not on her but on her mate to bring in the fish. Why hang around? Time to resume fishing after four months being provided for, to build herself up for the long journey ahead, to reflect on a job well done. This female, origin unknown but no doubt Scottish, is rapidly becoming an unsung heroine of the Project ~ regular and dependable since 2008, a brilliant and painstaking nest-builder, an excellent carer and protectress, and all-round good Mum! Credit where credit is due!

It’s 10.05 now. Time is slipping by. Usually I can slow it down, even stop it, but today, just when I want to, I can’t. My watch moves inexorably on. I take it off and put it in my bag. Maybe that will work. Immediately I see that 6J and one of his sisters are back on the nest. Their mother slips off and comes very close to me to collect a clump of grass and hay, which she takes back to the nest and drops almost onto one of her offspring; perhaps she’s trying to stop that infernal food-begging! It doesn’t work, so she flies back towards me, over my head and away to the south. I do not see her again.

For the first time, there are no Ospreys in view anywhere now. It must be about 10.30 (I’m on Osprey time now, so guessing). A Jay is screeching somewhere nearby and a late Song Thrush still has the energy to flute a few phrases over and over again for me. Whitethroats are churring, chivvying their young along a barbed-wire fence. But there are no Ospreys, not even on the distant belt of trees which has been their favourite haunt over the past few days. ‘All that remains is the nest…..’ as someone wrote last year.

I am jolted out of my pleasant reverie by a large shadow passing quickly over me and moving rapidly down the grassland. I am immediately alert again, looking upwards like a young Osprey to see what could have made such a darting shadow. It was the man himself of course, Mr Rutland, coursing down the meadow with the sun above him and creating a perfect and unforgettable image of himself on the newly mown grass below. I see him as he turns in an elegant semi-circle and makes for the nest, a good-sized trout stowed safely beneath. As if from nowhere, two juveniles appear on the nest and noisily await the delivery of the fish, but just as it arrives they are disturbed in their meal by the return of Ragged Wing (28(10)) who once again disrupts family life in the nest. Soon, four Ospreys are twisting, turning and emitting chipping calls in the air above the wood, while two juveniles cower in the nest on instruction from their Father, awaiting the all-clear signal before they can resume their meal.

Eventually, order is restored. I cannot get any features on two of the Ospreys I have just seen, so they go down as ‘unidentified intruders.’ The trout does not last long. I am forced to find my watch again, and see to my horror that it is 11.16 already. My relief will be here in just over half an hour. Enjoy every second, every movement, every sound. A Nuthatch is upside down on a branch of the big oak tree above me. He suddenly starts to call, a loud, piercing whistle. I talk to him out loud ~ well, why not? There’s no-one here to hear me. 11.17 and no Ospreys. Will my last shift end with no Ospreys in view? Perhaps that would be appropriate.

Lying back and staring up into a blue sky with grey and white fluffy cotton-wool clouds passing quickly over, I suddenly realise that two Ospreys are circling at a great height over the wood. 03 maybe? And the female bidding farewell to the nest and her mate for another year? Or two juveniles having fun and seeing who can go higher? No way of knowing, they’re mere dots now, but it’s fun to speculate. The next half hour does in fact go slowly because there are no Ospreys in view. Time to write up the log, finish my sandwiches and coffee, and reflect on fifteen wonderful shifts spent here since April 16th, whether watching alone or in the congenial company of colleagues and friends. It’s been a privilege, as ever.

True to form, just as the hand-over is being completed at 11.55, an Osprey appears over the wood, carrying a fish in dangling legs, and displaying for all he is worth to whoever wants to watch. Could this be an intruder, showing off and challenging 03 to an aerial duel? Immediately one juvenile re-appears in the nest, suggesting that this is in fact 03 himself, displaying the fish to his young ones. He does not drop to the nest, but goes away in the distance to the far belt of trees, where he lands on the bare skeleton of the dead tree and starts to eat his fish. His disappointed offspring waits for a while, but then flies over to the dead tree to try and persuade his Father to share. No chance.

John and Tim have arrived in a vehicle close to the watch-point, and together with two guests they are watching 03 dealing with his fish. As we are watching together, another male Osprey flies purposefully over from north-east to south-west, and John is able to identify him from his slight primary irregularity as another breeding male. ‘Off to his favourite fishing place,’ says Tim. A low guttural ‘kronk’ alerts us again, and over to the west two Ravens ~ huge, black corvids with wedge-shaped tails ~ are flying over. 03 does not react. He is still too busy with the fish.

My last view is from the familiar gate. 03 still eats, one juvenile still waits. Peace reigns over the site. John and Tim drive their guests away, and I realise I have to go back to the watch-point as I have left my trusty walking stick there. John suggests it is just a ruse in order to steal one final look before I leave for the last time this year……

The bullocks are calmer now. I fear they will all have made their final one-way journey from here before I return next year, but I sensibly refrain from mentioning this, and we part on good terms. As I turn for the last time to see a distant white-breasted speck still proudly atop a bare tree, I repeat those unforgettable words of Douglas Adams in ‘The Hitch Hikers Guide to the Galaxy’ (Part 4),

“So long, and thanks for all the fish.”

2J's first flight

Feeding, washing, resting…

We’re now getting to the time of year when an empty nest in Manton Bay is becoming a regular sight on the webcam. The chicks are spending more time on their new favourite perches around the nest and 1J has even been venturing further afield. Here is another fantastic video from Dave Cole showing what the Manton Bay Ospreys got up to yesterday.

2J leaving the nest for the first time

Last…but not least!

As you may have seen in Lizzie’s post yesterday, all of the Manton Bay chicks have now successfully fledged! John was in the hide and was able to capture the moment 2J left the nest for the very first time…

2J leaving the nest for the first time

2J leaving the nest for the first time

2J’s first flight

2J landing for the first time

1J flying over 2J

The pioneering flier from this nest was 1J – exactly a week ago today! Dave Cole was able to record this fantastic footage of 1J when he’d only been on the wing for 24hrs.

You can really see how his confidence has grown over the last few days. The young Ospreys in Manton Bay are bound to have an advantage over other chicks as they often see their Dad catching fish close to the nest. 5R’s fishing skills seem to be rubbing off on the youngsters as 1J has already been trying to catch his first meal. He may need a bit more practice…

1J diving in to the water

1J hitting the water

1J bouncing off the water

2J

2J with 5R on the ‘T’ perch

It’s often difficult to determine the sex of the chicks when they’re ringed and there are now doubts about whether 2J is male or female. At the time of ringing 2J had the weight of a female but didn’t really show any other lady-like characteristics. Now that a few weeks have passed John has noticed that 2J is slightly bigger than 5R and 1J, with a heavier bill and thicker legs, suggesting that she is actually a female.

2J (right) and 5R (left). When they sit next to each other there is a slight size difference – 2J appears to be bigger than her Dad, suggesting female rather than male

2J landing back on the nest for the first time

As well as fledging and diving chicks, John saw 5R catch a Tench, the first he’d ever seen before…

5R with a Tench