Red Kite with a fish, photographed by Geoff Harries at Ryhall

‘Fishing’ Red Kites

In central England you can safely say that if you see a large bird of prey diving into the water to take a fish, it will be an Osprey. Or can you? Over the past few weeks several photographers have been getting some great images of Red Kites taking fish at River Gwash Trout Farm at Ryhall in Rutland. Over the course of the summer we have worked with Lawrence Ball and Jamie Weston to built photography hides at Ryhall and at Lawrence’s second site at Horn Mill. Although Osprey fishing activity has dropped off at both sites in recent weeks, Red Kites have been diving into the ponds at Ryhall to take dead fish. As these superb photos by Geoff Harries show, it is making for a quite a spectacle.

The kites are likely to continue to take fish in this way for the next few weeks, so it is well worth booking a spot in the hide at Ryhall. To do so, email rivergwashtroutfarm.ospreys@yahoo.com. For more information about the hide and also the one at Horn Mill Trout Farm, click here

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GH Red Kite 1

03(97) set-off on his seventeenth autumn migration on 27th August

The Site B family head south

It has felt very autumnal at Rutland Water in the past few days. The days are getting shorter, hirundines – Swallows, House Martins and Sand Martins are gathering in flocks as they prepare to head south, and passage waders – many of whom will have bred in the Arctic circle – are pausing to feed in Manton Bay and other parts of the reservoir before they continue south. They’re not the only ones who are on the move: all of this year’s Site B family have now set-out on their autumn migration.

Having fledged in early July – earlier than most other Ospreys in the UK – the Site B juveniles are at a distinct advantage. They have had plenty of time to hone their flying skills before embarking on that all-important first migration to Africa. By mid-August they had been on the wing for over six weeks, and the juvenile male, 6K(14), clearly decided that the time was right to make his move. He set-off sometime between midday on 18th August and 10am the following morning.  More than a week-and-a-half later, it is remarkable to think that he could already be in Southern Spain or North Africa.

Adult females are usually the first members of an Osprey family to depart in the autumn, but this year has been a little different for the Site B female. The injury suffered by 03(97) in early July meant that she has had to do far more fishing than usual, and that perhaps explains why she remained at the nest for much longer than normal. She was last seen dropping a fish at the nest on 20th August; more than two weeks later than she lingered last summer.

The juvenile female, 7K, seemed more reluctant to leave than her brother and, more than a week after 6K had set-off the young female was still at the nest. Having raised over 30 chicks at Site B, 03 is well-used to having to wait for the last of his off-spring to depart and, as you would expect of this most-successful of Ospreys, he continued to provide fish for 7K on a daily basis. Eventually though, she too decided to go. She was still at the nest at 2:30pm on 26th August, but by next morning 03 was alone once more. Although we didn’t see her go, the chances are that 7K had set-off the previous afternoon.

That just left 03. With his family heading south, he took the opportunity to depart. Shortly after 9am on 27th August he left the nest and headed purposefully south. He hadn’t returned by dark and was again absent the next morning. It seemed that he had set-off on his seventeenth autumn migration. We wish him and his family well.

03(97) set-off on his seventeenth autumn migration on 27th August

03(97) set-off on his seventeenth autumn migration on 27th August

As usual 03 waited for all of his family to depart before he set-off. John Wright took this photo moments before he headed south.

As usual 03 waited for all of his family to depart before he set-off. John Wright took this photo moments before he headed south.

03 departing on migration...

03 departing on migration…

John Wright's final view of 03 as he headed south

John Wright’s final view of 03 as he headed south

Although 03 and his family have left Rutland Water, the good news if you’re planning to visit this weekend, is that Maya and 33(11) are still present in Manton Bay. We expect them and the other non-breeding birds to linger into early next week, so there is still time for one final Osprey-fix of the year! There are a few places left on tomorrow’s final Osprey cruise of the summer, and if recent cruises are anything to go by, it should be a great way to end the season. You can book your place here. 

Maya waiting for 33(11) to bring a fish to the nest this morning.

Harmony in the bay

After Maya’s misdemeanors on Wednesday, today was a much more typical day at the Manton Bay nest. 33(11) caught a trout at 8am and eventually took the remains to Maya on the nest.

Maya waiting for 33(11) to bring a fish to the nest this morning.

Maya waiting for 33(11) to bring a fish to the nest this morning.

For 33(11) this summer has been a practice run for next year. Although some male Ospreys breed when they are three years’ old, most raise a family for the first time when they are four years of age. And that is exactly what we hope will happen in Manton Bay next year. This summer has given 33 time to hone the skills he will need if he returns next spring. One of the first jobs in late March or early April for any male Osprey is to scrape out a nest cup; and this morning 33 gave his scraping skills a bit of a dry run…

As has been the pattern recently, 33 went fishing again this evening; he was one of two birds we saw from the Rutland Belle on our latest Osprey cruise. Despite experiencing what felt like four season’s weather during the hour-and-a-half boat trip, we saw 33 catch a fish distantly in torrential rain and then had much closer views of 28(10) as he searched for a meal close to the dam once the sun had come out again. There are now just two cruises left this summer – on Wednesday and next Saturday. To book your place, click here.

A mixture of sunshine and heavy rain made for some dramatic skies during this evening's Osprey cruise

A mixture of sunshine and heavy rain made for some dramatic skies during this evening’s Osprey cruise

It wasn’t just Ospreys that created interest at Lyndon today. Receding water levels in Manton Bay have created perfect foraging conditions for numerous waders. This morning a single Wood Sandpiper, Ruff, 3 Black-tailed Godwits, several Green and Common Sandpipers and a few Dunlin could all be seen from Shallow Water hide. Then, mid-way through the afternoon a juvenile Spotted Crake – a rare visitor to the reserve – appeared at Waderscrape hide and provided great views for excited visitors for much of the afternoon. So if you have any spare time this bank holiday weekend, be sure to pop down to see us at Lyndon!

33(11) could well remain at the Manton Bay nest until early September

A morning of misdemeanors

If you have visited Manton Bay in recent days then the chances are that you will have seen both Maya and 33(11). Aside from occasional fishing trips, both birds have spent nearly all their time close to the nest .

Unlike earlier in the season when 33 was doing all of the fishing, the female is now making daily trips to catch her own food. Today though a gusty wind has made fishing more difficult than usual. So, after several aborted attempts, Maya decided on a new tact.  First she flew north to Lagoon 4, where 51(11) has spent an increasing amount of time in recent weeks. She landed on the nest, evidently in the hope of a free meal. When none was forthcoming she headed off to another off-site nest. This time she was in luck. She stole half a trout from the nest and then then immediately flew back to Manton Bay where she tucked into her late breakfast!

33 appeared none the wiser. He decided on a more orthodox approach and, after a little perseverance, caught a trout shortly after lunchtime. As the video below shows, he was very reluctant to hand his catch over to Maya this afternoon. Perhaps he knew about her morning of misdemeanors?!

Lots of people have been asking how long the two birds will remain in Rutland. It is likely that both 33 and his mate will stay at the nest into early September. 33 knows that there are at least four different non-breeding males – 28(10), 30(10), 51(11) and 8F(12) – who would all take up residence at the nest given half a chance. The only way he can ensure that they don’t have a chance of dong this, is to remain in the bay and defend it.  So, with a bit of luck, both 33 and Maya should be here into September.

33(11) could well remain at the Manton Bay nest until early September

33(11) could well remain at the Manton Bay nest until early September

Teresa Andrea  of Birding Euskadi presenting an Athletic Bilbao shirt and football to Paul Stammers

Come cruising with us!

Phew! What a busy few days it has been for everyone involved in the project. The 26th Birdfair was another resounding success, with thousands of people descending on Rutland for the world’s biggest and best wildlife show. Very many thanks to those of you who came and chatted to us on the Leicestershire and Rutland Wildlife Trust stand; it is wonderful to know how much support the project has from all over the UK – and further a field.

One of the real highlights of the past few days were the five Osprey cruises that we ran during the fair. We were treated to some truly spectacular views of fishing Ospreys, with successful dives seen on four of the five trips. On Thursday evening project volunteer Pete Murray managed to record this superb footage of one of the catches. Many thanks to Simon King who joined us for three of the trips, for his excellent commentary.

There are now just three Osprey cruises remaining this year, and we have a few spaces left on each of the trips. If the Birdfair cruises are anything to go by, then these trips are not to be missed. In the ten years of running Osprey cruises I don’t think we have seen such amazing fishing action as we have in the past few weeks. Tickets cost just £20 per person (£12 for  kids) and that includes an introductory talk before the one-and-a-half hour cruise. To book your place, click here. But make sure you’re quick, the remaining places will sell very fast!

Another very pleasing aspect of the last few days has been the incredible response to our appeal for football shirts. You’ll recall that we have teamed up with kits4causes to collect football shirts that will be distributed to children in the Gambian schools involved in the Osprey Flyways Project. In all we received 196 shirts of 40 different clubs as well as numerous footballs, shorts, socks and even a few pairs of boots! The shirts came from all overt the world, including an Athletic Bilbao shirt from our friends at the Urdaibai Bird Center and several South American and African shirts. Particular thanks must also go to Speyside Wildlife who donated enough Inverness Caledonian Thistle shirts to be worn by three full teams! Thanks to everyone who has donated shirts to the project and to Neil Glenn for organising it all.

Teresa Andrea  of Birding Euskadi presenting an Athletic Bilbao shirt and football to Paul Stammers

Teresa Andrea of Birding Euskadi presenting an Athletic Bilbao shirt and football to Paul Stammers

Meanwhile at Manton Bay both 33(11) and Maya are still present at the nest. Maya is now fishing for herself on a daily basis and this morning she and 33 both brought fish back to the nest within a few minutes of each other. The two birds have spent the rest of the day in the bay, providing great views for visitors to Waderscrape and Shallow Water hides at Lyndon. With a bit of luck the two birds will stay at the nest until early September, so there is still time to come and enjoy seeing them.

Children at Tanji Lower Basic S

Get your shirt off at the Birdfair!

It is just over a week before the birding world descends on Rutland for the 2014 Birdfair. This year, as well as all the usual mouth-watering attractions and events, something different is taking place. In conjunction with kits4causes (formerly Afrikit) we’re asking visitors – exhibitors and the general public – to bring along any unwanted football kit. The kit – which you can drop off on the Leicestershire and Rutland Wildlife Trust stand on each day of the fair – will be collected by the kits4causes team and then distributed to schools and villages in The Gambia and Senegal, where the Rutland Ospreys spend the winter. This of course ties in perfectly with our own Osprey Flyways Project which we set-up in 2011.  To find out more, check out the video below.

It would be extremely helpful if you could tell us if you intend bringing some kit to Birdfair this so we know how much to expect. Please e-mail Neil Glenn or let us know via the Birdfair Kits Facebook page. If you are unable to contribute kit, then please consider donating money to help towards the cost of shipping it to Africa (you will be able to do this at the Leicestershire and Rutland Wildlife Trust stand). Thanks very much!

Children at Tanji Lower Basic School wearing football shirts donated by children from Whissendine Primary School in Rutland

Children at Tanji Lower Basic School wearing football shirts donated by children from Whissendine Primary School in Rutland

03 in Action

03 in Action

Over the last few days the new photographic hide at Horn Mill Trout Farm has enabled several lucky photographers to get some fantastic photos of 03(97) catching trout. The latest is Geoff Harries who has kindly sent this sequence of 03 catching a fish yesterday evening. Thanks Geoff!

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For more information about the hide and details of how to book, click here.

Jason Wood took this great photo of 03(97) from the hide

Horn Mill Photography Hide – Special August Offer!

The newly-opened photography hide at Horn Mill Trout Farm near Empingham is starting to provide some brilliant views of fishing Ospreys. On Sunday Jason Wood took this great shot of 03(97) catching a trout. The hide is available to book during August for the special price of just £60 for a full day (5am-9pm). It is well worth it!

Jason Wood took this great photo from the Horn Mill hide on Saturday

Jason Wood took this great photo from the Horn Mill hide on Saturday

To find out more about the hide, including booking details, click here.

03(97) being chased by a Grey Heron by Geoff Harries

Osprey photographic hide

As we reported a couple of weeks ago, the Osprey photographic hide is now open at nearby Horn Mill Trout Farm. Yesterday evening Geoff Harries took some great photos of 03(97) diving into the water before being chased by a Grey Heron.

Osprey coming out of water

Osprey leaving water

Osprey chased by heron

Osprey

Many thanks to Geoff for sending the great photos.

To find out more about the hide, and how to book click here.

Osprey photography hide update

Fishing Ospreys can be seen on a daily basis at Rutland Water, but the birds are often too distant for high-quality photos of them diving for fish. However, a new photography hide at Horn Mill Trout Farm now provides an opportunity to enjoy incredible views of hunting Ospreys.

In recent years Horn Mill, situated just north of Empingham and a few miles from Rutland Water, has become a favoured fishing site for many of the Ospreys in Rutland. The Trout at Horn Mill make for easy pickings for a hunting Osprey and over the past few summers the birds have started to have a significant impact on fish stocks at the site. After discussing the problem with us at Rutland Water, owner Lawrence Ball has decided to take a proactive approach. Rather than trying to discourage the birds, we have worked with Lawrence to build a photographic hide at Horn Mill that gives you the opportunity to view fishing Ospreys at very close quarters for the first time. We hope that any income this generates will help to off-set the losses of fish and, at the same time, demonstrate to the industry that taking this kind of sensible, proactive approach can be mutually beneficial to both fish farms and wildlife.

John Wright took this photo of 06(09) from the  hide at Horn Mill

John Wright took this photo of 06(09) from the hide at Horn Mill. He hit the water just 5 metres from the hide!

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The hide is sunken into the ground beside a 36m x 17m pond that is stocked with in excess of 2000 Rainbow Trout. Over the past few weeks Ospreys have visited the pond on a daily basis and taken fish just a few metres in front of the hide. At present there are as many as eight different Ospreys who may visit the site, but it is important to emphasise that sightings can not be guaranteed in the same way as they can at various photographic sites in Scotland. Not only are there fewer birds in Rutland, but there are also a number of other potential fishing sites – including Rutland Water – in the local area. However, at present this is the only place in England where you have the opportunity of photographing fishing Ospreys at such close quarters.

The hide is sunken into the ground, providing superb views for up to 4 people

The hide is sunken into the ground, providing superb views for up to 4 people

Horn Mill hide 4

The view from the hide

The view from the hide

The hide, which can seat a maximum of four people, is open for private bookings at the following times:

Morning Session – 5am (dawn) – 11am
Afternoon/Evening Session – 1pm – 9pm (dusk)

Places in the hide have now been reduced to £60 per person per session (following initial feedback). Alternatively you can reserve the whole hide for a single session for £210. It is also possible to arrange for you to be joined by a member of the Osprey project team, on request. Please also bear in mind that Horn Mill is a working fish farm and session times may be subject to change. We advise use of a tripod in the hide, although bean bags (not provided) can also be used.

To book your place please email rivergwashtroutfarm.ospreys@yahoo.com with your preferred date and time.

In addition to Horn Mill, work is due to commence on a second hide at owner Lawrence Ball’s second site at Ryhall this week. Watch this space for more news on that!