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By Tim on May 26, 2015
If you tuned in to BBC Springwatch this evening you’ll have been introduced to an Osprey with an ever-growing legacy. So what is it that makes 03(97) – or Mr Rutland – such an important bird?
To begin with, we need to go back to July 1997. It is mid-July and eight young Ospreys have just arrived at Rutland Water. Having been collected under special licence from nests in North-east Scotland by world-renowned Osprey-expert Roy Dennis, they had been driven 450 miles south to England’s smallest county. The birds were placed in specially-designed release pens and left to settle in to their new home. At six weeks of age they were still a fortnight away from taking to the air for the first time, and the pens would provide a good opportunity for them to become acclimatised to their new surrounds before they were released. Each bird was fitted with a colour ring to enable the team at Rutland Water to monitor their progress.
The birds were part of a pioneering project that aimed to restore Ospreys to England for the first time in over 150 years. A year earlier we – the Leicestershire and Rutland Wildlife Trust and Rutland Water’s owners, Anglian Water – had been granted a licence to translocate a small number of Ospreys from the annually-increasing Scottish population to the reservoir. Research in Scotland and elsewhere had shown that Ospreys are highly site-faithful and so it was hoped that the translocated birds would recognise Rutland as home and return in future years to breed. In all a total of 64 young Scottish Ospreys were relocated to the reservoir between 1996 and 2001.
We didn’t know it at the time, but of the eight birds who arrived at Rutland Water in July 1997 there was one who would go onto have a profound effect on the future of Ospreys in both England and Wales. 03(97) – 03 being the bird’s ring number and 1997 the year of release – made his first flight just after 8pm on 27th July. He made short, but surprisingly competent, two-minute flight before landing on a nearby dead tree. As the days progressed he grew in confidence on the wing and spent the next six weeks getting to know his adopted home. Then, 40 days after that all-important first flight, he set-off south on the perilous 3000 mile journey to West Africa. He would have to negotiate at least two crossings of the Sahara before we stood a chance of seeing him again.
Remarkably, eighteen years later, 03(97) is still going strong. Over the past 15 years ‘Mr Rutland’ has raised a total of 32 chicks at a nest that he built in the top of an oak tree in the summer of 2000. He bred successfully for the first time in 2001 and hasn’t looked back since. He’s reared young with three different females – including 14 with his latest unringed mate – all at the same nest in the top of the oak tree. It is a suitably regal setting for the most important Osprey in the Rutland colony.
Mortality among young Ospreys is usually very high; as many as 70% of young birds failing to survive the first two years of their life. And yet 40% of 03(97)’s offspring who are old enough to have returned to the UK, have made it back. Prior to this summer those 12 birds had, in turn, reared a total of 43 chicks between them, and, to date, four of those 43 have gone on to breed successfully. So aside from being a grandfather many times over, 03(97) is also a great grandfather to 15 young Ospreys.
Although 03’s own nest has sadly failed this year after repeated intrusions by two young males, his various offspring who are breeding, should help to make up for that. The three Manton Bay chicks which hatched over the bank holiday weekend have made 03 a grandfather for the 46th time; and with his offspring breeding at four other sites this year, that tally should exceed 50 quite easily within the next fortnight.
The Site B dynasty has ensured that there have been plenty of Ospreys to populate the growing Rutland colony. With eight pairs breeding this year, it is very likely that by the end of the summer over 100 young Ospreys will have fledged from nests in the area since 03(97) reared the first chick in 2001. In many ways, however, the Mr Rutland nickname is a bit of a misnomer. It suggests that his legacy is confined to England’s smallest county, but that is most definitely not the case. In 2011 Ospreys returned to breed on the Dyfi Estuary in mid-Wales for the first time in four centuries. The nest, situated on the Montgomeryshire Wildlife Trust’s Cors Dyfi Reserve, attracted the attention of the world through the BBC Springwatch cameras. Although the male was unringed, a white ring on the female’s right leg showed that she had fledged from 03(97)’s Site B nest three years previously, in 2008. 03(08) – or Nora – as she became known – raised four chicks over the course of two successful summers on the Dyfi. When she failed to return in 2013 her place was taken by 03(97)’s granddaughter, 12(10) aka Glesni. The nest on the Dyfi has become highly sought-after and 12(10) had to fight off the aggressive advances of her cousin, 24(10) – another of 03(97)’s granddaughters – to keep hold of the nest.
Events on the Dyfi not only show how the Rutland translocation has completely changed the distribution map of Ospreys in the UK, but how one Osprey in particular, has been integral to the spread of Ospreys through southern Britain. Who would have thought that eighteen years ago on a balmy evening in Rutland, that an Osprey making its maiden flight, would go on to have such a profound and lasting legacy on the Osprey populations of England and Wales.
Although 03’s nets is on private land with no public access, you can see a family of Ospreys at the Lyndon Visitor Centre where 03’s son, 33(11), has three newly-hatched chicks with his mate, Maya. For visiting information, click here.
By Tim on May 25, 2015
Watching the Manton Bay chicks hatching over the past few days has been wonderful and a real privilege, but sadly, things haven’t gone so well at Site B.
In April we reported that 03(97) had reclaimed the nest after a long battle with two other males 51(11) and 30(10). The initial clutch of eggs were lost in the fighting, but a week later the female laid a second clutch (without being able to see into the nest we don’t know how many eggs, but there was at least one).
For two weeks the birds swapped incubation duties just as we would expect, with very few intrusions from the two males who had caused so much trouble previously. All seemed to be well again.
Then, without warning, and for no obvious reason, 03 and the female suddenly stopped incubating the eggs. There was no fighting, no intrusions, they just simply stopped sitting on the eggs one evening. That happened just over a week ago and since then there have been no indications that the female will attempt to lay again. Exactly what prompted the birds to give up on the second clutch of eggs is unclear, but the most likely explanation is that they weren’t viable in the first place. During the fighting for the nest, the female hardly ate at all and, as a result, was in very poor condition. Bearing this in mind, we were surprised that she laid the replacement clutch so quickly. It is likely that she was deficient in calcium and so perhaps the eggs shells of the second clutch were simply too thin? Whatever the case, the birds were obviously able to sense that they were not going to hatch, and so gave up incubating them.
It is very sad that 03 won’t be adding to his tally of 32 chicks this year, but his various offspring who are breeding, should help to make up for that. The three Manton Bay chicks have made 03 a grandfather for the 46th time; and with his offspring breeding at four other sites this year, that tally should exceed 50 quite easily within the next fortnight. If you add in that he has great grandsons breeding at a further two nests and a great granddaughter breeding at Cors Dyfi in Wales then you really start to realise just how important this one Osprey is.
If you would like to find out more about the legacy of 03(97) – or Mr Rutland – as he is often referred to, then make sure you tune in to BBC Springwatch tomorrow evening at 8pm on BBC 2 when there will be a special feature on the bird who, we hope you’ll agree, is the most important Osprey anywhere in either England or Wales.
By Tim on May 22, 2015
Brilliant news from Manton Bay – the first chick hatched just after 6pm this evening! Here’s the wonderful moment we saw the tiny youngster for the first time
At this stage the youngster is still incredibly weak and Maya spent the majority of the chick’s first hour brooding it. However, from time to time she stood up and shuffled around, giving us fleeting glimpses.
For a more prolonged view we needed 33 to catch a fish. Sure enough, at 7:05pm, he dived and caught a roach close to the Lyndon Visitor Centre. He flew back to be bay and, like usual, landed on the nest-side t-perch with it. It was a good-sized fish and there was still plenty of it left when he took it to the nest 50 minutes later. At this stage 33 was still unaware that the chick had hatched; but that all changed as soon as he landed next to Maya. Here’s the moment he saw the youngster for the first time. You can almost see his surprise…
The chick is still too young to feed (at this early stage it is too weak even to hold its head up) and so after eating some of the fish herself, Maya left the remains on the side of the nest so that she could try again later.
20 minutes later Maya did try to feed the chick again, but it was still took weak…
Being an experienced mother, Maya knows exactly what she’s doing. She’ll keep trying to feed the chick but it may be that it won’t have its first meal until the early hours of tomorrow.
The next few days will make for fascinating viewing and so make sure that you put the webcam on tomorrow morning or, even better, come and see us at Lyndon over the bank holiday weekend. With a bit of luck, there should be two more hatchings to follow in the coming days….
By Tim on May 19, 2015
It now almost two months since World Osprey Week, but two of the birds we followed as part of WOW have only just made it back to their nest site. Tero and Seija are two of the most northerly breeding Ospreys anywhere in the world – their nest in Lapland is actually inside the Arctic Circle – and, knowing that spring arrives much later at such a northerly latitude, the birds do not hurry back to their nest site each year. In fact Seija was the first of the two birds to make it home; arriving on 10th May after a 42 day flight from the Ivory Coast. Her mate, Tero, was just three days behind her, having spent the winter 3000 miles away in Kenya, on the other side of Africa. Amazingly he had left his winter home on exactly the same day as Seija: 30th March (the day after WOW). There is a much more detailed account of their migrations on the Finnish Museum of Natural History website. You can check our their journeys via the animation buttons at bottom of our interactive WOW map.
With Seija and Tero safely back at their nest site, all of the WOW birds have now completed their spring migration. Between them the WOW birds have flown almost 40,000 miles across 48 different countries, spanning four continents. To get back to their nests they have had to make long, arduous crossings of the Sahara, night-time flights across the sea, navigate vast mountains ranges, and perhaps most worryingly of all, avoid the guns of hunters. Helena – one of the Finnish birds – survived crossing Malta where illegal killing of birds of prey remains a serious problem (see the Birdlife Malta website for more). Of course these nine birds are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to bird migration. Each spring many millions of birds – many a fraction of the size and weight of the satellite-tagged Ospreys that we have been privileged to follow – make similar journeys. And that is what WOW is all about – a celebration of migration.
This year almost 250 schools from 12 different countries took part in WOW. Some made links with schools in other countries and, in some cases, continents; others used the interactive map to follow the journeys of the individual Ospreys; many downloaded the free teaching resources to bring Ospreys into their day-to-day lessons. We hope that by following the WOW birds on their spring migration that students and teachers have been as captivated by the amazing journeys as we have. We also hope that they have been able to learn about other countries in a new an exciting way. Through their remarkable journeys, migratory birds link people from many different cultures and backgrounds. They also demonstrate why international collaboration is so important when it comes to conservation.
One of the schools who got involved in WOW this year Hugglecote Community Primary School from Coalville in Leicestershire. Teacher Sarah Simpson has kindly sent some examples of their work. You can check it out in the gallery here. Well done to everyone involved!
Although all of the WOW birds have now made it home, schools can still register online via the Osprey Flyways Project. This gives you free access to 43 online lesson plans and ideas and the opportunity to make links with other schools who have registered for the project. To sign-up, click here.
A huge thanks to all the schools who got involved in WOW this year; and also to the Osprey researchers and organisations who have allowed us to follow their satellite-tagged Ospreys on migration. Particular thanks to Roy Dennis, Pertti Saurola, Iain MacLeod and Rob Bierregaard. You can learn more about the work they do via the Meet the WOW Ospreys page.
WOW will be back bigger and better next year, but if you’re a teacher who would like to learn more about how you can incorporate Ospreys into your teaching, why not register for our teacher training day in July. There is more information here.
By Tim on May 13, 2015
After all the excitement of returning Ospreys in late March and early April, the past few weeks have been much quieter as the breeding birds have settled down to five-and-a half weeks of incubation. However, now that we’re into May we are expecting another batch of new arrivals. Two year-old Ospreys usually first return to the UK in May or June of their second year and it is exciting to report that the first of the 2013 Rutland contingent has made it home. Well, nearly.
In recent days a female Osprey has been seen catching fish on a regular basis at Ferry Meadows Country Park on the outskirts of Peterborough. Ferry Meadows is just a few miles to the east of Rutland and when a photo taken by Mike Weedon (photos on Mike’s blog here) showed that the bird had a blue ring on its right leg, we were sure that it would be a returning two year-old. With this in mind John Wright and I arrived at 7am this morning, hoping to identify it. By 10:30am we had had just one distant view, but then an Osprey suddenly appeared over our heads (while we were drinking a coffee outside the cafe!). The bird circled a couple of times and then, less than 100 metres from the assembled onlookers, dived down and caught a roach! The bird was a female and when John looked back though his photos he could read the blue ring on it’s right leg – it was 3J, one of three chicks that fledged from the Manton Bay nest in 2013. Fantastic!
It will be interesting to see what 3J does next. Will she stay at Ferry Meadows, or will she make an appearance at Rutland Water where there are three lone males looking for mates? We expect that latter, but I’m sure she will continue to delight visitors to Ferry Meadows in the coming days.
Meanwhile its been another quiet day at Manton Bay. 33(11) returned with a large roach at 4:30 this afternoon which seems to be the fish of choice at the moment.