- Our Ospreys
- World Osprey Week
- Visit us / Events
Browse: Home / Tim
By Tim on March 31, 2017
It is almost twenty years since I saw my first Osprey at Rutland Water. It was early August 1997, the school holidays, and my first shift as a volunteer for the Rutland Osprey Project. We were tasked with monitoring eight juvenile Ospreys that had just been released onto the nature reserve. For a 15 year-old aspiring conservationist it was exciting and nerve-wracking in equal measure. I was hooked from that moment onwards.
Almost two decades later, today is my last day as a member of staff for the Leicestershire and Rutland Wildlife Trust at Rutland Water. During that time I have gone from volunteer to Senior Reserve Officer and, for the past twelve years, manged the Rutland Osprey Project. I’ve also completed a PhD on Osprey migration. It has been a thrill and a privilege to be involved in such an exciting project.
It is almost impossible to pick a highlight from the past twenty years because there have been so many. In the early years the return of the first translocated Ospreys in 1999 was incredibly exciting and only surpassed by events in 2001 when 03(97) bred for the first time at Site B, rearing the first Osprey chick in central England for more than 150 years. 2004 saw the return of the first wild-fledged Rutland Ospreys to the area and, then, in 2007, one of them – 5N(04) – bred successfully for the first time. This was of further significance because the nest was in Manton Bay – the first nesting attempt on the nature reserve itself. That summer more than 30,000 people came to see 5N and her mate, 08(97), rear two chicks. Since then the Lyndon Visitor Centre has become the base for the project – and been visited by a quarter of a million Osprey watchers. In 2011 we satellite tagged two male birds, 09(98) and AW(06) for the first time, and that winter myself and a group of staff and volunteers visited Gambia and Senegal for the first time. Our satellite tracking research and annual visits to West Africa have enabled us to develop a new and exciting side to the project, helping us to link schools along the Osprey’s migratory flyways and engaging Gambian kids with nature. For me the Osprey serves as a powerful reminder that the conservation of migratory birds depends on partnerships and collaborations between nations.
Another immensely rewarding and enjoyable aspect of my time at Rutland Water has been working with such a committed group of staff and volunteers. The Osprey Project alone is supported by a team of 150 people who dedicate a huge amount of time every summer to monitoring the birds and sharing their enthusiasm and knowledge with visitors to the reserve. Over the years an entrepreneurial spirit has developed at Rutland Water that I hope is reflected in the successes of the Osprey Project during my tenure. Of course not everything we have tried has worked, but I think that we as a team – staff and volunteers – have demonstrated what you can achieve when you take a positive, pro-active approach to conservation. I hope that this ethos continues to underpin the work at Rutland Water Nature Reserve for many years to come. I know for a fact that the Osprey Project is in safe hands with the current team in place.
So what now? I’m pleased to say that I will be continuing my work with Ospreys with Roy Dennis and his foundation. Over the years Roy has had a real influence on my career and I am very much looking forward to the work we have planned. Keep an eye on Roy’s website later in April for more news on that. I am also in the process of setting up a new charity, the Osprey Leadership Foundation, the key aim of which will be to help young people get into conservation. This will build on some of the work we have been doing through the Osprey Project both in The Gambia and the UK.
Thank you to everyone who has followed and supported the Rutland Osprey Project over the past two decades. Little did I imagine as a 15 year-old schoolboy how that first shift as a volunteer at Rutland Water would shape the next twenty years of my life. Although today is my last day as a member of staff for LRWT, I will be continuing to work closely with the Rutland Osprey Project in my new role – and I very much look forward to the challenges that lie ahead.
By Tim on July 18, 2016
Yesterday morning we reported that T6 had been looking severely unwell on the nest. The young female had spent over 12 hours with her eyes closed and head drooped. She continued in that vein for much of the day, apparently unable to move.
During situations like this it is always very tempting to try and intervene but we felt that in this case it was too risky to do so. There was every chance that if we approached the nest that T6 would take-off; which given the nest’s location over water, was a situation we wanted to avoid.
During the course of the day it became clear that rather than suffering from an illness, T6 may actually have injured her right foot. She appeared unable to put any weight on it and it was severely limiting her movement. This meant that whenever 33 landed on the nest with fish, her siblings beat her to the fish.
Despite going the whole day without fish, T6 was showing signs of improvement by yesterday evening. She seemed much more alert and made several short flights after 8pm.
Today T6 has continued to show small signs of improvement, making short flights between the nest and nearby T perches. The problem is that, like yesterday, she remains unsteady on her feet meaning she has missed out on fish when they have been brought to the nest.
What was needed was for Maya to feed T6, and that’s exactly what happened at 4:30, when she arrived on the nest with the remains of a fish. Unfortunately this didn’t amount to very much, but it did at least ensure that T6 had some nourishment.
We’re hopeful that if T6 is fed by Maya later this evening and tomorrow, that she will continue to improve. We’ll be sure to keep monitoring the situation closely.
By Tim on July 17, 2016
If you’ve been watching the webcam over the past 12 hours or so, you’l have seen that T6 hasn’t moved from the back of the nest. She looks very unsteady on her feet, and has spent much of the time with her eyes closed and head drooped. We’re not sure exactly what is wrong with the young female, but it seems likely that she has contracted some kind of illness.
We have decided that the best course of action is to let nature take its course. The Manton Bay nest is very difficult to access and we are concerned that if we attempt to intervene we may actually do more harm than good. For the time being we will continue to monitor the situation closely, and hope that T6 improves.
By Tim on May 21, 2016
Each year there is no clearer sign of the onset of spring in Rutland than the sight of the first newly-arrived Osprey perched on its nest; its white underside illuminated by the gentle March sun. For those of us lucky enough to have been involved in the Rutland Osprey Project for a number of years there has been one bird in particular whose return was especially significant and eagerly anticipated each year. He was often the first Osprey to return; his arrival signalling the start of another Osprey year at Rutland Water. The bird in question, of course, is 03(97); or Mr Rutland as he became better know. Sadly this year, he has failed to return.
In many ways the story of Mr Rutland epitomises the success of the Rutland Osprey Project. The irony in his nickname though is that he wasn’t from Rutland at all. 03 was one of eight young Ospreys collected from nests in northern Scotland by Roy Dennis in 1997. It was the second year of the translocation project and the eyes of the conservation world were once again on Rutland Water. 1996 – the first year of the project – had been mixed. Half of the birds translocated from Scotland hadn’t survived; and many people were sceptical about the project’s chances of success. 1997, therefore, was an incredibly important year.
Having been kept in specially-designed release pens on Lax Hill – a grand location overlooking Rutland Water Nature Reserve – 03 and seven other birds were released in late July. 03 made his first flight, described in the day’s monitoring notes as a ‘short, but surprisingly competent’, just after 8pm on 27th July, before landing on a nearby dead tree.
A week or so later the young Ospreys were enjoying their new-found freedom, exploring further and further from the release pens, and beginning to learn about their new home. It was here that my first encounter with 03 took place. I was a fifteen year-old volunteer and the sight of eight newly-released Ospreys flying around Lax Hill was awe-inspiring: something I will never forgot. Of course I didn’t realise the significance of 03 at the time, but he was one of the birds that myself and the team monitored that summer. On 4th September 03 set-off on his maiden flight to West Africa. Little did we know what an important bird he was to become.
Just under two years later, on June 14th 1999, 03 was sighted back in Rutland for the first time. His return, and that of another of the 1997 cohort, 08(97), signified that the project – the first of its kind in Europe – could work. During the course of that summer and the next, 03 and 08 both established territories. 08 took-over one of the artificial nests on the nature reserve, and 03 built a nest in the top of a stag-headed oak on private land close to the reservoir. Site B, as it later became known, was a thoroughly English setting for the Scottish Ospreys who was to become known as Mr Rutland.
In spring 2001 hopes were high that either 03 or 08 would breed. As we would come to expect, 03 didn’t disappoint. In mid-April he was joined at his nest by an unringed Scottish female. We speculated that she may have been an old breeder who had been ousted from a nest in Scotland by a younger bird; a defect in her right eye perhaps betraying her ageing years. Whatever the case, the fact that one of our translocated males had managed to attract a female who was heading north was an encouraging sign.
By early June the birds had been sitting on eggs for five-and-a-half weeks and we were eagerly watching the nests for signs of hatching. Then on the morning of 6th June we noticed a change in their behaviour. 03 arrived with a roach and flew straight to the nest with it. This would usually signify a change in incubation duties, but this time the female remained in the nest. She stood up and carefully inched her way to the side of the nest. She then tore off a piece of fish and delicately offered it down into the nest cup. It was clear that the first Osprey chick in central England for over 150 years had hatched. Two days later the team checked the contents of the nest with Roy Dennis, using poles and a mirror. They could clearly see the tiny chick and two unhatched eggs.
Six weeks later we visited the nest to ring the chick; a landmark moment for the project. We didn’t know it at the time, but that first youngster was one of 32 chicks that 03 would go on to father over the course of fifteen summers at Site B. When his unringed mate failed to return in 2003, 03 quickly attracted a new female to his nest. 05(00) was the first translocated female to breed in Rutland and it was fitting that she did so with 03. Together 03 and 05 raised a total of 17 chicks between 2003 and 2008, and they remain the most successful breeding pair in the Rutland colony.
Many of the offspring reared by 03 and 05 returned to Rutland in subsequent years and themselves became old favourites: most notably the two 2004 chicks, 5N(04) and 5R(04). 5N paired up with 03’s compatriot – and perennial bachelor 08(97) – and bred successfully in Manton Bay in 2007. Then when his sister and her mate moved to an off-site nest in 2009, 5R(04) took over the Manton Bay territory and bred successfully with Maya for the first time in 2010.
Sadly 05(00) failed to return in 2009, but she was quickly replaced by an unringed female. That though was only after an incredible battle between her and another female who we later discovered originated from Argyll in northern Scotland. The sight of two (presumably) Scottish female fighting over the Site B nest was another sure sign that the project was working.
The new unringed female and 03 formed another successful pairing and raised 14 chicks between 2009 and 2014. By spring last year 03’s legacy was becoming clear. Twelve of his offspring had returned and raised a total of 43 chicks between them. Furthermore, four of those 43 had then also gone on to breed successfully. So aside from being a grandfather many times over, 03(97) was also a great-grandfather to 15 young Ospreys.
The natural world can be a harsh place and 03’s ageing years suddenly became apparent in April last year. As usual 03 had been the first Osprey to return to Rutland; reclaiming his regal nest for the fifteenth time. Soon afterwards he was joined by his mate, and within two weeks they were incubating a clutch of eggs. Then the drama began.
Site B has been a sought-after nest ever since 2001 and, over the years, 03 often had to repel attempts to oust him by young males eager to breed. This, we are sure, was the reason that he returned earlier and earlier each spring. 03 usually had little trouble defending his nest, but 2015 was a different story. One of his grandsons, 51(11) suddenly set his sights on Site B. This young male was incredibly aggressive and it quickly became apparent that he was too much of a match for ageing 03. Within a matter of days 03 had been usurped from the nest. He retreated to a regular haunt, Horn Mill Trout Farm, in an effort to regain his strength. Luckily for 03, help was at hand. Just as 51 was getting settled on the Site B nest, another Osprey – and another of 03’s grandsons – entered the fray. 30(10) was also attempting to breed for the first time and after some spectacular aerial battles he ousted 51 from Site B. 30’s unexpected intervention allowed 03 to return to Site B, and to our surprise, 30 made no further attempt to take-over the nest. Instead he retreated to an artificial nest, and 51 did the same. Things were back to normal at Site B, and soon afterwards the female laid a replacement clutch of eggs. Sadly, though, it soon became apparent that they weren’t viable and it wasn’t long before 03 and his mate gave up on them. Nevertheless they remained at Site B for the rest of the summer and we were hopeful that both would be back this spring.
Sadly, we now know that neither 03 nor his mate have returned. We always knew that it would happen one year, but we have become so accustomed to 03 defying the odds and making it back each spring, that we fully expected to see him in all his splendour this March. It is all the more sad that his mate has failed to return too. We do not know what has happened to either bird, but the perils of migration appear to have taken their toll.
Although it was desperately sad not to see 03 this spring, he has left behind an incredible legacy on the 20th anniversary of the Rutland Osprey Project. The latest chicks to hatch at the Manton Bay nest mean that he is now a grandfather 57 times over and a great-grandfather to 22 Ospreys. That tally is sure to increase over this coming summer – and for many years to come. I personally feel privileged to have shared eighteen summers with this wonderful Osprey. It is true to say that these birds become like old friends, and it was always a thrill to see him back at his nest each spring. I know that John Wright who has studied 03 more closely that anyone through his fabulous artwork and photographs – just a fraction of which we have included on this post – feels the same; as do the hundreds of other people who have enjoyed monitoring the Site B nest over the years – or perhaps even watched 03 fishing from the Rutland Belle or at Horn Mill Trout Farm.
It is fitting that 03’s place at Site B has been taken by one of his grandsons, 30(10) this spring. 30 has failed to attract a mate this year, but we are sure that it won’t be long before he follows his grandfather’s lead. Who knows, maybe he’ll be the first Osprey back in Rutland next spring?
By Tim on April 30, 2016
One of the key aims of the Osprey Flyways Project is to raise awareness of the need to protect migratory birds at all times of the year. We were thrilled, therefore, to hear from Junkung Jadama this week about how children from Tanji Lower Basic School in The Gambia have been helping out. JJ writes:
“As the Osprey Flyways Project is concerned about environmental education the students of Tanji Lower Basic School and Osprey club members take this step to clean Tanji beach because people throw litter all over the beach that is important for migrating birds. If you look at the video you will find out that there are lots of old fishing nets on the beach which can be dangerous for the birds.”
JJ also sent us these photos of the students’ hard at work. It is amazing to see how many nets they managed to clear from the beach. Many birds – Ospreys included – can easily become tangled in these nets and so the students’ efforts are incredibly important. Well done to all of them.
Tanji Lower Basic School were one of four schools who got involved in a fantastic Skype link up during World Osprey Week. Xarles Cepeda from the Urdaibai Bird Center has sent us this brilliant video of the Skype call. We’re sure you’ll agree that all of the children did fantastically well.
If you would like to support our work in Africa through the Osprey Flyways Project, you can do so by sponsoring Kayleigh for her skydive – which is now just under two weeks away! We would also like to thank IEPUK for their ongoing support of the Osprey Flyways Project, and particularly Director George Peach who is undertaking yet another challenge on our behalf next week – the Rat Race at Burghley. Good luck and thank you, George!