Autumn in the air

Project volunteer Linda Jones is back from her recent trip to Scotland and had two contrasting shifts at Site B and Manton Bay last week. Here’s her account…

I really enjoyed my holiday in Scotland last week. But, I really missed our Rutland Ospreys and so it was with great excitement and anticipation that I approached my usual duties at Site B and Manton Bay.

I was at the Site B nest as usual about 6am on Monday. I had kept up to date with events the previous week through the Rutland Osprey website, so I wasn’t sure what I would see. All of the Ospreys had been spending so much time away from the nest, with 33 being particularly adventurous! As I approached the shed, I could see 03 sitting on the small oak eating a fish. No sign of the female or 33. 03 left about 20 minutes later. An hour later 33 appeared, sat on the nest calling loudly for food. Having got no response, he left. At 8.10am, 03 returned, again to an empty nest! He had brought a large twig and spent 10 minutes tidying the nest, before he too left. I had not seen the female whilst I was there. I know that the Ospreys will spend increasing amounts of time away from the nest now that 33 is fledged but it seemed rather sad that the various members of this special family kept missing each other! It was not all a sad morning though. As always at Site B, there was a lot to keep me occupied. 2 young Wrens played on the oak tree, I could hear the raucous squawking of a Jay and later it flew from the clump of trees nearby into the wood. There were also the usual visitors of Blue and Great Tits and lots of rabbits! I was not disappointed.

On Friday, it was my duty at Manton Bay. Wow, was I looking forward to it! I arrived at the Lyndon reserve at 5.30am, collected the telescopes and monitoring books and proceeded to Waderscrape hide. It was a rather drizzly, dank morning, but not cold. The first thing that struck me was how different the atmosphere was. It had been 2 weeks since I had been there and there is no doubt that Autumn is on the way. Last time I was on duty, there was a cacophony of noise – with the harsh grating of Sedge Warblers and the pretty chirps of Reed Buntings. Today, it was – almost – silent. The most strident sounds were of a hungry Osprey chick: pew-pew-pew, across the Bay. There were only the occasional Sedge Warbler flitting about, I didn’t see any Reed Buntings but I did get a glimpse of a Reed Warbler. The Autumnal atmosphere continued with over 150 Black Headed Gulls roosting beside the water and swathes of Canada and Greylag Geese flying overhead.

What did not disappoint, though, was my 3 hours of Osprey watching. It was an eventful morning. When I arrived in the hide at 5.45am, despite the murky conditions, I could see the female sitting on the near perch and 1 large chick in the nest – how it had grown in 2 weeks! The chick was calling loudly for food but to little effect. Over the next hour and a half, the other 2 chicks arrived back, spending time flying around, on the perches, nest and the large poplars; the female went off. There was no sign of 5R. At last, at 7.15am, the female brought in a large trout. She took it to the perch and started to eat. But after only a couple of minutes – perhaps she could cope no longer with the plaintive calls of her offspring – she took it to the nest. One of the chicks, presumably 22, immediately purloined it, the others not getting a look in. The loud protests continued to resound across the bay. 20 minutes later, the female swooped down from the near perch, hit the water just in front of the nest, rising with another fish which she took straight to the nest and proceeded to feed the “starving” chicks. It was not until 8am that 5R returned, without a fish, and was immediately banished to the far perch!

There was another, rather amusing, drama during the morning – the saga of the Magpie. It started when one of the Osprey chicks sat on the far perch. A Magpie joined it, sitting on the opposite end. They spent some time eyeing each other up, before the Magpie decided to move in closer. It reached the middle of the perch, before suddenly making a lunge at the chick, which “jumped” in surprise, before they resumed their cautious eyeballing and eventually the Magpie left, probably fed up with the game! Later, I would like to think the same Magpie decided to sit on the near perch, next to the adult female. She didn’t take a lot of notice, occasionally giving the Magpie a rather supercilious glance. But the Magpie made a tactical error! It decided to go to the Osprey nest. It first landed on the French perch attached to the nest, with 2 nervous but curious chicks watching it, and then decided to land on the nest. The female had had enough with this intruder and soon chased it off. I wonder if the saga continued later?

I left the hide just after 9am. I had, as always, had a special time. How fortunate are we to have the opportunity to watch the Ospreys so clearly at Rutland Water. This morning reminded me that Autumn is certainly on the way and the Ospreys will shortly be facing the new challenge of their journey to Africa. I’ll miss them – but there’s still a few weeks to enjoy their company and antics!