For me there is always a frisson when my first shift of the season at Site B approaches, yes a shiver of excitement; it’s the thrill of being alone and at one with an Osprey nest, a male Osprey who represents, who is, the patriarch of Rutland Ospreys, who has such an attraction that he is never without a female, yes, every year I get excited about my first shift at Site B.
Goodness only knows why, but this morning I awoke at 4am, inexplicable, or maybe not. During breakfast, having dragged out some thermals and waterproofs, the heavens opened. I drove to the site and once I’d made sure that I was ‘waterproofed’ made my way from the car. I soon came across 8 or 10 horses sheltering under trees, their rear ends backing into the Easterly wind and rain, they were certainly not going to bother me on this dreadful morning. I reached the first gate – we had been warned at our last meeting that several gates were ‘difficult’ but also that they were to be secure at all times with valuable livestock in the paddocks. This gate was unforgiving and my fingertips soon became icy cold and I decided to climb over – Michelin woman, with large bag and binoculars, new boots, climbing over gate – I received a good thump from the bins. The second gate was easier. As I closed it, with cold hands, feeling very wet, I could not resist looking towards the nest – I saw a flash of white to the side of the nest tree – 03(97) was perched, standing guard, his new family in the making. What a joy! I walked on with such a glow in my heart that the rain and cold wind became irrelevant, he was like a ray of sunshine. I had arrived at one of my favourite places on earth.
Established in the hide after ‘the changeover’ I quickly discovered that 03 was hunkered down on a lower branch of the pruned ash, valiantly facing into the wind and the rain, and just visible from the deep cup of the nest, I saw the top of the female’s head.
Some 20 minutes later as I was changing the battery on the radio, I looked up to discover that 03 had flown. I had been so determined not to let that happen this season – it does not matter what you do – answer the phone, fill in the forms, make a call of nature – he knows that you are not looking and he’s gone. I really thought that he would be away for some time, bearing in mind the weather and the fishing conditions, but some 20 minutes later he flew, in as if bearing chocolates and roses – he floated over the nest for his mate to see – and then alighted on his favourite small oak. He ate greedily – it was a small ‘unidentified’ fish – and he then presented the remains to the nest. Once changeover of incubation had taken place, she too flew a circle, stretching on her way and then landed on the top of the pruned ash, one of her favoured perches, but without the fish. A few moments later she flew up, and headed towards 09(98)’s old territory. I wondered whether she feared the attacks that she had experienced last year which almost certainly resulted in only one chick hatching. She swooped down and as she reappeared, she was joined by another bird. My heart sank – surely 09 was ensconced at Site N with 5N – but as I watched, I initially thought that there was almost certainly an intruding Osprey. They flew together towards the nest, in battle, but not fiercely, and as they drew nearer, in the greyness of the wind and rain, I quickly realised that our intruder was not an Osprey, but a very pale coloured Red Kite. 03 meanwhile was still incubating, but looking upwards, watching intently the conflict being played out between me in the hide and him in the nest and then the female descended on to the nest. But the Kite had not finished, and dived steeply down to the nest, before turning away and flying off. They exchanged incubation duties and 03 flew once again to the pruned ash – and once more faced the elements. This pair must be breathing a huge sigh of relief this year if that is the only kind of intrusion they are suffering. 03 must also be providing for his female well, as the remains of the fish were obviously still untouched in the nest. I had also received a call from Paul soon after 11am, that the female in Manton Bay had laid a second egg – the news was immediately broadcast to the world with the all wonders of modern media.
As my changeover was completed with Andy, I walked away, the wind and rain behind me. I trudged on, thinking about a warm mug of tea and I also thought about 03, on the pruned ash; he would be there all night as well as most of the day, but at least we do as much as we can to keep these magnificent creatures safe from harm.
It was wonderful to be reunited with the pair at Site B again.