Manton Bay

A peaceful, easy feeling

It was a beautiful day today, the perfect day to spend some quality time watching Maya and 33(11) in Manton Bay. The opportunity arose this morning for Paul and I to split a shift in Waderscrape hide. It was lovely to spend some time down there. Both Ospreys were present in the Bay when I arrived, 33(11) was on the leaning perch and Maya was on the T-perch eating the remains of a fish. After she had finished, she gracefully took off from her perch and drifted on her huge wings down to the water, where she flew along dragging her feet through it to wash off the fish scales.

A little while later, I spotted another Osprey flying high above the Bay. It was too high to identify, unfortunately. Maya rose up to join it in the air, though she did not show much animosity towards it. They flew above the Bay for a few minutes, wheeling serenely in large loops, then disappeared. 33(11) continued to sit on his perch for a while, then he decided to follow his partner. They both arrived back about fifteen minutes later, and sat together on the T-perch. 

Manton Bay is truly beautiful, and it was lovely and peaceful down there this morning. The Reed Buntings were singing, Common Terns were flying elegantly by, a Grey Heron and a Little Egret were sitting together happily co-existing. I met some lovely, enthusiastic people, too. There was quite a bit of Osprey action, but even when they don’t do very much Ospreys are still amazing to watch! I could do it all day, but I had to go back to the Centre and hand over the remainder of the morning watch to Paul.

Below is a video of 33(11) bringing in the fish that Maya was eating this morning. When we turned on the camera first thing, she was on the nest food begging. Not long later, her behaviour indicated food was on its way, so we pressed record, and in he flew! Just the one fish today, but it was a much bigger one than the three he caught yesterday!

Maya

Maya food begging

33(11) delivering the fish

33(11) delivering the fish

 

Three little fishes

33(11) had a very busy day today. He went fishing three times in three hours! Here is a video of his first one - the tiniest fish I have ever seen brought to an Osprey nest! Maya seemed happy enough though.

vlcsnap-2014-07-27-10h59m01s242

Maya waiting for her fish

The tiny fish

The tiny fish

 

An hour later, here is 33(11) delivering his second fish of the day, a bit bigger this time!

The second fish

The second fish

 

The third fish arrived at the nest at about 14:20.

The third fish!

The third fish!

 

Earlier this morning, an intruding Osprey visited Manton Bay. Maya and 33(11) were on the nest mantling, then the camera wobbled as the intruder landed on the perch. He flew off as soon as Maya left the nest to give chase. We didn’t manage to get a ring number unfortunately, but it looked like a male. He could be one of the non-breeding males we know we have around, or he could be another youngster!

Maya and 33(11) mantling

Maya and 33(11) mantling

 

Also, check out this photograph of a Kingfisher, taken from Waderscrape Hide by volunteer Martin Lusty. These lovely birds are being seen frequently from the hide recently.

Kingfisher from Waderscrape (photo by Martin Lusty)

Kingfisher from Waderscrape (photo by Martin Lusty)

 

Don’t forget, we have many exciting events coming up! Click the links to find out more.

Osprey Family Fun Day – Tuesday 29th July, 10am-3pm.

Evening Osprey Cruise – Wednesday 30th July, 4:30pm.

Osprey Ball – Friday 19th September, 7:00pm.

 

Spot the Osprey

Having the live camera back online is great! Unfortunately today, that feather has been blowing right across the screen, obscuring the view. However, yesterday we managed to capture a video of something we have never had before… look at the top left corner, in the water – it’s 33(11) having a bath!

 

Less than a minute previously, he had been sitting on the nest, moving a stick around (see next video), then he took off, and all of a sudden there he was in the reservoir! At first, I did think he might have been fishing, or attempting to fish, but it soon became apparent he was simply having a good time. It was very considerate of him to do it within camera shot!

We have seen the Ospreys do this before in the Bay, sometimes they will just drag their feet through the water to wash them, and sometimes they will completely immerse themselves in the water and have a good dunking. It was very hot yesterday, so it is likely 33(11) just wanted to cool down.

33(11)

33(11)

 

 

All I need is a miracle

Yesterday, in some miraculous way, we managed to get the live camera to work again! How long it will last this time, we can only guess, but we are thankful for what we have while we have it! Even though not much happens on the nest these days, it is still nice to see a live feed and the Ospreys do come to it occasionally, as the video below (recorded yesterday) proves.

 

As you can see, the Ospreys are still using the nest to do their fish swaps. Also, it is still 33(11) who is staying true to form and doing all of the fishing for a very patient Maya. If there were any chicks at this nest, they would just be fledging about now. Maya would soon begin to fish again, and both her and 33(11) would bring in fish for their fledglings. However, in their current situation, their instincts are still dictating that it is the male who will continue to fish, eat half and bring the rest to the female, just as it would be at the beginning of the season or during the incubation period.

Maya waiting for the fish

Maya waiting for the fish

 

It is a shame for Maya that she has been unable to breed this year. She has been a very successful breeding female for the past four years, and has raised eleven chicks with a very dependable male. This year it all changed for her when 5R(04) did not return. Although she found a new partner and laid eggs and all looked well, the chaos that ensued when 33(11) came along has meant that she has not been able to raise any chicks this season – a very different situation for her. She has not had to be permanently present on the nest with her chicks, to feed them, protect them, shelter them from the rain, shield them from the cold and shade them from the sun. As it is, she has spent most of this season perched near the nest, not doing an awful lot.

Now, I know it is highly unlikely that she sits there mourning the loss of 5R(04), ruing the fact that she has no chicks, thinking about what she would be doing if she did have chicks, or comparing 28(10) and 33(11), wondering which one she would have preferred to end up with. It is far more likely that she thinks of nothing at all, and just reacts to the changes in her immediate environment. Even so, there is almost certainly an element of confusion for her, and I still feel for her that she travelled all the way back from Africa with one purpose in mind – to breed – and has been unable to fulfil that objective.

It is different for 33(11), as he has never bred before and so doesn’t know any differently. At least this season has provided him with a good practice run, showing he can nest build, incubate (nothing), catch big fish (and share them) and defend his nest. We shall forgive him his intrusion into the domestic harmony between Maya and 28(10), just as long as he returns next year, and puts all of his practise into action!

Maya on the nest yesterday

Maya on the nest yesterday

 

 

Hen Harrier Day

HHDThere’s no doubt about it: the staff who work at the Rutland Osprey Project are very lucky. We have great volunteers who support us with their time, commitment and enthusiasm; a community of local people and business owners (including landowners, farmers and fish farmers) who understand the importance of conservation; and we can be proud of the fact that our project is considered by many to be a success. Although our work is far from finished, there is now a stable population of Ospreys breeding in central England after 150 years of absence: the whole purpose of the translocation.

We’re also lucky in that hard work and tireless efforts have meant that people – our visitors, supporters, volunteers, sponsors, etc. – actually know what an Osprey is. Engagement, education, entertainment are huge parts of what we do, as well as ecology, and no one part of this is more important than any other. Without the first three, the final one would arguably struggle to exist.

And that’s why I’m worried about the Hen Harrier. I went out for dinner with friends the other night and got going about Hen Harriers, and the fact that they’re facing a very real extinction in England. I was met with polite, but blank stares. So I went back a step further – do you know what a Hen Harrier is? Hmmmm. One thought that maybe she’d heard of it; not even a flickering of recognition from the others. Well, what about just any Harrier? Still no. What about a Bird of Prey? Ahh, that was more familiar territory, but still not entirely confident.

And then I realised; before I took up birding as a hobby and really got addicted to nature, did I know what a Hen Harrier was? Probably not actually. It’s just not a bird that most of us would engage with on a cultural level; they’re not in our gardens or roving across your standard field; they’re not wheeling over the M40; they don’t feature in kid’s books or songs or even really on television, except if you know what to watch. You have to actively go and look for one (now more so than ever) and be able to identify it in remote, windswept locations.

And this shows the importance of socio-cultural factors in nature conservation: deep down, most people need that human connection.

So, what is a Hen Harrier Circus cyaneus?

HHJW

Hen Harrier ‘Ringtail’

This is.

They really are gorgeous birds: males are a pale grey colour, elegant and tapering with wingtips that look like they’ve been dipped in ink, yellow legged and yellow eyed; females and juveniles are brown with a white rump and a long, barred tail: ‘ringtail’. They fly with wings held in a shallow ‘V’ across moorlands (or marshes in the winter) gliding low in search of food, which mainly consists of meadow pipits and voles. Identifying your first Harrier can be tricky – the more familiar Kites and Buzzards would dominate your thoughts – but there’s something distinctive about the way that they fly, and once you’ve got it you won’t lose it. 

HHM

Hen Harrier Male

 

What’s the problem?

Hen Harriers are our most persecuted Bird of Prey. They have fallen into conflict over many, many years with Grouse Moor owners, who see the bird as having a direct impact on the populations of Red Grouse bred specifically for the purposes of shooting. Moors are intensively ‘managed’ and whilst some owners now have good relationships with local Trusts and wildlife charities, others continue to abuse the land, abuse the wildlife and abuse some misguided and ill-conceived ‘right’ that makes them believe that they are somehow above the law. Peer-reviewed research suggests that good habitat remains that could support over 300 pairs of Hen Harriers in England, but ‘there are 962-1285 breeding pairs of Hen Harrier ‘missing’ from Scotland and 322 – 339 pairs ‘missing’ from England‘. The killing of Hen Harriers is illegal and we had all hoped that the time when Bird of Prey persecution, which seems so deeply Victorian and parochial, had passed. It hasn’t and as a consequence we are facing the reality that a Bird of Prey will probably go extinct in England in the 21st Century because of direct, human persecution. Wow. In 2014 just three pairs have bred – all have required 24 hour protection. You can read more about this on Mark Avery’s blog, as well as by visiting the websites of Chris Packham and Birders Against Wildlife Crime, the RSPB, the North West Raptor Protection Group and the Wildlife Trusts.

What’s this got to do with Ospreys?

Simply put, the Osprey is a bird with a tumultuous and conflicted history in the UK, just like the Hen Harrier. Without the work of many individuals, organisations and businesses it would not be recovering. Ospreys, and thus the Rutland Osprey Project, does not exist in isolation from the many other habitats and species in the UK (and beyond that, the world!) but has to be placed in a wider conservation and cultural context. We’re doing pretty well overall (apart from a few natural ups and downs), but we can only say that we’re truly successful if we keep working towards a bigger picture. Hence why we, the Wildlife Trusts, are trying to halt the persecution of the Hen Harrier.

What can you do?

Lots! Show your support by adding a ‘twibbon’ to your Facebook or Twitter account, so that you can raise awareness amongst friends and colleagues; learn more by listening to these podcasts by Birders Against Wildlife Crime; or join in with Hen Harrier Day – the 10th August – by attending a peaceful, legal gathering in Derbyshire, Lancashire or Northumberland. There’s lots of blogs and social media support out at the moment, so reading and sharing these is a great way to understand the situation further, too.  You can donate to the cause on the RSPB website, which will help to track the birds movements and support staff with surveillance equipment.

 

Should I stay or should I go

Due to the fact that the Ospreys in Manton Bay have failed to breed this year, we have all been wondering whether they will leave on their migration earlier than usual, as they do not have to wait for their chicks to be independent of them before they do. However, it has also been known for Ospreys who have not bred to stay later than usual, so we must just wait and see. In 2007 and 2008, a different pair of Ospreys occupied the Manton Bay nest. This pair unfortunately failed to breed in 2008. That year, the female migrated on 23rd August, which was six days earlier than she did the year before. The male, however, remained until 13th September, which was ten days later than the year before. This goes to show that these things cannot be predicted!

Ospreys do not migrate together. Even the chicks make their way to Africa without the company of their siblings or parents. The male and female may not see each other again until they return the next spring to breed. They are drawn back to the same nest, and bond together for one purpose – to bring more Ospreys into the world.

The female Osprey is usually the first to leave. After the chicks have fledged she spends more time fishing and feeding, getting herself in a suitable condition to travel the necessary 3,000 miles to her wintering grounds. Unlike the male Ospreys, who spend most of their time fishing during the breeding season (and are therefore lean, mean, fishing machines) females spend all of their time on the nest with the chicks. This means that her fitness level will drop throughout the season, so she needs to regain it. Once she has gained the necessary fitness to migrate, she doesn’t hang around. Up she’ll soar, circling higher and higher, gaining swiftly in altitude until suddenly she points her compass south, and off she goes.

Males, on the other hand, are usually the last to go, as they still feel the need to feed their youngsters, and the youngsters will still call for food. Thus, male Ospreys will stick around a while longer, and continue to provide fish for the juveniles. There will come a point though, when the juvenile Ospreys suddenly feel a pull, an unseen force that they do not understand but cannot ignore. This pull draws them south, away from the familiar ground where they were born, and towards an unknown place, a foreign land. They do not know that it is called Africa, but there they will go, and there they will remain until they are two years old, and another pull, more familiar this time, will draw them back to Rutland Water.

Osprey (Pandion haliaetus) - "33"

 

The feather on the lens

The mystery of the dysfunctional live camera was partly solved today when we noticed a fault and fixed it. The camera came on and we all got excited, but the sight we were greeted with was this:

The feather on the lens!

The view from the live camera today

 

Even if the Ospreys had been on the nest, we wouldn’t have seen much of them! As it was, the fault we fixed wasn’t the fault that mattered, and the camera ceased to work after about an hour. We have a new part currently on its way to us, which will hopefully sort matters out permanently.

You may recall that recently we have seen a lot of unidentified intruding Ospreys in the area. We thought it was highly possible that one or more of these could be 2012-fledged birds back for the first time. We can now confirm that we definitely do have at least one other youngster back with us! Unfortunately we have not been able to determine her identity, at least not yet. However, we know that she is a female, and based on her underwing patterns she is not one of our current breeding females. She does sport a blue leg-ring. She could be one of four individuals, as there were four female fledglings in 2012.

We know that 8F(12), who was spotted in Manton Bay on 15th May, is currently in the area, as he was seen last week at Eyebrook Reservoir, a few miles south of Rutland Water. We are hopeful that we will be able to get a positive ID on the new female soon, and also possibly acquire evidence of more youngsters in the area!

 

 

A week with the Osprey Project

By Abigail Mustard

 

I have just spent a great week volunteering with the Osprey Project, doing various tasks and below is my account of the week.

 

Monday

I arrive at the Lyndon Centre at 09.00 and meet Kayleigh, who gives me a brief overview of what I will be doing over the course of the week – it sounds exciting!

This morning I had an option and chose to walk down to the Waderscrape Hide and complete a shift, which entails monitoring the Ospreys. The best way to start the week (in my opinion)!

On my arrival I am greeted by an empty hide so I set up the telescope and see where the Ospreys are. As I look I see both Maya and 33(11) sitting beside each other on the perch above the nest.

10 minutes later I look down into the middle channel in front of the hide and see a Water Vole creeping out into the water and soon disappearing amongst the reeds! Although I have observed Water Voles a couple of times before when I have visited the reserve, it still manages to excite me!

Four hours having passed, my shift is over, and I am relieved by another volunteer to whom I explain that both Maya and 33 have predominantly remained on the perch, although 33 was absent for just over an hour.

Back at the centre, and after lunch, my first task of the week was to learn how to use the till. Luckily for me all I needed to know was explained to me by the volunteer on duty in the centre.

All too soon it was time to go home and I couldn’t wait for the next day where I was accompanying Ken on his shift to Site B!

 

Tuesday

After having been picked up by Ken at 07.20 I was really looking forward to the next four hours which I would spend watching 03(97)’s family at Site B.

Just over two hours into the shift Ken and I witnessed the fledging of the male chick 6K which made the shift one that we would both remember for a while to come! 6K completed a short circuit around the nest and after a minute he landed ungracefully on the back of 7K who became sprawled!

12.00 came around and it was time to leave the next volunteers to enjoy their shift, and to go back to Lyndon to tell the rest of the Osprey team about the fledging of 6K.

For the rest of the day I was in the centre talking to visitors about the project and staffing the desk.

 

Wednesday

I walked into Lyndon Visitor Centre this morning and Paul briefed me on the plan for the day. Between 09.30 and 12.30 I would be attending a guided walk around the reserve talking to guests about the Ospreys and the Project and about the nature reserve in general. Paul invited me to do the introductory talk at the beginning of the walk and it was a really good experience for me to talk about the season to members of the public.

On the guided walk we went down to the Waderscrape Hide where we were welcomed by a volunteer who pointed out Maya and 33 who were sitting on a perch. We then moved on to the Shallow Water hide and to the other hides around the reserve.

In the afternoon I was asked to write a blog about the shift up at Site B with Ken on Tuesday.

 

Thursday

Today I was given the morning off as I would be attending a cruise in the evening, which would be raising money for a charity, where the Osprey Project had been invited to join, in order to talk about Ospreys and hopefully point one or more out to the guests.

This afternoon I arrived and went straight down to the Waderscrape Hide to do another shift. Both Ospreys were sitting on the perch above the nest and after a while 33 flew to the fallen tree by the side of the water where he was well camouflaged. Maya then flew around and dropping into the water to clean herself for ten minutes. During the shift a couple came in, having never seen an Osprey before, and left happy and excited having now seen two Ospreys!

At 18.00 Paul and I headed over to Whitwell to give out binoculars to those who wanted them and talked to a few people about the Osprey Project. We had a lovely evening for the cruise although it was slightly windy but wind is by far better than rain!

There was around 50 guests including the current Lord Lieutenant of Rutland and the present High Sheriff of Rutland and also some of the previous High Sheriffs.

Throughout the cruise Tim kept spotting distant Ospreys but finally there were four Ospreys flying in close proximity to each other, which everyone on the cruise could easily see. These Ospreys would be non-breeding birds.

Heading back to Whitwell Harbour the sunset was a beautiful, orange and yellowy colour which marked the end of an exciting cruise and day.

Abi's picture

A beautiful sunset (Photo by Abigail Mustard)

 

Friday

My last day here with the Osprey Project and Paul set me the task of summing up the total number of hours volunteers have completed at the monitoring sites including Manton Bay.

On having completed that task it was time to go with Lucy to do a school visit at Catmose College. We would be doing two different talks one for year 8 students and another for year 9 students.

Lucy had everyone’s attention and told the story of the Ospreys at Rutland Water including facts about their migration and the Project’s work in Africa. At the end of the talk Lucy asked me whether I would like to choose a section of the presentation to present. I was up for it, realising that I would be talking to nearly 200 students about Ospreys. Just before the talk started one of the students came in and started speaking to Lucy, from whom I gather he is a very keen young birdwatcher and it is great to see someone of his age already so interested in conservation.

My last hour was spent at Lyndon with Amy, who is also on work experience, talking to her about her week with the Outdoor Team and about Ospreys in general.

This week went so quickly and I have thoroughly enjoyed all of it!

 

The Rutland Osprey Team would like to say a huge thank you to Abi for all the hard work and enthusiasm she put in last week, and for this lovely write-up! It was great to have you with us Abi, and we hope to see you again soon!

 

The young ones

Now is the time of year that we would normally expect to see some two-year-old Ospreys returning. Youngsters returning from Africa for the first time normally arrive late in the season, often not until July. The first of the 2012 brood came home on the 15th May, or we are pretty sure it was him! Since then we have not identified any more two-year-old Ospreys in the area.

That is not to say that they are not here though! Recently we have seen an influx of Ospreys around, some of whom remain unidentified. Yesterday morning an intruder was swiftly seen off from Manton Bay by 33(11), and later in the afternoon there were another two intruding Ospreys in the Bay! The day before there had been three Ospreys passing through the Bay, and two the day before that! There was also a group of five Ospreys spotted from the Visitor Centre at Egleton yesterday!

It is highly possible that some of these birds could be new ones back for the first time, but of course, we can’t say that with any certainty at all! We must wait until we see a bird perched somewhere and are able to read the leg ring, or until John Wright spots one and identifies them by their markings. Some of our birds are easily identifiable of course – we have 28(10) with his damaged wing, 30(05) with her satellite transmitter aerial, and 30(10) has a broken primary wing feather, so some birds are easy to spot even from a distance. Mostly we need a good close-up though, or John Wright!

In other news, the live camera on the Manton Bay nest was working today, for about five minutes! Here is some footage of 33(11) sitting on the nest not doing very much! Unfortunately a feather is stuck in a web on the lens…

33(11)

33(11)

 

The wind beneath her wings

Exciting news from Site B! 7K(14), the female chick and the larger of the two, fledged yesterday!

Juvenile Ospreys usually fledge at about seven or eight weeks old. After we ringed the Site B chicks two weeks ago, we knew it wouldn’t be long before they took their very first flights. In the last two weeks the chicks have been exercising their wings, flapping a lot and hovering above the nest, preparing their muscles for their first real test.

Luckily for me, I was able to take some time this morning to visit Site B. The two chicks were on the nest, 03(97) was keeping watch from a nearby perch, and the female was away somewhere. For a while the chicks sat happily preening in the much welcomed sunshine. The female came in with a twig, then left again. Eventually 7K seemed to decide that was enough sitting around! She stretched her nearly fully-grown wings and swooped off the nest. She circled the area for about a minute, dipping and rising, flapping and soaring, looking like she was thoroughly enjoying herself! Then she landed, fairly gracefully, next to her Dad on the T-perch.

Naturally, juveniles can be a bit unsteady on their first few flights, and landing can be tricky for a while until they get the hang of it! It doesn’t take long though for them to become proficient. 7K looks like she is becoming very quickly adept at this flying and landing lark! It shouldn’t be long before 6K joins his sister in the air.

In Manton Bay, Maya and 33(11) still remain faithful to their nest, and have been sitting in the Bay and flying back and forth all day, providing great views for people visiting in either Waderscrape or Shallow Water hide. Recently there have been several other Ospreys spotted in the Bay in addition to Maya and 33(11). Today there were three intruding Ospreys, whose identities are unknown. Yesterday, we had two intruding birds, and they were identified as 28(10) – identifiable by his damaged right wing, and 30(05) – identifiable by her satellite transmitter aerial. It is great to see that 28(10) and 30(05) are still in the area and haven’t disappeared elsewhere. Hopefully next year these two individuals will breed! Not necessarily together, but that is also a possibility!

Unfortunately we are still having issues with our live camera. It was working for a while on Thursday, and here are some videos and photos that we took that day. 33(11) sat on the nest for quite a while that afternoon, standing around quite happily in the breeze, and he even had another go at incubating nothing! Keep up the good work for next season, 33!

33(11) hanging out on the nest

33(11) hanging out on the nest

33(11) happily sitting on nothing

33(11) incubating nothing again!

33(11) incubating nothing again!

33(11) happily sitting on nothing

33(11) standing on one leg

33(11) standing on one leg