Manton Bay

Beauty and Beasts – Drama in the Reed Beds

The sun has brought all sorts out this past week and the lack of rain has caused the water levels to fall, generating a maze of newly created microhabitats, these mini wetlands will be full of food for a range of wildlife found on the reserve. The number of shorebirds has surged in the past few days, in Manton Bay we’ve had reports of snipe and godwit, and over at Egleton there has even been a glossy ibis.

Snipe (Anna Douthwaite)

Barn Owl seen in Manton Bay (John Smallman)

In the bay it’s not the ospreys which have been drawing attention, but what lies beneath the nest in the reed-beds, sometimes it pays to look down…. The incident was described to me by volunteer Anna Douthwaite, who also provided the photos. It was a normal Sunday morning with a bright sun and blue sky, the visitors and volunteers in the hide were treated to some lovely views of ospreys, joined soon enough by a snipe (see above), fox and beautiful grey heron.

Fox having a drink (Anna Douthwaite)

grey heron (Anna Douthwaite)

The day then took a darker turn, the heron picked its way through the reed bed, suddenly it stopped, the bird had found its prey, sadly it was one of the water voles that have been frequenting Manton Bay. The little vole put up the fight of its life and at one moment looked as though it could have got away, unfortunately, it was all in vain and before long the vole was gone.

found it’s prey (Anna Douthwaite)

(Anna Douthwaite)

almost got away (Anna Douthwaite)

(Anna Douthwaite)

Caught (Anna Douthwaite)

As for the ospreys the week as been much less eventful, the two chicks are still enjoying the shade of the poplar trees. We have been provided with some beautiful photos from John and Carol Smallman of the chicks and the adults enjoying the weather.

3AU lifts off from nest ( John Smallman)

3AW ( John Smallman)

3AW in flight ( John Smallman)

3AW lands on nest ( John Smallman)

3 AW (John Smallman)

Dawn cruise and Manton Bay

Well it’s been very hot down at Lyndon nature reserve the past few days, even with the cool breeze drifting over the water it feels like a Mediterranean summer, not a British one. The peak temperature today is 27oC, in Dakar, The Gambia it is 28oC, at least this means the ospreys will be well acclimatised when they decide to migrate for the winter!  The birds in Manton Bay have been very subdued in the heat, preferring the shelter of the poplar tree behind the nest rather than the exposed perches.

Today was the first day that the birds had been described as active by the volunteers in the hide, although with the temperature set to soar again my guess is that they will be back in the shade before long. Even with the birds being fairly inactive in the bay there is still lots to see at Lyndon. In the meadow in front of the centre we have had yellow hammers, tree sparrows, mallard ducklings and very small rabbit kits, all enjoying the sun. Down in the bay we have had an extraordinary number of swans, a couple great-crested grebe, barn owls and even young water voles.

View from osprey nest cam of the swans in Manton Bay. 

The young ospreys in the bay are getting braver everyday flying further each time they venture away from the nest, however, they are always straight back on when 33(11) brings in a fish. If 33(11) tries to take a break both chicks are on his case loudly food begging from the nest.

One of the chicks taking the fish from 33(11)

3AW showing us her wings.

This morning we had our second dawn osprey cruise and it was one of the best I’ve ever had. We started at 6 am; the sun was a bright beacon hanging low in the sky, its warmth penetrating though the misty morning already. The reservoir was calm and tranquil it radiated peacefulness, only broken by birds calling in the distance. The morning itself was something to behold and the views of ospreys were spectacular, we had one osprey attempt to fish, it kept plunging towards the water and was finally successful on the forth or fifth time. We also had an osprey perch in the willows at the back of lagoon 1 and watched in awe as it took off, quickly gaining height. Finally, we retired back to the Anglian Water Birdwatching Centre for a fantastic breakfast supplied by Paul Stammers (Osprey Information Officer, soon to be head chef) and our truly dedicated volunteers. Thank you to everyone involved it was a fantastic event!

If you would like to book onto one of our osprey cruise click here spaces are limited and we only have one more dawn osprey cruise left this season!

‘Phew! What a Scorcher!’

Summer Days at Rutland Ospreys
(Ken’s Review of the last few weeks with the Osprey Education Team)

June and July are always busy and exciting months for everyone involved with the Ospreys here at Rutland Water. The rapid growth of the young birds in the nests means that the ringing team needs to be ready for action, and then just two or three weeks later every volunteer hopes that maiden flights will be made during his or her shift! Visitor numbers increase once the Manton Bay youngsters are fledged, and staff have to cope with all the demands of running the Visitor Centre, organising the brilliant Osprey Cruises on board the Rutland Belle, maintaining the website, updating the volunteering rotas, and being on hand to answer hundreds of questions each day! It’s busy, but always a delight to be here helping to spread the word to everyone.

For the Education Team, the ever-increasing levels of interest from schools and colleges far and wide continue to impress us. This year we have made strong progress in taking the Osprey story into schools outside our normal area, and have had good responses from inner city areas of Leicester and Peterborough. We have visited them to start off their Osprey studies, and later they bring groups to the Lyndon Reserve to complete the process and see the birds for themselves. Of course, they learn about other aspects of wildlife too, and go home full of new knowledge about such diverse life forms as orchids, water voles, chimney sweeper moths and banded demoiselle damselflies!

Here are just a few highlights from the last few weeks :
Catmose Primary School, Oakham, have visited us on four successive Tuesdays, bringing in total 120 students – the whole of Key Stage 2 (Years 3 – 6). This is the first year we have worked with them, and everyone here has been impressed by the enthusiasm and commitment shown by the students and staff. Feedback has been very positive, so we hope to see you again next season! Oh, and a special word for Year 4, who gave a hearty rendition of ‘Happy Birthday’ to Rutland Osprey stalwart Paul Stammers, whose significant birthday coincided with their visit!

Brooke Priory School, Oakham, have been one of our most regular and supportive schools since the very early years of the Rutland Osprey Project. The school has invited us in every season during World Osprey Week (WOW!), and has hosted many events for us, notably the first ever Osprey Festival in 2016, Skype links with Osprey schools in Gambia, Spain and the United States, and the world premieres of two now famous Osprey songs by the school’s brilliant music teacher Carrie Richardson, entitled ‘Rutland Ospreys’ and ‘Osprey Returning’. Students here are probably now the most advanced and knowledgeable young Osprey enthusiasts anywhere in the UK, and it has been brilliant this year to work with Form V and their teachers. Following a classroom session earlier in the month, 27 students arrived on a sunny morning last week and spent the whole day with us, sharing the thrill of seeing the Ospreys – live, wild and free – for the first time. It was reward enough to see the looks on their faces, and hear their expressions of pleasure and delight. During the afternoon we had a surprise visit from Rob Persani of Rutland Radio, who interviewed the three in the picture below. Their interviews were broadcast a day or so later. As you can see, they were rather happy!

We have hosted school and youth group visits on three or four days a week throughout June, and will continue to do so until the end of term in July. We could not operate without the support and enthusiasm of the Headteachers, class teachers and TA’s, and the many parents who come along as helpers. So, in addition to the two schools already mentioned, thank you to Leicester Preparatory School, Ravensthorpe Primary (Peterborough), North Luffenham Scouts, Catmose College, The Wildlife Watch Group, Brant Broughton Primary, Oakham C of E Primary, Langham School Osprey Club and Edith Weston Primary! And that’s just those involved in June and July!

Osprey Ambassadors, Sunday July 1st Meeting : On one of the hottest afternoons of the season so far, 23 of our young Osprey Ambassadors, together with family members, joined us in Wader Scrape hide for the monthly Osprey Club Meeting. For most it was their first opportunity to see the two juveniles (3AW and 3AU) on the wing, and so the first task for them was to sort out exactly ‘who was who’ as 33, Maya, and their two latest offspring flew around the Bay. These young people, representing schools as far apart as Peterborough and Leicester and all towns and villages in between (and not forgetting our home-educated Ambassador) do a great job for us in disseminating news amongst their friends, teachers and relatives. Some of them have been with us for up to three seasons now, sharing the lives of the Rutland Ospreys and learning a great deal about the natural world in this brilliant environment we have here. Some were here for the first time, and more experienced ambassadors helped them to get acquainted with Maya & Co. and the other wildlife in the Bay – especially the amazingly confiding Water Voles, which sat munching reed stems just a few metres away, despite a certain amount of excited chatter in the hide! Eating cake while Osprey watching is a perfect Sunday afternoon combination, and most people were content to do that in the cool of the hide! Special thanks, as always, to Liz and Abi for providing the cake! All Ambassadors left with a wrist band inscribed with a very special Osprey number (for example 03, 08, 09, 5R, 5N, 30, 33) and a list of questions to answer about their particular Osprey! Thanks to Information Officer Paul Stammers for answering ambassadors’ questions as they passed through the Visitor Centre at the end of the afternoon!

Many people will already be aware of the new Osprey Leadership Foundation, launched last week in true ‘Osprey’ style on board the Rutland Belle by former Project leader Dr Tim Mackrill. This charitable trust will exist to assist young people both here and in West Africa to attend University courses in conservation and related areas, and will offer support to anyone for whom such a future might seem unattainable in their current circumstances. Many Rutland staff members and volunteers were privileged to be with Tim and his trustees at the launch, and we are pleased to give him our wholehearted backing. Do read more about the OLF at their website.

We are always encouraged to meet young people who have set their sights on careers relating to wildlife, the environment and conservation. Just recently we met Lizzie, a first year student studying Ecology at Aberystwyth, who did two weeks work experience at Rutland Nature Reserve. Her passion and commitment shone through, and she wrote an inspiring blog for the Osprey website, which has been widely admired.

Lizzie’s blog

I first met Abigail as a Year 9 student at one of our local secondary schools, where we regularly do Osprey talks, and we can now congratulate her on graduating with a 2:1 B.Sc degree in Ecology, also from Aberystwyth. She already has plans for the next stage of her career! Another Wild Skills and Wild Horizons member from Rutland Water is Amy, now making a name for herself as a wildlife film maker whilst completing her degree in Zoology at Exeter. And of course our own Anya is living proof that all the hours of volunteering and hard work in a variety of internships do bring rewards – she is now this year’s Osprey Project Officer!

So will any of our current team of Osprey Ambassadors go on to work in the fantastic world of wildlife and conservation? Certainly there are some very promising young observers and environmental experts amongst them. And out of all the hundreds of young people who have come with their schools and youth groups to see the Ospreys in Manton Bay this season, will there will be a few for whom those thrilling times down in the hide will lead to a lifetime of study and interest? We like to think so. I remember very clearly the young girl who approached Michelle Househam (then Osprey Information Officer, and now at the Wildlife Trust HQ in Newark) after one of our Osprey presentations, and asked quietly ‘How do I get a job like yours?’
‘Come and see us at the Lyndon Reserve’, Michelle replied, ‘and we’ll show you how.’

Support our education work!

The Rutland Osprey Education Team has been entered into the Tesco Bag for Life Scheme:

The osprey project team’s proposal is for under-privileged children from deprived communities in the local area to have the opportunity to visit Lyndon nature reserve and experience seeing ospreys for themselves during outreach sessions with the osprey education team. This funding opportunity would pay for transportation via shuttle buses taking youngsters to the nature reserve, educational activities delivered by the education team, plus resources in the form of the children’s activity book “Be an osprey expert” provided to each child. It will also provide our volunteers with more opportunities to visit local schools and get involved with osprey education at the nature reserve. We have applied for a total of £4000 which we hope will allow us to engage with 7 schools.

Deprived communities are found in rural areas too, not just urban communities and Leicestershire & Rutland Wildlife Trust knows from experience that transport costs constrain the activities of families and schools in the Rutland area, limiting their learning opportunities. This project would give youngsters the chance to engage and connect with nature at Lyndon nature reserve, which is inhabited by a plethora of wildlife, including the magnificent ospreys which breed at the reserve. Evidence shows experiencing the outdoors is essential for physical health and mental well-being and with more youngsters disengaged with the natural world than ever before, Leicestershire & Rutland Wildlife Trust wants to ensure youngsters from all backgrounds in the local community have the opportunity to connect with and learn through nature.

If you are shopping in our local Tesco store (Oakham) please support our work by giving us your vote.

(To vote, you will need to make a purchase within store of any value. You will receive one token per transaction and it’s not necessary to purchase a carrier bag in order to receive a token.)

Fun in the Sun

Today the chicks have spent another warm afternoon sat on the fallen tree, Maya and 33 have been very attentive making sure both are well fed. 

This morning 3AU sat food begging on the nest until 33(11) returned with a gigantic fish! He was so eager he grabbed it off 33(11) before Maya even had a look in. 

We have also had lots of intruder activity over the bay this afternoon, Maya and 33(11) are not letting them anywhere near their chicks. 

Although, the webcam is now empty for most of the day the chicks have been very busy, both have been floating around the bay learning and perfecting their flying skills.  

Finally Fledged

Yesterday I received a call from Paul Stammers our Information Officer, he had just spent the morning in the hide watching the two juveniles helicoptering on the nest, finally at 08:50 3AU the male, lifted high off the nest and circled before landing on the camera perch. 3AU spent the subsequent day hopping on and off the nest, learning how to swoop and soar, or more importantly how to land. He seemed to be almost taunting his sister with his amazing flying abilities. Unusually, he even spent the entire first night off the nest, leaving at 21:39 and arriving back in the morning at 04:25, it can only be presumed he spent the night on the camera perch with Maya and 33(11).

Before, he left for the night 3AU did give us a little present; he has covered our wide-angle camera by landing a very well-aimed defecation right on the camera lens.

It wasn’t until late this morning that the female chick 3AW finally made the leap, she had been helicoptering for most of the morning and just before 12:00 she managed to lift off the nest! She made her way over to the T-perch and not very gracefully managed to land on the perch next to 33(11).

Even though both chicks are now flying, they are still relying on 33(11) and Maya to catch fish and feed them. While the chicks have been enjoying their new found freedom, both Maya and 33(11) have kept a close eye on them both. Hopefully the chicks are picking up skills and experiences that will help them to fish, fly and maybe even fledge chicks of their own one day.