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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)

A Sky Full of Ospreys

The osprey team have led 3 osprey cruises this week on board the Rutland Belle – one for the public on Wednesday, and two for the charity Warning Zone – and there’s still another public cruise to go tomorrow night! Luckily for our guests this is a great time of year to see ospreys at Rutland, with male birds busy collecting fish for their families and young birds beginning to stretch their wings too.
I was lucky enough to be on board last night, with volunteers Libby and Liz. We’d been on the water less than 5 minutes when we saw our first osprey, and after that it seemed to be wall to wall birds for the next hour or so.

51 making an appearance on a previous cruise
Photo Credit: Leon Kirkbride

We think that we probably saw 3, maybe 4, birds in total, making appearances again and again. The real highlight of the night was seeing an osprey diving to catch a fish not far from us as we sailed along the south arm. The bird did not seem phased by us on the Rutland Belle, or the 20 sailing boats nearby which had set out from the sailing club, catching a fish on his first attempt and flying it back to his family.

We still have a few tickets left for tomorrow nights cruise (Saturday 14th July) – please give us a call on 01572 770651 if you’d like to book a place, or to book online click here. It really is the perfect time of year to get out on the water, and our current weather makes the experience even better!

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!

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.

The Next Step

We’ve had a very busy week on the osprey project, on Wednesday we were lucky enough to be invited to the launch of Tim Mackrill’s new charity, the Osprey Leadership Foundation. “The foundation will work with young people from different cultures and contrasting backgrounds to inspire them about the natural world and help them to develop into conservation leaders who can make an impact at an international level”. If you would like to find out more and support the charity please see their website here.

The ospreys themselves have are also very busy in Manton Bay; the chicks have been taking every opportunity to practices their flying skills, even doing some night flapping. We expect that they will be fledging in the next couple of weeks.

We are getting lots of osprey intrusions into the bay, Maya and 33(11) are doing a great job of seeing them off. The chicks don’t seem to mind at all and are becoming very independent with both of them happily feeding themselves, once the intruder has been chased away.

They are also still learning about the world around them, with both chicks showing great interest in a lump of grass that Maya brought in.