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Back to Africa

In January 2017, the Rutland Osprey Team are heading out to West Africa on an osprey-watching adventure! In anticipation of our trip, let’s have a brief look back at the last one…

In January 2016, the Osprey Project team visited The Gambia and Senegal as part of our Osprey Flyways Project. A group of ten fantastic volunteers were there with us for the first ten days, and together we explored bird-rich parts of the The Gambia and Senegal, and were treated to fabulous views of hundreds of exotic species.


After the group departed, Paul, John and I remained in Africa for a further two weeks, and visited other places, some further afield and less accessible. One of the purposes of our trip was to record and document as many colour-ringed ospreys as we could, in order to find out more about their wintering habits and migrations.


The whole trip was a huge success – we saw three Rutland ospreys, several other colour-ringed birds, a plethora of other species, and visited two schools involved in the Ospreys Flyways Project. Plus we had great fun!

The team at Tanji school

The team at Tanji school


One of the three Rutland ospreys we saw was our satellite-tagged female, 30(05), who was perched in her favourite spot on the Senegalese beach she calls her winter home. It was brilliant to see her there, her satellite-tracker aerial clearly visible. More details can be found by clicking here. 

30(05) (JW)

30(05) (JW)


One of the other Rutland birds we were privileged to see was 5F(12) at Tanji marsh. We knew she wintered there as she had been spotted there in years before, but of course we weren’t guaranteed to see her. Luckily, as we scanned through the stumps on the marsh, there she was, showing off her bright blue leg ring! More details can be found by clicking here.

5F (JW)

5F (JW)


The most amazing discovery was that of 32(11), an osprey born in Manton Bay to 5R(04) and Maya, the grandson of 03(97), the mate of 30(05) and the father of the 100th Rutland osprey chick! What a wonderful coincidence that it was him we found! We didn’t expect it at all. As we sailed towards the Iles de Oiseaux, an osprey with a blue ring on its right leg was spotted in the mangroves. This meant the bird was from England or Wales, and so could be from Rutland! Unfortunately we couldn’t get close enough to read the ring. We returned the next day to the same spot, and this time we got it – it was 32(11)! It was a wonderful discovery, and everyone was very excited. More details can be found by clicking here.

32(11) (JW)

32(11) (JW)


We had such an amazing time in Africa, and were privileged to get some incredible close-up views of ospreys flying and fishing. One of the best places was the Somone Lagoon, where a boat trip through the mangroves proved to be the best way of seeing ospreys at close quarters.

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We also had several trips to little islands, such as the Iles de Oiseaux and Bijoli island, where we had superb views of ospreys sitting eating fish on the sand, with turnstones trying to steal bits of fish as they were dropped!

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John Wright made an excellent video of the trip – click here to see it!




Where are you now

It’s always lovely to know where our ospreys go after they leave us. This privileged knowledge is aided greatly by the use of satellite tracking. However, we can’t and don’t put trackers on every bird, so this means we rely heavily on leg ring sightings for information about the whereabouts of the birds. Of course, sightings of ospreys close enough to read the ring isn’t always possible, and consequently we often don’t know where our birds have been. However, we do sometimes get lucky, and in the past we have occasionally had confirmed sightings of our ospreys elsewhere, such as 1K, 2K and 5F in Gambia, 1J in Spain and 32 in Senegal.

We always get very excited when we get a report of a Rutland osprey, and just recently we had another one! One of this year’s juveniles has been seen and photographed twice since he set off on migration in August! 2AA is a male osprey who fledged from a Rutland nest in 2016. He was first spotted at Blenheim Palace in Oxfordshire by Dr John Horsfall on 15th September 2016. Here are the photographs John took of 2AA.

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Amazingly, the same osprey was then seen and photographed on 22nd October 2016 by António Gonçalves in Portugal! Here is António’s photograph.


Sightings like these are fantastic and we can’t emphasise enough the importance of reporting ring numbers. Every sighting of a ringed osprey is significant. Confirmed sightings of ring numbers are sporadic, and it’s highly uncommon to get two sightings of the same bird in two separate locations, particularly in such quick succession!

Here is a map of the two locations 2AA was sighted.


We know that not all ospreys go to Africa, as has been proven by 1J who winters near Cadiz in Spain, and 06, a translocated female who wintered in Portugal. So it will be interesting to find out what 2AA does next…



Ozzie sells well in Oakham

On Saturday 22nd October, author and education officer Ken Davies was at Walker’s Bookshop in Oakham, to sign and sell his new book ‘Ozzie Leads the Way’, illustrated by Fiona Gomez, and his earlier Ozzie books, illustrated by John Wright, plus Jackie and Pete Murray’s activity book ‘Be an Osprey Expert’. A good number of books were sold, and Walker’s retained more for their stock. All books are now available from the shop in High St, Oakham (01572 723957). All proceeds go towards the work of the Rutland Osprey Project both in this country and in Africa. Many thanks to all the people who supported the team on the day, especially Tim Mackrill, Sarah Proud, Tom and Ann Price, and pupils and staff of local schools.


Ken and Fiona at the book event



Memories of Africa

Here is a wonderful video of the Osprey Project’s trip to Africa in January 2016! This video was filmed and edited by John Wright, and highlights many of the wonderful things we did and saw on the trip. Enjoy!

Water Voles at Rutland Water

Rutland Water Nature Reserve is known mainly for its significant wintering populations of wildfowl, and the increasing population of ospreys that breed here in the summer. It is easy to forget or take for granted the other wildlife that occurs on the nature reserve. It is not just ospreys that are endangered and were re-introduced to this area…

Water voles are members of the rodent family, and are often confused with rats. However, they differ from rats in many ways, not least in that they are under threat, and rats are not. Water voles, as the name suggests, like to live near water. They occur at the fringes of ponds, lakes and other bodies of still water such as canals, but are just as at home on the banks of rivers and streams. They live and breed in burrows that they dig into the soft mud of the banks, and feed mainly on vegetation such as reeds.

Historically, water voles were widespread throughout Britain, but their population suffered a dramatic decline during the 20th century – one of the most serious declines of all British mammals. This population decline was due mainly to the presence of mink, but also habitat fragmentation and water pollution. Mink are a non-native species that were brought to the UK in the 1920s for use in fur farms, and either escaped or were released, and had begun breeding in the wild by the 1950s. Unfortunately, mink are very efficient at predating water voles, and are their main threat.

It was soon realised that something needed to be done to replenish the population of water voles at Rutland Water. Consequently, a license was granted and a re-introduction programme for water voles took place in 2011, in conjunction with a programme of mink control. Click here for more information. It worked incredibly well, and there is now a thriving population of water voles on the nature reserve and in the surrounding area.

The population of water voles on the reserve has been monitored closely ever since the re-introduction, by volunteers Linda and Anthony Biddle. These surveys are carried out by the simple but effective method of counting the number of droppings on specially made “rafts”. Water voles like to keep their burrows clean by using flat areas of mud or grass as latrines. They will also often use areas such as this as feeding stations. With this in mind, several small rafts were made and installed in all locations likely to contain water voles. The voles then use these rafts as latrines, and surveyors visit the locations of these rafts and count the number of water vole droppings that appear on them.

Last week was my first water vole droppings count, and I really enjoyed it! It was a beautiful autumn day, and I was content to be wandering slowly up and down channels and water courses in the peace and quiet, locating the rafts, counting the droppings and noting the number on a recording form. It was amazing just how many droppings there were in some places! Water voles have definitely become well established on the nature reserve following the re-introduction – another success story!

The population will continue to be monitored over the coming years, and the data from previous surveys has been collated, reviewed and written up in the form of reports. The surveys are carried out every quarter, and a report is made of each survey, then at the end of the year an annual report will be created. The other ongoing task is to monitor the population of mink, which is done in a similar fashion but using special mink rafts, which contain a platform of clay in the centre to retain the footprints of any animal that passes over it, alerting us to the presence of mink in that area, should there be any.

Water voles are not a species that can be spotted easily, as they are rather elusive and live mainly under the protective cover of tall waterside vegetation. If you are lucky you may see one swimming away from you, but more likely you will just hear the “plop” of them entering the water when they hear you coming. Water voles have often been spotted in the channels in front of Waderscrape hide on the Lyndon reserve, and here you stand more of a chance of seeing them sitting on the banks, as there is the advantage of being able to sit in the hide and make no noise, making it more likely they will show themselves.

Look out for more updates on water voles and surveys in the near future!


water vole

Water vole, Mick Spencer

Water vole 2, Mick Spencer