Lynda’s Diary

Riveting Rutland

Having just returned from two weeks in ‘magical’ Messenia, I was keen to get down to Manton Bay as fledging was imminent. After a wet and miserable start to the morning, the day improved one hundred per cent as each hour passed and I have decided that ‘riveting’ Rutland takes a lot of beating.

I wandered down to Waderscrape hide in the drizzly rain. Roger had been on shift since 6am and Kirsty had just arrived. Kirsty has been sharing shifts with me this season and I have so enjoyed her company; she originates from South Africa, now resides in Australia but is doing some travelling, she’s off to Ecuador in November for a couple of months.. Sadly she’s only here for this season, her knowledge and passion for all the wildlife at Rutland Water has certainly been welcomed by all the visitors to the hide. Roger decided to stay on for a while after his shift ended at 9am as it was on the cards that one of the juveniles could fledge.

We chatted away merrily, watching the nest on the screen in the hide, with our binoculars and through the telescopes. Shortly before 9.30 Roger said that he’d wait another ten minutes and as I wondered over to the screen I began to say ‘A watched pot never….’. At that precise moment S1 took off and fledged, there had been no helicoptering to suggest that she was about to go. (S1 was thought to be a female at the ringing but it now appears she could be a he). She flew around for about two minutes, Maya was chaperoning to begin with but then an intruding Osprey appeared and she was off to chase it away. S1 landed back on the nest, no leg dangling but more of a skid. These moments are so rare that the excitement when it happens never wanes. Roger was delighted that he had stayed on and Kirsty was very excited. At 10.10 S1 took another short flight, less than a minute this time and landed once again back on the nest. She became braver later on and took several flights from the nest to join 33 on the T perch.

S1 and 33 on T-perch

S1 and 33 on T-perch

Whilst all of this was happening, we lost the screen in the hide (there have been problems lately) so we had to be extra vigilant, it has become so easy to rely on looking at the screen, invaluable this morning to check which one had flown. The morning became a little manic with Water Voles putting in appearances, munching away for minutes at a time before disappearing back into the reeds. At one time there were two of them together. Roger had spotted a Kingfisher early morning, so we were on the lookout for a sighting. Kirsty had counted over thirty Little Egrets in the bay and then she spotted a Great White Egret on the shore in Heron Bay.

Water Voles have been putting on a great show at Waderscrape hide recently (photo by Sue James)

Water Voles have been putting on a great show at Waderscrape hide recently (photo by Sue James)

Visitors were arriving in a steady trickle, all of whom were excited to hear about the fledging and were obviously keen to see the Water Voles, Kingfisher and Egrets. At one stage there were hundreds of Lapwings landing on the bund wall; yesterday Rutland Water Reserve posted a lovely photograph of a Lapwing taken by a visitor with the caption ‘A lovely shot of a Lapwing from visitor Colin. Increasing numbers on the reserve do, we’re afraid, mean we’re nearing autumn, with non and failed breeders moving in.’ Someone will be telling us how many shopping days to Christmas soon, oh dear, what happened to Summer?

One of the visitors to the hide showed a photograph of a male American Crayfish which he had spotted on his walk to the hide, not a welcome sight. Paul escorted a large group of rangers (volunteers) from Stanwick Lakes in Northamptonshire through the reserve and to Waderscrape and the hide was buzzing. Always with a watchful eye on the Ospreys, there was so much to see and so many people to talk to – riveting Rutland.

Apart from the fledging of S1, there were two extra special moments for me during the shift. Maya was quickly up in the sky to chase off two intruding Ospreys who we learned were the female from Site B and 30(10). If you have read my diary over the years you may recall that my shift partner, Don, and I were present in Manton Bay when 30(10) fledged and landed in the dead tree, staying there for seven hours. Was he giving me a flypast? I’d like to think so. Soon after that a very special visitor arrived, someone whom I haven’t seen this season and have missed, Don. The ‘Dynamic Duo’ were back together again – I nicknamed us the Dynamic Duo in my diary when 30(10) fledged and what a day for us all to see each other again. Holidays may indeed be magical, but as I’ve said before, it’s oh so nice to come home.

S1

Trouble at Mill

As Ken wrote in his diary yesterday, 03 and his mate are now incubating a second clutch of eggs at Site B. The peace and tranquility he described contrast greatly with the dramatic events that have taken place at the nest over the past few weeks. In her latest diary volunteer Lynda Berry recounts her recent shifts – at both Site B and Manton Bay – and the drama that she has witnessed…

Monday, 13th April
The euphoric bubble in which I had been floating since my shift at Horn Mill yesterday morning, was abruptly burst when Tim Mackrill phoned me. Once the pleasantries were over he asked me ‘Lynda, did you see 03 yesterday?’ I was stunned, ‘Tim, I’ve just posted my diary to be put on the website and it’s mainly about 03 at Horn Mill yesterday!’ Tim then asked ‘But did you see him?’ I started to stutter that I had seen him, but then it dawned on me that I had assumed it was 03 and I hadn’t identified him as such. ‘Tim, he had a very white front but my binoculars are not powerful to be able to see the BTO ring on his right leg, and I wasn’t really looking for it. He flew in from the direction of his nest, behaved in exactly the way we were told he would and flew off in the direction that he came. Why are you asking?’ Tim replied that 03 had not been seen since Saturday evening and had displayed some strange behaviour over that week. He also told me that 51(11) had been at Site B and has been nest scraping.

Tuesday, 14th April – Manton Bay
I set off along the path and came across a couple who were avidly peering through their scope across the fields, away from the water and I asked if they had seen anything interesting – it was a beautiful hare. Arriving at the hide, Frances and John informed me that 33(11) had brought a trout in during the morning and that everything appeared quite normal. There was a steady stream of visitors during the afternoon and they enjoyed seeing 33 bringing the small tail end of the trout to Maya which she finished off on the T perch. He brought several sticks to the nest, one of which appeared to be a bramble and roughly placed it on her back. She quickly removed it and placed it to the side of the nest. At one stage he flew quickly east toward Lyndon and I thought maybe he had gone to fish again, but he soon returned with yet another twig. Several volunteers visited during the afternoon, it’s far more than a job to us, I know that it almost consumes me each Summer and sometimes through the Winter too.

I didn’t notice the exact time, but Kayleigh telephoned me at some stage – 03 was back at Site B and suddenly all was well in the Rutland Osprey world again. I walked back to Lyndon with Paul and had a brief chat with Ken who had been at Site B that afternoon. We all hoped that things would settle down, although of course it would be a waiting game to learn whether the eggs were still viable.

Thursday, 16th April – Site B
My shift was at Site B from 08.00 until 12 noon and I had invited fellow volunteer, Chris Wood, to join me. I had merrily spent Wednesday assuming that all was well at Site B. I wonder who it was that said ‘the problem with making assumptions is that we believe they are the truth’. I had been wrong to assume once again, as upon arrival at the hide we were told that two Ospreys were seen disappearing into the distance at 5.50am and since then only the female had been present, incubating.

At 08.50 an Osprey appeared overhead calling loudly and displaying, his feet dangling. He circled over us and the nest in this manner for fifteen minutes, calling constantly, it was quite a spectacle. He then collected a stick and landed on the nest, it was 51(11). He appeared to be mantling with his back to the female and it was only later in the morning, in conversation with Tim, that I learned that this was part of the display.

51 proceeeded to collect plenty more sticks and almost every time he flew directly towards us and then turned, collecting his sticks from the gateway into the next field and circling back to the nest. He flew so close to us that we could almost read his ring number with the naked eye, it was breathtaking. Several times he attempted to mate with the female but she pecked sharply at him and forced him off the nest.

Tim phoned during the morning and we learned that 03 had been battling with 51 at Horn Mill Trout Farm shortly before 6am, continuing for several hours. Apparently 03 had returned to Site B twice the previous day, both times with a fish but 51 had chased him off. The female had not eaten since Tuesday. Tim thought that if 03 was ousted from the nest that he would perhaps stay around Horn Mill for the rest of the season and just fish for himself, having given up the battle.

IMG_1057---51(11) - 16 4 15

With that sad thought the shift ended and we walked back to my car. I could not believe that perhaps 03 had finally given up on his nest which he had occupied since 2001. Occasionally over the last few years I had imagined how 03’s reign at Site B would end, the most obvious one being that he just would not return one Spring. Never ever had I imagined that he could be ousted, but then of course, being the age that he is, this is the first time that this situation has arisen at Rutland.

Wednesday, 22nd April – Manton Bay
I arrived at Lyndon and chatted with Kayleigh; she had asked me a couple days ago if I would mind doing another induction, this time with a Trainee Reserve Officer from Egleton, Dale. I like to take a fairly leisurely walk down to Waderscrape Hide so after a while I set off without him. I was rewarded with the sight and sound of a Whitethroat on the wire and further down the track, a Linnet was perched in a tree.

As I was chatting with Roger, Dale arrived and introductions were made. He had been lucky enough to spot two Whitethroats on his walk to the hide. At 9am 33(11) flew off towards Lyndon and out of sight. I started to explain to Dale about the log and diary and our job in telling the visitors about the Ospreys. As I was showing him the hide he told me that he had helped lay the floor during the building of the hide in the Winter. We chatted away and he told me that whilst he was at university in Aberystwyth he would take the train from Dyfi Junction to Ynys-hir, past Cors Dyfi and see the Osprey nest there, where several of our female Ospreys seem to like residing. At 9.15 33 landed on the T perch with a small Roach (another part of induction for Dale, fish indentification). He pecked at it for a couple of minutes and then delivered it to Maya on the nest, who immediately took it to the T perch and 33 took over incubation. She had barely made a start on it when she was hassled by a crow and prompted dropped the fish. Obviously feeling disgruntled she chased a few ducks and landed back on the T perch and proceeded to preen.

Both Ospreys looking settled on the nest

Both Ospreys looking settled on the nest

We didn’t see any visitors for the first hour, one of the first was a lady who arrived without binoculars. As I showed her the Ospreys and their nest, explaining that she could use the two telescopes belonging to the project, she told me that she didn’t have much time. The previous night she had been visiting a friend in Wing, a village nearby, and was now on her way to visit more friends near Grimsby. However, she had been unable to ignore the chance of seeing the Rutland Ospreys. She recalled being on holiday in Sri Lanka with her husband six or seven years ago when they had hired a driver to show them the area. The driver had turned out to be an avid ornithologist and had stopped many times to point out various birds. She vividly remembered that he told them that he was saving up to visit Rutland Water – she was totally amazed that he was so singular in his choice of destination, not England or any other country, but Rutland Water specifically. As she left she hoped that he had made it and had been as lucky as she had this morning in seeing the Ospreys.

As the morning progressed more and more visitors arrived and Dale and I were busy. I had already asked him to take over the log and diary entries which becomes quite difficult when there are so many visitors, but he had it all in hand. At one stage I heard him and a visitor observing four House Martins flying low over the water and the vistor wondering if the one at the back was in fact a Sand Martin. Buzzards appear to be nesting in the poplars to the right of the nest and we saw one perched in the hawthorn hedge behind the hide. 33 didn’t seem to mind it sitting there but he does seem to be overly protective and we saw him divebombing a pair of Crested Grebes and the omnipresent Cormorants. At 12.08 33(11) flew out of sight and we hoped that he had gone fishing.

The morning had flown by and Peter and Di arrived to take over. At 13.25 we were walking along the track when Dale called out ‘Look!’ It was 33 flying along the shoreline with a large fish, on his way back to the bay. I was delighted to leave on a happy note but more importantly that Dale had spotted 33 with a fish; he had never seen an Osprey catch a fish and I suppose this was the next best thing.

Friday, 24th April – Site B
I left the car and with some trepidation started the walk to Site B. How different things were this year. I couldn’t believe that I had only seen 03(97) once this season and that was at Horn Mill and not at Site B. I had been told that things seem to have settled down at the nest and that 03 was ‘holding fort’ but things can change so rapidly. As I approached the final gate I stopped to observe – this is the place that Ken and I write about so often, a favourite spot to catch our first glimpse of the proceedings, and probably a favourite of all the volunteers who monitor the nest. I could see one on the nest and one on the T perch but could not identify from that distance. I got closer to the hide and was able to see that the female was standing on the nest and 03 was on the T perch eating a very large fish. It was logged in as a large Trout, brought in at 7.35am, however, I learned later in conversation with Jamie Weston from Horn Mill that 03 had visited the trout farm soon after 6am and after two aborted dives, had flown off towards another regular fishing place, Fort Henry. I did mention to Jamie that I thought it strange when watching both Ospreys feed on this fish, that they weren’t eating the skin and he seem to think that maybe 03 had caught a Carp.

03 raises his wings upon sight of 51

03 back at Site B

The female was constantly food-begging from the moment I arrived until 03 delivered the fish to her at 8.50 which she took to the T perch and 03 remained on the nest and then hopped on to the perch attached to the nest. I watched the pair, a myriad of thoughts passing through my head but which basically boiled down to two questions, would there be more eggs and would 03 hold on to his nest?

At 9.45 03 started chipping loudly and both birds looked over the hide. An Osprey appeared high up, circling over the nest. 03 hopped on to the nest, the female was still on the T perch, and both birds watched the intruder who was soon joined by a Buzzard and they both drifted off high and out of sight. At 9.58 03 joined the female on the T perch, who was still eating, and mating took place. He stayed for a few minutes and then returned to the nest perch. At 10.10 03 began chipping again, circled over the crop between the nest and the hide and returned to the nest. The female returned to the nest and once again they mated. 10.19 The female flew around and landed on the nest and they mated successfully once again. At 10.25 the female few South and out of sight. At 10.40 03 began chipping very loudly and frantically flapped his wings. An Osprey appeared directly over the hide and I quickly tried to capture it in the telescope but to no avail. He circled over the nest where 03 was still beating his wings and then he flew South. The female was still absent. At 10.47 03 flew South too, directly over the hide just like the intruder. A couple of minutes later 03 returned to the nest, chipping and once again the intruding Osprey circled over the hide and then flew South. I was convinced that it was 51(11) but that was pure speculation on my part. At 10.55 I was watching a Red Kite circling to the right of the nest and discovered that the female had returned to the nest to join 03. They watched the Red Kite which was then joined by three Buzzards. They all circled higher and dispersed, 03 and the female remained vigilant. Ten minutes later 03 flew South yet again, directly over the hide. Shortly before midday the female flew to the pruned Ash tree and 03 returned to the nest perch.

P1420640-0397-and-female-20-4-15

I chatted which Jenny, my replacement, for a few minutes explaining the morning’s events and then began the walk back to the car. I normally take a final look back to the nest at the first gate, but today I kept glancing back until the final gate just to make sure they were both still there, taking some comfort that for the time being they at least have their nest to share if not their eggs, but knowing that the ‘hostile takeover’ situation is not yet over.

Thursday, 30th April – Site B
I left the car and walked over the cattle grid into the first field. There had been no animals in the field this year since the Osprey season started and I had not needed to carry my stick, I did however consider taking it to 51(11)! As soon as I started walking I spied a couple of horses. I love horses and spend very little time with any these days, I miss their smell and the velvety feel of their muzzle. Years ago my husband bought me a 4 year old failed racehorse, I called her Holly, Holly Berry, well she was a Christmas present. I kept her for 27 years until her heart gave out, I think a little of mine gave out the day she died. To lose an old friend with whom you’ve had fun, excitement and pain is so very sad. We thought we’d lost an old friend a couple of weeks ago, 03(97).

Today though there are to be no sad thoughts as I heard the wonderful news yesterday from Tim that the pair are incubating again. So I set off with a spring in my step. It’s a sunny morning, a slight breeze and feeling cold. I reach that final gate and see one on the nest and one on the perch. 03 has fed on a trout which he brought in at 7am, but Janis tells me that the female seems disinterested in it and thinks she could possibly be about to lay another egg. It isn’t until 8.35am that Janis leaves, there is always so much to talk about and each conversation with a fellow volunteer is like another piece of a jigsaw puzzle illustrating the lives of the Rutland Ospreys.

The female began sitting low in the nest on Sunday afternoon

Shortly before 9am 03 is hassled by a Crow and delivers the fish to the female which she takes to the T perch and 03 settles down to incubate. At 9.10am I watch as she finishes off the fish and returns to incubation duties. 03 flies around briefly and returns to the nest perch to preen, but the two Crows from earlier start to dive bomb the nest and 03 shoos them away. At 9.40am there is another changeover and the female flies to the top of the pruned Ash, but within minutes a Crow actually forces her off the branch and she returns to the nest. She lets 03 know she wants to incubate and he stays on the nest with her, both of them dozing.

Things were certainly back to normal because as I glanced up from writing, I saw that 03 had disappeared, up to his old tricks, just as if he knew I wasn’t looking. Around 15 minutes later he came overhead and was seriously battling with what I presume were the same two Crows. I watched as he did a vertical elevation several feet into the air with his feet dangling, to take himself above the Crows and hopefully into a better position for attack. He eventually landed on the nest and one of the cheeky Crows landed on the nest perch only to be shooed away by 03. I had read back through the diary for the past week and it appeared these Crows had been making nuisances of themselves for days; they must have a nest nearby, possibly with young.

A Red Kite circled over the nest but the pair simply watched and a pair of Buzzards appeared in the tall tree behind the nest but there was no reaction from the Ospreys. 10.47 they changed over incubation duties and 03 flew to one of his favourite perches, a branch in the small Oak tree to the left of the nest. I love to see him sitting there and I smiled to myself that things were definitely back to normal but sadly it was short- lived as those pesky Crows forced him off and he returned to the nest. They swapped duties a couple more times but ‘ditto’, the Crows annoyed them and each time they returned to the nest.
As I finished my shift the female was incubating and 03 was on the nest perch. I walked away glancing at them until I reached the gate and I looked back at them one final time. I know the pair will cope with the Crows, although of course they will have to be vigilant with the eggs. I didn’t look back again, happy in the knowledge that, fingers crossed, all is well at Site B and they are back in routine. And finally I am going to step off this rollercoaster on which I seem to have been riding for weeks and get back into my own routine.

03(97) was settled at Site B until 51(11) returned

Lynda’s Diary – Be Still my Beating Heart

Tuesday, March 17th

My first shift of the season and the weather was good albeit a little chilly. Waderscrape had been totally rebuilt during the Winter and is spectacular. There are windows, (no more backs to the wall when the rain is driving in), padded benches and chairs, very comprehensive information posters and a huge monitor showing the livestream from the nest. On this first shift I was accompanied by a new volunteer, Paul, for induction, who also volunteers over at Egleton. I realised that this was my first shift ever without an Osprey being present in the bay and it seemed quite strange. In fact not a single one of our Ospreys had returned to Rutland yet. There were no visitors for the first hour but we quickly discovered that we were both avid season ticketholders for the Leicester Tigers so the conversation never stalled. Tim, Dave and Lloyd arrived during the afternoon to install the large screen. As I looked from the far end of the hide down to the screen I did remark to Tim that I might need a microphone, the hide is much bigger than the original. A few visitors arrived during the afternoon and although there were no Ospreys, they were still keen to see where the nest was and hear about who we were expecting to return. Then, to everyone’s delight, a Water Rail crossed the front of the left-hand channel. I hadn’t seen one for a couple of years and had wondered whether all the work on the new hide during the Winter had scared off the Water Voles and the Water Rails, which were heard last season, but not seen. 

I chatted briefly with Ken when I arrived back at Lyndon and the conversation was naturally about which Ospreys we expected to turn up soon and our mutual worries about 03(97). Worries that were totally unfounded when I arrived home and received the message that 03(97) had arrived back at Site B. I, like many, many other people, had thought of him often through the winter. I had hoped against hope that he had arrived safely at his wintering ground and could take the time to fully recover. And of course I also hoped against hope that he would return to Rutland. As this day had approached and I prepared my bag, cameras, notebook, notes from previous years and my dictaphone, I could not steel myself to listen to my recordings from last July when I had filled in as many shifts at Site B as I was allowed, to watch over 03(97) whilst he was so badly injured and I certainly couldn’t have written a diary about it. I’m pretty emotional about these birds under normal circumstances, but to see our most iconic Osprey suffering and unable to feed his family concerned me enormously.

03(97)

03(97)

 

Wednesday, 1st April

Tonight Tim Mackrill was meeting with Jamie Weston of Horn Mill Trout Farm and those volunteers who had offered to help in showing photographers to the hide and acting as lookout for 03(97) coming in to fish at the trout pond. As I lived so near I had jumped at the chance to help out. Jamie showed us around and told us exactly what we had to do and I volunteered for my first shift at 5.30am on Sunday, 12th April – what was I thinking?

 

Wednesday, 8th April

I arrived at the Lyndon Centre for my regular 9 – 1pm shift at Waderscrape, happy in the knowledge that Maya and 33(11) had both returned two days previously. I chatted with Kayleigh, who had the biggest smile on her face because the Manton Bay pair were back, and she told me about the high number of visitors on Easter Monday and Tuesday. I then walked down to the hide to take over from Roger, who informed me that there had been no fish brought in since he arrived at 6am. There was a steady flow of visitors all morning. One young lad had so many questions, he was like a shadow constantly at my side, but very polite and waiting whilst I talked with other visitors before throwing another question at me. I discovered from his mother that they were from Peterborough and I encouraged her to get her son’s school involved in our education programme as his school is definitely within range for a visit from our team and if his fellow pupils have half as much enthusiasm as him, then a visit would be very worthwhile.

Maya and 33(11) had been back for 2 days and the refurbishment of the nest was spectacular and they were also doing what was expected, mating. Tim Appleton, Reserve Manager, also visited the hide with a visitor. At one stage I heard him telling some of the visitors of that first summer that he had seen a pair of Ospreys in front of his cottage overlooking Rutland Water. Visitors love to hear the history of these birds and even more so when it’s from the horse’s mouth (sorry Tim – only a metaphor!). Throughout the morning there were several intruders – 28(10), a female and another Osprey and each time 33(11) took it upon himself to shepherd them away from Manton Bay. Maya and 33(11) both seriously chased some Egyptian Geese off who were merely swimming past the nest pole and a few minutes later 33(11) took to the sky again to chase off a Red Kite. There is hardly a shift goes by when I don’t see at least one Red Kite, but I have never seen an Osprey chase one off so vehemently – this male is in serious protective mode. At 12.50 I realised that since arriving at 8.45 I had not stopped to have a cup of tea, there had been so many visitors. Peter and Di arrived promptly and took over and I slowly walked back to Lyndon. Having been ill for several weeks, I was feeling pretty tired and my voice was giving up the ghost. Arriving at Lyndon, Tim Mackrill was in the office and I told him about the morning, and left with a parting shot that I now needed a pair of rollerskates as well as a microphone as the hide is so much bigger than the old one. I learned later that 33(11) had brought a fish in during the afternoon.

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33(11) bringing in another stick

 

Sunday, 12th April

On Saturday I took a call from Jamie Weston to confirm my shift at Horn Mill on the following morning, well more like the middle of the night to me – Sundays normally find me in bed with a cup of tea and the newspapers.The alarm rang out at 4.50 and at 5.25 I crept out of the house leaving my husband and both cats slumbering peacefully. It was still dark as I drove out of the village and then I as neared the open countryside it dawned on me that I had forgotten my binoculars, the most crucial piece of equipment needed as lookout for 03(97) flying in to fish. I sped back to the house and retrieved them. When I arrived at Horn Mill at 5.35am there were already a couple of cars parked on the verge; one young man had driven from Folkestone and the two gentlemen in the other car had travelled from Oxford. I quickly went through the procedure and took their payment – I was so nervous my hand was shaking as I wrote the receipts; Jamie had told me that 03 had flown in at 6.13 the previous day, but the sun was already up now, a sunny, calm morning, and I began to panic; what if he came in early and actually flew over us as I was taking them down to the hide. I installed them in the hide and told them I would radio when I saw 03(97) come over to roost. I was back at my car at 5.50. I opened the windows but then decided against that as I still had a cough and thought I might spook him. At precisely 6am I saw a bird winging its way towards the pond and my panic heightened – is it a Kite, is it an Osprey, eureka, it was an Osprey and as if he’d learned the script, he landed in the Willow tree over the pond. Just as he alighted on a branch I radioed down to the hide, ‘Hello, he’s just flown in and is landing in the Willow tree’. I prayed that the radios were working. I twisted in my seat and stared at 03 through my binoculars, I stared for 25 minutes. And as I stared hard at him I thought I heard someone walking past the car until I realised that it was my heart pounding! At some stage my phone vibrated but I dare not take my eyes off 03. He started weaving his head left and right, eyeing up a fish and then swiftly swooped down to the pond but did not hit the water and he returned immediately to the Willow. Less than 2 minutes later, the same thing, but this time he hit the water coming up with a trout. He must have entered the water no more than 12/15 feet from the hide and I wondered later that morning whether they had actually been splashed. He rose up from the pond and with such grace, flew over the hill and back to Site B with breakfast. Whew, I was a nervous wreck. I glanced at the message on my phone, it was from Jamie who at 6.10 had messaged ‘He’s in the tree isn’t he?’ I messaged back that he had arrived at 6, attempted a dive at 6.25 and then caught one 2 minutes later. Just as I pushed ‘send’ Jamie appeared from his bungalow. I left the car and we stood chatting about what had happened, much like me, Jamie never tires of seeing Ospreys. We hoped that the photographers had got what they came for. 03(97) has caught a fish at Horn Mill every day since his return on March 17th , and has been fishing there for many years. Jamie had also told us at our preliminary meeting that it was trout from Horn Mill that had been used to feed the original translocated Ospreys and that included 03(97). It is wonderful to see conservation working hand in hand with local enterprise. I drove home absolutely euphoric, what a way to start a day. I was certainly ready for a cup of tea if only to calm my beating heart.

q

03(97) at Horn Mill Trout Farm

 

 

Join me at Site B . . .

Monday, May 12th, 09.00 – 13.00
I was supposed to be at Site B today, but was called in to man the Waderscrape Hide instead.
It was a cool day with a slight breeze and patches of blue amongst the clouds. As I arrived at the hide an unidentified Osprey flew off towards Egleton and for almost half an hour there were no Ospreys to be seen in the bay. Just before 9.30 33(11) and Maya both flew in together from the south, landed on the nest and 33 then flew to the near perch. At 9.45 he flew west, past the Lyndon Centre. Only twenty minutes later I caught sight of him flying low over the water with an enormous large and lively roach which he took first to the fallen poplar, and then still struggling with it, to the fallen tree to the left of the nest and Maya began food begging. He was still on the fallen tree fifty minutes later, being constantly hassled by magpies, jackdaws and a very large raven and although he had been eating it for well over half an hour, it still looked enormous. He was so engrossed that he was oblivious to the large hare which ran behind him on the far shore. All around the hide there were goldfinches, tufted ducks, gadwalls, Egyptian geese, cormorants, swifts, crested grebes, reed buntings, sedge warblers, etc. At 11am 33 delivered a large piece of fish to Maya who took it to the near perch to eat. 33 was flying between perches and the nest. Almost an hour later Maya finished eating and surprisingly left the large tail of the fish on the perch. She flew low over the water, skimming her feet to wash them and then landed on the nest and they mated successfully. 33 flew to the near perch and seemed to look strangely at the piece of fish at the other end. They both settled on the fallen poplar, completely disinterested in the fish and obviously sated, but as soon as a crow flew towards the fish, they both flew very swiftly together to see it off, but then left the fish on the perch again and returned to the poplar. Whilst it is very sad that they have not bred this year and therefore there are no youngsters to see on the webcam, from Waderscrape and Shallow Water hides there is a lot of action to be seen between the pair, who seem extremely comfortable together. It bodes well for next year.

Monday, May 19th , Site B 12.00 – 16.00
It was a beautifully warm and sunny day but with a very keen breeze. I saw that all the horses and cattle were under the trees to the right as I started the walk to the hide, but as I approached, the bullocks began to stir, some walking in front of me across the track and once again I had to walk through the middle of them.

As I reached the final gate I could see a white head on the nest and 03 on the pruned ash. Once I’d arrived at the hide I could see through the telescope that the female was feeding the chicks. For three or four minutes she leaned down to two different places with small morsels of fish, confirming that there were at least two chicks.

12.38 03 and the female are watching a buzzard flying around behind the nest.
12.40 03 to nest and takes a smallish piece of fish to T perch. Female takes a short comfort flight and returns to the nest and tidies.
12.45 Having fed for 5 mins, 03 returns to the nest with the fish and feeds himself and the female and both parents feed the chicks.
12.59 03 flies to the top of the pruned ash.
13.20 Female flies around and returns to the nest with a small twig. 03 is on the top of the pruned ash, dozing in the strong breeze.
13.39 03 flies to the the far righthand trees and lands high in one of them.
13.43 He makes 3 or 4 attempts to grasp a twig at the far righthand end and then returns to the nest. The female is standing.
13.44 The female flies right and left of the nest, really enjoying playing in the wind which is very strong now. She does this for five minutes and returns to the nest.
13.52 03 flies swiftly SW.

At 14.05 03 returned to the nest, I didn’t see him arrive as I was watching a song thrush on a fence post at the edge of the rape field, but I was aware that he had landed on the nest. He immediately circled to the right of the nest and swooped down, out of sight between the nest tree and pruned ash. He flew up and once again circled and swooped down low to the same area. To my complete amazement he came up clutching a pike and took it to the T perch. I was really taken back as I had never seen an Osprey retrieve a dropped fish and when I mentioned it later to Kayleigh, she too had never seen such behaviour.

14.11 03 lands on the nest with the fish which certainly has a tail and stripes like a pike but the female doesn’t get up and he just stands there.
14.13 03 flies with the fish to the back of the far lefthand ash and it is really difficult to see him, but I can see the tail of the fish and it certainly looks like a pike.
14.31 03 takes the fish to the nest and they wait.
14.36 The female starts feeding the chicks.
14.40 03 flies to the top of the pruned ash to doze again.
14.51 Female stops feeding.

There is an almost constant presence of buzzards and red kites at Site B this year, far more so than other years. One buzzard flew from left to right behind the nest, it too enjoying playing in the wind. 03 eventually awoke and noticed it and kept a watchful eye. At 15.30 as I was watching this scene, a field mouse shot out from a hole in front of the hide, looked at me and shot back in again. In the very moment that it happened 03 disappeared from the pruned ash and I could not find him anywhere. I really hate finishing a shift with a question mark hanging in the air – it would not have been so bad had I seen him fly away, it’s the ‘not knowing’ that I dislike. At 15.50 03 returned and I walked back to the car in the knowledge that they were all safe and at home.

Wednesday, May 28th, Site B 08.00 – 12.00
The weather was once again atrocious, pouring with rain, quite cold with a very strong north easterly wind. The bullocks presented the normal problem but I coped. The sheep have moved to pastures new, as too have the mares and foals and there are now three different mares. A male pheasant and two hens conspired to frighten the life out of me by flying up in the air as I threaded my way through the long grass, but I had spotted them from afar so was not quite so startled. From a tiny gap in the windows of the hide, a hand appeared and waved. Janis had battened down the hatches and one window was open the width of the telescope. We had a good chat about Africa – Janis visited for the first time this year with the project team – and I wanted to hear how she had fared. She made me laugh when telling me that Chris Wood, a fellow volunteer who visited The Gambia in December 2013 and discovered 5F(12) on Tanji Marsh, had left a message in the sand for when the team arrived in January, it read “5F ?”. I told her about my last shift when 03 had retrieved the pike from the ground and she reminded me that Monty at the Cors Dyfi nest had done the same thing last year. We discussed the fact that 03 had possibly dropped it because it was a pike. So although not a first, it was certainly a rare occurrence. She told me that she hadn’t seen 03 for a while that morning, hardly surprising in the conditions, but at 08.15 just as she was about to leave, I spotted him coming in from the south, over the hide. I swiftly moved to the telescope but then good manners took over and I let Janis take a look first as she had been there for a couple of hours in the wet and cold. She couldn’t see him, so I stepped out of the hide and there he was, circling in front of the hide as if to say to us “Here I am, I’ve caught a fish!” It was a large roach which he took to the nest and although the female stood up, she didn’t feed at all. She moved a twig around, left the fish and covered the chicks. At about 08.30 03 came to the nest and started eating the fish and then took it to the T perch and and carried on eating.

The female looked so wet and bedraggled and I felt so sorry for her, as the forecast was for the wet weather to continue until lunchtime the next day.

9.15 03 has just finished eating and is hanging on to the fish but is having a bit of a doze on the T perch. The female is resting too, she looks so bedraggled and I keep having to dry the lenses – the wind is quite ferocious at times and it’s just constant fine rain blowing in waves in front of me.
09.30 03 still on the T perch with the fish and dozing. The female has half lifted and amazingly enough, a little white squirt came from one of the chicks. Incredible how they know to do that at such an early stage.
09.40 03 starts eating again. I don’t know whether the chicks are a little bit restless, having been covered up for so long because of this relentless rain that went on all through the night as well, but I think they are wriggling around and I think she’s having to wriggle with them to keep them covered. She is constantly shaking the water off her head, she must be absolutely soaked, but she’s doing a good job.
10.05 It’s torrential rain now with strong gusts of wind. 03 is still on the T perch with his fish and the female, is still on the nest, wriggling and very, very wet.
The weather is actually getting worse by the minute. The trees are swirling around and the rain is just pelting down. I can barely see the top of the female’s head; she must be struggling to keep the chicks dry now, as the water must be seeping down into the nest cup. If 03 didn’t move his head every now and then, I could believe that he was a stuffed toy Osprey or even one of those polystyrene ones that Roy Dennis experimented with down in the south of England.
10.25 03 still on T perch with the fish. Torrential rain now and very blustery. Can’t really see the female. Chicks finished their last feed at 06.55 but the rain is too heavy for them to be fed at the moment.
10.42 Still raining but 03 finally delivers the fish to the nest. The female stands up and stretches and starts feeding the two chicks – one is so much bigger than the other. In the conditions I was struggling to count the chicks, there were definitely two, but a I peered down the telescope so much so that it felt as if my eyeball was being extruded, as much as my heart said three, my head said two.
10.52 Feeding stops. She stretched her wings right out and the wind is so strong that it almost takes her off the nest. She moves round to the back of the nest and is furniture arranging, picking bits out and moving twigs. 03 didn’t stay on the nest very long, just flew straight to the pruned ash . He’s perched there, his white chest glaring at me after the gloom of the rain, looking very regal. She’s still fiddling around. If there are three chicks in the nest, then she has a job on to keep them warm and dry in this weather – it really is horrendous and I hope it clears soon for all their sakes. Female sorts the nest out and covers the chicks.

The rain and wind continued and I left the Site B family to the elements.

Wednesday, June 4th, Manton Bay 09.00 – 13.00
I spent a very busy shift in Waderscrape Hide, first a visit from Edith Weston School, which is in the next village to the Lyndon Centre. Most of the children from years 1 and 2 had never used a telescope before but were very attentive and careful in learning and were extremely excited to see Maya and 33(11) on various perches. They were very eager to learn about them and they were all extremely polite.

Soon after they left the hide, Tim and Kayleigh arrived with a group of adults on a ‘Nature Walk’. I had had several sightings of water voles during the morning, but they were quite elusive whilst the group was in the hide. Maya and 33(11) were both present for most of the morning, collecting twigs, chasing a gull, 33(11) diving down as if to fish but pulling out at the last minute. As my shift finished, 33 flew south and out of sight.

Thursday, June 5th, Site B 12.00 – 16.00
It was a cool day and again very windy, a westerly which had dried the grass out. The cattle and horses were well to the left as I walked along the track. As I moved on through the second field a cuckoo flew in front of me and then a red kite appeared. It circled just in front of me and was so low that I didn’t need my binoculars to look it in the eye. I was feeling in a frivolous mood, so many good things happening in my personal life compared to my annus horibilis of 2013 and I started to think silly thoughts. It had often occurred to me that Site B was a similar place to one written about in some of my favourite childhood books, Enid Blyton’s ‘The Enchanted Wood’ and ‘The Folk of the Faraway Tree’. I was thinking about Moonface and the cookies which in a matter of seconds turned from icy cold to scalding hot. The Osprey Nest was the top of the tree and the hide was Jo and her friends’ house.

As I arrived at the hide, 03 was eating a fish on the T perch but then immediately delivered it to the nest where the female started to feed one of the chicks, the larger one of the two.

At 12.14 03 flew to the pruned ash and immediately flew up to see off a large bird, which I didn’t identify. He chased it off and came back to the pruned ash. A very low flying aircraft, came straight over the nest and just to the left of the hide at a ‘rakish’ angle, I could almost see the pilot’s face. I should have known better than to let my mind wander and think about childish things, because just like a child, I started to get spooked. Firstly, the female Osprey appeared to look straight over my head, just like one of my cats does when I’m home alone at night, and made me think that there was someone behind me. Twigs and bits of wood were falling on the roof of the hide making me jump and the wind was rushing through the wood behind the hide. I’ve been scared enough at Site B on night duty with muntjac deer barking and owls hooting in the middle of the night, etc., but even in the broad daylight today I was beginning to get goosebumps.

I mistook a buzzard for an osprey; it had primaries missing from its right wing which made me think that it could be 30(10) but then when I got my binoculars to it, its tail looked as if the cat had got it, very weathered and worn, and as he came closer and flew over the hide, I realised that it was a buzzard and not an osprey, it looked in very poor condition.

12.40 She finishes feeding the chicks and she’s fed well herself. She starts moving one or two twigs around the nest, cleaning her beak, tidying up. 03 is still on the top of the pruned ash, looking all around and facing into the keen westerly wind.
12.42 Female leaves the nest, 03 stays on the pruned ash. She’s having a stretch and once again playing in the wind, gliding along and out of sight to the left of the hide. Nothing to be seen on the nest, 03 still on the pruned ash. Instantly she reappears, flies quite low over the rape field and lands on the nest with a twig, moving that around. Two heads appear, watching what she is doing with the twigs, one chick is much larger than the other, but still only two seen.

At 12.47 precisely I heard a ‘chip’ and the female flew off again, maybe she was alerting 03 to the fact that she was off the nest. She flew over the trees well to the left of the hide, slowly, just a little flap, feeling the wind beneath her wings. She flew down low over the rape field. There were two buzzards in sight, one quite close and one in the distance, circling over the area of trees where the female had now dropped behind. I had lost sight of her. Back at the nest one little head was bobbing up and down and doing the swaying of head, from left to right. He was certainly not doing what he should have been doing at this stage, and lying low in the nest.

12.55 There is an osprey high above the nest. I have a feeling that it’s not her though. 03 is looking a bit anxious and about to leave his perch. The sky is darkening. This osprey is soaring very high above the righthand trees, but I’m convinced it’s not her. There is also a buzzard around the nest. It’s actually quite confusing at the moment.
13.00 03 flies to the nest perch and looks all around. The female is still not back.
13.03 03 on the nest now, looking at the chicks and looking around.
13.10 03 leaves the nest and is flying over the trees right of the nest and then back to the T perch.
13.35 03 flies right of the nest, north east. He circles and climbs higher and higher and I’ve lost sight of him.

So there were two chicks in the nest, me in the hide, no parents and there was a red kite circling around. I started to panic a little and telephoned Kayleigh and although I realised that there was absolutely nothing that anyone could do, I felt the need for someone else to know. There was a little thought going round and round in my head ‘Please don’t let anything terrible happen on my shift’. We decided that I should telephone Tim and just as I was finishing the call with Kayleigh, the female returned.

13.47 Exactly an hour after she disappeared, she flies in from the right, to the nest. Panic over. Chicks have been quite lively, one standing up and stretching its wings and showing its body. The female has obviously had a bath.
13.58 Red kite, buzzard and a crow all having a bit of a spat in the sky to the right of the nest. Thank goodness one of the parents is back on the nest.
15.40 03 still absent, female has remained on the nest.

Wednesday, June 11th Site B 08.00 – 12.00
As I set out from the car it was really sunny and warm. The cattle were to the left of the track, some lying down and some standing and (hoorah!) none of them stirred. As I came towards the first gate, I saw two Egyptian geese, which was only the second time that I’ve seen them along this walk and I presume the same pair. I don’t know where the secret nest is and goodness only knows I’ve looked hard. It occurred to me then that many people walk this same walk year after year and we all see and hear things differently and at different moments in time. I know Ken mentioned a few weeks ago in his diary that it was the first time that he’d seen 03 feeding the female and the chicks and yet I saw it several times last year, as did others when I read the notes. We all have a unique experience when we visit and I began to wonder what on earth would befall me today, all I know is that I am very privileged to visit Site B.

When I reached the hide the female was on the nest and 03 on the T perch. The two chicks were visible, they had really grown in just one week. Once I was settled in the hide, I anxiously read back in the notes to find out when 03 had returned to the nest after my last shift – the female was missing for exactly an hour, but there were twelve vital minutes when the two chicks were left alone. I was stunned to see that 03, having flown north east at 13.35, did not return to the site until 19.20, with a large trout. It was a very windy day and fishing must have been extremely difficult.

At 08.20 the female flew south, to the right of the hide and I prayed that she would be back soon. Sure enough two or three minutes later she brought a large stick to the nest. At 08.36 03 flew from the T perch, collected a twig and returned to the nest. Whilst he was arranging it one of the chicks was pecking at his tail ! He stayed on the nest and some twenty minutes later the female started alarm calling very loudly. There was a very menacing red kite circling over the nest, a cream coloured bird looking very smart and clean. It circled for two or three minutes and then another red kite appeared and they circled together, playing or sparring, and drifted off to the north east.

08.55 03 flies away from the nest, swiftly south, quite close to the hide.
08.58 03 returns to the nest with a very tiny twig and then starts eating what must be the remains of a fish that was already on the nest. He is now feeding one of the chicks, the female is at the back of the nest and the other chick is just to the left. He is feeding the chick such tiny pieces, much smaller than when the female feeds them. The other chick is standing up now and really stretching his wings, and probably thinking he wants some fish too. It has now moved across the middle of the nest, between 03 and the female and come to the other side of 03. Will he feed that one as well?
09.05 Female flies off and collects a twig and returns. 03 is still feeding the first chick, the other one can’t get a look in and has returned to the other side of the nest. Another red kite, much darker in colour, is over the nest and both parents peer up at it. Whilst 03 is pulling at a bit of fish skin, the chick stoops down and starts feeding itself.

A bird flew in front of the hide, left to right, a few minutes ago. Initially I didn’t recognise it. It has now flown back and 03 actually started alarm calling. It was a hobby.
09.20 Female leaves nest to see off a red kite. 03 looks round to watch her , red kite drifts left and she has dropped down behind the trees and he’s now resumed feeding and started feeding other chick now. Female flying around trees at right of nest, looking to gather another stick
09.32 03 is intent on sorting the fish out, the skin and bones, etc and then turns back to feed the chick, but it has now sunk down in the nest. 03 eats the piece and then turns to feed the chick again, which is still lying down, he keeps doing it, offering food but there is no head up to take it.
09.35 Female is also eating, so there must be two pieces of fish on the nest and now the second chick has lifted up and is being fed by both parents. The first chick lifts up and 03 starts feeding that one whilst the female is feeding the second chick. Now the first chick has ducked down and the second chick is being fed by 03 and the female – getting very complicated.
Buzzard ever present at the left hand end of the wood, just seen one dropping down into the wood with food in its mouth
09.45 03 finishes eating and feeding the chicks, cleans his beak on a twig and flies away from the nest and returns to the lower nest perch. Red kite circling again and the female is now cleaning her beak and there is no sign of the chicks.
09.52 One chick is looking over the rim of the nest. The female sets about cleaning herself up and tidying the nest and 03 meanwhile is resting on the lower nest perch.
09.55 Female takes a brief flight and returns.
10.00 She flies south.
10.10 Both chicks are at the edge of the nest, looking out – female is still away and 03 is directly under them.
10.25 Female still absent, 03 still on lower nest perch . Intruding osprey with scruffy primaries on both wings, flies in from the south and circles over the nest. 03 chips loudly to the chicks several times and the osprey drifts back south. You think the chicks are down but when you actually examine the nest you can see their little heads to the left hand side, among the twigs, quite camouflaged but not as hunkered down as they should be when 03 tells them.
10.30 Just as if 03 has heard me thinking that they were misbehaving, he flies up and circles over the nest and lands on the very top of the pruned ash.
10.35 Two red kites and a buzzard over the nest.03 still on the pruned ash. Kites circling around over the nest.
10.37 03 to top nest perch , female still away.
10.41 Same intruding osprey returns from the south and circles over the nest. 03 is chipping loudly, he’s still on the top nest perch and then the intruder flies off north east and sinks down in the distance.
10.48 female returns to the nest after 48 mins and starts preening.
10.51 03 chips loudly and flies south out of site. There are two intruding ospreys far left of the nest, but some distance apart.
11.35 Female flies slowly west and out of sight. Chicks home alone.
11.37 Female circles over the nest and lands.
11.48 Female is on the nest and looking quite anxious, looking all around.
11.55 03 flies in with a very small fish.

A little before 12.00, the end of my shift, I was leaning on a post and a little field mouse crossed straight in front of me and disappeared into the nettles. Earlier I had taken some photos of common blue damsel flies. There were so many of them over these high nettles, and some were settling on the grass around my feet. I was completely mesmerised by them but did actually remember to switch to ‘macro’ lens and was very pleased with the results. Maybe the hobby was enjoying the damsel flies too ! A chequered skipper landed fleetingly on the grass but I was not quick enough to capture that.

I walked back to the car, happy in the thought that all were ‘present and correct’ as I left Site B, and so too were the bullocks.

A tale of two sites …

A few years ago at our volunteers end of season party, the project team produced and directed a DVD for us to watch, ‘Ospreyenders’. It was hilarious and brought a smile to my face when I thought about it through the dark winter months. I think over the past few weeks at Manton Bay we’ve seen a whole box set of ‘Ospreyenders’ and whilst not wishing to trivialise the situation, it would rival any soap opera on TV. Over the years, watching and observing the Rutland Ospreys, there have been moments of great happiness, huge sadness, tremendous excitement and some funny ones along the way too. I really don’t think my dictionary has enough words to describe the events that have taken place at Manton Bay over the past couple of weeks.
26th March, Manton Bay
This was my first shift of the season at Manton Bay. It was very cold with an easterly wind blowing and, like the Manton Bay female, I was on my own. My co-volunteer, Don, is still having chemotherapy. As Don and I parted company last August, he was starting treatment for cancer and I worried about him. We kept in touch through the winter by email and he told me that he didn’t think he would be able to volunteer this season. I knew that I would miss him, as not only have we become good friends, he has a wealth of knowledge about the project, having been involved since it began in 1997 and regales the visitors with the most wonderful stories and I learn about the early days that I so wish I had been involved in too. I had been in the hide for about an hour when someone started to slide the door. I was expecting Tim to appear as the battery for the iPad was flat. As I turned, there stood Don, he’d come to say ‘hello’. What a lovely surprise it was and to see him looking so well too. Osprey action took over then as the female took to the air to see off another Osprey. A few minutes later Tim turned up and informed us that the intruder was 25(10), the female who bred at Site C last year. She too must have been feeling lonely like the female in this bay. Sadly 5R(04) didn’t turn up and the female continued waiting for him.
During last winter the team and volunteers cleared the channels in front of Waderscrape hide and that morning I saw Water Voles gliding across the channels. One of my challenges of this season is to photograph one, that morning I wasn’t even getting my binoculars to my eyes before they had disappeared. There were lots of Tufted Ducks, Goldeneyes, Shelducks, Canada Geese, Jackdaws, Cormorants, the odd Reed Bunting and more. I had a steady stream of visitors which kept me busy and I can honestly say that it was lovely to be back. It was cold, but this time last year those channels were iced over, so I shouldn’t complain.
9th April, Manton Bay
I wrote this on the Rutland Osprey Project facebook page on the day of my shift when emotions were running high about the non-return of 5R and the ‘new kid on the block’, 28(10), had taken over.
“Sometimes you need to step back and see ‘the bigger picture’. I was on duty at Waderscrape this morning when the team realised that an egg had been laid, surprisingly early, so early in fact that it probably took the mature female, Maya, by surprise let alone 28(10), who let’s face it, only turned up on Sunday to mate with her. I say ‘step back’ because this young male has come in for a fair bit of criticism today for his lack of maturity in incubating that first egg. What you didn’t see from the webcam was him arrive at the nest just after 11am, think about taking over incubation, but then fly off – he was chasing off two buzzards, quite a tussle with one of them which took them high in the sky towards Lyndon Centre. If I had been watching the webcam I would probably have thought that he had just chickened out of incubation, but he was doing exactly what is expected of him at this stage, seeing off predators and protecting that egg. Later in the morning (can’t give you the exact time as the hide was full of visitors) he flew high over Manton Bay towards the bridge and at the second attempt caught a large ‘fish’, which as a volunteer I am supposed to identify. Visitors in the hide tried to help, but we just knew it was big and it could have been a perch or ….? And visitors in Shallow Water Hide must have had the most amazing view of him catching that fish. He proceeded to eat it on the ‘wonky’ perch in front of Shallow Water and I know that after my shift had ended, he delivered a fair portion to Maya. Maybe he has a bit to learn, but to my mind seeing off intruders and providing food is a good start.”
As I entered the centre before the start of my shift, Tim was on the phone but pointed at the screen. My heart leapt as I thought that maybe 5R had returned, but Tim was in fact pointing to the first egg. As I drove down the track two Red-legged Partridges were trying to outrun the car before scurrying into the hedge. As soon as I reached the hide I caught up with the events of early morning. Once on my own there was a cacophony of noise from a few Oystercatchers flying past. Jackdaws were busy building a nest in the bottom of the dead tree, the Cormorants and Mallards were basking in the sun, the Dexter cattle on the far shore were snoozing, a pair of Gadwall appeared down one of the channels and a pair of Tufted Ducks down another channel and the Water Voles didn’t appear, they’d probably heard that the paparazzi were ready to snap them.
As I checked the webcam in the evening for the final time that day, Maya looked to be nodding and I knew that 28(10) would be roosting nearby. I had very mixed emotions at Waderscrape today. Having watched over 08(97) and 5N(04) a few years ago, and then 5R(04) and Maya, I thought about what a magnificent provider 5R(04) had been. How quick we are to accept new partners for these birds in our excitement of a new season, but let’s not forget the ones who don’t make it back, or don’t even make it to their wintering site.
10th April, Site B
This was a special day for me as it was my first shift at Site B. Once the festive period of Christmas and New Year is over, my mind turns towards the oncoming Osprey season. I very often drive within the vicinity of Site B and every year without fail, I begin to worry about the fact that 03(97) might not return. This worry increases with each passing week until it is announced to the whole world that Mr Rutland is back. He did it again this year, first of our Ospreys to return. I never once thought that 5R would not return, I think I took it for granted that he would return year after year, just as 03 has done, and entertain the world.
Upon leaving the car, I walked along the track through the field, where a few ewes and lambs could be seen. I looked towards the nest as I approached the final field and could only see the head of an Osprey who was obviously incubating on the nest. When I reached the hide I was told that 03 had been missing for 35 minutes, since 11.25am. Half an hour later he flew back to the nest and changed over incubation duties with the female, who flew to the left-hand Ash. At about 1pm a couple of Red Kites circled over the nest prompting the female to leave the Ash tree and return to the nest. 03 did not rise though, he is always loath to give up incubation duties. A few minutes later she nudged him and he reluctantly flew to the Ash tree and then to the pruned Ash. A while later a Red Kite appeared over the nest again and the female stood up and 03 flew to the nest. He fleetingly returned to the nest a while later and then flew swiftly away to the south east.
Fifty five minutes later, sitting in the hide, I heard a couple of ‘chips’ behind me, the female looked up over my head and 03 flew to the T perch with an enormous trout that was putting up a good fight to stay alive. 03 perched with the trout dangling from his talons. It seemed almost as if he was catching his breath after flying the distance back to the nest. The trout continued to struggle vigorously and 03 eventually managed to transfer it to his right talons. As the trout hung below the perch I could see that it was as long as 03 was high and I have never seen him struggle so much. One hour later, as my shift ended, he was still tucking into his fish. (I was to learn later from Tim that the pair were still feeding on it the following morning). As I reached the first gate I glanced back at the nest for the first time this season, but certainly not the last, and watched 03 feeding and the female patiently waiting for her turn. 03 and his female are a textbook pair of Ospreys.
16th April, Site B
I left the car and started the trek to Site B. Nursing a cold and having spent far too long the previous day watching both the Manton Bay webcam and also the Dyfi one and hearing about the battles being played out at both sites, I didn’t have my mind on the job ahead. I soon realised that the first field did not just contain sheep that morning; there was a herd of bullocks too. Fortunately they did not spot me and I quickened my step through the first gate. As I took over the shift I was told that there had been a Pied Crow around the hide area. I waited patiently and sure enough it appeared. As it walked in front of the hide the only white parts showing were the edges of the primaries. It paraded in front of me for the whole morning and when it took off, the top side of the primaries and secondaries were completely white. It did interact with five or six crows but was mainly alone. I queried this bird with Tim a few days later who thought that it was probably part albino as Pied Crows are mainly found in Africa. It kept my interest through a very peaceful shift. There were Red Kites and Buzzards around for most of the morning and I thought that they were probably the same few who kept reappearing. The Osprey pair will need to be vigilant this year as I have not seen such a presence in the past. This textbook pair will cope.
I live so close to Rutland Water that it is not just volunteering that takes me there. The events in Manton Bay were worrying me, so on Good Friday, on the way to do my shopping in Uppingham, I called in to the Lyndon Centre. 28(10) had been missing for more than a day. The news wasn’t that great really. 28(10) had not been seen and the female had not eaten. The team were concerned about his capabilities as a provider and sadly, were also wondering about the viability of the eggs, as they had been left many times. The following day, Easter Saturday, and still worrying about both 28(10) and Maya, we found ourselves at Lyndon again. 28(10) had been spotted on the ‘wonky’ perch at the far end of the bay at 6am but he seemed not to dare to venture to the nest. Maya had been chasing 33(11) off, but as she spent more and more time off the eggs, it was thought that it was the beginning of bonding between them, but she was also still defending her eggs. We have never seen an Osprey ousted from its nest here in Rutland. We could not even bring ourselves to go to Waderscrape, however from Tufted Duck Hide we saw her having a spat with a Red Kite before returning to the bay. Driving over Manton bridge, on our way home, we saw an Osprey contending with a Red Kite and it would almost certainly have been Maya. She has been defending non-stop and Tim told us that she had not eaten for three days. When I looked at the webcam the next morning, 28(10) was back on the nest but looked cowed.
23rd April, Manton Bay
I drove down the hill to the centre. It was sunny and calm. When I arrived at the hide, 28 was sunning himself on the perch. It was as if nothing untoward had happened. I wished that it hadn’t. There were plenty of visitors who were obviously interested in the shenanigans of the Ospreys, but who were also delighted to see the Water Voles. One young boy spotted one on the mud to the right of the hide. It kept scuttling back into a hole and then venturing out again. I haven’t achieved my challenge yet but have several photos of a Water Vole hole. It was lovely to see Maya take a bath and relax a little and also to see 28(10) take over incubation which he had finally learned how to do.
24th April, Site B
It was not just at Manton Bay that things were getting back to normal but also on the approach to Site B too. As I started the walk to the hide, there were the sheep and the bullocks and today, just as in other years, there were also two mares, one with a very small foal which automatically brought a smile to my face.
During the afternoon there was an almost constant presence of Red Kites and Buzzards. An Osprey circled over the nest too and prompted 03 to leave his favourite perch in the small Oak. I called Lyndon to warn them that 03 had seen it off in the direction of Manton Bay. From the description that I gave them (makes him sound like a criminal), it was initially thought that it could be 33(11) but I later learned that it was in fact 30(10)who fledged from Manton Bay. Sure enough he did turn up in the bay but didn’t cause any trouble. It was a beautiful warm and sunny afternoon and whilst I don’t mistake a gull for an Osprey very often these days, I almost mistook 03 for a Buzzard. He circled over the rape and his white ‘undercarriage’ took on a yellow appearance from the rape and for a split second it fooled me.
30th April, Site B
I was slightly late leaving home and about 100 yards out of the village, I realised that it was misty and wondered whether the nest would be visible. I parked and hastily set off into the first field. The herd of bullocks started to approach and seemed particularly lively. They certainly took some shaking off. As I walked further along through the field I came across the two mares and this morning, low and behold, two foals; beautiful little bay foals, one fast asleep, flat out under the trees and the other one near his mother. I deviated from the track so as not to wake the ewes and lambs strewn across it and went through the first gate. The rape was now higher than I am and it is a thick yellow blanket. Dressed in black, from the air, I must have appeared like a hole that needed darning in that thick yellow blanket. For the fashion conscious you will know that yellow is one of the colours of the season and it is certainly going to be the colour of the season at Site B, but as we all know, fashion comes and goes and this yellow will fade and eventually go, hopefully before the end of our Osprey season. It’s heavy perfume invaded my senses, clinging to me and its pollen stuck in my throat; it is pervasive.
As I approached ‘the gate’ to the final field, the mist was lifting slightly and I could see the nest, but not 03. That is generally when my heart quickens and a slight panic sets in. It is momentary, as I know he could well be away fishing or out of site on one of many hidden perches. I walked further along the edge of the field and could see an Osprey perched very low on the left- hand Ash. I then saw one flying, but because the rape is so high, and the field undulating, I could not see whether the one was still on the Ash tree perched low or whether it was flying. It was chasing some crows and as I arrived at the hide, I realised that it was the female, taking a little exercise and amusing herself chasing the crows. 03 was incubating and all was calm. She landed on the pruned Ash, preened a little, flew around a couple more times and then landed on the nest to have a chat with her partner. A few minutes later I heard my first Cuckoo of the season which for me always heralds the promise of Summer. A Buzzard glided over to the left of the hide, I could hear a Woodpecker drilling in the wood behind me and I was once again in the peaceful surroundings of Site B. During the morning each Osprey collected some dead leaves or seed pods from the surrounding trees and took them to the nest. Once again there were Buzzards and Red Kites around and at one stage a Buzzard perched on the top of a bush to the right of the hide until it was flushed by another Buzzard. The pair were present for the entire shift; he is obviously supplying plenty of fish. In a few more weeks he will have to up his game, but for now, they are calmly waiting.
May 7th, Manton Bay
I was following a silver coloured car as I drove to the Lyndon Centre and it made me think of Don who also has a silver car. I wondered when he would join me again. I reached the car park and got out of the car, Tim had just arrived too and as we greeted each other, out of the corner of my eye I saw someone approaching us. I turned and there was Don who had come to share the shift for a couple of hours. We drove down to the hide and relieved the early morning shift who informed us that 33(11) had not caught a fish yet that morning. It was my first time at Waderscrape since 33(11) had usurped 28(10) and I can honestly say that I felt a slight resentment towards him. It certainly took a while for me to bring Don up to date with events.
The Osprey pair spent a lot of time on the French perch and the near perch. 33(11) brought in many sticks and clumps of dried grass. On one occasion when he flew to the far shore to collect grass, he flew up and there was another Osprey with him (Maya was still on the nest). And just as quickly as I’d seen the second bird, it vanished and 33(11) flew between Wadercrape and Shallow Water hides. For a moment I thought that I’d imagined it but when I mentioned it to the visitors several of them had seen a second bird too. It could possibly have been the youngster who had returned to Manton Bay only the day before but had still to be identified. 33(11) made several circuits of the bay looking for fish and then flew over to Heron Bay to search. He returned to the nest and although Maya was not food-begging, he took to the air once more and ended flying further afield over Lax Hill. He returned twenty minutes later without a fish. It was windy and the water was very choppy and the sky darkened for quite a while. When I left at 1pm they were together and it would seem that they are bonding. He is a very strong looking bird with a very white front, like his father, 03, and it’s maybe because of that that I warmed to him a little.
May 8th, Site B
The very next day I was back at Site B. The rain had started in the morning and as I left home it was quite persistent. I made sure that I was totally rainproofed before I got out of the car. As I entered the first field I saw the bullocks over at the gate through which I had to pass. I walked on and spotted the two foals and one mare sheltering under the trees whilst the other mare was out in the open pasture enjoying the grass. Preoccupied with the horses I had taken my eye off the bullocks and as I looked ahead straight ahead, they were all coming towards to me, strewn left and right across the track. Fortunately I had remembered my stick today and as they walked slowly towards me, a decision had to be made; should I go for the open field and be chased or should I go for the fence and get crushed. I went for the fence and they started to turn towards me. In the sternest voice I could muster, I shouted ‘Go on’ several times and waved my stick and they got the message, although continuing to give me menacing looks for quite a while. I don’t think I’ve ever been so relieved to get through a gate into a rape field. I trundled along the track, slip sliding my way in my wellingtons through the rape with all my many layers on. My new waterproof boots had been returned as they didn’t meet their specification and I had spent a shift the previous week with a very cold and wet foot. I reached the final gate but it was raining so hard that I didn’t even bother to look across to the nest. I came up a slight incline and decided to have a quick look but couldn’t see 03. I couldn’t even see the female’s head in the nest, she must have been hunkered down low. Then I glanced left again and there he was, perched in tight to the trunk of the left-hand Ash and I was to learn when I reached the hide that they had been in these positions for almost four hours, having shared a small trout at 6.30am. I was told that the birdsong had been wonderful earlier, before the rain set in.

I really didn’t think that I would see much happen that afternoon, because even if it stopped raining, I could’t step outside the hide as the drips would continue to fall from the Oak tree under which the hide sits. Half an hour into the shift, and as if to try to lift my spirits, I heard a cuckoo – just three times. At 12.40 a Red Kite appeared to the right of the nest and was instantly set upon by a Crow, but the Osprey pair only watched. The Kite glided closer and closer to the hide and drifted over, so near and so low, I could almost hear it. A pair of great tits chased each other in front of the hide and over to the fence in front of the rape. At 13.50 03 actually moved and started to preen. At 14.05 as the rain stopped, a Song Thrush sang in the Oak immediately to the right of the hide and 03 flew out to the top of the pruned Ash, preening. At 14.15 they changed over and the female flew to the T-perch. This meant that she had been incubating since 08.47 that morning until 14.15, five hours twenty eight minutes. That is a long time and I wondered if a change over had been missed. The Cuckoo returned, so clear that it must have been very close and the most beautiful Song Thrush was serenading me from the tree just to the left of the hide, it was as if everything was coming alive after the torrential rain. I heard a woodpecker drilling in the trees to the right of the hide. I searched but couldn’t find it and as I turned to look at the Ospreys, the woodpecker, Great spotted Woodpecker, flew right over my head. The Song Thrush was back behind the hide, singing really loudly and there was a Red Kite up in the sky. 15.05and 03 flew swiftly south west, low over the rape and just to the left of the hide. He appeared to be looking up at the dark grey clouds gathering behind the hide and I thought that he had probably gone to fish before the rain came again, but he returned ten minutes later with a twig and they changed over. The female flew to the T-perch, as the clouds grew darker and darker. At 15.32 the femle left the perch and had a tussle in the sky with a Red Kite which eventually disappeared behind the trees to the right of the hide.The female flew behind the trees surrounding the nest and landed high up in the far left-hand Ash watching the Red Kite. As I walked away from the hide the female swiftly flew several circuits of the trees around the nest as if she was in training for a marathon and then she returned to the nest and relieved 03 of his incubation duties. 03 high flew to the left-hand Ash. Earlier in the season I had been thinking that I hadn’t seen any rabbits but as I walked along the track one hopped out of the rape in front of me. I got towards the last gate and looking up saw that a Buzzard was being mobbed by two crows, right over my head, one crow making contact. It hadn’t been the quiet, uneventful afternoon that I expected. Little did I know that it was about to get even more eventful.
I went through the gate into the field with the ewes, lambs, horses, foals and the bullocks. The bullocks were scattered right across the track, really spread out and as I walked further along the track there were about twenty of them lurking in the dark under the trees to the left. As I got nearer they started to stir and the ones which had been lying down, stood up and they all turned towards me and started moving. Then one on my right, a black one looking very threatening, turned and started walking towards me and all of a sudden, whilst they were not that close, they were all around me. I managed to hold my nerve and slowly walked along the track, lifted my stick a couple of times to stop them in their tracks and eventually got back to the car. Some volunteers do not visit Site B for the very fact that the bullocks are there and after that experience, I don’t blame them. However, wild horses or should that be bullocks, will not keep me away from that nirvana of a place.