Lynda’s Diary

A very special day at Site B …

I don’t feel the need for a gimmicky title for this diary report, a very special report from Site B where history has been made. 

First of all, I’ll take you back a week to last Monday when I had been at home working, but looking intermittently at the Manton Bay webcam. By early evening 1J was helicoptering well out of sight of the camera but his shadow could be seen over the nest and each time he landed back on the nest. I decided then and there to take a leaf out of Ken’s diary and take a trip to Manton Bay the following day, a day off from volunteering, a private day. I walked down to Shallow Water hide, having decided to avoid Waderscrape, as I would inevitably be drawn into conversation with volunteers and visitors alike. John Wright was sitting in the righthand corner and I took a seat in the middle. It was so lovely to just enjoy the scenery and although there was not much happening on the nest, there were plenty of other distractions; Oystercatchers, Lapwings, a Yellow Wagtail, two Egyptian Geese with two little ones in tow, little Egrets, Herons, yes lots to see. John had a brief word with me as he left the hide, he was pretty sure that 1J would not fledge that day as there was too little wind. I stayed on for a while longer and then made my way home. 

The next day I was on duty at Site B and as I arrived at the hide to take over, there had already been news that 1J had fledged at Manton Bay and was perched on the fallen poplar. The Site B family had already breakfasted so things were looking quiet until that is, the female started calling loudly and flew up, circling in front of the nest. Another Osprey was up there too and she chased it off to the West. As she flew back a Red Kite appeared and she flew at it swiftly, tumbling through the air in her chase. The Kite stayed around for the whole morning with the female chasing it each time that it came too close to the nest.  Meanwhile the farmer had begun turning the hay in front of the hide, so the juveniles were well hunkered down in the nest. He returned then to bale the hay so it was obvious that there would not be much action from the juveniles yet. The Kite was still around and I think out of a heightened sense of protection, the female did not give up her chase. By 11am the baling was over and the juveniles began wing flapping and hopping across the nest. 6J seemed to be the most adventurous, standing on the edge of the nest, his ring clearly visible. 03 returned to the nest with a spindly, gnarled twig in the shape of a wishbone and a parental ‘scrap’ ensued during which time 6J hopped over it, wing flapping furiously. As I left, 03, having taken himself off to the new perch leaving the female still battling with the ‘wishbone’, was now in the air chasing off an intruding Osprey. 

And so to today, Monday July 15th, a day that will forever be etched in my memory. I had wanted to arrive well on time knowing that one of the juveniles could fledge. It was sunny and warm with a slight breeze, ideal conditions. There were two herds of bullocks to negotiate first. As I approached the hide I came across John Wright who also had it in his mind that there could be a fledging. I reached the hide and chatted with fellow volunteer, Linda Jones – we were actually chatting about the beautiful weather and how wonderful it was to just enjoy life at home in this climate. As I glanced towards the nest, I saw an Osprey leave and said ‘One’s flown!’. Linda replied that it was the female. What we had in fact witnessed was 4J fledging and the female shadowing her in that maiden flight. 4J circled a couple of times with her mother following – it was easy to spot which one was which, 4J’s legs dangling in flight and then the hesitation before landing back on the nest. Wow, two minutes into my shift and it had happened. I invited Linda to stay on but she had things to do and left wishing me ‘a good shift’. It had been pretty good so far! 

I headed up the log sheet and the diary, one eye on the nest all the time, waiting for a second flight from 4J. One of the juveniles was on the edge of the nest and it was easy to read the ring, 5J. Suddenly, just after 8.30am, she just hopped off the nest and the female was immediately behind, shadowing her. This first flight only lasted a minute but something had taken my eye to the West of the nest. There were two Ospreys circling in the distance – surely 5J hadn’t travelled that far – but as I turned back to the telescope, I could see that all three juveniles were on the nest with the female. At this stage I will admit that I became a little confused; initially I had thought that the female was in the distance but she was back on the nest, however 03 meanwhile had disappeared. At 09.19 he landed back on the nest and both adults were calling loudly and mantling furiously. An Osprey was circling in front of the nest and flew very, very close several times. The juveniles were completely out of sight in the nest. There was also another Osprey in the area and 03 soon took to the air to chase them off.  These two birds turned out to be 30(10) and 11(10), 30(10) missing his eighth primary. The juveniles stayed down and the female was very alert on the nest. 

Soon after 10am the female made several twig collections – these juveniles could be accused of vandalism when hopping up and down and landing on the edge of the nest, maintenance work was needed. 03 then soared sky high and I saw that there were two Buzzards high above the wood. He saw them off and then disappeared into the distance. 

Reading my notes now I can’t believe what I wrote – “11.20am I think 6J just fledged – but the heathaze is making it impossible to read the ring – just looks the smallest”. 11.24  03 returns to the new perch with a small trout and starts to eat. 11.30 6J takes off again but returns to the nest immediately as 03 delivers the fish. One of the females grabs the fish from 03 who returns to the new perch.11.35 6J takes another short flight and as he returns to the nest, he wrestles for the fish from his sibling and wins. 03 flies to the small Oak”.  

What more can I say, it just was so incredibly rewarding to see all three fledge within the space of three hours twenty minutes, having watched over them for weeks and weeks in the cold and the wind and the wet. As my replacement arrived, I had tears of joy in my eyes and was shaking with excitement. I walked back to where John was parked and he offered me a lift to my car. We were both grinning like cats who got the cream – he had never seen three juveniles fledge on the same day. We talked about the ‘squeals of delight’ that had come from the nest and how, when one arrived back on the nest, we could see  their delight and knew that they were keen to do it again. Little 6J was the most eager.

These Rutland Ospreys just keep surprising us and it’s truly wonderful to be involved.

Oh to be at Site B, now the sun is shining …

(apologies to Robert Browning)

We are almost half way through the Osprey season and I have only made one contribution to my diary so far.  I’ve started to write on several occasions, but somehow just didn’t seem to have quite enough to tell you about. I had already decided earlier this week to put something together and yesterday, whilst on duty at Waderscrape, a lady told me how she avidly followed our webcam and that any snippet of information was always very welcome to anyone who is unable to visit Rutland Water. That was the kick-start that I needed, so I’ll tell you about a few of my shifts so far, a few more Osprey moments.

I know Ken and I seem to wax lyrical every year about the anticipation of arriving at the hide for the first shift of the season at Site B, but that shiver of excitement just never seems to wane. The slow amble to the gate before you catch sight of the nest is always interesting and I was thrilled on this occasion to see a pair of Skylarks on the ground as I walked through the first field. As I had left the car, the three young horses had already said ‘hello’, and I wondered how the six foals that I had loved to watch last Summer were faring, without their mares by now. They were part of last year’s equation and just as with the juvenile Ospreys, I wished that I knew how and where they were.

And so I reached the final gate and looked towards the nest – I was nearing a very special place and I can truly say that my heart seemed to quicken.  I reached the hide and a close inspection revealed that nothing had changed, wall to wall carpet, central heating, coffee machine had not been installed… only joking, it didn’t matter at all, I was at number one of my top ten places to visit. For the first couple of hours it was easy watching, with 03(97) and the female both flying around, returning to the nest to mate, and then flying off to various perches. It was good to see them both again and to gently ease back into the job of observing them and making the necessary notes.  However, quite suddenly the pace seemed to quicken. They both flew to the nest and there were three buzzards circling above, two of which then landed on the Wellingtonia tree behind the nest. 03 flew off to the East, leaving the female tidying the nest. Very soon afterwards he flew directly over the hide towards the nest, in a fast and furious battle with a female Osprey (5N). As this battle took place, one of the buzzards returned to the Wellingtonia tree to mate. At the same time, at least twenty fallow deer appeared, running in front of the nest, then the third buzzard returned to circle over the nest and the phone rang – it was Paul Stammers enquiring how the first shift was going. I really didn’t know which way to turn, it certainly wasn’t how a first shift should be, gently getting back into routine.  03 returned and joined the female on the new perch and they mated. Another intruder appeared and he chased it off. Phew, the first shift was certainly a wake up call.

A couple of days later the first egg was layed and that long waiting period began. My shifts were fairly routine, but each one was extremely cold spending four hours each time in the hide with not much happening and none of my friends from last year paying a visit; the ginger rabbit, the female pheasant, the chaffinch who would appear at the door of the hide. On May 15th I spent quite the most miserable shift ever at Site B. (I never thought that I would say that !) It was bitterly cold and wet and the temperature didn’t rise above 7c. The waterproofs in which I had spent most of last summer were in use again, I had forgotten my teabags (hot water with a dash of semi-skimmed is not pleasant, but at least I could warm my hands around the mug), and to top it all, even 03 kept disappearing low behind the nest, out of the Westerly wind. The top of the female’s head was only visible occasionally.The high note of this shift was when I heard the first cuckoo of the year, I think that it was asking where Summer was. This was all repeated on May 20th (I did remember the teabags this time), but the high note this time was beautifully rewarding. The pair had spent a couple of hours taking a turn at incubation, shaking the rain off and flying to their chosen perches. At 09.50  03 disappeared and some twenty five minutes later he returned with a small trout, which he took to the nest. The female, however, did not stand to take the fish and they just looked at each other for several minutes. I watched in awe as 03 then began feeding her whilst she was incubating. This carried on for thirteen minutes, when she stood and he carried on feeding her for a couple of minutes longer. She then nestled down and he ate on the nest. He left the remains of the fish on the nest and flew off to the lefthand ash. I found this behaviour unusual, quite magical to watch, but nevertheless, unusual. I was not surprised to learn that the first chick hatched early the next day. This was the reason why 03 did not take over incubation, as there would most certainly have been tapping sounds, if not even a crack in the egg, and it is then that a male realises it is time for his role to change from incubator to provider. Another cold shift came to an end, but this one had been anything but boring.

By watching the behaviour of the adult birds at Site B, John knew the first chick had hatched.

 

And so to my shift at Site B this week. The sun was shining, there wasn’t a cloud in the sky, the waterproofs were not needed, but I didn’t discard the warm clothing and once again I didn’t forget the teabags. News from the previous day was that John Wright had seen three chicks (from a better vantage site than the hide) and Mr Rutland had now produced an amazing thirty chicks since being translocated in 1997. When I arrived shortly before 8am, 03 had been absent for almost half an hour. In the quiet times at Site B when he is absent, I very often wonder how long he will be gone and at the end of a shift if he is still missing, it is with a heavy heart that I walk away, needing to know that he is safe. I always keep glancing back, hoping to see him and it is amazing just how many times I have reached the first gate and turned to take one final look at the nest, only to see him alighting on the nest. All is well and I carry on, happy in the knowledge that for now, all are safe.

At 08.18 I caught my first glimpse of one of the chicks – the excitement is as wonderful and satisfying each and every time. Shortly after 9am the female was alert and moved her head from side to side, looking at something to the East of the hide. I saw two Ospreys away in the distance and wondered if 03 had had to abandon his fishing trip, as they disappeared out of sight. He returned at 09.25 with a medium trout and took the fish to the nest where the female started feeding. She had her back to me but started feeding a chick in front of her. 03 stood at the side of the nest with one chick in front of him and then a smaller, paler little head appeared and I knew then that there were definitely three chicks.  She fed them for thirty minutes and briefly all three heads were visible.  She then busied herself collecting twigs and building up the sides of the nest, as they will certainly be exploring soon. At 10.10  03 flew to the nest, possibly checking whether there was any fish left.  He flew up high over the nest, circling until he was over the hide. He circled ever higher and then soared off to the North East and out of sight. I read the notes from the previous day and discovered that another volunteer has witnessed 03 feeding the female, he fed her and at times she then fed the chicks. The notes read ‘03 comes to the nest and gets the fish. He then spends thirty minutes feeding the female who offers some down to the chicks but has a lot herself. What a wonderful sight !!! 03 to small Oak, what a star!!!’ It’s good to know that there are others who delight in such spectacles.  As I awaited his return, I looked around and remembered all the juveniles over the years that I have seen perching away from the nest, always waiting for 03 to return with a fish. Every year they seem to haunt new places and I wondered where the class of 2013 will choose to perch. At 10.55 the female began to brood the chicks for the first time since I had arrived – it must have  been hot up there, there was even a heat haze. At 11.07 03 flew in with another catch of the day, more trout and the female began feeding the chicks, briefly, and then herself. 03 returned to the nest and took a sizeable tail of trout to the T-perch and he too fed. He was quite oblivious to the buzzard that had landed in the Wellingtonia tree, looking down into the nest, but the female was very aware of its presence.

The shift over, I wandered back, occasionally glancing back, but this time with a happy heart in the knowledge that all the family were safely at home. The sky was blue, the sun was shining, my feet were warm and dry. Oh to be at Site B now that Summer’s here …

 

A game of charades ….

The anticipation of the return of Ospreys to these shores is always an exciting time. And with the weather being more appropriate for Christmas, what better time for a game of charades. Is it TV, film, theatre? No, it’s a documentary …

 

The Rutland Osprey volunteers eagerly attended the pre-season meeting on the 19th knowing that 03(98) had returned on the 17th and the young four year old female, 00(09) on the very day of the meeting.  It is always an exciting time as our birds start to arrive, we catch up with fellow volunteers after the winter and the Project Team give us our orders for the coming months.  For the past two years we have been treated to tales from their African trips, and having travelled with them in 2011 and 2012, I was eager to learn what they had been up to.  We were in for a surprise, as John Wright, Field Officer, showed us photos from the trip giving background details as he went along and with an occasional quip thrown in for our amusement. Tim and John signed copies of ‘the book’ for volunteers and the nightshift rotas were available for anyone dedicated (or mad) enough to guard our nests during incubation.

 

Next up in the game … it’s a book …

 

The ‘Rutland Water Ospreys’ went on sale on the day of our meeting. The book tells the wonderful success story of the reintroduction of Ospreys to England. It is beautifully written by Tim and illustrated throughout with John’s fantastic photos and drawings.  I was delighted, as a contributor, together with several other volunteers, to be invited to a luncheon to celebrate the publication. It took place last Friday, and by now the Manton Bay female had returned.  As I drove towards Lyndon, I glimpsed briefly towards the nest and saw her on the French Perch – my first sighting of an Osprey this year. It was so interesting to listen to Tim Appleton explaining how the Project first came about, when he watched two Ospreys spend the summer of 1994 at Rutland Water. He assumed them to be a pair and was hoping for their return next summer, but when he contacted Roy Dennis to see what could be done about encouraging Ospreys to breed at Rutland Water, he soon found out that he was wrong in that assumption. However, the contact was made, a translocation was undertaken, only made possible with funding from Anglian Water and the rest is history. The book tells the story from that initial contact, up to the present day. The trials and tribulations of the translocation were both poignant and amusing; travelling down from Scotland with young Ospreys caged behind you, and no separation between them and the cab, made for an ‘interesting’ journey, as Andy Brown from Anglian Water regaled – he certainly made sure that he had the translocation licence in his pocket when stopping for petrol, covered in Osprey guano. As we listened to Andy, Tim Appleton and Roy Dennis, it was obvious to everyone what friendship and trust must have existed at the beginning of their relationship, and more importantly, how it still exists. Helen Mcintyre was also involved at the beginning, and although Tim Mackrill was not involved professionally at the start, he was certainly there as a young teenage volunteer, later taking over from Helen. One of the most interesting statements made by Tim M. was that without the translocation, Ospreys would probably not have spread south, for about a century as they are so site faithful, a sobering thought. As we took lunch in the centre, we had the opportunity to see many of John Wright’s original sketches and paintings that appear in the book. They are beautiful and Roy generously admitted that John is an expert in identifying individual Ospreys from their plumage, better than Roy himself.

 

Yes, we’re still playing Charades and this one is theatre ….

 

Fast forward twenty four hours to Saturday evening and I was helping out at the Oakham School Theatre, where ‘A Musical Migration’ was being staged, narration by Tim Mackrill and songs sung by Global Harmony. This event came about when the choir invited a French choir, on an exchange visit, to take an Osprey cruise last summer. As the Rutland Belle approached Whitwell harbour, the choirs sang a Senegalese song. Paul Stammers and Michelle Househam, project officers on that cruise, came up with the idea of a story about an Osprey’s migration back to Rutland in Spring, interspersed with songs from countries along the route. Global Harmony is a cappella world music choir and they included songs from Ghana,Guinea,Senegal, Southern Spain,Asturias,France,Wales and the Highlands of Scotland. The choir kindly chose this event  to be their charity performance of the year.  Tim had written the script which told us about 09(98)’s epic trip last Spring and the backdrop was provided by John’s amazing photos.  It was a truly wonderful performance and all proceeds will go to the Osprey Migration Foundation.

 

The game of charades is over, but watch out for the film ….

 

Today, Wednesday 27th March, the holiday was over and it was back to work. I joined Don, my co-volunteer, for the first shift to be undertaken at Waderscrape this year. The Manton Bay female is still alone, awaiting 5R.  A few moments before we arrived at the hide we were informed by John that she had just caught a sizeable trout and was eating it on the nest. Soon after that she was flushed off the nest and carried her fish over to the nest post in Heron Bay where she proceeded to carry on eating although being seriously hassled by gulls, at times causing her to duck.  Two of the visitors this morning included one of the choir members from Global Harmony, together with her husband. She too had been fascinated by 09(98)’s story and had come along to see her first Osprey. They observed her through the project’s brand new Swarovski telescope – Swarovski were very kind sponsors of ‘A Musical Migration’. As they left the hide, the female returned to the Manton Bay perch with her fish, so I called them back and they were delighted to get a closer view of her. It was exceptionally cold and the female Osprey cut a solitary figure in her wait for the return of her partner. The unseasonal weather must be affecting the migration of many of our birds, so we will continue our wait for him.

 

The Manton Bay female with a fine Rutland trout

 

 

 

A time for celebration …

Site B, what can I say, I just wish you could be there, however,  you’ll have to rely on the team, Ken and myself to do our best to let you know how special this location really is.  I’m going to tell you about some very special times I’ve had this season at Site B, possibly my favourite place on earth.

I’ve spent quite a few hours there during July and August, more than normal, as my husband accompanies me on the early morning shifts each Saturday in July to watch the athleticism of the juveniles. He’s always enjoyed watching the juveniles during July – with relatively poor eyesight, he can watch them helicoptering just before fledging.  This year he had an eye operation and was really pleased that his long vision was greatly improved. It was, therefore, with some excitement that we set off for Site B on July 7th. How ironic that at 6am it was quite misty and as the sun rose higher, it became very foggy, not clearing until ten minutes before the end of our shift. To rub salt into our wounds, the first of the three juveniles, 1F, fledged a couple of hours after our departure. The next Saturday was misty too, but cleared quite quickly this time. Tim phoned from the Rutland Belle, on board for an Osprey Cruise. It’s always good for the team to know if an adult male has set off to go fishing and they can watch out for him over the water.  ‘Hi Lynda, is 03(97) about?’  My answer, ‘I haven’t got a clue!’ And once again, to add insult to injury, 3F waited until we had left and then took to the air for the first time.

Last year was not nearly as exciting as this season has been; with only one juvenile last year, the situation became very routine – 03(97) went fishing, female was sometimes in sight and the juvenile was always disappearing.  Possibly out of boredom, loneliness or sheer inquisitiveness, the juvenile, 33(11), decided to visit his cousins in Manton Bay and pitched up on their nest. This year, with three juveniles to watch over, it has been spectacular. And this year they have been so much more adventurous and advanced. I wonder if their escapes from difficult situations has made them feistier, daring and even more accepting of us. Wow, all three at Site B have caught a fish – in the years that I’ve been volunteering, that kind of fact has never been established. And at Manton Bay, last Wednesday, 15th, I saw 1F catch one too, alas he dropped it instantly.

The anticipation of doing a shift at Site B is quite frankly, heady. I was discussing with Ken (he who writes the most amazing diary) about approaching the final gate; I get goosebumps every time, whatever the weather, and each time that I arrive at the gate I think to myself, ‘I’ll open the gate first and then have a look towards the nest’. Have I ever done that? No! I’m like a child …., I cannot wait that long! I look towards the nest, scan the favourite perches, the secret places where the juveniles hide – different every year – and I can’t remember a shift when there have been no Ospreys.  Of course I have a huge panic then – I have to open the gate (not easy) and then walk   c~a~l~m~l~y   to the hide. Approaching this nest is important – I think I know that by now, approach slowly, take the path along the hedge, and keep quiet.  I’m nearly at the hide but just have to look towards the nest – I am so close, all five members present, phew, relax, and breathe.

25/07/2012  08.00 – 12.00  Lynda Berry    Clear, warm, breezy

07.45    As I come through the final gate one Osprey flies close and into the wood where the hide is and then another follows. The second Osprey reappears and displays directly over my head and then returns to the new perch.

08.10   Female still on nest perch. Juvenile from far right Ash tree, flies over nest and then directly towards hide and then veers into wood.

08.28   As I step out of the hide, juvenile flies out of wood directly above and returns to nest. Female on nest calls loudly and an intruding Osprey appears. Site B female circles and chases it, first over righthand end of wood and then close over my head over wood where hide is situated.

08.39   Juvenile from nest flies over righthand end of wood and in the distance, lands on a telegraph pole. He is then flushed by a crow and circles over wood, joined by another Osprey (which one?), circling over left end of wood and both disappear NW. No Ospreys in sight now.

08.50   Osprey over hide, circles over crop field, joined by another, one makes a serious            attack on a buzzard to left, then all three birds are over nest and flying NW. Buzzard and one Osprey disappear.

08.58   1F flies to the nest, 03(97) arrives with a trout. 1F takes fish, 03 to righthand Ash.            Female arrives on nest. 

30/07/12  08.00 – 12.00 Lynda Berry   Sunny, breezy

08.00   03 on new perch, female has flown NE, one juvenile in far right tree.

08.20   Three Ospreys circling over gate to right of hide, going high and drifting together.

08.24   2F, from the three in the sky, lands on the nest. (It was possibly the female soaring with two juveniles). Other two disappear South.

08.58   Two Red Kites and two Buzzards – left of nest – 03 battles with a Kite and returns to the nest perch.

09.05   2F returns to nest.

09.10   03 and 2F take to the sky together, over crop field. 2F back to nest, followed by 03 to new perch.

09.19   1F from the far right tree returns to the nest, food begging.

09.20   3F returns to the nest perch and 03 flies to the small Oak.

09.25   All three juveniles ‘tussling’ in the air, landing here and there.  One into the ‘hide’ wood, one on the nest and one on the nest perch.

09.30   1F flies very low over the crop and lands on a fencepost, left of the hide. Perches            there for 15 minutes. Three Red Kites circle nest, and over 1F, who doesn’t move.

I took one of the telescopes outside the hide at this point and quietly watched him. On my walk back to the car later, I walked over to the fencepost where he had perched several times that morning; I suppose I was hoping that he had preened a feather or two loose, but there was nothing except the memory of him on this post.  I know that had Ken or I approached our favourite gate when he was perched there, we would both probably have needed smelling salts.

09.45   1F flies into ‘hide’ wood.

09.50   3F from nest perch to the nest, food begging, then flies over 03 in the small Oak and into    ‘hide’ wood, same direction as 1F.

09.55   A juvenile brings a stick to the nest, chipping loudly and then flies low into ‘hide’ wood, very close left of hide.

10.04   03 leaves small Oak and does battle with a Red Kite and then returns to the small Oak.

Several minutes later the hide is filled with the sound of an Osprey food begging. It must be so close and I hardly dare to move. I know that if I step out of the hide I will flush it, but it is incredibly frustrating to know that it is so close and I cannot see it. In previous years at Site B, I’ve never know the juveniles use the wood where the hide is situated and perch there – so near and yet so far.

10.27   Juvenile food begging in wood to left – heard not seen.

10.30   Juvenile from wood, back to nest perch.

10.33   Juvenile back to fencepost, left of hide.

10.40   Juvenile back to nest, alarm calling – Osprey circling over nest for 5 minutes            (intruder?). 03 disappears.

10.47   Female lands on nest with a twig, followed by a second juvenile with nest material. Both juveniles food begging loudly. One juvenile disappears.

11.04   (Rains starts). Second juvenile back to nest from ‘hide’ wood.

11.07   Female flies swiftly to right of hide and divebombs something behind trees. (Very heavy rain now).

11.09   Both juveniles leave the nest ,flying over the small Oak, and have a little battle in the air.  One flies to the fencepost and then into the wood and then the second one follows into the wood. (No Ospreys in sight now).

11.20   03 lands on the nest with a trout. 3F lands on the nest to eat. 03 flies to the small Oak.

11.22   A second juvenile flies to the nest. (Heavy rain again).

12.01   The female returns to the nest perch.

11.45   3F flies off and the other juvenile starts food begging, so presumably no fish left.

Of course, our main job is to observe the Ospreys, but we are blessed with other sightings.  Some volunteers keep a running list in the hide and this is how it reads for this season: Red Kite, Buzzard, Kestrel, Jay, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Skylark, Wren, Swallow, Blackbird, Pheasant, Song Thrush, Blackcap, Rook, Carrion Crow, Woodpigeon, Blue Tit, Chaffinch, Green Woodpecker, Long-tailed Tit, Magpie, Cuckoo, Jackdaw, Great Tit, Grey Heron, Sparrowhawk, Wheatear, Swift, Common Tern, Great Black- backed Gull, Robin, Raven, Whitethroat, Garden Warbler, Marsh Tit, Mute Swan, Mallard, Chiffchaff, Spotted Flycatcher, Hobby, Dunnock, Fox, Fallow Deer (over 40 at one time), Muntjac, Rabbit (including a ginger one!), Hornet. I have had a female pheasant stop and pause within two feet of me; an adorable male Chaffinch hopped up to the hide doorway; the prettiest baby rabbits, so close; and last Wednesday just before ‘our’ gate, a young male fallow deer – I stopped, we made eye contact, he moved away, stopped to take another look, and carried on. I’ve flushed pheasants from the nettles in front of the hide and nearly keeled over with shock, I’ve lived in wellingtons, waterproofs, thermals for the entire season, but would I change one single minute of it – never. And as I walked back to the car last week, there were the six mares with foals that I’ve been watching grow throughout the season –a dark bay, four bright bays and my very favourite, a black foal whose mother is grey (white) with pinkish eyes. They are a little braver now, but still trot back to their mothers as I approach.

And as the country rejoices in Olympic euphoria, for me, a Gold Medal (The Marathon)  must go to 03(97), 27 chicks – thank you 03.  The team gold must surely go to our Rutland Project Team for dedication to the cause – it’s not an easy call to rescue suffering birds, but who could ignore any creature in its hour of need. Several members of our team have made rescues both at Manton Bay and Site B, saving 2F, 1F and 9F. And in seeing these juveniles go on to become strong, determined and fearless, it surely is a time to celebrate.

Lynda

 

 

“It’s very nice to go travelling …. “

As the song goes … ‘it’s very nice to go travelling, but it’s so much nicer to come home’. I returned from holiday earlier this week to find that it was still raining – nothing new there then. Without access to wi-fi whilst away, I was somewhat out of  touch with what the Rutland Ospreys had been up to. I avidly read through all the ‘Latest News’ reports since June 21st and could hardly believe that three more of the twelve 2010 juveniles had returned to Rutland; a fifty percent return rate is excellent, with time still for more. 

With so much information to take in, I began to make notes ready for my shift on Wednesday. I set off for Lyndon, the rain was certainly not going to dampen my spirits, I was back doing what I love – Osprey watching.  I called into the centre to collect the telescopes, radio, record sheets, etc. and saw Tim. I was armed with my notebook and wanted to check all the facts. ‘Oh no, not the dreaded notebook!’ he joked as he greeted me. I explained that I just wanted to get all the facts straight, ready to answer questions from the visitors and particularly as I was not going to be joined by Don, my co-volunteer on Wednesday mornings. With my notebook amended, Tim helped me to load my car with the equipment, and I drove slowly down to Waderscrape. 

I think I must have some sort of obsessive compulsive disorder when it comes to Ospreys as I start to panic slightly when I first look across to a nest and cannot account for the whole family. As I walked down the path to the hide, laden with everything, that panicky feeling started to creep up on me. Once in the hide, shutters were raised, telescopes erected, binoculars in hand – yes, 5R was on the near perch, his female on the French Perch and the two juveniles were busy preening – I felt a little calmer. I could not believe how much they had grown since I last saw them – ‘proper’ Ospreys now. I settled down to enjoy the morning; a Red Kite drifted over Lax Hill; both juveniles were walking around the nest observing everything going on around them. I started to look back through the notes to see whether anything really exciting had happened over the last two weeks, and then, you’ve guessed it if you’ve read some of my previous diary entries, 5R disappeared. I scanned the whole panoramic vista for him, how can they just disappear into thin air? Ten minutes later he was back, being bombed by terns as he landed next to the female. As the female dropped down on to the nest, 5R took himself off to the far perch and I wondered how often he would be down that end of the bay, trying to distance himself from the loud food begging of his ever growing juveniles.  He peered down into the water, possibly looking to do a bit of opportunistic fishing but in the drizzly rain he obviously didn’t see a fish, so he returned to the near perch. 

Ten minutes later it was the female’s turn to bring on my OCD as she had disappeared – I had been busy watching a Tufted Duck through the long grass in front of Waderscrape. Moments later the female swooped majestically down past the hide and across to the nest, carrying a large clump of grass. Whenever I see an Osprey swooping down, their shape reminds me of a handlebar moustache; 08(97) would do this regularly at Site N – sweeping down the valley with the odd ‘bellyroll’ thrown in for good measure. She set about separating the grass, obviously building up the cup of the nest into a platform ‘ready for take-off’; Tim had told me that they were hoping to ring the juveniles the next morning, weather permitting, so they will be airborne soon. 

Since my arrival at the hide, I had seen no sign of any feeding taking place and so it was, that just after 10.30, the female started food begging. 5R rose up and circled the bridge end of Manton Bay, hovering, looking for fish and then moving on. He flew so close to the hide that it made my heart quicken, he’d never been that close and I was alone watching him. He circled away and flew towards and over the rookery, this time being seriously attacked by a Lapwing. 

The rain this season has completely submerged the bund wall which separates Manton Bay and because the water is so high, it is teeming with hundreds of birds, quite unlike other years. The Cormorants who had been quite taken with the new wall, hanging out to dry on it, had been forced to return to their old haunts, the two dead trees.  And so it was that at 10.45am there was a mass exodus of these Cormorants, they circled right in front of the Osprey nest just as a Little Egret was passing over and just as 5R had landed on the nest with a twig. The female was not impressed and 5R was soon up in the sky again, circling, hovering with feet dangling but as he moved away to Heron Bay, he was unsuccessful. A gull started to mob him, and they were joined by a couple of Buzzards. As they flew further away, I began to wonder whether one of the Buzzards was in fact an Osprey, but it was difficult to tell and I could not distinguish the telltale ‘V’ of a Buzzard’s wings. As they all disappeared over Lax Hill, I started to wonder if it had been 30(10) who returned to Rutland the day that I flew out of the country. I saw him fledge from Manton Bay on July 21st, 2010 and he came to perch in the dead tree, where he stayed for seven hours. A friend was with me on that day, Sue, and she christened him Bertie, (thirty). So many times she has told me that she can’t wait for him to return. (Once I arrived home I told her about his return and she now has his picture as her screensaver.) These birds capture everyone’s hearts, they are so very special. The words of the song continue … ‘But your heart starts singin’ when you’re homeward wingin’ across the foam’. I wonder if 30(10) and the rest of the class of 2010 had happy hearts winging their way home. 

Soon after 11.30 5R came into view over Heron Bay, attempting to fish again; he was going to be in trouble when he got back to the nest. However, the female took to the air and I spotted another Osprey. 5R then landed on the French Perch and the female landed back on the nest, mantling as this intruding Osprey circled extremely low over the nest. The Manton Bay female was soon in the air again and chased the intruder away towards Hambleton. At this stage I put in a call to Tim to ask whether he could identify the Osprey. The resident female did not return to the nest for over half an hour but soon resumed her food begging and 5R was forced yet again to ‘go fishing’. He circled several times in front of the hide, much to the delight of all the visitors, but as the rain began to fall heavily, I lost sight of him. At 12.30 he returned emptyhanded once more; I can only assume that they had all had a big breakfast. 

As my shift drew to an end, Tim rang to tell me not to be alarmed when a vehicle appeared between Shallow Water Hide and Waderscrape – they were going to ring the Barn Owl chicks. I hastily moved one of the telescopes to the end of the hide and along with several visitors, we watched as they placed a net over the exit hole in the Barn Owl box and removed the chicks from the back. The grass was too long to be able to see the ringing, but we had a very good view of the three chicks when they were removed and then placed back in the box. It certainly will not be such a quick job in the morning to ring the Osprey juveniles as their nest post is in eight feet of water. 

As I chatted briefly with Peter and Di, who once again were thoroughly drenched leaving Site B to do a second shift at MantonBay– we’re all going to need rustproofing soon – the female decided to take a bath. She is so elegant, diving in and out of the water. As I drove slowly back to the centre, a Greater Spotted Woodpecker flew across the path in front of me and settled on a tree. I had been absolutely enthralled for the past four or five hours and yes, it really is ‘nice’ to come home.  As I called in at the centre, Tim was able to tell me that the female Osprey intruder was in fact the female partner of AW, who didn’t return this Spring. I hope she finds a mate before she departs at the end of the Summer, just as 5N did last year. She certainly has a good few to choose from.