It has been a beautiful sunny day in Rutland today. Certainly a lot more spring-like than recently. 5R and his mate have been very settled in the bay, with just a single intrusion by a female Osprey around lunchtime. On Sunday our regular diarist, Ken Davies, enjoyed his first shift of the year. Here’s his report.
Easter Sunday in the Bay
I’m flying (sorry, driving) north towardsMantonBayfor my first shift of the season in the public hide close to the Osprey nest. I’m a week late. I’ve been held up by bad weather. Last Sunday the snow fell all day and I had to take shelter, but all the time I was desperate to get moving again, to get back on track, to reach the Bay where I knew I was expected. Now at last I’m on my way again, just a few miles to go. Snow is still piled up on the verges, but the fly-ways (sorry, roads) are clear. Slower vehicles hold me up. I stop just once to re-fuel.
I arrive just at the same time as my co-watcher (Barrie). Like most of our Ospreys (sorry, volunteers), we have not met here since the final shift of last season, so a certain amount of re-bonding is necessary as we get equipped for our final push to the Bay. Check-in at the Visitor Centre is brief and efficient. We receive our instructions from the duty team and then head off west towards the hide. The pace quickens. Adult Ospreys (sorry, volunteers) move rapidly when heading back to an established territory at the beginning of a new season. They do not linger at favourite perches (sorry, seats), or stop to admire the views. Visitors walking back towards the Centre receive a peremptory nod rather than a cheery greeting which will be the order of the day in the weeks to come. Few words pass between us. Though we are laden with rucksacks and telescopes, the pace now is almost ‘at the double’, until the hide and over it the Bay and the nest, come into view. We follow the curve of the muddy track and arrive with a smooth landing. We are here. We are home.
Inside the hide, there is much activity. Photographers concentrate on achieving good images of the newly arrived pair on the nest or the perch. Other visitors watch intently through binoculars and telescopes. Our predecessor on the early shift (KB) brings us up to speed with the pair’s activities. He tells us that the Bay was iced over in the hours just after dawn, but the sunshine has now melted it. 5R and his mate have fed well on a trout, part of which still remains. All is tranquil, but cold and wintry. The winter visitors are still here, the summer ones ~ Ospreys apart ~ nowhere to be seen. The pair indulges in occasional affectionate matings, but the full-on frequent amorous couplings do not occur. Plenty of time for all that.
KB departs. We settle into our routine. We open the log, start the notes, drink coffee, chat to visitors. Like the Ospreys at their nest, we adapt to changes made in the hide over the winter. ‘Who moved the door?’ saysBarrie, as we wonder what has happened to the internal door in the hide. We agree that the hide is better without the internal door, which served no useful purpose at all. I resist the urge to do a bit of ‘hide-scraping’ as we watch the female furiously scraping out the cup of her nest. Similarly, when 5R returns with a long twig, I decide not to go out into the wood behind us and gather a few twigs for the hide. Visitors might start seriously to worry if we did that.
An hour or so into the shift, a frisson of excitement takes hold in the hide as the two birds mantle on the nest, wings a-quiver, eyes upwards. High to the south-west, two distant specks slowly become Ospreys. The new arrivals approach, one circles over the nest, while the other drifts slowly eastwards along the reservoir towards the Centre. Fortunately JW is there, and is soon able to identify the visitors as the two females 5N(04) and 00(09). Discussions in the hide revolve around questions such as ‘Do you think 5R knows that’s his sister?’ and ‘Do you think they’ll find mates of their own?’ Our responses hopefully lead visitors to come to their own conclusions.
Order is restored. A rather dried-up piece of this morning’s fish is produced from the nest and provides further refreshment for each bird in turn. A diversion is provided by the pair of Pied Wagtails which appear to be prospecting for a nest site in the base of the Osprey nest. Two years ago Pied Wagtails successfully bred in the base of the nest, so maybe these are the same birds. This triggers yet another interesting discussion in the hide : is this an example of ‘commensalism’, where one species obtains shelter and protection from another, unwitting species, the second partner reaping little or no benefit? We think it is, and therefore slightly different from other biological phenomena such as ‘symbiosis’, where both partners gain advantage (e.g. ox-pecker removing irritating insects from a rhinoceros), or ‘parasitism’, where one partner definitely loses out (e.g. Cuckoo and Meadow Pipit). There is a definite Ph.D here ~ and it all started in Wader Scrape hide on Easter Sunday! Watch this space for developments regarding the Wagtails.
The Ospreys make occasional sorties for nest material or to chase off annoying crows and jackdaws. We welcome visitors from Bury (Lancashire) and Epping (London), and a very enthusiastic couple tell us they are here in theUKon a working visit fromAustraliaandNew Zealand. We decide at this point to keep a tally this year, listing all the nationalities of visitors from other lands. If last year is typical, it will be a long list. Several Osprey volunteers drop in, in advance of their own shifts later in the week, ‘just to get back into the swing of things’, as they say.
Finally, as our time to depart draws near, we sit down to complete our Sunday roll-call of species observed during the shift. A very healthy 42 ~ quite good, considering the weather and extreme temperature today. Oh, and don’t forget two mammals ~ muntjac and weasel. The stars are of course the four Ospreys we have seen, but a very pleasant sight was the single Avocet which flew around the Bay for a minute or so, before heading off over the hill towards the lagoons. An early forerunner of more of these elegant waders ~ a recent colonist here.
Back at the Centre, Lizzie tells us that 180 visitors have been through today, and quite a few of them have been brave enough to come down to the hide for a close view of the Ospreys. We hope they have enjoyed the experience, and look forward to welcoming many more on all the Sunday afternoons ahead. It’s good to be back!