Frequently Asked Questions

During the course of a season, Osprey Team staff and volunteers are asked hundreds of questions when leading wildlife walks and cruises, or monitoring the Manton Bay Ospreys in the Lyndon Visitor Centre and the hides on the reserve. Most of the questions relate to the Ospreys and other birds, animals, plants and insects encountered on the reserve, and we hope the answers we provide satisfy all those inquisitive minds! This website also has a section ‘Osprey Info’ which should fill in any gaps still left after a visit to Lyndon.

Osprey-related questions apart, the commonest question from visitors after a morning or afternoon at Lyndon is ‘Is there a decent pub around here?’ Well, that one’s easy ~ ‘The Horse and Jockey’ at Manton is just a few minutes away, and is the regular haunt of Osprey staff and volunteers alike! They even do a dish called The Osprey’s Nest, which is a bowl of chilli topped with nachos and cheese, and they donate 50p to the Osprey Project for each portion sold!

Here are two more FAQ’s and answers…

FAQ No. 1 : Are there any good books about Ospreys?

Yes, there are! If you want to start building your own ‘Osprey Library’, consider some of these:

Ospreys ~ A Natural and Unnatural History, by Alan F Poole, Cambridge University Press, 1989.

This is still THE book for all Osprey addicts, even though it is over 20 years old now and unfortunately out-of-print. Second-hand book websites usually have it, although prices have shot up recently as more and more people want to know all about Ospreys! Alan Poole covers all aspects of Osprey distribution, behaviour, breeding, migration etc., mainly from a North American perspective, but as the Osprey is ‘a world citizen’ (R.T.Peterson) the information is relevant to all regions. Essential text book for all Osprey fans, both professional and amateur.

The Return of the Osprey, by Philip Brown and George Waterston, Collins, 1962.

The story of the Osprey’s extinction as a UK breeding species, and its return to the famous eyrie at Loch Garten in Scotland in the 1950’s and early 60’s. Out of date now, of course, but very well written and illustrated, and interesting for those who want to know the whole story of re-colonisation in Scotland. Usually available second-hand. Also has chapters on the Black-tailed Godwit, the Avocet, and some other rare breeding birds.

A Life of Ospreys, by Roy Dennis, Whittles Publishing, 2008.

World-renowned Osprey expert and good friend of the Rutland Osprey Project, Roy Dennis tells the story not only of the Osprey, but the Osprey watcher. He follows the bird’s fortunes in Scotland, from a single pair in the 1950’s to over 220 pairs less than sixty years later. Roy also gives accounts of the Osprey’s story in other parts of the UK, including the re-introduction scheme here at Rutland Water. He shows how satellite tracking allows us to follow and map the migrations of Ospreys to Africa and back. Included in this superbly illustrated book are Roy’s personal diary entries, written at a time when no-one knew whether or not his lifetime’s work would succeed, and which add a unique sense of history to this very personal tale. Highly recommended to all Osprey watchers.

Lady of the Loch, The Incredible Story of Britain’s Oldest Osprey, by Helen Armitage, Constable, 2011.

This is the story of Lady, the Scottish Osprey from the Loch of the Lowes, which in 2010 produced eggs for a record-breaking twentieth time, raising 48 chicks along the way, and completing an amazing number of migrations to and from West Africa. It is an inspiring tale, well told, and with four colour photos showing Lady and some of her offspring. Here at Rutland Water we don’t yet have any Ospreys of that vintage, but we do have our male 03(97), whose latest chick brings his total to 24! A book about him one day maybe?

Two terrific books from award winning American author and Osprey fanatic David Gessner :

The Return of the Osprey : A Season of Flight and Wonder, Algonquin Books, 2001

Soaring with Fidel : An Osprey Odyssey from Cape Cod to Cuba and Beyond,  Beacon Press, 2007

I read these books over and over again, especially in autumn and winter, when our Ospreys are far away. David Gessner’s  passion, joy and sheer intensity are inspiring and never fail to excite. He truly reminds us on every page why we study and cherish these magnificent birds of prey.

Many organisations working with Ospreys have published their own booklets to tell visitors to the area about them. A few examples are shown in the photograph.

…….and if you want to go back a really long way (exactly 100 years in fact) try and find a copy of The Home Life of the Osprey, by C.G.Abbott, Witherby 1911. Abbott left the UK in 1897, by which time there were no Ospreys at all in England and precious few in Scotland. In America he spent his summers studying and photographing the Ospreys, which were still common on the coasts of New Jersey and on Gardiner’s Island, New York. The author’s photos, which are amazing considering the years in which they were taken (1907 -9), are mounted as plates on 32 pages at the back of the book, making it seem like a photo album. An amazing piece of Osprey history! I found one by chance in a lovely shop in Norfolk a few years ago now.

I hope that answers that question! I’m sure there are other Osprey books still to discover, and, who knows, we might write one of our own about the Rutland Water Ospreys one day!

*****

FAQ No.2: What’s the big house on the hill that you can see across the Reservoir from the Lyndon Visitor Centre?

We get asked this all the time. It’s Burley-on-the-Hill Mansion. Not to be confused with Burghley House, which is a few miles away near Stamford. Photographs of the Ospreys in Manton Bay often show Burley-on-the-Hill Mansion in the background.

The Mansion is in fact the second great house to be built on the site. The first one was owned for many years by George Villiers, Duke of Buckingham, who was accustomed to provide lavish entertainments for his guests. On one occasion, when King Charles I and Queen Henrietta were visiting, the highlight of the banquet was an enormous pie, carried in by a team of servants. The crust was cut to reveal a very small man inside! This was Jeffrey Hudson, who earned fame as ‘The Hero of the Pie’ and ‘The Smallest Man of the Smallest County’. Buckingham was murdered in 1628, and the house was destroyed by Parliamentarian supporters after the Civil War.

The second house, which we see now, was completed by around 1710. By that time, the estate was owned by the Finch family, who had the title Earls of Nottingham. The house was built with fine materials, and decorated by the best painters and sculptors of the day. It was filled with pictures, tapestries and porcelain from all over the world, and was one of the ‘great houses’ of England. The Finches lived in the house for several generations: Lady Charlotte Finch was governess to the children of George III, and a very fine statue of her can still be seen in Burley Church. George Finch was a member of the MCC (Marylebone Cricket Club) and is credited with inventing the ‘6 ball over’ in cricket ~ many prestigious games were held on the lawns of the house. The ‘Finch’s Arms’ in Hambleton is named after the family.

A later member of the Finch family rented the house out to some cousins of Winston Churchill. Churchill himself was there in August 1908 when a fire broke out and much of the interior of the house, including many precious and irreplaceable items, was destroyed. Apparently the nearest fire appliance was a horse-drawn affair at Melton Mowbray, and it took three hours to arrive. Churchill wrote to his fiancée that the whole thing had been tremendous fun, but his hosts did not agree! A period of restoration followed, and the house was used as a hospital for wounded officers in World War I. It was open to the public for a period in the 1950’s, by which time it had passed into the hands of Col. James Hanbury. It was sold again in 1990 to Asil Nadir, whose company Polly Peck intended to turn it into a grand hotel and sporting estate. As everyone knows, this did not happen, and rescue came in the form of a return to ownership by the Hanburys, who converted the house into a series of luxury dwellings and apartments, which were sold into private ownership.

And so it still stands today, presiding over a very different landscape “standing serene on the edge of Rutland’s ancient woodland”.

Information from a very fine book ‘Burley-on-the-Hill Mansion’ by Raymond Hill (2001)