“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.