July Days with the Osprey Education Team

Here is a report from Education Officer Ken Davies on the work of the Osprey Education Team this month!

An End of Term Report

Reading Ozzie in Wader Scrape Hide (Roger Harrison)

Reading Ozzie in Wader Scrape Hide (Roger Harrison)

‘It must be nice to work here every day’, said one of our young visitors at the Lyndon Reserve recently, as we walked down together to Wader Scrape hide with her friends and Brownie leaders. ‘It is,’ I replied, ‘and that’s not only thanks to the Ospreys and the other fantastic wildlife that surrounds us all the time, but it’s also down to the hundreds of friendly and enthusiastic people like you who visit the Reserve every single day of the week, and also to the brilliant staff and volunteers we work with here.’ My young friend thought for a minute, and then said ‘I’ll come and work here when I grow up, if that’s OK.’ ‘It’s fine’, I replied, ‘you’ll be very welcome.’

These July days are good times to be living and working around Rutland Water. The Manton Bay Osprey pair have raised two strong and healthy fledged juveniles and it looks very likely that we shall have a very good number of juveniles fledging from the other seven nests. As usual, the Lyndon Reserve is pulling in visitors in great numbers and our schools and youth group diary has been full to overflowing with bookings in the mornings, afternoons and evenings. Osprey Cruises are once again so popular that there is hardly a space left, and the Reserve wildlife log-book has recorded spectacular sightings of moths, butterflies, bats, reptiles, beetles and rare plants, not to mention the fantastic birdlife on view the whole time down here in the Bay – Water Rails, Barn Owls, Great White Egrets……and so many more, including of course the wonderful Ospreys!

My Brownie friend ran on ahead to join her friends on the track, and I reflected on that brief exchange with her. Yes, she was right, it is ‘nice’ to work here! More than that. It’s exciting. Amazing. Exhilarating. Rewarding. And lots of other sentiments too. When I returned home later that evening, I just flicked back in my diary to the beginning of July. Here are the brief edited highlights of the past fortnight or so, concentrating on the end-of-term activities of the Osprey Education Team.

We began July with another visit to Stamford High School, where a large group of forty Year 9 students awaited us. Before we had even started our presentation, one girl told us that she lived on a farm near the Lyndon Reserve, and her father often reported Ospreys flying over his fields! Lucky him! Twenty four hours later and we are entertaining a younger group from a school on a visit to us – Brooke House School in Cosby, Leicestershire. It’s the first time they’ve been here to see the Ospreys, and their reactions seem to suggest it won’t be the last! A very pleasant day with super young people!

Brooke House School, Cosby (Pete Murray)

Brooke House School, Cosby (Pete Murray)

Brooke House School, Cosby (Pete Murray)

Brooke House School, Cosby (Pete Murray)

 

One day later, and a rare morning off! I take the chance to drive just a few miles over the Nottinghamshire border to link up with a small group of European Bee-eaters which have taken up residence near a working quarry. We manage to see five of them – dazzling birds with a startling array of wonderful colours in their plumage. They fly high, then land with their prey, calling all the time, busy, energetic creatures going about their lives completely unfazed by the watching crowd! Am I in Central England? Surely this must be the Camargue or maybe Andalucia! A Hobby appears in the sky, dancing around with the Bee-eaters, Swifts and Martins. A blue sky, full of wildness! I love it!

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Another day, and back to business! It is my contention that there is only one school in the UK that can actually WALK its students out of their classrooms and be watching Ospreys within a few minutes! Of course it’s Edith Weston School, or, as we like to call it ‘Osprey School No.1’! The whole school is coming to see the Ospreys over a period of a week, and today it’s the turn of the younger Key Stage 1 boys and girls. They arrive in a flurry of excitement, and soon we are ‘off to see the Ospreys’, all equipped with special child-friendly binoculars, chatting, pausing to look at damsel flies, butterflies and loads of sombre Cormorants sitting quietly in the dead trees in the water. As we enter the hide, we sense something very special has just happened…..and it has!! At 10.14am precisely, just half an hour before our arrival, one of the juvenile Ospreys took its maiden flight, and now sits, a little uncertainly, on the far leaning perch! Maya shadowed its flight, but has now returned to her own perch closer to the nest. Everyone in the hide, from the youngest (aged six) to the oldest (probably me!) is transfixed, willing the youngster to fly again! By the time we leave the hide, there have been no more flights, but to be there on such a day is a special memory for everyone.

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During the afternoon, my colleagues Jackie and Pete take the chance to go off and see the Bee-eaters, based on my account of yesterday, but they are back in plenty of time to receive our next group of visitors – the wonderful Oakham Brownie Unit, together with their accompanying collection of ‘Owls’ – was it Brown, Tawny or Snowy this time? We have met these Brownies before, in their HQ in Oakham, so they are already quite expert – in fact one of them is now an Osprey Ambassador for us in her own school. Holly joins us, and after a brief introduction in the Centre, off we go down to the hide again – a colourful procession in shades of yellow and brown! Almost as colourful as the Bee-eaters! The second juvenile Osprey has not fledged yet, but it could be any moment…

Bee-eater (Pete Murray)

Bee-eater (Pete Murray)

 

What a week it’s been so far! And it’s not over yet! On Friday evening there is a special cruise on board the ‘Rutland Belle’ for members of the ‘Wildlife Watch’ – a group organised by the Leics & Rutland Wildlife Trust. They have been meeting monthly all through the year, and this is their family event to end their programme for the summer. Sadly for me, on my way to Whitwell Creek to join the cruise, the Great North Road becomes the Great North Car-park, and I am still a few miles away when the Belle is due to cast off. As I stand disconsolately on the jetty, all alone, with the Belle a distant shape out on the reservoir, my mobile sounds and it’s Skipper Matt! He has spotted me, and is coming back for me! Minutes later, to the accompaniment of some ribbing from the crew, I am installed on board, and we have a lovely cruise, with six or seven Osprey sightings, and plenty of other wildlife too. Thanks Matt!

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After the briefest of respites, it’s ‘all systems go’ again on Sunday, as we welcome our student representatives from local schools for their latest ‘Ambassador Sunday’ in Wader Scrape hide. The second juvenile Osprey has now fledged, so the theme for today has to be ‘Fledging and Flight’, and Pete updates each ambassador’s memory stick with the latest pictures so that they can share them back in their schools in the days ahead. Jackie has prepared a script, so our young reporters are well primed to deliver the latest news. One set of ambassadors from Uppingham have even been invited to visit another school to spread the word! The enthusiasm and ingenuity of these young people is very re-assuring and heart-warming. Several of our Year 6 ambassadors tell us they have already taken steps to appoint new representatives to take their places next year when they move on to new schools – and of course we hope they will remain as ambassadors once they are settled in their respective secondary schools. Some are even planning official ‘handovers’ and training their replacements! We shall continue to have ‘Ambassador Sundays’ in August (13th) and September (3rd) for those that can make it, and on Sunday October 1st we are planning a ‘Grand Ambassadors Party’ to thank them all (and their parents) for all their hard work in promoting the Rutland Ospreys this season. Has anyone got a jelly-mould in the shape of an Osprey?

Great Casterton Primary (Pete Murray)

Great Casterton Primary (Pete Murray)

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The following week (beginning July 10th) is just as busy as the previous one, with visits to Lyndon by 28 Year Six students from All Saints Academy in March, Cambridgeshire, the second stage of the Edith Weston ‘Walk to see the Ospreys’ tour of the South Shore,, two evening cruises on board the ‘Rutland Belle’, and finally on Friday a special Celebration Assembly at Casterton Primary, near Stamford. We have been invited to join in the celebrations of achievements of various kinds, and our job is to award the First and Third Prizes to two groups of students who sent their entries in for our ‘Ospreys and Us’ film competition. We show the winning entry to the whole school, before handing out the certificates and book prizes. It is a lovely occasion. There are also prizes for a student who wrote an epic story called ‘Finding Ozzie’, and another for a girl who drew a lovely picture of Ospreys in Africa. Perhaps the best moment is when our two outgoing ambassadors, Sam and Louie, introduce and hand over their duties to the new Casterton Ambassadors team. It’s all looking good for next season!

At home that weekend I go through the diary and start to add up the numbers of young people (aged 5 – 16), to whom we have presented, either in their own schools or here at the Lyndon Reserve. To my surprise, the total so far, up to and including 14th July, is a staggering 2997. With one week to go before all the schools have broken up, it looks like we are going to beat our record number, set last year, of students who have been ‘ospreyed’ here!

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And that record goes tumbling on the first day of the new week (July 17th), when Jackie and Pete go to Edith Weston Primary for one last time this season, to address the assembly and present yet more prizes. Later that day, Holly joins us as we entertain our last visit of the term – a splendid group from Prince William School in Oundle, Northamptonshire! These Year 7 and 8 students have already formed their own ‘Osprey Club’ and have been following the webcam since Maya and 33(11) returned in the Spring. I think we shall be seeing some of them again! And to top things off perfectly, during today we passed the magic figure of 3000 students, with our final total being a record-breaking 3071!

There can be no greater thrill for a writer than to come across someone actually reading his or her book! It happened to me a couple of Sundays ago, when I arrived at the Lyndon Centre to find a girl sitting in the corner with a copy of ‘Ozzie Leads the Way’! I learned later that her Dad had bought it for her earlier that morning, and she had spent time in the hide reading it (after getting a good look at the Ospreys of course!), carried on reading it on the path on the way back, then in the Centre itself, and even on the steps outside the pub where the family went for lunch! Her name is Jessica. I hope she sees this. A few days later, I received an e-mail from her Dad, with a little note from Jessica :

Dear Ken, Hello, it’s Jessica. I have now finished my book and I really, really, like it! Thank you for my badge and your signature. I like the part when Ken goes to Africa and meets all the children. What is your favourite part? I think you should make another book like that (as I really loved this one). Thank you for making such a lovely book for everyone and I hope you enjoyed reading this. From Jessica xxx.

Thank you Jessica! And yes, I certainly did enjoy receiving your letter!

I hope it is clear now why we enjoy this job so much, and why we feel it is such a privilege to be involved every day with spectacular wildlife, talented, committed and passionate colleagues, the splendid volunteer force, and so many hundreds of enthusiastic and wonderful young people and their supportive families. As another school term comes to an end and our thoughts turn to our Osprey Family Fun Day (August 1st) and the ever popular Birdfair (August 18th – 20th), thank you to everyone who has helped us enjoy ‘An Osprey Summer, 2017.’

Jessica and Ozzie! (Roger Harrison)

Jessica and Ozzie! (Roger Harrison)