There is no more important Osprey in the Rutland colony than 03(97). He was nick-named ‘Mr Rutland’ by Simon Barnes in his column in The Times, and for good reason; of the 53 Osprey chicks who have fledged from nests in the Rutland Water area since 2001, 03 has fathered 24 of them. His offspring include several birds who have gone on to raise chicks of their own, most notably 5R(04) (the breeding male in Manton Bay), 5N(04) (the first wild-fledged Rutland bird to breed)and 03(08) (or Nora as she is better known – the star of Springwatch and breeding female at Cors Dyfi).
The really great news is that chick number 25 has now hatched at Site B – the nest on private land that 03 has remained faithful to since 2001.
In the twelve years that 03 has been breeding at Site B, he can’t have endured a colder or wetter incubation than this spring, and we have been hoping that conditions would improve in time for hatching. Having started incubating earlier than ever this year, we knew that the first egg should hatch towards the latter end of this week – and so it has proved.
The fist signs of hatching at Site B came on Tuesday evening when 03, who had been struggling to catch a fish for most of the day, finally returned with a Trout. After eating most of the fish himself he delivered what was left to the nest. This would usually be a cue for him to take over incubation, but instead his mate ate the fish on the side of the nest, with 03 looking on attentively. Volunteers Tom and Ann Price who were monitoring at the time, watched her intently for signs that she may be offering fish down into the nest. Unlike at Manton Bay we don’t have a camera on the Site B nest and so, instead, have to rely on the behaviour of the birds themselves to know when the first chick has hatched; and the only way to be sure is when the female feeds her new arrival for the first time. This time the female finished the fish in a matter of minutes and then settled down to incubate without attempting to offer any fish into the nest. So although there were signs that a chick was close to hatching, it obviously hadn’t happened quite yet.We were sure, however, that we wouldn’t have to wait long.
The female was clearly far more restless than usual yesterday – another sign that something was happening – but we needed 03 to return with a fish to be sure that a youngster had hatched. Like the previous day though, 03 was finding fishing difficult and he was absent for much of the afternoon and early evening as he searched for a fish. Finally, after an absence of more than three hours he returned with a Trout. Like the previous day, the female remained on the nest with the fish and this time she carefully tore up tiny pieces and offered them gently down into the nest cup. Fantastic! The first chick had hatched and, what’s more, the sun was shining.
Although we don’t know how many eggs are in the nest, there is every chance that there will be another two to hatch in the next few days. It will be another week or ten days before we start seeing their tiny heads appearing over the edge of the nest, but for now it great to know that 03 has done it yet again. In his twelfth year of breeding at Site B, chick number 25 has arrived; a truly amazing statistic and one very much befitting of ‘Mr Rutland’.