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Sailing to the end of the season

Yesterday evening, the Osprey team and the Rutland Belle crew hosted the last Osprey Cruise of 2014. It was another very successful cruise, with three Ospreys being seen attempting to fish, and several very close views of them flying by the boat! We did not witness a fish being caught, but numerous dives were made before the Ospreys moved on, out of our view. One of the Ospreys was seen as we were heading back into the harbour at the end of the cruise, and he was still intently focused on fishing as we disembarked. A great way to end a successful season of cruises! All of these cruises have been incredibly popular, and justifiably so. We hope there is the same level of interest next season! Keep an eye on our website for more details about next year’s Osprey and Wildlife Cruises.

It may have been the final cruise, but the season is not quite over yet. There is still a big event to come in September – our first Osprey Ball! This exciting event is a chance for Osprey lovers and supporters of the Project to get together and have a grand old time in a sophisticated setting. Tickets are still available, click here to book yours!

The Manton Bay Osprey pair are still with us today. This morning, Maya was seen on the nest food begging at around 08:30, and 33(11) flew in at 09:00 not with a fish, but with a bit of nest material. Suffice to say, Maya was not impressed. A little while later, both Ospreys took off after an intruder. They still need to defend that nest, then! They have put on a good show in the Bay today, with 33(11) impressing visitors by catching a fish right in front of the hide! The jury is still out on when these Ospreys will leave us this year. Only time will tell. But it may not be long, so if you haven’t seen our Osprey pair this season, you’d better hurry to the Lyndon Visitor Centre and visit Manton Bay, before it’s too late!

There was also some great action in front of the Centre today, as a Stoat chased and killed a Rat, whilst another Rat watched in fear from a precarious position atop the feeder tree. Then a Sparrowhawk flew through and grabbed a young Greenfinch, which may or may not have been the one whose life we saved after it crashed into the window earlier… Also, we had a close encounter with an Elephant Hawk-moth caterpillar which just happened to be on the path outside the Centre – quite an amazing creature!

The Lyndon Visitor Centre is scheduled to remain open until 14th September, and then we close for the winter months, re-opening in March 2015. The Anglian Water Birdwatching Centre at Egleton will remain open throughout the winter.

Maya is not happy that 33(11) came back fishless

Maya was not happy that 33(11) came back fishless

Maya this afternoon

Maya this afternoon

 

 

‘Fishing’ Red Kites

In central England you can safely say that if you see a large bird of prey diving into the water to take a fish, it will be an Osprey. Or can you? Over the past few weeks several photographers have been getting some great images of Red Kites taking fish at River Gwash Trout Farm at Ryhall in Rutland. Over the course of the summer we have worked with Lawrence Ball and Jamie Weston to build photography hides at Ryhall and at Lawrence’s second site at Horn Mill. Although Osprey fishing activity has dropped off at both sites in recent weeks, Red Kites have been diving into the ponds at Ryhall to take dead fish. As these superb photos by Geoff Harries show, it is making for a quite a spectacle.

The kites are likely to continue to take fish in this way for the next few weeks, so it is well worth booking a spot in the hide at Ryhall. To do so, email rivergwashtroutfarm.ospreys@yahoo.com. For more information about the hide and also the one at Horn Mill Trout Farm, click here

GH Red Kites 3GH Red Kite 2
GH Red Kite 1

The Site B family head south

It has felt very autumnal at Rutland Water in the past few days. The days are getting shorter, hirundines – Swallows, House Martins and Sand Martins are gathering in flocks as they prepare to head south, and passage waders – many of whom will have bred in the Arctic circle – are pausing to feed in Manton Bay and other parts of the reservoir before they continue south. They’re not the only ones who are on the move: all of this year’s Site B family have now set-out on their autumn migration.

Having fledged in early July – earlier than most other Ospreys in the UK – the Site B juveniles are at a distinct advantage. They have had plenty of time to hone their flying skills before embarking on that all-important first migration to Africa. By mid-August they had been on the wing for over six weeks, and the juvenile male, 6K(14), clearly decided that the time was right to make his move. He set-off sometime between midday on 18th August and 10am the following morning.  More than a week-and-a-half later, it is remarkable to think that he could already be in Southern Spain or North Africa.

Adult females are usually the first members of an Osprey family to depart in the autumn, but this year has been a little different for the Site B female. The injury suffered by 03(97) in early July meant that she has had to do far more fishing than usual, and that perhaps explains why she remained at the nest for much longer than normal. She was last seen dropping a fish at the nest on 20th August; more than two weeks later than she lingered last summer.

The juvenile female, 7K, seemed more reluctant to leave than her brother and, more than a week after 6K had set-off the young female was still at the nest. Having raised over 30 chicks at Site B, 03 is well-used to having to wait for the last of his off-spring to depart and, as you would expect of this most-successful of Ospreys, he continued to provide fish for 7K on a daily basis. Eventually though, she too decided to go. She was still at the nest at 2:30pm on 26th August, but by next morning 03 was alone once more. Although we didn’t see her go, the chances are that 7K had set-off the previous afternoon.

That just left 03. With his family heading south, he took the opportunity to depart. Shortly after 9am on 27th August he left the nest and headed purposefully south. He hadn’t returned by dark and was again absent the next morning. It seemed that he had set-off on his seventeenth autumn migration. We wish him and his family well.

03(97) set-off on his seventeenth autumn migration on 27th August

03(97) set-off on his seventeenth autumn migration on 27th August

As usual 03 waited for all of his family to depart before he set-off. John Wright took this photo moments before he headed south.

As usual 03 waited for all of his family to depart before he set-off. John Wright took this photo moments before he headed south.

03 departing on migration...

03 departing on migration…

John Wright's final view of 03 as he headed south

John Wright’s final view of 03 as he headed south

Although 03 and his family have left Rutland Water, the good news if you’re planning to visit this weekend, is that Maya and 33(11) are still present in Manton Bay. We expect them and the other non-breeding birds to linger into early next week, so there is still time for one final Osprey-fix of the year! There are a few places left on tomorrow’s final Osprey cruise of the summer, and if recent cruises are anything to go by, it should be a great way to end the season. You can book your place here. 

If I tell you tomorrow I’m leaving…

Maya and 33(11) were both present in the Bay this morning at about 08:00, then they disappeared for a couple of hours. Maya returned first, at about 10:00, and landed on the camera perch. 33 rejoined her at 12:15, and they came to the nest and did a bit of redecorating.

There was a report of an intruding Osprey in the Bay this morning – a female sporting a blue leg-ring. Unfortunately the number on the ring couldn’t be made out, but it is likely to be 2F(12), who was seen in the Bay earlier this month.

This afternoon, at about 13:00, visitors in the Lyndon Centre were treated to a great view of 33(11) flying past the windows on a fishing trip. We hoped he might fish in front of the Centre, but he flew off to the east and out of sight.

Maya and 33(11)

Maya and 33(11)

 

Recently, the question that everyone asks as they enter the Centre is “Are the Ospreys still here?” and then, at our affirmative answer, “When will they leave?” Well, as I have said previously, the answer we usually give is late August or early September, but given that this pair have not bred, that could differ for them. Ultimately, we just don’t know. Animal behaviour is always problematic to predict, which is not surprising, really, given that the behaviour of individuals rarely follows a set pattern.

According to records, Maya tends to buck the trend when it comes to migrating. Females are said to go first, before their juveniles, however this female always waits until all or most of her youngsters have left. In three of the four years she has raised young, Maya has migrated leaving one chick behind, and one year she left after they had all gone. Her partner, 5R(04), did not stick to the traditional beliefs about migration either. In two of his four years of breeding he did in fact leave last. However, in the other two, he left the nest before the female and one remaining chick.

It would seem that over the years she has bred, the dates that Maya has migrated have become steadily earlier, but always in September. In 2010 she left on 12th September, in 2011 on 9th, in 2012 on 3rd, and last year she migrated on 2nd. Prior to that, however, in the first year she spent at Rutland Water – 2009, when she did not breed – she migrated on 5th September.

In conclusion, it would seem that these dates tell us next to nothing, and no more light has been shed on the situation from collecting this information. Consequently, the answer to the question of when she will leave is still an “I don’t know”. We can speculate, of course, and it is entirely possible that this pair will stay later than usual, due to their bond with the nest, and the risk that once they have left it, another Osprey may try to stake a claim to it. Therefore, they may be the last two Ospreys in Rutland at the end of the season!

33 and Maya

33 and Maya

 

 

Come fly with me

Less rain and more wind were apparently the order of the day! Unfortunately, the wind has blown the feather back down onto the camera lens, which obstructs the view slightly. The Spotted Crake was still drawing people in, though it was only seen once this morning, and not since. The Ospreys of course are the main attraction here, for most people. Both 33(11) and Maya are still here, and have spent some time bringing sticks to the nest. There is no doubt that both of these birds have a strong tie to this nest, and they are ensuring that it remains theirs!

33 moving another stick

33 moving a stick

Synchronised nest building

Synchronised nest building

 

At one point in the video below, 33 lifts off from the nest, then attempts to land on Maya’s back! She was not impressed – this is no time for mating! 33’s instincts are working alright, just not always at the right time. Unfortunately, due to the feather at the top of the screen, it is hard to see what 33 is doing, but you can just see a flash of his legs at the top of the screen, and judging by Maya’s behaviour, it is apparent he is attempting to mate. He also tried this yesterday, though I was unable to video it.

There was an intruding Osprey in the Bay this morning, whom one visitor believed to have been 28(10), due to a perceived kink in the wing. However, our volunteer didn’t notice any wing damage. Therefore, perhaps it wasn’t 28… Whoever this intruder was, Maya and 33(11) did not appear to show any animosity towards it, and although all three Ospreys were flying around above the nest together, there did not seem to be any malice in their actions. According to watchers, it looked as though they were all just having a fly around together. All three Ospreys left the Bay after a while, then Maya and 33 returned a little later, with sticks for the nest.

A few weeks ago, we all thought it was a bit strange that the two-year-old male, 8F(12), was seen sitting next to 33 on the leaning perch, and all three Ospreys seemed quite settled. We have seen how attached to the nest this pair are, and they have aggressively chased away intruders from the area quite often. So why were they happy to let 8F sit with them in the Bay, and why did they not show more hostility to today’s intruder? We do not know. Perhaps this pair have a soft spot for 8F, and it was he, and not 28(10), who was intruding today.

33(11) moving a stick

33 grabbing an errant stick

 

Rainy days and Mondays

It was a very rainy Monday today! Not the sort of weather one hopes for on a bank holiday! But we shouldn’t complain, it could always be worse. The Ospreys don’t let the rain bother them too much, and 33(11) caught an enormous trout this morning! Rain can make fishing difficult, as it creates ripples on the water that hinder visibility. This means that it may take longer than usual for Ospreys to fish successfully in the rain. However, 33(11) wasn’t gone that long this morning before he arrived back with his catch! Again Maya waited on the nest for her share, and again it took him a while to bring it to her. However, when he did there was still a large portion left!

Waiting in the rain

The rain obscured the lens a bit as Maya waited for her fish

 

After looking at the weather forecast yesterday, I expected today to be fairly quiet visitor-wise. However, I was pleasantly surprised by the fairly substantial number of people who braved the rain to join us at Lyndon today. A lot of them came due to the continued presence of the Spotted Crake, which was again showing well from Waderscrape Hide. Those who did visit the reserve today were treated with excellent views of said Crake, and also brilliant displays from our Ospreys, who were in the Bay all day. Shallow Water hide also holds its share of treats for the eager birdwatcher, with views of Whinchat, Spotted Flycatcher and Yellow Wagtail, and Wood Sandpiper, Ruff, Black-tailed Godwit and other waders taking advantage of the low water level.

Later this afternoon, the nest was visited by a Yellow Wagtail! This attractive little bird will soon be making its way south towards its wintering grounds, in the same place as the Ospreys! There is also a Pied Wagtail in the picture. In the past, Pied Wagtails have occasionally nested underneath the Osprey nest. They didn’t this year, but have still popped onto the nest from time to time.

Yellow Wagtail and Pied Wagtail on the Osprey nest

Yellow Wagtail and Pied Wagtail on the Osprey nest

 

 

Making history part 13

25 Aug

26 Aug

Back to reality

It has been a lovely day today, and a busy one, too! The late summer sun has been shining, providing wonderful vistas across the reservoir. Although we are still clinging to the last vestiges of summer, the sun was accompanied today by a cool breeze, reminding us that autumn is on its way. The departure of some of our Ospreys is also testament to the changing seasons! The Manton Bay Osprey pair are still with us, though, and they have reverted to normal behaviour again today. 33(11) flew into the Bay with a fish at about 08:30. He sat on the T-perch eating it for an hour and a half, then finally delivered the remains of it to Maya, who was waiting impatiently on the nest!

33(11) delivers the fish

33(11) delivers the fish

Maya accepts the fish

Maya accepts the fish

 

Maya can’t complain though, really, as she could easily go and catch her own fish, and she has been doing this more often recently. However, last week she demonstrated a cross between laziness and deviousness, and employed a new tactic for getting food, as you will recall from Tim’s report on Thursday, when she stole a fish from another nest! Earlier in the season we had another occurrence of fish burglary, when a male Osprey came to Manton Bay and stole a fish from the T-perch!

Halfway through the day, Maya was still eating the second half of this morning’s fish. 33(11) sat next to her on the T-perch, creating a peaceful, domestic scene. We have all witnessed the strong bond that these two Ospreys have formed, and it is apparent to all who view them from the hide. Both Maya and 33(11) look in excellent condition, as you can see clearly on the live camera each time they land on the nest. They have not had the usual trials of parenthood this year, and have thus had a nice relaxing summer of no responsibilities, where they can concentrate on their own needs. Consequently, they have both remained in fine condition, which bodes well for their successful migrations to and from West Africa this winter.

Maya waiting on the nest for fish

Maya waiting on the nest for fish

 

Later this afternoon, 33(11) appeared on the nest and was mantling furiously. An intruder was obviously making a nuisance of itself! Fortunately, the threat to the nest was short-lived, and 33 was able to relax again after a while.

33(11) mantling at an intruder

33(11) mantling at an intruder

After the threat has gone

After the threat has gone

 

In other news, the juvenile Spotted Crake has been showing well all day today from Waderscrape Hide, creating much excitement for visitors, volunteers and staff alike! The last time one of these birds was seen at Rutland Water was August 1996, and before that was September 1987. The most recent record for this area (as far as I am aware) was at Eyebrook reservoir in September/October 2002. So they are not a common bird around here! Pop to Lyndon to see this relative rarity from Waderscrape Hide.

 

 

Making history part 12

24 Aug

Harmony in the bay

After Maya’s misdemeanors on Wednesday, today was a much more typical day at the Manton Bay nest. 33(11) caught a trout at 8am and eventually took the remains to Maya on the nest.

Maya waiting for 33(11) to bring a fish to the nest this morning.

Maya waiting for 33(11) to bring a fish to the nest this morning.

For 33(11) this summer has been a practice run for next year. Although some male Ospreys breed when they are three years’ old, most raise a family for the first time when they are four years of age. And that is exactly what we hope will happen in Manton Bay next year. This summer has given 33 time to hone the skills he will need if he returns next spring. One of the first jobs in late March or early April for any male Osprey is to scrape out a nest cup; and this morning 33 gave his scraping skills a bit of a dry run…

As has been the pattern recently, 33 went fishing again this evening; he was one of two birds we saw from the Rutland Belle on our latest Osprey cruise. Despite experiencing what felt like four season’s weather during the hour-and-a-half boat trip, we saw 33 catch a fish distantly in torrential rain and then had much closer views of 28(10) as he searched for a meal close to the dam once the sun had come out again. There are now just two cruises left this summer – on Wednesday and next Saturday. To book your place, click here.

A mixture of sunshine and heavy rain made for some dramatic skies during this evening's Osprey cruise

A mixture of sunshine and heavy rain made for some dramatic skies during this evening’s Osprey cruise

It wasn’t just Ospreys that created interest at Lyndon today. Receding water levels in Manton Bay have created perfect foraging conditions for numerous waders. This morning a single Wood Sandpiper, Ruff, 3 Black-tailed Godwits, several Green and Common Sandpipers and a few Dunlin could all be seen from Shallow Water hide. Then, mid-way through the afternoon a juvenile Spotted Crake – a rare visitor to the reserve – appeared at Waderscrape hide and provided great views for excited visitors for much of the afternoon. So if you have any spare time this bank holiday weekend, be sure to pop down to see us at Lyndon!