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A spike in pike

It’s been another lovely day full of sunshine and fish, well, pike to be precise! The little ospreys are looking very healthy, and they have been relaxing together on the nest in the shade of Maya’s shadow, when they weren’t eating, of course. Maya always makes sure all the chicks are full before she stops feeding them, and often tries to continue feeding them when they’ve had enough! This morning, at about 10:30, 33 brought in a lovely fresh pike, which Maya immediately took from him and fed to the chicks.

Feeding

33 watching Maya feed the chicks

Fish

Little chick getting its fill of pike

 

In the second video above, you can see that the smaller chick is at the front, getting most of the fish, and it is the largest chick that’s stuck at the back behind the others. This makes a change from the usual order of play, that the smallest chick is left until last. No matter which chick it is that gets left at the back, they will still get fed, as the ones in front will get full and stop eating, and Maya will feed the next one in line. It’s easy to tell that the one at the back is the oldest chick, as it’s noticeable that a black hue is beginning to come through the brown down on the back of its head. This change will occur gradually to all three of them over the next week, and the cute little fluffy brown chicks will turn darker and a bit gangly as their wings grow in length. Here’s a picture of what the chicks will look like soon:

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Two week old chick, 2015

 

Later in the afternoon, 33 delivered another pike to the nest, and it was quite a monster! He seemed keen to keep it, and Maya was still feeding the rest of the other pike to the chicks, so he flew off with it. Pike seems to be 33’s fish of choice today! There are a lot of them around at the moment, as they spawn at this time of year to coincide with the increase in water temperature, and they venture into shallow water to do so. Consequently there are plenty of pike in Manton Bay, and they are very easy to catch!

33 with the pike

33 with the pike

 

33 brought the fish back a little later, minus its head, and Maya took it from him this time. The smallest chick got stuck in again, and one of the others was still fast asleep!

Big pike

Maya feeding the big pike to the chicks

 

 

Don’t blame it on sunshine

Haven’t the chicks grown?! Raptor chicks develop incredibly fast. They are already becoming more active, shuffling round the nest on their bellies using their little wings to propel them! One chick in particular seems to have grown the most, and there is a smaller one of the three, but this always happens and the smaller chicks tend to catch up with the bigger ones fairly quickly. It’s no surprise, really, that these chicks are growing so quickly, when you consider that they are being fed pure protein, and lots of it! 33 is delivering masses of fish, and Maya is happily feeding their cute little faces with it! This morning, 33 brought in an enormous roach – the fish was so big there was still some left at half past three!

Huge roach

Chicks snuggling up to the big fish

Chicks snuggling up to the big fish

 

We don’t usually see much aggression between the osprey chicks in Manton Bay, there is so much food there’s always enough to go around, therefore there’s no need to squabble over it. However, today we saw a bit of aggression from the larger chick towards the other two. It had been fast asleep whilst Maya fed the others a bit more roach, and then it woke up it seemed to smell the fish on its siblings’ beaks, and realised it had missed out! It wasn’t very happy to say the least, and took out its anger on its brothers/sisters. A case of “how dare you eat fish without me!” Maya soon fed it, so all was OK in the end.

33 took the big fish away to eat a couple of times, always bringing it back to the chicks and Maya when he’d had enough. They do a very good job of sharing out the food! The chicks spent most of the day sleeping off each portion of roach they ate, usually on top of each other in a bunch, underneath Maya when it was chilly, and in her shadow when it got warm.

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It’s been a beautiful day, and the reserve is slowly and subtly changing with each coming week. The meadows are filling up with buttercups, and will soon be resplendent in yellow!

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One of my favourite things at Lyndon is the wild garlic (ramsons) that lines the path from the door of the centre to the main track. The smell that greets you as you open the door is wonderful!

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Pete Murray, education officer and photographer, is running a series of photographic walks at Lyndon in the coming months, to take advantage of the reserve’s beauty and the opportunities this time of year offers in terms of taking pictures. The dates of these walks are 28th May, 18th June and 16th July. Click here for more details and to book!

Our first osprey cruise of the season – 28th May – is now sold out, as is our next dawn cruise. The next available afternoon cruise is on 4th June, and there are only three spaces left on it – click here to book them!

All cruise dates can be viewed by clicking here.

Before we set off for a 2014 Dawn Cruise, by passenger Valerie Webber

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Osprey Festival Update!

Osprey Festival, July 2016

Visiting local schools this week, we have met many students working hard on fantastic entries for our Osprey Festival, hosted by Brooke Priory School in Oakham in July. We have seen some really exciting scientific work on Osprey migration and fishing methods, together with brilliantly imaginative Osprey stories, poems and plays, plus colourful, accurate illustrations of Ospreys by talented young artists. Don’t forget – the closing date for entries is Monday May 23rd, so schools still have a little time to put the finishing touches to their students’ work, and select the best to put forward to the Festival. Full details of the Festival can be found by clicking here.

 

School Visits, June and July, 2016

Our Diary for the last two months of the school year is rapidly filling up. If you would like us to come to your school to do an Osprey presentation in assembly, or lead a lesson with a class, do please book soon. Likewise, if you would prefer to bring a group to the Lyndon Nature Reserve to see the Ospreys in Manton Bay in real life, then book with us soon! This time last year, we ended up having to decline several bookings, so contact us quickly to avoid disappointment.

 

Contacts

For Festival or bookings enquiries, please use the following contacts :

E-mail : ken@rutlandwater.org.uk, or jackie@rutlandwater.org.uk.

Telephone : (evenings) : 01733 243095.

 

Osprey Festival – 20 Years Of Rutland Ospreys

The education team have visited many local schools in the last couple of weeks and have seen some superb pieces work produced by the children. Their best work will  be entered entered for the festival  and  we have already received entries from abroad.

Entries from schools for the 2016 festival are due in the week before half term and we look forward to receiving your children’s work .

Contact Jackie by e-mailing jackie@rutlandwater.org.uk  if you want to know more about submitting entries.

Food (1)

 

 

A lasting legacy

Each year there is no clearer sign of the onset of spring in Rutland than the sight of the first newly-arrived Osprey perched on its nest; its white underside illuminated by the gentle March sun. For those of us lucky enough to have been involved in the Rutland Osprey Project for a number of years there has been one bird in particular whose return was especially significant and eagerly anticipated each year. He was often the first Osprey to return; his arrival signalling the start of another Osprey year at Rutland Water.  The bird in question, of course, is 03(97); or Mr Rutland as he became better know. Sadly this year, he has failed to return.

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In many ways the story of Mr Rutland epitomises the success of the Rutland Osprey Project. The irony in his nickname though is that he wasn’t from Rutland at all. 03 was one of eight young Ospreys collected from nests in northern Scotland by Roy Dennis in 1997. It was the second year of the translocation project and the eyes of the conservation world were once again on Rutland Water. 1996 – the first year of the project – had been mixed. Half of the birds translocated from Scotland hadn’t survived; and many people were sceptical about the project’s chances of success. 1997, therefore, was an incredibly important year.

Having been kept in specially-designed release pens on Lax Hill – a grand location overlooking Rutland Water Nature Reserve – 03 and seven other birds were released in late July. 03 made his first flight, described in the day’s monitoring notes as a ‘short, but surprisingly competent’, just after 8pm on 27th July, before landing on a nearby dead tree.

A week or so later the young Ospreys were enjoying their new-found freedom, exploring further and further from the release pens, and beginning to learn about their new home. It was here that my first encounter with 03 took place.  I was a fifteen year-old volunteer and the sight of eight newly-released Ospreys flying around Lax Hill was awe-inspiring: something I will never forgot. Of course I didn’t realise the significance of 03 at the time, but he was one of the birds that myself and the team monitored that summer. On 4th September 03 set-off on his maiden flight to West Africa. Little did we know what an important bird he was to become.

Just under two years later, on June 14th 1999, 03 was sighted back in Rutland for the first time. His return, and that of another of the 1997 cohort, 08(97), signified that the project – the first of its kind in Europe – could work. During the course of that summer and the next, 03 and 08 both established territories. 08 took-over one of the artificial nests on the nature reserve, and 03 built a nest in the top of a stag-headed oak on private land close to the reservoir. Site B, as it later became known, was a thoroughly English setting for the Scottish Ospreys who was to become known as Mr Rutland.

In spring 2001 hopes were high that either 03 or 08 would breed. As we would come to expect, 03 didn’t disappoint. In mid-April he was joined at his nest by an unringed Scottish female. We speculated that she may have been an old breeder who had been ousted from a nest in Scotland by a younger bird; a defect in her right eye perhaps betraying her ageing years. Whatever the case, the fact that one of our translocated males had managed to attract a female who was heading north was an encouraging sign.

img158 - First Site B Female

By early June the birds had been sitting on eggs for five-and-a-half weeks and we were eagerly watching the nests for signs of hatching. Then on the morning of 6th June we noticed a change in their behaviour. 03 arrived with a roach and flew straight to the nest with it. This would usually signify a change in incubation duties, but this time the female remained in the nest. She stood up and carefully inched her way to the side of the nest. She then tore off a piece of fish and delicately offered it down into the nest cup. It was clear that the first Osprey chick in central England for over 150 years had hatched. Two days later the team checked the contents of the nest with Roy Dennis, using poles and a mirror. They could clearly see the tiny chick and two unhatched eggs.

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Six weeks later we visited the nest to ring the chick; a landmark moment for the project. We didn’t know it at the time, but that first youngster was one of 32 chicks that 03 would go on to father over the course of fifteen summers at Site B. When his unringed mate failed to return in 2003, 03 quickly attracted a new female to his nest. 05(00) was the first translocated female to breed in Rutland and it was fitting that she did so with 03. Together 03 and 05 raised a total of 17 chicks between 2003 and 2008, and they remain the most successful breeding pair in the Rutland colony.

05(00) raised 17 chicks with 03 between 2003 and 2008

05(00) raised 17 chicks with 03 between 2003 and 2008

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Many of the offspring reared by 03 and 05 returned to Rutland in subsequent years and themselves became old favourites: most notably the two 2004 chicks, 5N(04) and 5R(04). 5N paired up with 03’s compatriot – and perennial bachelor 08(97) – and bred successfully in Manton Bay in 2007. Then when his sister and her mate moved to an off-site nest in 2009, 5R(04) took over the Manton Bay territory and bred successfully with Maya for the first time in 2010.

5R(04) was the first Rutland-fledged chick to return

5R(04) was the first Rutland-fledged chick to return

The Site B family in 2006

The Site B family in 2006

Sadly 05(00) failed to return in 2009, but she was quickly replaced by an unringed female. That though was only after an incredible battle between her and another female who we later discovered originated from Argyll in northern Scotland. The sight of two (presumably) Scottish female fighting over the Site B nest was another sure sign that the project was working.

During the fight between the two Scottish females at Site B in spring 2009, 03 was knocked off the nest

During the fight between the two Scottish females at Site B in spring 2009, 03 was knocked off the nest

The new unringed female and 03 formed another successful pairing and raised 14 chicks between 2009 and 2014. By spring last year 03’s legacy was becoming clear. Twelve of his offspring had returned and raised a total of 43 chicks between them. Furthermore, four of those 43 had then also gone on to breed successfully. So aside from being a grandfather many times over, 03(97) was also a great-grandfather to 15 young Ospreys.

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03 and his mate, 8th April 2010

03 and his mate, 8th April 2010

The Site B family in 2010

The Site B family in 2010

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The natural world can be a harsh place and 03’s ageing years suddenly became apparent in April last year. As usual 03 had been the first Osprey to return to Rutland; reclaiming his regal nest for the fifteenth time. Soon afterwards he was joined by his mate, and within two weeks they were incubating a clutch of eggs. Then the drama began.

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09(98) was one of the male birds who always showed an interest in Site B - but he was always no match for 03

09(98) was one of the male birds who always showed an interest in Site B – but he was never a match for 03

Site B has been a sought-after nest ever since 2001 and, over the years, 03 often had to repel attempts to oust him by young males eager to breed. This, we are sure, was the reason that he returned earlier and earlier each spring. 03 usually had little trouble defending his nest, but 2015 was a different story. One of his grandsons, 51(11) suddenly set his sights on Site B. This young male was incredibly aggressive and it quickly became apparent that he was too much of a match for ageing 03. Within a matter of days 03 had been usurped from the nest. He retreated to a regular haunt, Horn Mill Trout Farm, in an effort to regain his strength. Luckily for 03, help was at hand. Just as 51 was getting settled on the Site B nest, another Osprey – and another of 03’s grandsons – entered the fray. 30(10) was also attempting to breed for the first time and after some spectacular aerial battles he ousted 51 from Site B. 30’s unexpected intervention allowed 03 to return to Site B, and to our surprise, 30 made no further attempt to take-over the nest. Instead he retreated to an artificial nest, and 51 did the same. Things were back to normal at Site B, and soon afterwards the female laid a replacement clutch of eggs. Sadly, though, it soon became apparent that they weren’t viable and it wasn’t long before 03 and his mate gave up on them.  Nevertheless they remained at Site B for the rest of the summer and we were hopeful that both would be back this spring.

P1210867---03(97)--- 10 August-2014

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Sadly, we now know that neither 03 nor his mate have returned. We always knew that it would happen one year, but we have become so accustomed to 03 defying the odds and making it back each spring, that we fully expected to see him in all his splendour this March. It is all the more sad that his mate has failed to return too. We do not know what has happened to either bird, but the perils of migration appear to have taken their toll.

Although it was desperately sad not to see 03 this spring, he has left behind an incredible legacy on the 20th anniversary of the Rutland Osprey Project.  The latest chicks to hatch at the Manton Bay nest mean that he is now a grandfather 57 times over and a great-grandfather to 22 Ospreys. That tally is sure to increase over this coming summer – and for many years to come. I personally feel privileged to have shared eighteen summers with this wonderful Osprey. It is true to say that these birds become like old friends, and it was always a thrill to see him back at his nest each spring. I know that John Wright who has studied 03 more closely that anyone through his fabulous artwork and photographs – just a fraction of which we have included on this post – feels the same; as do the hundreds of other people who have enjoyed monitoring the Site B nest over the years – or perhaps even watched 03 fishing from the Rutland Belle or at Horn Mill Trout Farm.

It is fitting that 03’s place at Site B has been taken by one of his grandsons, 30(10) this spring. 30 has failed to attract a mate this year, but we are sure that it won’t be long before he follows his grandfather’s lead. Who knows, maybe he’ll be the first Osprey back in Rutland next spring?

This spring 30(10) has claimed the Site B nest

This spring 30(10) has claimed the Site B nest

We hope that 30 will become as successful at Site B as his grandfather was

We hope that 30 will become as successful at Site B as his grandfather was

Mr Rutland's legacy will live on for many years

Mr Rutland’s legacy will live on for many years

An interesting visitor

Those of you who follow the Dyfi Osprey Project will know that they had some excitement recently, as one of their chicks from 2013 returned to Wales – the first one to do so! It was 2R(13), known as Clarach. This means, of course, that she is the daughter of 12(10) – Glesni – who originated from Rutland. She was seen for the first time back in the UK in early May, and paid a visit to the Glaslyn nest. Click here to read the blog about her return.

On Tuesday, we mentioned in our update that there had been an intruder in Manton Bay. Below is the video that we posted.

We now know who the intruder was – Clarach! The bird’s identity was questioned by Emyr Evans of the Dyfi Osprey Project, who noticed in our video a distinctive gap in the wing feathers that looked familiar… His thoughts were confirmed when some photographs were taken in which the ring could be read, showing it to be 2R. Click here for more information.

Clarach was chased off the Manton Bay nest by 33, but hopes are high that she will remain in the area, find one of our many non-breeding males, and perhaps return to breed here next season! It’s only fair that we should have a female from Wales breeding here, as so many of ours have gone there!

In Manton Bay, thankfully the rain passed through and today has been lovely! The chicks are thriving on the plentiful food 33 is bringing – he delivered at least three fish today, and each chick has been fed several times.

Food (1)Dad and chicks