Blogs

Spot the Osprey

Having the live camera back online is great! Unfortunately today, that feather has been blowing right across the screen, obscuring the view. However, yesterday we managed to capture a video of something we have never had before… look at the top left corner, in the water – it’s 33(11) having a bath!

 

Less than a minute previously, he had been sitting on the nest, moving a stick around (see next video), then he took off, and all of a sudden there he was in the reservoir! At first, I did think he might have been fishing, or attempting to fish, but it soon became apparent he was simply having a good time. It was very considerate of him to do it within camera shot!

We have seen the Ospreys do this before in the Bay, sometimes they will just drag their feet through the water to wash them, and sometimes they will completely immerse themselves in the water and have a good dunking. It was very hot yesterday, so it is likely 33(11) just wanted to cool down.

33(11)

33(11)

 

 

Osprey photographic hide

As we reported a couple of weeks ago, the Osprey photographic hide is now open at nearby Horn Mill Trout Farm. Yesterday evening Geoff Harries took some great photos of 03(97) diving into the water before being chased by a Grey Heron.

Osprey coming out of water

Osprey leaving water

Osprey chased by heron

Osprey

Many thanks to Geoff for sending the great photos.

To find out more about the hide, and how to book click here.

Making history part 4

On this day fifteen years ago, two more Osprey chicks were brought to Rutland!

Part 4 - 22 July

Part 4 - 22 Jul

 

All I need is a miracle

Yesterday, in some miraculous way, we managed to get the live camera to work again! How long it will last this time, we can only guess, but we are thankful for what we have while we have it! Even though not much happens on the nest these days, it is still nice to see a live feed and the Ospreys do come to it occasionally, as the video below (recorded yesterday) proves.

 

As you can see, the Ospreys are still using the nest to do their fish swaps. Also, it is still 33(11) who is staying true to form and doing all of the fishing for a very patient Maya. If there were any chicks at this nest, they would just be fledging about now. Maya would soon begin to fish again, and both her and 33(11) would bring in fish for their fledglings. However, in their current situation, their instincts are still dictating that it is the male who will continue to fish, eat half and bring the rest to the female, just as it would be at the beginning of the season or during the incubation period.

Maya waiting for the fish

Maya waiting for the fish

 

It is a shame for Maya that she has been unable to breed this year. She has been a very successful breeding female for the past four years, and has raised eleven chicks with a very dependable male. This year it all changed for her when 5R(04) did not return. Although she found a new partner and laid eggs and all looked well, the chaos that ensued when 33(11) came along has meant that she has not been able to raise any chicks this season – a very different situation for her. She has not had to be permanently present on the nest with her chicks, to feed them, protect them, shelter them from the rain, shield them from the cold and shade them from the sun. As it is, she has spent most of this season perched near the nest, not doing an awful lot.

Now, I know it is highly unlikely that she sits there mourning the loss of 5R(04), ruing the fact that she has no chicks, thinking about what she would be doing if she did have chicks, or comparing 28(10) and 33(11), wondering which one she would have preferred to end up with. It is far more likely that she thinks of nothing at all, and just reacts to the changes in her immediate environment. Even so, there is almost certainly an element of confusion for her, and I still feel for her that she travelled all the way back from Africa with one purpose in mind – to breed – and has been unable to fulfil that objective.

It is different for 33(11), as he has never bred before and so doesn’t know any differently. At least this season has provided him with a good practice run, showing he can nest build, incubate (nothing), catch big fish (and share them) and defend his nest. We shall forgive him his intrusion into the domestic harmony between Maya and 28(10), just as long as he returns next year, and puts all of his practise into action!

Maya on the nest yesterday

Maya on the nest yesterday

 

 

Making history part 3

Each of the young Ospreys that were translocated received a general health check from vet Sue Thornton, a raptor specialist from London Zoo. Weights, state of plumage and general development were recorded and a blood sample taken for analysis. DNA testing of the blood samples determined the sex of each bird.

Part 3 - 20 July 1999

10 Reasons to come to Osprey Family Fun Day

Just in case you were undecided, we thought we’d give you a helping hand with our ten reasons to come to Osprey Family Fun Day…

1. Ospreys are amazing. Duh?

But seriously, even with all the ups and downs from the Manton Bay Nest this year, Rutland Water Nature Reserve is still the best place to see Ospreys in central England, less than an hour away from some major urban areas: Leicester, Nottingham and Peterborough. They’re on view from our Waderscrape Hide at the Lyndon Nature Reserve on the South Shore of the reservoir and there will be helpful ‘Guides in Hides’ throughout the day to chat to you about Ospreys, migration and the individuals around the county. You may be lucky enough to see one fishing, but even when they’re simply perched they’re still majestic and charismatic.

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2. Great for Kids

With our Osprey Passport, your children can become certified Rutland Osprey Rangers: on entry, all children will be given a small goody bag containing their very own Osprey Ring wristband, mask and interactive passport for them to fill in on the way round the Reserve. The wristbands will be personalised with real life Ospreys in the area, so when you get home you’ll be able to log on to our website and read all about your Osprey. The interactive passport will challenge you to complete certain tasks and games whilst you migrate through the reserve to Africa (Waderscrape Hide), and you’ll get a stamp for each activity that you complete. When you’re done, show a member of staff in the Visitor Centre and you’ll be presented with an Osprey certificate, showing you to be a real Osprey expert. Activities include making bug boxes and bird feeders to take home, playing our new game ‘Race to Gambia’, catching fish in our mini reservoir and identifying a real wild Osprey. If you’re a bit shy, we’re happy to let you wander around on your own, but if you want to get more involved, there’ll be great opportunities to make new friends. We’re also hoping for a Ringing Demonstration, so you may get to see birds close up, too.

Bird ringing demonstration

3. Great for Parents

With the holidays looming ahead, this is a cheap and fun day out for all the family. Priced at £10 per family or only £5 for families with a single child, this is your chance to explore the reserve at a discounted cost; your children will be educated and entertained, and they’ll be lots of fresh air, exercise and play. There’s our beautiful picnic area (where Little Owls have been hanging out for the past week!), so you can set up base camp there or simply meander through the meadows and woodlands. Our informative and helpful staff will be able to give you more details about the reservoir and the wider work of the Leicestershire and Rutland Wildlife Trust, too!

4. The Healthy Alternative

Other than the ice creams, spending the day at the Rutland Water Nature Reserve is much healthier than going to the cinema. There are lots of studies from different organisations (the Wildlife Trusts, the RSPB, the National Trust, etc.) and others (Project Wild Thing, the University of Essex, etc.) that suggest that getting children outside and ‘connected’ with nature is vitally important for their health; they’ll concentrate more, they’ll be happier, more relaxed, less stressed, not to mention exhausted after walking the length of the reserve so your guaranteed a good nights’ sleep, too! Bringing kids along to Osprey Family Fun Day is a gentle introduction to wildlife, even for those who don’t see nature as being ‘cool’ – no matter what their age.

family fun day photo 2013

5. Meet the staff

We have so many supporters and it really would be lovely to meet you in person. You’ve read the blogs, seen the photos and maybe spoke to us on the phone, but this is a chance to have  chat with us face to face; we’re always looking for new ideas that can make Lyndon Visitor Centre bigger and better, so share your thoughts with us.

WOW skype

6. We’ll go ahead whatever the weather

If you’re travelling more than a few miles, it’s good to know that when you get to us we’re going to be going ahead: we are! Come rain or shine Osprey Family Fun Day will still be great – the Visitor Centre is comfortable with all the usual facilities, including tea and coffee, cold drinks, ice creams, snacks and a gift shop, toilets, a seating area and even an electronic buggy to hire for the less able. If it’s raining, activities will be placed under marquees or in the Hides, so there’s no worries there and honestly a bit of rain never hurt anyone. I’ve just checked the forecast though, and fingers crossed it’s looking like a sunny day.

7. Other Wildlife

No matter what your preference, Rutland Water has something for everyone. Butterflies, moths, dragonflies and plants sit alongside our gorgeous feathered, furred and scaly nature: birds include Ospreys (of course), warblers, ducks, geese, grebes, egrets, tits, finches, sparrows (including the more scarce Tree Sparrow), buntings, terns, gulls, waders, owls, kites, buzzards, falcons, swifts, hirundines and so much more. Regularly seen on the reserve are Stoats, Bank Voles and the like, and the team will put out some small mammal traps to see what we can show you close up. Water Voles are a star attraction from Waderscrape Hide, too, being seen hourly.

Peacock

8. More than Wildlife

At the Rutland Osprey Project, we’re not content to just talk about Ospreys – culture and community is just as important and by following the Ospreys’ migration, we’ve been able to learn all about different people and places from Senegal and the Gambia all the way to Spain, France and Northern Africa. By undertaking their own mini migration, children will learn all about these human elements of conservation, too.

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9. Get inspired

No matter what your age, we want you to be involved with the Rutland Osprey Project; if you’re a young’un you can talk to us about visiting with your school – or us visiting you! We’re passionate about inspiring the next generation of conservationists, having interacted with over 3,000 children this season alone, and we can chat to you about work experience, future careers or other wildlife activities for you to get involved with. If you’re a bit older but wanting to support us, we can tell you about volunteering opportunities, future events and courses  or membership, too, as well as the wider work of the Wildlife Trusts.

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10. Ice Cream – any excuse.

‘Nuff said!

 

Ciao – hope to see you there! x

Hen Harrier Day

HHDThere’s no doubt about it: the staff who work at the Rutland Osprey Project are very lucky. We have great volunteers who support us with their time, commitment and enthusiasm; a community of local people and business owners (including landowners, farmers and fish farmers) who understand the importance of conservation; and we can be proud of the fact that our project is considered by many to be a success. Although our work is far from finished, there is now a stable population of Ospreys breeding in central England after 150 years of absence: the whole purpose of the translocation.

We’re also lucky in that hard work and tireless efforts have meant that people – our visitors, supporters, volunteers, sponsors, etc. – actually know what an Osprey is. Engagement, education, entertainment are huge parts of what we do, as well as ecology, and no one part of this is more important than any other. Without the first three, the final one would arguably struggle to exist.

And that’s why I’m worried about the Hen Harrier. I went out for dinner with friends the other night and got going about Hen Harriers, and the fact that they’re facing a very real extinction in England. I was met with polite, but blank stares. So I went back a step further – do you know what a Hen Harrier is? Hmmmm. One thought that maybe she’d heard of it; not even a flickering of recognition from the others. Well, what about just any Harrier? Still no. What about a Bird of Prey? Ahh, that was more familiar territory, but still not entirely confident.

And then I realised; before I took up birding as a hobby and really got addicted to nature, did I know what a Hen Harrier was? Probably not actually. It’s just not a bird that most of us would engage with on a cultural level; they’re not in our gardens or roving across your standard field; they’re not wheeling over the M40; they don’t feature in kid’s books or songs or even really on television, except if you know what to watch. You have to actively go and look for one (now more so than ever) and be able to identify it in remote, windswept locations.

And this shows the importance of socio-cultural factors in nature conservation: deep down, most people need that human connection.

So, what is a Hen Harrier Circus cyaneus?

HHJW

Hen Harrier ‘Ringtail’

This is.

They really are gorgeous birds: males are a pale grey colour, elegant and tapering with wingtips that look like they’ve been dipped in ink, yellow legged and yellow eyed; females and juveniles are brown with a white rump and a long, barred tail: ‘ringtail’. They fly with wings held in a shallow ‘V’ across moorlands (or marshes in the winter) gliding low in search of food, which mainly consists of meadow pipits and voles. Identifying your first Harrier can be tricky – the more familiar Kites and Buzzards would dominate your thoughts – but there’s something distinctive about the way that they fly, and once you’ve got it you won’t lose it. 

HHM

Hen Harrier Male

 

What’s the problem?

Hen Harriers are our most persecuted Bird of Prey. They have fallen into conflict over many, many years with Grouse Moor owners, who see the bird as having a direct impact on the populations of Red Grouse bred specifically for the purposes of shooting. Moors are intensively ‘managed’ and whilst some owners now have good relationships with local Trusts and wildlife charities, others continue to abuse the land, abuse the wildlife and abuse some misguided and ill-conceived ‘right’ that makes them believe that they are somehow above the law. Peer-reviewed research suggests that good habitat remains that could support over 300 pairs of Hen Harriers in England, but ‘there are 962-1285 breeding pairs of Hen Harrier ‘missing’ from Scotland and 322 – 339 pairs ‘missing’ from England‘. The killing of Hen Harriers is illegal and we had all hoped that the time when Bird of Prey persecution, which seems so deeply Victorian and parochial, had passed. It hasn’t and as a consequence we are facing the reality that a Bird of Prey will probably go extinct in England in the 21st Century because of direct, human persecution. Wow. In 2014 just three pairs have bred – all have required 24 hour protection. You can read more about this on Mark Avery’s blog, as well as by visiting the websites of Chris Packham and Birders Against Wildlife Crime, the RSPB, the North West Raptor Protection Group and the Wildlife Trusts.

What’s this got to do with Ospreys?

Simply put, the Osprey is a bird with a tumultuous and conflicted history in the UK, just like the Hen Harrier. Without the work of many individuals, organisations and businesses it would not be recovering. Ospreys, and thus the Rutland Osprey Project, does not exist in isolation from the many other habitats and species in the UK (and beyond that, the world!) but has to be placed in a wider conservation and cultural context. We’re doing pretty well overall (apart from a few natural ups and downs), but we can only say that we’re truly successful if we keep working towards a bigger picture. Hence why we, the Wildlife Trusts, are trying to halt the persecution of the Hen Harrier.

What can you do?

Lots! Show your support by adding a ‘twibbon’ to your Facebook or Twitter account, so that you can raise awareness amongst friends and colleagues; learn more by listening to these podcasts by Birders Against Wildlife Crime; or join in with Hen Harrier Day – the 10th August – by attending a peaceful, legal gathering in Derbyshire, Lancashire or Northumberland. There’s lots of blogs and social media support out at the moment, so reading and sharing these is a great way to understand the situation further, too.  You can donate to the cause on the RSPB website, which will help to track the birds movements and support staff with surveillance equipment.

 

Should I stay or should I go

Due to the fact that the Ospreys in Manton Bay have failed to breed this year, we have all been wondering whether they will leave on their migration earlier than usual, as they do not have to wait for their chicks to be independent of them before they do. However, it has also been known for Ospreys who have not bred to stay later than usual, so we must just wait and see. In 2007 and 2008, a different pair of Ospreys occupied the Manton Bay nest. This pair unfortunately failed to breed in 2008. That year, the female migrated on 23rd August, which was six days earlier than she did the year before. The male, however, remained until 13th September, which was ten days later than the year before. This goes to show that these things cannot be predicted!

Ospreys do not migrate together. Even the chicks make their way to Africa without the company of their siblings or parents. The male and female may not see each other again until they return the next spring to breed. They are drawn back to the same nest, and bond together for one purpose – to bring more Ospreys into the world.

The female Osprey is usually the first to leave. After the chicks have fledged she spends more time fishing and feeding, getting herself in a suitable condition to travel the necessary 3,000 miles to her wintering grounds. Unlike the male Ospreys, who spend most of their time fishing during the breeding season (and are therefore lean, mean, fishing machines) females spend all of their time on the nest with the chicks. This means that her fitness level will drop throughout the season, so she needs to regain it. Once she has gained the necessary fitness to migrate, she doesn’t hang around. Up she’ll soar, circling higher and higher, gaining swiftly in altitude until suddenly she points her compass south, and off she goes.

Males, on the other hand, are usually the last to go, as they still feel the need to feed their youngsters, and the youngsters will still call for food. Thus, male Ospreys will stick around a while longer, and continue to provide fish for the juveniles. There will come a point though, when the juvenile Ospreys suddenly feel a pull, an unseen force that they do not understand but cannot ignore. This pull draws them south, away from the familiar ground where they were born, and towards an unknown place, a foreign land. They do not know that it is called Africa, but there they will go, and there they will remain until they are two years old, and another pull, more familiar this time, will draw them back to Rutland Water.

Osprey (Pandion haliaetus) - "33"

 

The feather on the lens

The mystery of the dysfunctional live camera was partly solved today when we noticed a fault and fixed it. The camera came on and we all got excited, but the sight we were greeted with was this:

The feather on the lens!

The view from the live camera today

 

Even if the Ospreys had been on the nest, we wouldn’t have seen much of them! As it was, the fault we fixed wasn’t the fault that mattered, and the camera ceased to work after about an hour. We have a new part currently on its way to us, which will hopefully sort matters out permanently.

You may recall that recently we have seen a lot of unidentified intruding Ospreys in the area. We thought it was highly possible that one or more of these could be 2012-fledged birds back for the first time. We can now confirm that we definitely do have at least one other youngster back with us! Unfortunately we have not been able to determine her identity, at least not yet. However, we know that she is a female, and based on her underwing patterns she is not one of our current breeding females. She does sport a blue leg-ring. She could be one of four individuals, as there were four female fledglings in 2012.

We know that 8F(12), who was spotted in Manton Bay on 15th May, is currently in the area, as he was seen last week at Eyebrook Reservoir, a few miles south of Rutland Water. We are hopeful that we will be able to get a positive ID on the new female soon, and also possibly acquire evidence of more youngsters in the area!

 

 

Osprey Ball

Calling all those with a love of good food, good fun and Ospreys! Everyone is invited to join us as we celebrate the 2014 Osprey season with a new event – our first ever Osprey Ball!

This rather fancy do is to be held at Barnsdale Lodge Hotel, and requires you to don your Sunday best. The ticket price is £45, this includes a three course dinner, a glass of Prosecco on arrival and a glass of wine with your meal.

It promises to be an enjoyable evening, complete with food, wine, music and dancing! You will also be treated to a short talk by the Osprey Project’s Tim Mackrill to open the event. The celebrations will commence at 7pm, on Friday 19th September 2014.

For more information and to purchase tickets, click here.

Barnsdale Lodge

Barnsdale Lodge

The Event Room

The Event Room