Blogs

Bless the wings

Yesterday was a great day! The storm the night before made the day dawn rather grey and misty, but the sun soon came out and it warmed up considerably!

33 caught two fish in the bay yesterday morning, right next to the nest! They were both smallish roach. It seemed that there was a shoal of them near the nest, as, no sooner had he brought in the second one, 33 attempted to dive again for another!

Here is the fishing machine flying in with one of his catches. You can see him coming in the distance behind the nest. When he lands with the fish, he drops it onto the nest and gets a bit tangled in the sticks!

33 landing with fish

33 landing with fish

33 lands with fish

33 lands with fish

Maya takes the fish

Maya takes the fish

Feeding chicks

Feeding chicks

 

We had another very successful Osprey Cruise on the Rutland Belle yesterday evening! It was a warm, calm evening – perfect weather for being out on a boat. We had some fantastic views of Ospreys, and there were two Ospreys at once for a while! We watched them glide and soar, and flap their long wings in that floppy, lazy way they do, as they searched intently for fish.

We knew that 33 had left the bay just before we left the harbour, and sure enough, when the boat sailed into the South Arm, he was flying towards us! We watched him as he circled here and there looking for fish, and he glided closer and closer to us… then he was upon us, flying straight over the boat, right above our heads! We all had to lean back and point our binoculars vertically skywards to see him soar over the top of us. A fantastic view!

Male Osprey 33(11) intruding in the bay

33(11), photo by John Wright

 

A bit later on, we were treated to another superb view of an Osprey flying over us. This time the bird was 28(10), my personal favourite. 28 is easily identifiable by his slightly damaged right wing, which makes his wing tip stick up in flight. He was the star of our cruises last season, and he has been again this year. It’s always lovely to see him! Even though he fishes at the River Gwash Trout Farm fairly often, he still uses the reservoir too, usually on cruise days!

Soaring across the blue sky

28(10), photo by John Wright

 

All of our Osprey Cruises so far this season have been very successful. They have all been completely sold out too! Places sell very fast, and it’s easy to see why – the views have been incredible! The next cruise we have is on Saturday 11th July. Click here to book your place! 

Male Osprey 5R - Rutland Water

Male Osprey, photo by John Wright

 

Today has also been a very good day. 33 brought a fish in early, which Maya was feeding to the chicks when the cameras were turned on at 08:00. 33 came back for it when the chicks had finished, and took it to the T-perch. When he brought it back again a while later, S1 got up and grabbed it! We knew it wouldn’t be long before the chicks began eating the fish for themselves!

S1 grabbing the fish

S1 grabbing the fish

 

Maya seemed a bit disgruntled about this, as she seems to still want to feed the chicks herself! Instead of letting S1 get on with eating the fish, she took it from her and fed her from it. S1 was the only chick interested – S3 and S2 were happily lying down either side of her as she ate. She didn’t object to Mum taking the fish, and sat amenably to be fed.

S1 feeding, S3 yawning

S1 feeding, S3 yawning

Close up of S3, S1 being fed

Close up of S3, S1 being fed

 

The chicks have been stretching those long wings again today, getting used to manoeuvring them around. They are still a bit ungainly and unpredictable with them, and keep accidentally hitting each other on the head!

Big wing stretch

Big wing stretch

S3 stretching her wing

S3 stretching her wing across S1’s head!

 

They have also been flapping a lot again today. All three chicks have had a go at exercising their wings, often very enthusiastically!

S1 and S3 flapping their wings, with S2 in the middle

S1 and S3 flapping their wings, with S2 in the middle

S2 flapping

S2 flapping

S2 flapping

S2 flapping

S1 flapping

S1 flapping

S1 flapping

S1 flapping

 

Here is a great shot showing all three chicks in a row, with all their rings on show!

All rings on show

All rings on show

 

And here is a lovely one of the three of them lying happily together, safely watched over by Mum.

All three chicks lying together

All three chicks lying together

 

In addition to the Ospreys, Water Voles have provided some entertainment today, and have been showing very well in front of Waderscrape hide! They are being seen more and more regularly now. This morning, two of them sat in the scrape in front of the hide, nibbling on reeds right in the open. There was a little fluffy one, and a much larger one, or vole-zilla as Osprey volunteer Anna described it! They were there practically all morning, and a lot of happy visitors, plus myself and Anna, got some amazing views!

IMG_5391

Water vole from Waderscrape hide, photo by Sue James

 

To round the day off, just as we were closing up the centre, 33 came in to the T-perch with a giant trout that was by no means dead! The wind had picked up this afternoon, and judging by the size of this fish, I wouldn’t be surprised if he took the easy option and popped to Ryhall to get it!

33 with huge trout

33 with huge trout

 

 

Ken’s Diary – Back to Basics

Ken has written another wonderful chapter of his diary – read on and enjoy!

An Afternoon with Ospreys

Sunday June 28th

It’s been an unbelievably busy week for everyone here at the Rutland Osprey Project. As well as visits to Lyndon by two primary schools on Wednesday and Friday, we also took the Osprey Roadshow out to our friends at Spratton Hall School for our annual contribution to their Activities Week on Thursday. We enjoyed all the visits immensely of course, and we certainly gave out the ‘Osprey Message’ loud and clear to over 120 children and their teachers during the week. Special thanks to my colleagues Jackie, Abigail, Deb and Tony – without their valued and enthusiastic involvement we could not cater for anything like the number of visits we do. At Spratton Hall, for instance, we had six Osprey activities going on in different rooms – everything from ‘Build your own Osprey Model’ to ‘Hazards of an Osprey Migration’, and even a dramatic re-construction of a real-life incident in Osprey life, when a Rutland Osprey wearing a satellite transmitter was discovered high in the Atlas Mountains of Morocco!

Added to that, we had a role to play in the excellent ‘Wild Rutland Day’, which took place on Saturday in glorious sunshine and involved every member of staff in a huge range of activities covering all aspects of the Reserve’s work! It was a fabulous day, as everyone agreed – from the early morning bird-ringing demonstration right through to the evening activities involving moths, bats and badgers – not forgetting massive numbers of visitors to see the Manton Bay Osprey family and yet another successful Osprey Cruise! Phew – wouldn’t it be nice just to sit down and watch Ospreys for a few hours on a Sunday afternoon?

Well, that’s exactly what I was able to do, and it turned out to be a highly enjoyable four hour stint in Wader Scrape hide – in the company of the always fascinating Manton Bay Osprey family, and a succession of most pleasant and interested visitors from near and far. The weather was not too promising as I arrived, but things started to look up as the afternoon wore on, with sunny spells and gentle breezes. The chicks had been well fed during the morning, so 33(11) did not need to fish again until quite late in the afternoon, when he lifted off and hovered over Heron Bay and caught a medium-sized perch with consummate ease with just one dive. He was away just five minutes! Maya took the fish from him and surprisingly flew off with it, carrying it around for a few minutes with three pairs of orange eyes back in the nest following her every move. She eventually brought it back, but even then did not feed the chicks with it. Instead she held it firmly, as if encouraging the chicks to ‘come and get it’ – one precocious youngster edged up to it and started pecking at it whilst it was still firmly in Maya’s grip. It won’t be long before they are tucking into fish on their own, without any help from her. How quickly the season is going! All the more reason to savour every precious moment we have with the Manton Bay family.

33 on the nest

Maya and 33 on the nest, chicks hidden behind them

 

For most of the afternoon, the chicks doze in the nest, a languorous wing from one occasionally rising and falling over the back of another as they lie together. Maya dozes too, the protective membrane flicking up over her eye from time to time. 33 remains on his perch, relaxed but ever vigilant.

A bold Cormorant is swimming and diving after fish in the water just below the nest. An unwise move……Maya’s antipathy towards these greedy fishers is well-known, and she is off the nest in a flash, repeatedly dive-bombing the hapless Cormorant and accurately calculating where it will bob up after each desperate dive away from those extended talons. We give her a cheer each time she forces her enemy under the surface again, until finally, it submerges again and………..where is it? We wait and wait, and Maya scans the surface too. It does not come up. She soon loses interest and returns to the nest. No doubt the Cormorant stayed down as long as it could, and then re-surfaced some distance away, where several others are fishing. There are still more in the dead tree in front of the hide, hanging their wings out to dry, and standing out like gaunt black witches in a line. They all face the Osprey nest, prepared for an airborne attack if Maya becomes irritated again.

All is calm for a while, when another shape in the distant sky catches my attention, gradually getting bigger and approaching us like a huge triangular geometrid moth. But this is no moth, no bird either, but the famous  Vulcan bomber XH558, on its final (so I am told) flight before being permanently grounded as a museum exhibit, thus ending the active life of this Cold War relic, which began way back in the 1950’s. Many Osprey enthusiasts are also avid ‘plane fans, and I am amazed at the detailed knowledge that people in the hide share with me as it circles behind Lax Hill before heading off east, showing itself for one last time to the admirers below.

Maya, 33 and the chicks are totally unmoved and unimpressed by the Vulcan. 33 is preening, and Maya is moving sticks around. ‘Call that flight?’ they seem to be saying, ‘Have you seen an Osprey dive? Now that’s flight!’

During quiet intervals, I enjoy observing and chatting with our Sunday afternoon visitors in the hide, and today I have a very pleasant time with a constant stream of people of all ages and levels of expertise. You can always tell if people would like to hear information about the Ospreys and other birds they might be able to see, or if they would prefer to sit quietly and study them for themselves. All the volunteers try to give every visitor what they want, to maximise their enjoyment and increase their knowledge. Today we have some familiar faces – people who come several times each season to see the Ospreys at specific stages of their development. They need little help, but always like to renew acquaintance and share their news since the last time we met. ‘First timers’ are usually obvious, as they enter the new hide and stare around before locating the nest out in the Bay. Once they have their bearings, they settle to watch and welcome a bit of background. Keen photographers with lenses as long as my telescope wait, often for hours, in tense and cramped positions, waiting for that special moment when an Osprey does something spectacular……like all predators, it’s more inactivity than activity, but when it happens the photographer has got to be ready!

All chat stops for a Water Vole, which swims silently through the weed in the water in front of us and makes for the central channel, before veering off into the reeds. Apart from the occasional burst of Sedge Warbler song, and the monotonous tri-syllabic song of the Reed Bunting, the reed bed is pretty silent now – although with Swifts, Sand and House Martins and Swallows flying over constantly, there is always something to hold the attention. I survey the visitors in the hide again from my perch at the end, and feel like Maya watching over her brood. Everyone is quiet at the moment – very different from Wednesday and Friday this week, when we had up to thirty excited youngsters in the hide, all chatting away as they studied the birds and ticked the boxes against the names on the booklet we had prepared for them. ‘My favourite bird used to be the Penguin,’ I recall one little girl saying, ‘ but you haven’t got any here, so I’ve changed it to Osprey.’ Good, well done. It occurs to me that Antarctica is the one continent which never hosts Ospreys at any time of the year, so it is unlikely that a Penguin and an Osprey have ever met….except in this child’s mind.

A charming little family group arrive in the hide after a long walk down from the Visitor Centre. Mum is carrying a one year old in a sling, while another child, aged perhaps five, shyly hides behind Mum’s leg until she is persuaded to come out and look at the Osprey family through the telescope, which has been specially lowered for her. Mum and Grandmother look too. They alternate between the images of the lazing chicks on the big screen, and the real views of the birds through the ‘scope. ‘And what is the bird you are looking at?’ I ask the five year old, whose name is Scarlett. ‘Osprey!’ she whispers, with a smile. They leave, with thanks, and a promise to return when the chicks are flying. I hope they do.

Chick standing up

Chick standing up

 

Another visitor has been in the hide for over an hour now, sitting quietly alone and watching the Ospreys intently through a small pair of binoculars. She has a well-travelled air, sturdy back-packing clothing and rucksack, perhaps late twenties, early thirties perhaps, blond hair roughly tied back, maybe German or Scandinavian I reckon. Half an hour later, she is still there, in exactly the same position, her only movements being to take a sip from a water-bottle or to jot a few words down in a well-worn note book. Her gaze is unerring and constant, her concentration unwavering, her whole being totally wrapped up in what she sees through her binoculars. She ignores all else around her, does not react to movement or sound in the hide, does not respond to other sights or distractions. She is immersed, cocooned, totally captivated.

The afternoon wears on, and people begin to drift away, as long journeys home become more pressing, with work or school commitments tomorrow morning. One group must drive from here to Sussex now, having spent a few days in the North and visited the Farne Islands, and using  their last day on their way home to visit us here and see the Ospreys. Another family must go even further, to Devon, but will take with them happy memories of the day with the Osprey family in Manton Bay. But the blond girl in the corner is still there.

I am writing a few notes of my own when she suddenly stirs and starts to pack her things up. It’s been over two hours now since I first noticed her. As our eyes meet, I venture a rather feeble ‘You were certainly concentrating there for a long time.’  ‘I was, for sure’, she replies, ‘it is the only way to watch them, isn’t it, if you wish to see into their world.’ Her English is perfect, with an accent reminiscent of Bjorn Borg or a member of Abba.  I know immediately that she is a kindred spirit, a visitor from the North who can relate to my own method of entering into Osprey World. I tell her about Site B, about the days when time slows there, and then stops, and how wonderful it is to step through the magic mirror and into the natural world of the Osprey. She in turn tells me about winter in her homeland, when she goes for the day into the snowy forest until she finds one of the Great Grey Owls in a tree, and sits and looks into its eyes until the brief daylight fades and takes it from her view.

‘You must come again when the young are flying,’ I say hopefully. ‘Sadly not possible,’ she replies, ‘ I leave for home tomorrow.’ ‘And where is home?’ ‘About 100km from Stockholm.’ So I was right – no doubt she has already spent many hours with Swedish Ospreys too.

She takes up her notebook, scribbles a few words, tears out the page and gives it to me. An e-mail address perhaps? Or a contact number? No, neither of these – the note simply says ‘Keep watching, keep learning, keep a place in Osprey World for me’, followed by a signature which I can’t read, but might be ‘Inne.’

And then she is gone. I fold the note and put it in my Diary. An encounter to remember.

Chick close up

Chick close up

 

 

Urdaibai – bikes and birds

Whilst the three enormous Manton Bay chicks relax in the sunny aftermath of last night’s storm, Education Officer Pete Murray has a story he would like to share with you about how bikes and birds can go together! Over to you, Pete…

March now seems so long ago, but once again the Rutland Ospreys began their northerly migration and World Osprey Week celebrated their return and  the start of the 2015 Osprey breeding season. About the same time an e-mail arrived in my inbox giving the details of this year’s “Tour des Cols”. This September, this tour for classic motorcycles three wheelers and cars will visit the western Pyrenees at about the same time that the Ospreys will begin their long migration south from Western Europe to Africa.

The Urdaibai Bird Centre is close to the migration route for the UK Ospreys. Located in the Basque region of North West Spain, it is in the middle of a 5 year Osprey re-introduction programme. For the last two years the centre has also hosted skype links between two of their local schools and Rutland schools at the  end of World Osprey Week.

We thought it would be great to visit our friends and get the chance see their Ospreys before they migrate south to Senegal and The Gambia. After an e-mail or two to Urdaibai, it was all fixed up, and Les and I will call in to see them all before riding on to the Pyrenees to begin the tour. We will let you have more news about our visit to Urdaibai later.

Les and Pete, bikes and Osprey!

Les and Pete, bikes and Osprey sculpture!

 

Picture

Pete Murray, Osprey Education Officer (1979 Moto Guzzi 500cc)  and Les Bowler ( 1955 BMW 250cc) outside the Lyndon Centre with the motorcycles they will use later this year to visit Urdaibai.

Want to know more about The Urdaibai Bird Centre? Take a look  at http://www.birdcenter.org

 

Heatwave

What a hot day it has been! The chicks have spent a lot of time facing into the wind today to attempt to stay cool in the scorching heat! Most of their activity occurred during the cooler hours early this morning. They have all been doing a lot more wing flapping, and are getting more and more enthusiastic about it! They’ve even started attempting a few little jumps now!

S1 flapping

S1 flapping

Wing flapping

Wing flapping

Flapping!

Flapping!

Stretching in the limited space!

Stretching in the limited space!

 

It’s great to see the chicks moving around the nest and getting interested in everything around them. They are so naturally inquisitive, and their instincts to nest build are clearly strong – they have been moving sticks and bits of nest material around again today!

S3 moving a stick

S3 moving a stick

S2 with nest material

S2 with nest material

 

33 delivered a fish at about 10:30, which kept them going all day as it was another huge one! He went to the T-perch with it again, and ate the head before bringing it to the nest.

Fish

Fish

Feeding time

Feeding time

 

It was so big they couldn’t eat it all, so 33 came back for it later. Then he brought it back again, of course!

33 flying off with the fish

33 flying off with the fish

 

He also brought in a stick or two…

33 moving a stick

33 moving a stick

 

All in all, it’s been a fairly quiet day on the Osprey front – there is not much point in them doing too much in this heat! It’s supposed to be cooler tomorrow, so they will have a more comfortable day.

Chicks in the wind

Chicks in the wind

 

Ring of changes

The astute amongst the webcam-watchers out there may have noticed that the three Manton Bay chicks now sport leg rings! The chicks were ringed this morning, and what a beautiful morning it was! The sun was just beginning to rise over the horizon, and there was not a breath of wind as we launched the boat from the shore behind the Osprey nest. The surface of the crystal-clear water was marred only by the ripples from our boat’s wake, as we sailed serenely to the nest.

5am this morning

5am this morning

 

Maya protested a bit, but she was not overly concerned. She flew around above the bay and intermittently alarm-called, until the deed was done and her chicks were returned to her, safe and sound. The whole process took less than an hour to complete. The equipment was prepared, the boat launched, and a ladder was extended up to the nest, which Tim climbed and brought the chicks down to the boat.

Left to right - S1, S2, S3

Left to right – S1, S2, S3

 

The chicks are absolutely gorgeous! To be so close to them was an indisputable privilege. They have such beautiful feathers, and enchanting deep amber eyes. All three chicks are in perfect health and look fantastic. They were placed in a comfortable tray for a minute or two to settle, then were ringed and weighed one by one. Their ring numbers are S1, S2 and S3. Based on weight and bill size, it has been determined that S1 and S3 are female, and S2 is male.

S1

S1

S2

S2

S2

S2

S3

S3

 

Whilst we were there, Tim took the opportunity to clean the smudge from the wide angle camera! It turned out to be spider-webs. In the picture you can see Maya high above.

Tim cleaning the camera

Tim cleaning the camera

 

Once the chicks had been returned to the nest and we had left, Maya and 33 returned to their respective positions and life went on as normal. A fish came in at around 9 o’clock – a great big roach. 33 took it to the T-perch first, and in the video below you can see him fly past the nest, before alighting on the perch with the still-kicking roach!

33 with roach on T-perch

33 with roach on T-perch

 

About fifteen minutes later, 33 delivered the fish to the nest, and Maya fed the enormous chicks.

33 brings roach

33 brings roach

Feeding on roach

Feeding on roach

 

A couple of Osprey intrusions occurred today, but nothing substantial in terms of disruption. A bit of mantling, that was all!

There is a certain stick that has been bothering Maya for a while now. It sticks up a bit, but is wedged tightly by others, and Maya keeps trying but cannot move it!

Maya attempts to move the stick

Maya attempts to move the stick

 

Due to the hot temperature, the chicks have been lying in the nest panting a lot today. Maya cannot shade them with her body anymore, as they are too big, but there is no need for her to do so now. The chicks are of an age where they can regulate their own temperature, so they do not require Maya to brood them or shade them. Soon they will no longer need her to feed them. Her job is almost done, and she can relax, knowing her chicks are healthy and she and 33 have done an unquestionably excellent job of raising them!

Panting in the sun

Panting in the sun

 

The chicks stood up long enough for us to get some shots of their new rings! And S1 did get a bit energetic and did a bit of flapping!

S2 and S1 rings showing

S2 and S1 rings showing

Hello S2

S2

Wing flapping

Wing flapping

 

Another fish was delivered at around 15:30, which Maya grabbed and fed to the chicks. Well, the two that were interested!

Another fish, 3:30pm

Another fish, 3:30pm

 

And it didn’t end there! An hour later 33 landed on the T-perch with another one! And it was a monster! It took him almost an hour to eventually bring it to the nest, after having his fill.

Yet another fish

Yet another fish

 

Here are a couple of adorable close ups from yesterday evening, as the chicks were all tucked up together for the night!

Snuggled up together

Snuggled up together

Close up

Close up

 

And here’s a middle of the night shot!

Twenty past three in the morning

Chicks on infra-red

 

The next big milestone in the chicks’ lives will be fledging. It won’t be long now, only a couple of weeks! In the interim, they will be doing a lot more wing flapping and will start helicoptering above the nest, getting those wing muscles ready for the day they take to the air… but for now, they can sleep, and enjoy nest-bound life whilst they can!

Sprawled

Sprawled