Blogs

The Next Step

We’ve had a very busy week on the osprey project, on Wednesday we were lucky enough to be invited to the launch of Tim Mackrill’s new charity, the Osprey Leadership Foundation. “The foundation will work with young people from different cultures and contrasting backgrounds to inspire them about the natural world and help them to develop into conservation leaders who can make an impact at an international level”. If you would like to find out more and support the charity please see their website here.


The ospreys themselves have are also very busy in Manton Bay; the chicks have been taking every opportunity to practices their flying skills, even doing some night flapping. We expect that they will be fledging in the next couple of weeks.

We are getting lots of osprey intrusions into the bay, Maya and 33(11) are doing a great job of seeing them off. The chicks don’t seem to mind at all and are becoming very independent with both of them happily feeding themselves, once the intruder has been chased away.

They are also still learning about the world around them, with both chicks showing great interest in a lump of grass that Maya brought in.

20th June

Last Saturday we had our first late osprey cruise, we left Whitwell Harbour at 07:30 pm, two hours later than any of our other cruises so far this year. Lucky we were rewarded for venturing out at this later time, spotting multiple ospreys and were even lucky enough to see one osprey catch a fish. We were in the basin of the reservoir at the time, the osprey was spotted and the boat turned so we could head towards the spot it was fishing. We saw the characteristic shape and behaviour this bird was definitely fishing, the osprey had a few false dives before finally right in front of the dam it dived into the water, with great difficulty the bird hauled itself from the water with a large fish clutched in it’s talons.

The Manton Bay chicks have been getting accustomed to their new accessories over the last few days. It looks like the nest might be getting a bit cosy especially with the chicks starting to train up those wing muscles. They are jumping up and down on the nest flapping their wings as hard as they can manage, maybe not quite helicoptering yet, but it won’t be long!

Both chicks are also starting to become more independent and on many occasions feeding themselves, however, it doesn’t always go to plan, which is why it is good that Maya is still on hand whenever she is needed.

Work experience with the osprey team – a blog by Lizzie Waring

Arriving at the visitor centre, I was greeted by glorious vegetation framing a view out over the water, and the brilliant news that the two osprey chicks, 3AW and 3AU, had been successfully ringed. The atmosphere of the team at the centre that morning gave me my first impression of just how special these birds are.  Everyone was abuzz with the good news, with beautiful pictures of the ringing happily being shared throughout the office. As can be seen from the pictures on the previous blog post, seeing such incredible birds in detail, bathed in morning light, instills a reverence and admiration that is often lost through webcam images; it was a real treat to share in the joy.

View from the Swan hide, visited during my lunch break. This part of the reserve is often overlooked by visitors, who head in the opposite direction to see the ospreys. (Own source)

I was set to work inputting into excel the data recorded by volunteers monitoring the nest, giving me my first insight into the care and attention paid to the birds. Recordings included the activities of Maya and 33, intruders to the nest, and even species of fish brought in. The patchwork of note styles by the wealth of volunteers (4 hour shifts in pairs) was fun to decipher. The enthusiasm and dedication was evident, with new sticks added to the nest being marked with a jubilant “Stick!” in the notes margin. Analysing the intruders and the reactions of the parents, I could begin to get an idea of the behaviours and habits of the birds. For instance, intruding ospreys often merited a chasing off, whereas buzzards were more likely to be left to move on, with some mantling over the chicks as a safety measure.

After a lunch sat deep in wildflowers and bugs, and a small walk to a nearby hide, I met with a pair of volunteers who were to take me to see the ospreys in person. With my only experience watching ospreys being a dark blob flapping off into the distance, to say I was excited was an understatement.

Walking off across the reserve, it was as if I was stepping into a dream. Wildflower meadows and lush, billowing trees, alive with moths and butterflies, damselflies and spiders; it was a wildlife lover’s haven. With clouds scudding across a pale blue sky, we discussed the history of the project and the work that goes on to maintain and enhance the reserve’s osprey population. Remarkably, when numbers were lower, nests were monitored 24/7 by volunteers, with military grade night vision goggles used to watch for egg collectors and poachers in the night. It astonished me, the complete dedication of volunteers to these birds, willing to spend hours in a wooden hide in the dead of night, trading sleep shifts in bunks in a nearby shed, all to ensure these incredible birds and their chicks were safe.

The long list of firsts on this short walk illustrates brilliantly the quality of the habitats and their management, and shows what a concentrated area of wildlife the reserve is. Spots included my first common whitethroat, chimney sweep moth, common spotted orchids, and further along in the hide, my first water rail. Top of the list though was my first real view of an osprey, a male displaying high up in the sky, ending with a dramatic dive back behind the trees to the water. We hypothesised it was our male, 33, who left the nest on the webcam around this time, strengthening his bond with Maya after the eventful morning ringing the chicks. It was breath-taking to see, and was a great first introduction to the sweeping beauty of these birds.

Some views through binoculars at the Waderscrape hide. Top, a grazing greylag goose. Bottom, common terns perching. The tern on the right would occasionally display to the perched female. (Own source)

Watching from the high tech and comfy Waderscrape hide (assembled by volunteers of course), with the volunteer on watch filling us in, we could see Maya and 33 keeping a stern watch over the nest. Later on, we saw 33 chasing off an intruding osprey. These ‘intruders’ seem to be doing not much more than flying in the general vicinity of the nest, yet still these devoted parents wouldn’t stand for it, determined to expel even the possibility of a threat to their chicks.

Overall, my time here has been excellently spent. As I’ve found, staff and volunteers at the reserve are endlessly friendly and patient, with a wealth of knowledge to impart. To have had the opportunity to learn about their work, and to work so closely with the wildlife on the reserve, has been a fantastic opportunity. I highly recommend anyone thinking of gaining experience in this field to see what they can get involved in, as the opportunities here are wonderful.

Manton Bay Ringing

This morning the Osprey Team met on the banks the reservoir, the storm had finally blown itself out and we were left with blue sky streaked with white cloud. The sun shone white light over the water turning everything else to shadow. The reservoir was as still as a mill pond, broken only by swans or ducks carving through its surface. From the depth of Manton Bay rose the pole the osprey platform sat upon, the nest itself made from stick, branches and even teasel weaved together into a protective ring. Before we could spot them the male and female osprey had spotted us, they rose into the air and circled above the nest, calling for our attention.

 

Before we knew it the tiny boat had chugged across the water to the nest, it towered above us, as the ospreys swooped even higher still. With great strength and skill the ladder was positioned at the top of the nest,  followed shortly after by BTO licensed ringer Lloyd Park, with great care the osprey chicks were lowered down into the boat. With skill, precision and a gentle hand the osprey chicks were fitted with two rings. One the metal BTO ring and second, a blue and white darvic ring, giving the two birds their individual identification. The rings will help to track them over their lives, informing us about their migration, breeding, and ecology; allowing a better understanding of these amazing birds. After the measurements and weights were recorded it was decided we had one male and one female, the male was given the ring 3AU and the slightly larger female 3AW.

The thick bill on 3AW indicates she is a female

 

In what felt like only minutes the birds were back in the nest, before we left we managed to give the osprey cams a much needed clean and then we were making our way back to the shore. The parent birds still circled above us as we disappeared, leaving them in peace. The report from the hide was that Maya was sat observing the nest from the perch, ensuring we did not return.

It’s hard to describe the feeling when you see something that you have watched on a screen or from a distance and suddenly it is right in front of you. Watching these birds grow up has been funny, interesting and truly incredible. Being up close with these birds was once of the most amazing experiences, I can’t wait to see what they do next. 

Male 3AU

Female 3AW

   

Fish lessons

The chicks are just over five and a half weeks old, they are definitely looking like ospreys now with their true feathers almost fully grown, however, they still have their amber eyes and buff feather tips to distinguish them from the adults.

Now that they are older the chicks are becoming more active and starting to learn about the world around them and in just a couple of weeks the young osprey will be fledging from the nest. Lucky they are getting in plenty of practice, not quite helicoptering yet, but definitely flapping their wings to exercise those flight muscles. It’s amazing to think that in a couple of months those wings could be carrying these young birds 3000 miles to wintering grounds in West Africa.

chick flapping on the nest

Today’s lesson for the chicks was live prey, although 33(11) the male will continue to feed the juvenile birds, as soon as they leave for migration they will have to fish for themselves. First thing this morning 33(11) brought in a relatively small fish, both Maya and 33(11) were having a few issues getting a hold of the fish, which led to one of the chicks getting a rather abrupt wake up!

Maya and 33 then left the nest, also leaving the chicks alone with the fish, the chick plucked up the courage to investigate the fish, however, it did still have a bit of life left in it. It’s a good job Maya is still on hand to feed the chicks.


  

fish on nest

At about 12:00 33(11) brought in a very interesting fish; it was identified as a Tench by Lloyd Park Reserve Officer. This is unusual as Tench are a bottom feeder, which makes them almost impossible for osprey to catch. However, it is most likely that these fish are spawning at the moment, meaning they will enter shallower water. It is very likely that 33(11) managed to pluck this poor Tench from the shallows of Manton Bay.

 

Tench caught by 33(11)