Ken Davies will be writing a fictional monthly diary about what Ozzie gets up to in Africa! Here is part one!
It already seems a long time since Ozzie left his territory near Rutland Water, but he has quickly settled into his winter routine on the west coast of Africa, in the country called Gambia. He is back near the fishing village of Tanji, where Ken and his friends saw him during their African trip in January.
Ozzie’s return to Gambia is always greeted with great joy by the pupils and teachers of Tanji School, who often come down to the beach with their friend JJ to see if they can find this special Osprey. Ozzie has become a link with children their own age in many schools in Oakham and Stamford, near Rutland Water in England. They like to watch all the Ospreys, but they are especially pleased when they see the blue leg ring and satellite antenna, which tell them they are looking at Ozzie.
Today when the Tanji children reach the beach with their teacher Isatou, they find Ozzie sitting on a sand bar a hundred metres or so away. He is not alone. There are four or five more Ospreys spaced out along the bank, and some small birds are running about amongst them. Ozzie has a piece of a fish he caught earlier in his talons, and the smaller birds, called Turnstones, are hoping he might drop something that they can run in and steal. The tide is low, the beach is quiet. The long, brightly painted fishing boats will not be going out till later.
The children love to watch Ozzie. He is their friend. They know he has two homes – one here with them, and the other thousands of miles away in central England, where he is watched in just the same way by the English children. Only yesterday, JJ had brought messages from England to Tanji School, all written on cards for them by children who had seen Ozzie during the summer.
After a while, Ozzie flies up into the air, still carrying his fish, and seems to come straight towards them as they stand on the beach. He flies over their heads, over their school and their homes in the village, over the main road that goes to the capital city Banjul, and into the mangrove lagoons that lie just a few kilometres inland. This is Tanji Marsh, where lots more Ospreys come every day to rest and sit quietly. The children know he has not gone far. They will be back another day to see him again.
Ozzie lands on a tree stump in the shallow water in the middle of the marsh, and has a peck at the fish he has carried all the way from the beach. There are a few Ospreys around, some quite close and some further away in the bare branches of dead trees. Ozzie can see them all, but they do not bother him. He does not know it, but one is another Rutland Osprey. She has been coming here for two winters now. Another one, far distant in a tree, is from Scotland. A group of Green Vervet Monkeys dance wildly across the mud, scattering ducks, gulls and terns as they go. The Ospreys do not move. A group of noisy children are walking along tracks through the marsh, but the Ospreys are used to them and do not fly. The children sing and shout as they make their way home.
A green 4 x 4 Land Rover pulls up on a hard patch of mud and some people climb out with binoculars, telescopes and cameras. They are tourists from England, and they have come to Gambia to see the wonderful birds, to enjoy the sunshine, and to meet some of the happy and friendly people. They set up their telescopes and are soon watching the Ospreys and all the other birds. They try hard to read the numbers on Ozzie’s ring, but it is hidden for the moment and they cannot make it out. They do better with a young female Osprey hatched in Rutland, and excitedly make a note of her ring number 5F in their books. The Scottish one is F93, and news of this sighting will soon be sent back to Scotland. After a while some of the people wander off away from the lagoon and find other colourful and interesting birds, including brilliant Little Bee-eaters, handsome White Helmetshrikes, and an amazing Beautiful Sunbird – yes, that really is its name!
The sun is sinking lower in the sky, and turning red. As the group of birdwatchers climb back into their Land Rover, Ozzie lifts off again and flies back over the darkening village towards the beach. He has a favourite perch at the top of an old bare tree, where he will spend the night. The tide is up now, the sand bank has been covered, and the fishermen are preparing their boats to go out and spread their nets on the overnight high tide. Ozzie is settled. The huge reddening sun sinks below the western horizon. Another African day is over.
By Ken Davies