During the autumn and winter, when our Ospreys are enjoying life down in West Africa, there is still plenty of activity amongst Project staff and volunteers. As well as the winter work-parties (see previous post), and all the administration involved in report writing and preparations for the Gambia trip, Tim and the team members carry out a large number of speaking engagements for organisations, schools, colleges and societies throughout the area. This is a valuable opportunity to inform and educate people from all walks of life about the work of the Osprey Project.
Today Michelle and I are on our way to meet a group of people in Peterborough and give them an illustrated talk about the Ospreys at Rutland Water. As arranged, we meet beforehand for coffee and plan how we are going to present the talk. We have done lots of school presentations, but this is our first ‘grown-up’ event, so obviously we need to change our tactics and use more advanced material for our adult audience. We are both a little nervous, but re-assure one another. It’s good to work in twos! The group have hired a room in The Cresset, a large community facility in Peterborough. Last time I came here was to see a Jools Holland concert, when the audience was numbered in hundreds if not thousands! Fortunately today’s event is a rather more intimate occasion. Our room is called the Milton Suite, and as we enter the audience is already in place and waiting expectantly for us to begin. Our hostess Carole introduces us. She is a former teaching colleague of mine, and this group is called the o5o Club (standing for ‘over 50’). Michelle is the youngest person present by at least 25 years! She has expertly plugged in the lap-top and the projector, and it’s ‘all systems go.’ She has even prepared a slide with our names on and the time and date of the presentation.
The next hour flies by. Our pre-agreed divisions work out well, and we take over from one another at all the right moments. The photos (all by John Wright) are wonderful, and have the audience ‘ooing and aahing’ every few minutes. We take them through every aspect of Osprey biology, status, distribution, migration, diet and breeding. We look at their history in Britain. And then of course we talk about the Osprey Project at Rutland Water ~ from the early translocation days 1996 – 2001, right through to the satellite tracking of 2011, not forgetting all the highlights and setbacks along the way, including first breeding, first chicks returning, first pair not to include a translocated bird, the loss of 08, and much, much more. We have ‘visual aids’ to pass around ~ a darvic ring, a transmitter with its antenna, and a very realistic osprey egg (actually made of wood!). Michelle introduces some of our ‘characters’ – 03(97) of course, 08(97), 5R and 5N, and then our two ‘stars’ of the autumn migration AW and O9. Their journeys are shown on the screen and cause genuine amazement. We briefly look at family relationships, who is related to whom, and so on ~ ‘Hope you’re all keeping up with this’, says Michelle, to the audience’s amusement. They are keeping up, and their questions show they want to know more.
We end by summing it all up and emphasising the rationale of the Project ~ that is, the re-introduction of the Osprey first of all into Central England, and then into the whole of England and Wales. We explain that the only two pairs in Wales this summer both contained birds from Rutland, 11(98) in North Wales and 03(08) in Dyfi. No-one had known that before, even though they have been watching the current Autumnwatch series. We answer questions about the Osprey’s fishing techniques, about the situation in Scotland, about human attitudes towards Ospreys, and many others.
It’s time to stop. Carole proposes a vote of thanks and there is a round of applause (and an envelope containing a kind donation to the Project’s funds). We suggest they might like to come over to Rutland Water in Spring 2012 to see the Ospreys in real life, or maybe an early evening cruise on the ‘Rutland Belle’ with a good chance of seeing one fishing. This is a popular suggestion. One gentleman approaches Michelle and asks if we could possibly do the talk to another organisation of which he is a member. Another lady says how much she has enjoyed it, and ‘how good it is to see such a young person doing such valuable work.’ I think she means Michelle, not me……!
We leave and go back to the cafe where we met early this morning, and have another coffee, and meditate over a good morning’s work. For me, it is an excellent way of ‘staying close’ to the Ospreys even though they are all over 3,000 miles away at present. November can be a dreary month, but not when we can share our enthusiasm and passion with other people like this. I am so grateful to Michelle, Tim and the team for the opportunity to be involved, and to help in a small way. And next week, we’re taking the Osprey story to a group in Leicester, and Michelle has just sent me another e-mail ~ Oundle School want us to talk to their Science Club on January 24th!! And just a few weeks after that……..you guessed it……the Ospreys will be back!