The greatest day

This morning, the Osprey Project and the Rutland Belle ran our last Dawn Osprey Cruise of 2015. The day dawned rather cool, fresh and breezy, and it felt distinctly autumnal. This is a sure sign that the end of the season is approaching, the end of the summer, and the end of Osprey Cruises! We still have one cruise left though – click here for details.

Despite the chilly feel to the morning, the cruise was much enjoyed by everybody on board, and the Ospreys did not disappoint. To begin with, however, it did look as though luck was against us. Tim spotted an Osprey before we even left the harbour, but by the time we did leave the harbour, the Osprey had gone. We headed down the South Arm, as this is the area in which we have seen the majority of Osprey sightings on our cruises recently, and we did see a distant bird ahead of us. Matt pushed the throttle to full max, and attempted to catch up to it, but unfortunately that Osprey disappeared too!

Like a cruel twist of fate, after we sped (as fast as the Rutland Belle will go) away from the dam, there was an Osprey down there again – behind us! So back we went down the reservoir. It was the same bird that we had seen at the beginning – one of our breeding females that John photographed and identified. But again, it looked like she had gone by the time we got there!

Luck, though, eventually came our way – the Osprey returned, and flew directly over the boat! We had a fantastic view of her as she glided over us, and then we saw her dive and catch a fish! It was beautiful, and definitely worth waiting for! The morning was topped off perfectly by the excellent breakfast we were provided with by Paul and his team of superb catering volunteers. Thank you very much to everyone who has helped us run these amazingly successful dawn cruises!

This morning's beautiful dawn, photo by Tim Mackrill

This morning’s dawn cruise, photo by Tim Mackrill

 

Today, it was great to be able to spend several hours in Shallow Water hide, along with Tim and John. There really is nothing like watching the Ospreys for yourself from down in the hides on the reserve, with it all happening right in front of you. The juveniles were very active, and it was wonderful to see their endeavours ensue before my eyes!

The youngsters’ antics are so amusing, they provide endless entertainment. I watched with a smile on my face as S2 practised diving. We know he has caught a fish for himself already this season, which is amazing, but we’re pretty sure it was luck rather than judgement that helped him catch it! His attempts today were somewhat less than graceful – he would soar in circles above the water, then all of a sudden crash down into it with a belly flop! He wasn’t about to catch anything with that technique, but he was certainly determined, and it was lovely to watch him try.

Photo by John Wright

Photo by John Wright

 

Just watching the Ospreys flying is brilliant. They are so elegant and beautiful, and the juveniles are proving to be very competent. They are evidently enjoying life on the wing, and we saw them soaring about this way and that, twisting, turning and gliding. At one point today, four of the Manton Bay birds were soaring around together, very high. Something that we find amazing is the way the Ospreys sometimes descend towards the nest. They can be flying at fairly high altitudes, then when they reach their destination, all of a sudden they’ll pin their wings back, almost as if diving for fish, and swoop downwards with such speed and grace! This high velocity nosedive plays a large role in the courtship display of male Ospreys.

Something else that made me smile (well to be honest I couldn’t stop laughing) was S3 having a bath. I find it hilarious for some reason, the way they do that! She flew down to the shore and waded into the shallow water at the edge of the bay, then proceeded to dunk her head in, shake water down her back and shuffle her wings about comically, taking full advantage of the refreshing water in her feathers. She was there for quite a long time, clearly loving it!

Bath time

Bath time! Still from a John Wright video

 

We noticed today, for the first time, that the juveniles are starting to fall out with each other. Up til now, they have led a very amicable existence, sitting side by side in the nest being fed, and patiently waiting their turn for fish. Now, though, they are each getting bolder, which leads to them all wanting every fish, and they have to fight for the right to get it. Well, not fight exactly, but they are starting to aggravate each other, and today we saw them chasing each other around a fair bit. This behaviour is common at this age – the juveniles are now 12 weeks old and almost ready to migrate. The incessant chasing will lead to one of them eventually leaving. I believe it was S1 and S3 each time – they would be sitting on or near the nest, food begging, and then both of them would take to the air, S1 hot on the heels of his sister. S1 has always appeared to be the dominant chick – he fledged first, he usually eats first etc – and he was trying to see off S3, so that he could have the fish that came in. At the time, though, there was no sign of any fish – they were just trying to sort themselves out so they were ready when the time came!

Unfortunately, the time came when we were on our way back from the hide – 33 had been absent for almost two hours, and we were sure he was going to come back at any moment with a fish. However, we waited and waited, in the end had to leave, and typically he brought one in while we weren’t looking! We noticed on the camera on our return that S1 had indeed claimed the fish.

S1 with fish

S1 with fish

 

To sum it up, today has been an amazing, incredible, immensely enjoyable day! Come and enjoy the Ospreys for yourselves, whilst they’re still here, by visiting us at the Lyndon Visitor Centre and Nature Reserve.