Picture the scene. It’s early March on a West African beach and 03(97) – Rutland’s most successful breeding Osprey – is tucking into a Needlefish which he has just caught. He glances up to watch a fishing boat drift past, a mixed flock of terns alights nearby and a Pied Kingfisher zips past, calling noisily. The early morning sun is warming the beach; by the middle of the day the temperature will have reached more than 30 degrees. Things couldn’t be more tranquil.
Fast forward a few weeks and the scene is very different. Yesterday 03 returned to his nest at Site B to be greeted by a blizzard and thick fog. Yes, you read that right, 03 IS BACK IN RUTLAND!
The weather of the past week – not just in the UK, but in much of France – meant we were expecting many of our summer visitors, Ospreys included, to be delayed by a few days. 03, though, has confounded this by returning two days earlier than either he, or any of the other Rutland birds, has ever done.
Perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised. Our recent satellite tracking studies have demonstrated the extraordinary migratory ability of Ospreys. For instance, unlike most other birds of prey, they don’t rely on thermals to aid their migration. In his urgency to get back to the nest where he has raised 27 chicks since 2001, 03 obviously just powered on through the worst that the European ‘spring’ could throw at him.
Once back at the nest yesterday morning – he may even have arrived on Saturday evening – 03 set about rebuilding his nest. It wasn’t long, though, before heavy snow forced him to take shelter on the nest tree. A couple of hours later the nest was shrouded in thick fog. The contrast with his wintering grounds could hardly have been more pronounced.
03’s early arrival will ensure that he has no competition for his long-established nest, but it is likely to make fishing difficult for a few days. The temperature is forecast to drop below freezing most nights this week, meaning fish in the reservoir, and 03’s other regular fishing spots, will retreat towards the bottom of the water column, making them more difficult to catch that usual. However, many Scandinavian Ospreys return to find snow at their nests each spring, so we know that 03 will be fine. If a little colder than usual.
With 03 back in Rutland, we wonder who will be next? Last year 5R(04) returned to the Manton Bay nest on 19th March. So keep a close eye on the webcam over the next few days! Even better, why not come and pay us a visit at Rutland Water. The Lyndon Visitor Centre is open 7 days a week from 9am today.