As you’ll know if you’ve been watching the webcam today, we’re still waiting for an egg to hatch in the Manton Bay nest. The birds have now been incubating for 39 days; thereby confirming that the first egg the female laid was indeed the ‘dud’ that became buried in the nest cup earlier this month. This means that, if our calculations are correct, the ‘second’ egg should hatch tomorrow or Saturday. The female has certainly been very restless today – a sure sign that hatching is imminent. Keep watching that webcam!
While the wait continues at Manton Bay, we have some fantastic news from Site N. Having been equipped with a satellite transmitter last summer, thousands of people were able to follow 09(98)’s spring migration from Senegal to Rutland this March. His 3000 mile journey, during which he survived a night time flight in gale force winds over the Atlantic, proved captivating. We know that the birds make these epic journeys each spring, but being able to follow 09’s flight in such amazing detail really brought his migration to life.
Having arrived in Rutland on 28th March, 09 settled down to breed with 5N(04) – the female he paired up with last summer following the sad loss of 5N’s mate, 08(97). It was 08’s disappearance in suspicious circumstances, coupled with the loss of two other male birds the previous spring, that identified the need for us to use this high-tech tracking to monitor our breeding males. Thanks to generous donations from project supporters, we were able to do just that; Roy Dennis came down to help us tag 09 and AW(06) last June. As we hoped, the transmitters have provided us with an invaluable insight into the birds’ fishing habits in Rutland and, as sadly demonstrated by AW in the Ivory Coast this winter, if they come to grief, we know where.
It is not only the fact that 09 is satellite-tagged that makes the fact he is breeding this year so significant. Having been translocated to Rutland Water in 1998, 09 had became something of a perennial bachelor – returning to Rutland each spring from 2000 onwards, but never finding a mate. Since most male Ospreys first breed when they are between four and seven years old, we began to wonder if 09 would ever find a mate of his own. This made his return this spring – and specifically the fact he paired up with 5N – all the more exciting; we knew that, after fourteen years, he would finally have a chance of rearing young for the first time.
As hoped 5N laid the first egg at Site N (a nest on private land) on 15th April and the subsequent five-and-a-half weeks of incubation passed without drama.
Like the Manton Bay nest, we knew that the first chick should hatch this week and, right on cue, 5N appeared very restless for much of yesterday; a sign that something may have been happening. By 5pm this evening we were almost certain that a chick had hatched and just needed 09 to deliver a fish to the nest, to be sure. After some fairly vociferous food-begging from 5N, he headed off fishing at 5:45 and returned three-quarters of an hour later with a Bream.
Rather than eating any of the fish himself, 09 delivered it straight to the nest. This would usually prompt a change-over in incubation duties. Not this time though. 5N took the fish from her mate, ate a small amount herself and then very delicately offered a tiny morsel down in to the nest – confirmation that the first chick had hatched. All the while 09 was perched on the side of the nest looking on intently. After fourteen years and 75,000 miles of migration between Rutland and Senegal, he finally had a chick of his own. It is moments like this that make all our years of hard work at Rutland Water, worthwhile. 1998 was my second year on the project, meaning I have known 09 for all but a few months of his life. Having watched his repeated failed attempts to breed and then followed his amazing migration from Senegal, watching him looking down into the nest at his first newly-hatched chick was a very special moment indeed.
Although we do not know how many eggs are in the nest, 09 is likely to increase his fishing effort now his first chick has hatched. We’ll be able to monitor every fishing trip using his satellite transmitter and it will be fascinating to see how the arrival of the chick changes his behavior. We’ll be sure to keep you updated over the course of the summer, but for now just raise a glass… to 09 and success at last!
For a Who’s who guide of the Rutland Ospreys, click here.