09’s return to Rutland

We know 09 arrived back at his nest at 2:10 yesterday afternoon, and we now have the data for his flight from Winchester to Rutland.

09 must have known he was close to home, because he set off from his roost just north of Winchester at first light. By 7am he had already flown 14 miles and was heading purposefully north at 38kph at an altitude of 103 metres. He stopped briefly at 9am, but an hour later he was another 12 miles further north-east, flying over Aylesbury. By midday he was passing Grafham Water and nearing home, maintaining a speed of between 35 and 40kph. By 2pm he would have bee able to see Rutland Water from his altitude of 349m…

09's flight from Winchester to Rutland, 28th March

09's flight from Winchester to Rutland, 28th March

…Meanwhile, John Wright and I were at 09’s nest waiting for him. His transmitter’s duty cycle meant that at the time we didn’t know exactly when he would arrive and so all we could do was sit and wait. Given his usual flight speeds on migration we estimated that the flight from Winchester to Rutland could take as little as four or five hours, meaning that he could have been back at his nest as early as 11am. Fortunately there was nothing at the nest (situated on private land and known as Site N) when we arrived. Phew, we hadn’t missed him.

At 11:30, a false alarm. An Osprey appeared from the south and alighted on the nest. It was 5N, the female 09 had paired up with last summer. She remained at the nest for ten minutes, adding a couple of small sticks, before heading off again. Perhaps she was just checking to see if 09 had returned?

By lunchtime, it was a beautiful warm spring day and there were lots of signs of migration. Newly-arrived Chiffchaffs were singing near the nest and a couple of groups of Fieldfare called above our heads as they headed north, back towards their Scandinavian breeding grounds.

We heard from Michelle that 5N was now in Manton Bay; food begging on the nest of her brother, 5R. If only she knew her own mate was about to arrive back in Rutland.

At 2:10pm an Osprey appeared above our heads from the south. It was low down and heading straight for the nest. What’s more, it flew in at such an angle that we could see a transmitter on its back. It was 09! He circled the nest and then folded his wings, dropping spectacularly down onto the T perch beside the nest. He was home.

09 appears above our heads

09 appears above our heads

09's orange ring is just visible on his right leg as he heads towards his nest

09's orange ring is just visible on his right leg as he heads towards his nest

The aerial on 09's satellite transmitter was easily visible as he flew overhead

The aerial on 09's satellite transmitter was easily visible as he flew overhead

09 dropping down to his nest

09 dropping down to his nest

It is always a very memorable moment to see an Osprey return in this way, but the fact that we knew exactly what 09 had experienced over the sixteen days since he had left his wintering site on the Senegal coast, made it all the more special. He looked in fine condition and certainly displayed no adverse effects of the long and arduous journey, and particularly his near-death experience off the coast of Western Sahara.

At around 2:40 he headed off towards the reservoir, leaving the nest vacant once again. We wondered if 5N would return while he was away, but by the time 09 eventually returned – just before 5pm – she was still absent. As 09 arrived back at the nest he performed a spectacular aerial display above our heads, advertising the part-eaten roach he had brought back to the nest. We thought it would be only a matter of time before 5N returned, but by dark 09 was still alone.

After roosting away from Site N, 09 returned at 7:30 this morning, again displaying with a part-eaten fish as he arrived. Unbeknown to him, 5N was at the Manton Bay nest where she was again hoping for a free meal from 5R! Once she realises 09 is back in Rutland we expect her to return to Site N, but for the time being it is just great to see 09 back safely.

7 responses to “09’s return to Rutland”

  1. MikeS

    Tim what a fantastic experience for you both and such good news. Mike S.

  2. JillW

    I’ve followed 09’s progress enthralled and am so relieved he’s back safe and well. Thanks for the beautifully written commentary it’s a credit to you all.

  3. Julia Henderson

    What a great story it’s been, and so nice to follow 09’s journey through these posts. You guys must be thrilled to see him safely back. Thanks for the photos and the wonderful drawing and watercolour. Look forward to following the 5N/09 romance as it develops!

  4. June Atkinson

    So pleased to see 09 safely back. It’s so exciting hearing of the various ospreys on their way back.

    We at Friends of Red Kites in Gateshead’s Derwent Valley send good wishes and hope that you will have a successful breeding season on Rutland Water.

  5. Dave Clinch

    Tim, your report is so beautiful and evocative. I echo the above comment. What a wonderful experience for you, especially knowing the details of the intrepid travels of these magnificent birds.

    I think I told you at Fergus’s and Lucie’s wedding that I spent nearly four years at the Royal Naval Air Station at Portland, HMS Osprey, between 1968 and 1972! It’s been out of commission for many years now.

    Liz and I are heading for Rutland Water soon. Looking forward to meeting up with you.

    Take care


  6. Kim

    After hearing your talk at my birdwatching group I’ve been following the ospreys’ migration to Africa and back with great interest. It has felt really special to watch their progress and now I can’t wait to get to Rutland to see them in the flesh (or in the plummage?). Thank you for sharing this with us.

  7. Carol in Portland , Oregon

    Sincere and heartfelt congratulations from us in Portland Oregon. We have taken inspriation in our efforts formt he story of Rutland and the work of Roy Denis and Dr. Poole and Dr. Robert Grove here. We have just had the ospreys return form Mexico (3500) miles away and it is so dramatic and inspiring. the funding for satellite tracking ran out and there has been no tracking of them here for several years. but we have persisted in setting up an 8 ton osprey pole and struggling for 5 years to keep the nest platform up. We also have set up an osprey cam this year. https://www.ustream.tv/channel/osprey-society. All the best. Our ospreys have just started “bonding” in the past day.