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09 with his transmitter

Satellite tracking

When 08(97) disappeared just over a month ago, you may recall that we asked for donations towards a satellite tracking fund. Satellite tracking is by far the most effective way for us to monitor the birds fishing habits – and specifically, to identify how many small ponds and lakes that they visit. Furthermore, should a satellite tagged bird go missing, the GPS transmitters will identify exactly where.  

The response to this appeal has been truly fantastic and we have raised enough money to buy two new transmitters to add to the one we already have. We are extremely grateful to everyone who has donated money.

Having raised the money, we then needed to catch the birds. Roy Dennis travelled down from Scotland last weekend and under his expert guidance we were able to trap and tag two birds – 09(98) and AA(06).

Following the disappearance of 08, 09 has paired up with 5N(04) at Site N. We know that 09 regularly visits lakes away from Rutland Water and so it was great to catch him. His transmitter is already providing us with a huge amount of extremely valuable data. It shows that he is regularly fishing up to five miles away from Rutland Water.

09 with his transmitter

AA is the breeding male at Site O – the nest that 32(05) and 06(00) disappeared from last spring. AA fledged from the Site B nest in 2006 and first bred successfully last year, raising three chicks with a female originally from Argyll in northern Scotland. Aside from the satellite transmitter we also fitted AA with a new colour ring – he lost his several years ago. His new ring is blue white AW and that’s how we’ll be referring to him from now on.

Roy Dennis with AW

We’ll update you with the progress of the two males over the course of the summer and will also be following their autumn migrations – with daily updates of their progress on the website.

AW perched near the nest - you can see the aerial on his back

We hope to fit the third transmitter to one of the two year-old males who has recently returned. We tried to catch 03(09) at an artificial nest that he had visited a couple of days before Roy arrived – but unfortunately he did not come to that nest when we wanted him to.  Catching one of these young males will be difficult, but if we are successful, it will provide us with extremely valuable information on the movement of young birds. Roy’s two year old male is revealing a huge amount about the wanderings of young Ospreys when they first return to the UK – see his website for more.

Anyone seen any Ospreys?

Four Winds Festival

Its not every day you see an Osprey with a 20 foot wingspan, but if you come to the Four Winds Festival today, you can do just that!

The festival continues at Normanton on the south shore of Rutland Water today from 12-4. There are all kinds of family activities and you can come down and meet the Osprey team at our stand. The day culminates in a special evening performance of “The Way the Winds Blow” – a specially commissioned piece telling the story of the inhabitants who lie above, below and around Rutland Water, with Ospreys as the centrepiece. Told through a mixture of music, dance and choreographed sailing, it is a spectacular show. The afternoon activities are free and tickets for the evening performance are £10 for adults and can be bought on the door. For more information check out the Four Winds Festival website. Here’s a photo of one of the stars of the show.

Anyone seen any Ospreys?

Growing fast at Manton Bay

The three Manton Bay chicks are now a month old and growing fast. All three have now lost most of their down and their feathers are developing well. They’re even starting to make weak wing flaps – it is amazing to think that they could be flying in as little as three weeks time.

5R continues to catch a variety of fish – including numerous small roach close to the nest. This latest video shows him bringing one to the nest. Notice how the chicks still don’t have the strength to walk properly – instead they are still at the stage of ‘crawling’ on their lower legs, making them look very ungainly when they turn around to be fed!

After several intrusions by 03(09) at the end of last week, things have been much quieter at the nest over the past few days. If you have been following the progress of the young Scottish Osprey satellite-tagged by Roy Dennis, you will know that the four two year-old Rutland youngsters who have returned this year could be anywhere in England – exploring far and wide. In his travels around Scotland, Roy’s Osprey Rothiemurchus has flown the length of the country twice – so our young birds could be anywhere. We’re sure though that each of them will drop in for at least one more visit to Rutland Water before they head south again.

The Osprey Road Show Hits Uppingham!

The latest stop in the hectic schedule of the Osprey Project Summer Roadshow took place this afternoon, when Information Officer Michelle, assisted by Volunteer Ken, took the short flight from Lyndon over to Uppingham Community College to meet a very smart group of young naturalists and their enthusiastic teacher Karen Grunwald. Ken takes up the story…..

We’ve only got an hour to get our message over, but it’s pretty clear from the first moment that we’re dealing with a pretty ‘switched-on and tuned-in’ group of young people here :

* Yes, they all know what an Osprey is ~ excellent descriptions are given to us, which include words like ‘fish-eating’ and ‘migratory’.
* Yes, they’ve nearly all seen one in real life, most around Rutland, but one in Scotland around the ruins of an old castle. One boy who lives near the reservoir has even seen one from his bedroom window! Now who can beat that?
* Yes, they all know they are RARE, and can only be seen in a very few places in England.
* A few of the older ones (aged 14) are really into the natural world. Their teacher introduces them one by one.

This is a brilliant start. To see local youngsters like these showing such interest and knowledge is very encouraging for all of us involved in the Project. We need them, the Ospreys need them, to help us educate the rest of the population. They are the perfect ambassadors. So thank you, Uppingham CC, for allowing us to come and see you today.

Michelle starts the presentation, including video sequences, which as always are a hit. We deal with past decline, present recovery, and hopes for the future. We tell stories of famous individual Rutland Ospreys and great migrations across the Sahara and into West Africa. We talk about translocations, ringing, colour-coding, satellite tracking and recording. We look at Osprey nests in trees and on platforms. We look at Osprey beaks and feet, and get to use that super word zygodactylic ~ having two forward-facing toes and two back! Questions come every few seconds. Very good ones too. In fact there are so many questions that Karen has to call a halt so that we can finish the presentation on time!

At the end there are video sequences showing the Manton Bay chicks in the nest, and 5R(04) bringing in that monster bream last week! Then it’s photo time :

They all look pretty happy, don’t they? We get a vote of thanks and a round of applause! Perfect timing, as the bell rings and it’s time to go. A couple stay behind to chat. The boy who has seen Ospreys from his bedroom window tells me more ~ he is quite an expert already.

And finally ~ and most memorably ~ a girl approaches Michelle and says ‘How do I go about getting a job like yours?’ ‘Well’, says Michelle, ‘the first step is to come and see us at Lyndon, and we’ll take it from there.’

Two Loaves and Eight Fishes…..and a Miracle!

Sunday 12th June : Manton Bay, 1.00 – 5.00pm : This promises to be the first really wet Sunday of the season so far, so it would be nice to have a decent packed lunch to enjoy in Wader Scrape hide to raise the damp spirits a little. Unfortunately provisions were very low at home this morning, and all I could find were two rather stale little loaf-shaped rolls, a lump of cheese, and a banana. Oh well, it will have to do. I’m reading an old book by Frances Pitt at the moment, called ‘How to See Nature’. It was published in 1940, when things were tough for everyone. She recommends ‘bread, cheese and an apple’ as the perfect accompaniment on a country ramble, so I’m in good company.

The weather forecast was right. It’s raining steadily as I arrive at the Lyndon Centre, and it continues relentlessly for the entire afternoon. Mind you, this is nothing compared with a famous day in July 2007 when I was down here all on my own during a terrific storm, during the course of which water started coming up through the floor of the hide and I had visions of myself floating heroically away in Wader Scrape, like some modern beleaguered Noah in his Ark. I survived that, and so did 08(97) and 5N(04), who raised two chicks here that summer. Today Paul makes me a cup of tea and the whole team wave me a cheery goodbye as I make for the hide.

There are quite a few visitors today, despite the awful weather. 5R, looking a bit bedraggled, is out there on his perch, and his mate is trying to shelter three rapidly growing chicks. The log shows that he has already caught several little fishes in quick succession this morning. Two families with four children and a big, wet, friendly dog pile in, and are thrilled to see the Ospreys. They don’t mind the rain. 5R obliges and goes fishing in the rain, circling above the bay before plunging in several times in full view of everyone. He catches a small fish at 2.10, which is taken back to the nest, and then another at 2.15, which he eats himself. He repeats the performance at 3.30 and 3.35, by which time he has another set of appreciative visitors in the hide. This is one intelligent Osprey. He knows he will not be able to catch a big fish in the open water in these conditions. So he has adapted his technique and is going after the smaller fry in the shallows. Very successfully too ~ that’s at least eight little fishes today so far. And this is the same bird which this time last week landed a monster bream after an epic struggle. Different day, different thinking.

After the 3.35 fish, I lay out my own meagre lunch and contemplate it without relish : two little loaves and a piece of cheese. Then the thought comes to me ~ combine my loaves with 5R’s fishes and we have the potential for a miracle of biblical proportions! We could feed every young Osprey and every family in Rutland. For ‘Rutland Water’ read ‘Sea of Galilee’ and the scene is set ~ all ingredients in place. Except one ~ we don’t have the Miracle Worker Himself. I look down the row of visitors in the hide, all concentrating on the Ospreys in the rain. No, there’s no-one there I can cast in the role of miracle worker. 5R has finished his 3.35 fish and is already looking for another. My little loaves remain on the cloth. There are still two. They haven’t multiplied. I break them into pieces to eke them out a little further, but they’re soon gone. Out on the reservoir a fisherman in a small boat casts his line in the rain : in another gospel moment I see him hauling in a net bulging with fish. Next thing he’ll be walking on the water…..

A new set of visitors bring me back to reality. One little group have come all the way from Yorkshire to see for themselves the Osprey family they’ve been watching all week on the webcam. As I prepare to leave at the end of the afternoon, 5R is still fishing, regularly returning small meals to the nest and eating the occasional one himself. In an incredible breathtaking moment he lands for us on the dead tree, staring down into the water, a stunning portrait etched into our minds forever. That was the miracle…..and we are so happy that we were there to witness it.