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The final voyage and wonderful waders…

The departure of the Site B residents shows the summer is drawing to a close and although we still have all five family members in Manton Bay we are all spending as much time as possible down at the hides to make the most of them before they leave.

As September is just around the corner this evening is our final Osprey Cruise of 2011 and it maybe the last chance to see these fantastic birds hovering over Rutland Water. With females catching fish of their own before their long migrations there is an even greater chance of seeing Ospreys fishing…

Over 900 visitors have joined us on the Rutland Belle so far this summer and we have had some fantastic views of Ospreys fishing, even just 50 metres away from the boat! We still have spaces available on the cruise this evening and we hope to finish on a high so why not join us? We are meeting at the Anglian Water Bird Watching Centre at 3:45pm and we will return to Whitwell Harbour at 6:45pm. An evening not to be missed! If you are interested you can reserve a place on our Events page or phone the Lyndon Visitor Centre 01572 737378.

Another reminder that Autumn is in the air is the sudden influx of waders in Manton Bay. Since the bund wall was built last year as part of Anglian Water’s major engineering scheme we have been able to control the water levels in the bay. By slowly lowering the water levels over the last few days we have created some fantastic habitat for migrating waders. The views from Shallow Water hide this morning are fantastic – 32 Ruff, 5 Green Sandpipers, 3 Greenshank, 2 Redshank, 6 Little-ringed Plovers and a Curlew!

What a fantastic start to the day – it would seem that Rutland Water is the only place to be this Bank Holiday weekend!

A great weekend and five Ospreys still together

A great weekend and five Ospreys still together

Phew! What a busy few days its been. A big thank you to everyone who came to see us on our Birdfair stand over the weekend. It was great to meet you all – especially those of you who have been following the progress of the birds this summer. To cap a great few days our stand won the best conservation stand award (as voted by independent judges, might I add!). Here’s a photo of a few of us with our certificate.

If you visited the stand you’ll know that project volunteers Andy and Anne Strang ran a second hand book sale to raise money for the eduction work we’re carrying out in Gambia. The sales raised well over £400 – so thank you to everyone who donated and bought books. And an even bigger thanks to Andy and Anne for organising it all. I’m also really grateful to those of you who have sponsored me for the Berlin marathon. I’ve raised over £700 so far, but there is still quite a way to go before I reach my target of £2500. I believe passionately that we have a unique opportunity to provide wildlife education in Gambian schools and that the work can have a real lasting legacy among communities in West Africa- so please visit my fund raising page if you haven’t already done so.

As you will know if you checked Moira Carnie’s update page on our Facebook page this morning, all of the Manton Bay family are still present. Last year the first juvenile headed south on 29th August, so I wonder how much longer all of the family will be together for? It is interesting to see how 22 has become by far the most dominant of the three juveniles. Last night he stopped 32 landing anywhere near the nest, to make sure he was first to receive the next fish. Of course this is a vitally important period for the youngsters. The more fish they can eat the better – they will need to be in the best possible condition for when they begin that long flight south in the coming days or weeks.

Business as usual…

For the staff and volunteers working at Rutland Water Nature Reserve much of the last three weeks has been dominated by Birdfair. Despite the hive of activity over at Egleton it has been business as usual in Manton Bay. Two days ago, Tom and Ann our volunteers in the hide for the morning shift, reported that 5R had brought three fish to the nest before 8am! What a superb fisherman! The male is obviously doing his best to ensure the chicks are in tip top condition before they leave.

When Liz and I arrived in the centre later that morning there were the remains of two fish still in the nest, 5R had outdone himself! But 32(11), as well as some of the others, couldn’t resist for very long…

All aboard the final dawn cruise of 2011…

The final dawn cruise of 2011 is the Osprey cruise with Mike Dilger! Don’t miss out on this fantastic opportunity exclusive to the Birdfair. Naturalist, reporter and author Mike Dilger is a familiar face on popular TV programmes such as Springwatch, Britain Goes Wild, Inside Out and The One Show. He will be hosting this wildlife cruise on board the Rutland Belle and will be joined by several members of the Rutland Osprey Project team, ensuring that you have the best chance to see Ospreys and other wildlife from the water.

There are still places available and you can book by calling the Birdfair office 01572 771079.

A different family fun day

As I began to write this report I learned that the Site B female had not been seen for over a week and that 33(11) has rarely been returning to Site B and is therefore probably catching his own fish – how wonderful if he is, it will stand him in good stead to hone his fishing skills before he departs on migration.  It made me realise how lucky I had been last week to see all of the Manton Bay Ospreys, here’s my report.

I was pleased to be going to Manton Bay, as not only would I see the Osprey family in the bay but I had heard that Moira was going to be doing the shift before me.  I hadn’t seen her since the day she’d had her cycle accident and apart from suffering nasty injuries to hand and chin, she had also missed 52(11) fledging.

I arrived at the hide and was delighted to hear from her that she had seen all five Ospreys and at that moment only one juvenile was out of sight. She showed me a photo that she’d taken earlier of a kingfisher, it had been darting about landing on reed stems and had quite distracted her. She had also spotted a green woodpecker in the trees behind the nest. We chatted away but soon realised that we needed our wits about to us to keep track of the Osprey family.  Once she had left the hide, I set about heading up the report sheets, however, I began to have a minor panic as so much was going on, I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to write it all down. As I rummaged through my bag for a pen, I came across a small digital voice recorder that my husband had given me at the beginning of the season, thinking that it might come in handy one day if the hide was busy and I didn’t have time to write.  It was just what I needed.  This is what I hastily dictated:

 Absolute manic morning, one on fallen branch, one on the nest, one on the near perch, 5R on the far perch. One juvenile missing on my arrival.  Then the other juvenile arrives, Mrs. is eating a fish, 5R flies off to catch a fish right in front of our eyes, brings it back to eat it, as he’s the only one that hasn’t eaten yet this morning, then drops it, goes off to fish again – not successful, quite funny, comes over to the nest to see what’s left that the juvenile has been eating.  And they’re just dispersing all over the place right in front of my eyes; to the left fallen tree, to the fallen tree to the right, to the shore, one’s been pecking at mud, 5R’s had a bath, it’s very choppy, very windy, very cool and they’re just flying all over the place, all five of them are here and it’s wonderful!  And now a juvenile comes back to the French perch and he’s eating a fish and 5R’s on the near perch eating a fish. Where they came from, goodness only knows.

(Later)  Not forgetting one juvenile who’s pecking on the shore – was he eating grubs I wonder?

At 09.50, once I’d stopped panicking, one of the juveniles took his fish to the shoreline. Every season, I see different behaviour – last year at Site B, again in a panic, I’d telephoned Tim to report that the two juveniles were on the ground in the ploughed field, one actually down low in the earth, but I was reassured that they’d been doing it on a regular basis.  Today was the first time that I’d seen a Rutland Osprey, let alone a juvenile, actually eating on the shoreline. After fifteen minutes he was getting seriously hassled by a magpie and flew with his fish to the right-hand fallen poplar.  5R immediately dipped down to the shore and sorted out the magpie. 

At 10.20 the female took after a heron and there ensued an almighty and prolonged battle. It was right in front of the hide and I was able to get some very close shots of them both.  The female won and the heron retreated towards Deep Water Hide.  5R then had another spat with a magpie and the two juveniles flew up, one returning to the nest. 52(11) meanwhile was still eating his fish on the fallen poplar.  A few minutes later  32(11) flew over the bund wall, followed by the female, who attempted to fish.  They both returned low over the water, dipping their feet in flight. As they approached the nest, 32 swung at the female, as if trying to beat her to the nest and she decided to join 5R on the near perch.

The weather took a distinct turn for the worse with light rain sweeping across in front of me, almost like drifting fog.  5R and the female hunkered down against the strong wind on the near perch, one juvenile retreated to the shore and the other to a low branch of the left-hand fallen poplar. Meanwhile 52(11) was still eating his fish on the other fallen poplar, which is thickly leaved and he appeared to be very sheltered, quite oblivious almost to the weather and the rest of his family.

Shortly before 11am 5R flew over to the far perch and a juvenile followed him to the far shore, landing in the water.  He began to lift out of the water, hover a couple of seconds and then land in the water again, until he landed on the fallen poplar.  Some 20 minutes later, those of us in the hide were treated to a wonderful sight of two juveniles attempting to fish immediately in front of us near the dead tree.  They didn’t push their feet forward at all, but most certainly hovered, feet dangling and swooped down to the water, pulling out at the last minute, like fighter pilots.  They practiced several times and then one of them drifted out of sight towards the Lyndon Centre. In the years that I have been volunteering, I had never seen such advanced behaviour from juveniles. On the far shore, to the right of the fallen poplar, a young buzzard was sitting on top of the camera transmitter box, I wondered how long he’d been watching this family at play.

The other juvenile flew to the shore behind the nest, landing on a very small branch sticking out of the mud and was joined on the shore by the third juvenile who began to peck at green shoots growing in the mud.  In the grey murk I saw four or five wagtails approaching him, but with just one glance from the Osprey, they sensibly made a hasty diversion. Watching these two birds on the muddy shoreline was so evocative of what we had observed in Africa – Ospreys on the beach or marsh, either on the mud or sand, or perched on branches protruding from the ground. The only difference from today for this family when they reach their wintering ground, is that each of them will be alone. Today though, to have watched the whole family was truly wonderful and totally unexpected – another lucky shift; they will be few and far between until the end of the season.

 When I played the recordings back, to write this report, I discovered that I had left it switched on inside my pocket for 10 minutes – there was much rustling of paper as I hastily recorded events, but there was also the sound of one of the juveniles food-begging, loudly,  it is so very clear – I can’t bring myself to delete it, although I’m not sure whether it will cheer me up or send me into a deep depression when I play it back in the dead of winter and think of them all on the muddy sand in Africa.  I hope that they will be as well fed as they have been today.