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KL, eating a fish at the Sine-Saloum delta in Senegal, 22nd January 2011

Young pretenders and old friends

If you’ve been following the latest news from the various Osprey projects around the UK over the past few days then you’ll know that several young Ospreys have been really stirring things up. At Rutland four different three year-olds have been intruding at the established nests as they look for a territory of their own. At Dyfi, two Scottish Ospreys – both colour-ringed as nestlings in 2010 – have, quite literally, fought for the resident male’s attentions and, at the Lake District, a four year-old female originally from Inverness-shire, has ousted the female who was about to lay eggs. So what’s going?

Well, what we’re seeing at all these nests is actually quite common in the Osprey world. If you’re a young Osprey looking to breed for the first time, then your first port of call is an occupied nest site. Far better to try to take over an established nest, than build your own from scratch. Admittedly, if you come up against an established breeding bird, then you have little chance of ousting them, but as events in the Lake District show, if you pit yourself against a bird of a similar age, then you might just have a chance. Roy Dennis has been recording this behaviour in Scotland since the 1960s and now, thanks to the superb nest cameras that we have around the UK, many people have been given a fascinating insight into the dramas that unfold at many Osprey nests each spring.

12(10) – the latest three-year-old Osprey to return to Rutland

What all this shows is that things are really looking up for Ospreys in the UK. To have young birds fighting for nests in England and Wales, demonstrates how things have changed in recent years. Twenty years ago it would have been almost unthinkable that this would be happening south of the Scottish border but thanks to pro-active conservation – the provision of artificial nests and the Rutland translocation – it’s becoming the norm each April.

For us at Rutland Water it’s particularly exciting that two of the birds involved in the recent dramas are individuals that we identified in West Africa. Over the course of three trips to The Gambia and Senegal we have identified almost 50 different colour-ringed birds, including numerous individuals from Scotland. One of them was white KL. We first saw KL on 22 January 2011 when she was perched on Ile d’Oisseaux in the Sine-Saloum Delta in Senegal. This idyllic, sandy island is a superb place for Ospreys to spend the winter. Apart from the odd fisherman, there are few people to disturb the birds and the delta’s shallow water provides rich hunting grounds. On our first visit there we saw 35 different Ospreys in just one morning. That day KL was tucking into a newly-caught fish, surrounded by Turnstones and with Blue-cheeked Bee-eaters zipping back and forth overhead.

KL, eating a fish at the Sine-Saloum delta in Senegal, 22nd January 2011

Amazingly, when we returned a year later, we saw her again; sitting on almost exactly the same piece of sand. Now two-and-a-half years old, she would have returned to the UK previous summer. In all likelihood, her wanderings around the northern part of the UK would have taken her to the Lake District as she scouted out potential nesting sites. Knowledge that she has now put to good use.

Another of the Scottish Ospreys that we identified in West Africa was white UR. Originally heralding from a nest in Aberdeenshire in 2010, UR was one of several juvenile birds that we identified at Tanji marsh in The Gambia during our visit in January 2011. Juvenile Ospreys have a tough time when they first arrive in West Africa. They are often chased away from the best fishing sites by established adult birds, forcing them to wander over a large area before eventually settling down. When we identified UR at Tanji on 25th January 2011, it was too early to say whether the site would prove to be her future winter home. She seemed to be holding her own against the ten or so adult birds wintering there, but there was time for that to change. As it turns out, she did stay there. Earlier this year project volunteer, Chris Wood, identified her at Tanji again. Like KL, she would have returned to the UK at least once in the period between the two sightings.

Adult Ospreys at Tanji Marsh, The Gambia

The next positive sighting of UR came yesterday, some 2800 miles north, at Cors Dyfi. She landed at the nest before being chased off by one of two females who are currently competing for the affections of Monty, the resident male. Who knows where she will eventually end up. Perhaps in Wales, maybe somewhere in England, or maybe closer to her Aberdeenshire home? Whatever the case, its great to know another Osprey has returned to swell the ever-increasing UK population. And its even better when the Osprey in question, is an old friend.

John's latest photos...

John’s latest photos…

In Saturday’s update we wrote about the large brown trout which 5R brought back to Manton Bay. John was at the Egleton reserve and captured these images as 5R flew overhead.

The ospreys are frequently mobbed by greater black-backed gulls as they carry fish back to their nest sites. This can be seen from these photographs.

Apologies to Monica and Tony for mistakingly labelling the photo of 12(10) in yesterday’s post as being taken in Dyfi, it was taken by them in Manton Bay.

12(10) in flight

12(10) arrival!

12(10) arrived back in Rutland yesterday evening, taking the number of returning birds to fifteen.

12(10) is a female bird who fledged from Site N in 2010 and is the offspring of 08(97) and 5N(04), she is the sister of 11(10) who returned to Rutland on 20th April this year.

In 2012 she was first seen at Dyfi where she intruded at their nest on 21st May. Following that she was seen briefly in Manton Bay on 23rd July before returning back to Dyfi on 29th July so it’s great to have her back in Rutland.

We’ve added 12(10) to the who’s who and we’ll be keeping this up to date over the summer so you can keep track of who’s who and who lives where!

12(10) in flight

5R(04) and Maya

Another good catch!

Following on from Michelle’s update from Thursday on 5R’s fishing behaviour he has continued to show his preference for catching trout.

This afternoon though he brought in a large brown trout; we more commonly see him bringing rainbow trout back to the nest as a result of being the main fish species stocked by Anglian Water in the reservoir.

He was seen bringing it in from the North Arm of the reservoir much to the delight of visitors on the reserve and to all those who braved the cold winds to watch the nest from Waderscrape.

Move over Rover!

Move over Rover!

A welcome walk down to Waderscrape hide this afternoon proved that spring really is in full swing. Paul and I were treated to an array of summer visitors who were strutting their stuff – Blackcaps, Willow Warblers, Chiffchaffs and Whitethroat were all making themselves known. They’ve arrived just in time for the first of our Dawn Chorus walks on the Lyndon Nature reserve this Saturday 27th April. An early start will be rewarded by the sound of a memorable dawn chorus followed by a well-earned breakfast. There are still tickets available so if you fancy joining us click here.

When we arrived in the hide it was great to see both Ospreys on the Manton Bay nest. 5R was obviously enjoying his incubating duties because the female began hinting that a changeover was well overdue. As the video below shows he was eventually encouraged to vacate the nest cup.

After we spent some time in the hide, getting our ‘Osprey fix’ for the day, we collected the monitoring sheets from the last few days and headed back to the centre. Our many volunteers do a fantastic job of recording Osprey behaviour and we are able to gather some really interesting information from round-the-clock monitoring. For example, since the first egg was laid on 10th April, 5R has spent forty-four hours and fifty-three minutes incubating the eggs, with the female taking care of the rest. We are also able to learn about 5R’s fishing habits. In previous years he has been consistently catching more trout than roach, possibly reflecting the abundance of both species in the reservoir. So far this season, as the fishing chart below shows, he continues to be a creature of habit.

Fish Caught between 30th March and 24th April 2013