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Forever Autumn

Autumn is my favourite season. It is a season of change, and change is good. The last remnants of summer slip away into a cooler atmosphere, with bright, fresh days of red berries, fungi and frost. Whilst some view autumn as a season of death, it really is only a necessary dormancy, as a means to survive the coming winter. The ability of trees to effectively cut off their own supply of nutrients and retreat into themselves is a remarkable feat, and ensures their survival. Their leaves undergo a change that makes them fall to the ground, as they cannot be retained throughout the cold, dark winter months. This carpet of leaves makes a superb habitat for many ground-dwelling animals and insects. The change in the leaves also has the most beautiful visual consequence, as the elimination of chlorophyll reveals the other pigments in the leaves, turning them into different shades of yellow, orange, red and gold.


Something else remarkable that happens at this time of year is the mass migration of millions upon millions of birds. Spring and autumn are the two points of the year when migratory birds are on the move, either to their breeding grounds in the spring, or to their wintering grounds in the autumn. Ospreys are just one example of a bird that moves on for the change of the season.

The reason that birds migrate is essentially based on food, not temperature. Birds whose food source does not decline during the colder months are usually sedentary, and don’t migrate. It is a lot of effort to do so, and there has to be a good reason. A lot of people ask why the Ospreys bother to come back to England when it’s clearly warmer in West Africa, but the truth is it’s not the warmth that they go there for, it is the abundance of food. In the spring, the abundance of food is here at Rutland Water – they know this, and they know they have plenty of time during the long days of summer in which to catch enough fish to feed their families.

33 with a trout, photo by John Wright

Whilst autumn marks the end of some things, such as the breeding season of Ospreys, it also marks the beginning of others. One example is the influx of wildfowl that descends upon Rutland Water for the winter months. Rutland Water Nature Reserve is famous for its wintering population of wildfowl, notably Gadwall and Shoveler, but also Wigeon, Tufted Duck, Teal, Pintail and Goldeneye, as just a few examples.

If you have been down to Shallow Water hide on the Lyndon Reserve recently, you will have noticed a massive movement of Wigeon and Tufted Duck arriving in Manton Bay. These ducks will have travelled many miles from their breeding grounds in Northern Russia. They come together as large flocks on their long journey south, and when on their wintering grounds are highly gregarious and reside together in large numbers.

Wigeon Tufted-duck-drake

When studying the migration of our satellite-tagged Osprey, 30(05), we are always struck with awe that such a feat is possible. Even more astonishing is that other birds, much smaller and more delicate than Ospreys, take on similar or even longer migrations than they do. Sand Martins, for example, are also a summer visitor to England, and they winter in a similar area to Ospreys, therefore travelling a similar distance, and they are tiny little birds! At this time of year, Sand Martins and other hirundines are gathering in huge flocks, preparing to migrate together.

Sand Martin

The Arctic Tern is a species which holds the record when it comes to long migrations. This bird has an extraordinary migratory habit of travelling from its breeding grounds in the Arctic, all the way to the Antarctic – the shortest distance between the two being 20,000km (12,000 miles). Travelling this phenomenal distance and back again each year means these birds see more daylight than any other creature on Earth.

Arctic Tern

The art of migration is a humbling thing. We can never hope to equal these incredible animals in their amazing abilities. We can merely observe with awe. Whilst we may try to decipher the technicalities of migration, it is something that we will never ever truly comprehend. That, in a way, makes it even more amazing. Knowing how everything works takes the wonder out of life.

The following quote, taken from the book “Living on the Wind” by Scott Weidensaul, in my opinion, perfectly describes bird migration:

“Propelled by an ancient faith deep within their genes, billions of birds hurdle the globe each season, a grand passage across the heavens that we can only dimly comprehend and are just coming to fully appreciate”.


A night to remember

On Friday night, the Rutland Osprey Project hosted our second fundraising dinner – our Osprey Fundraising Dinner and Dance! This special evening was a celebration of the success of 2015, and in particular the 100th Osprey chick to fledge from a nest in Rutland! It was a fitting end to a fantastic season. The event was held at Barnsdale Lodge Hotel, who did a superb job of catering for our every need on the night. Our sincerest thanks to them!

The room all set up and ready

The room all set up and ready

Table arrangements!

Thank you to Christine Radford for the beautiful table decorations!


Roy Dennis came down from the Highlands of Scotland to join us, and gave an insightful and inspirational talk – looking back at the beginning of the Osprey Project, all the work it has done for Osprey conservation so far, the brilliant success it has become, and the inspiration it has been to other countries who have since run similar projects. Thank you very much to Roy for coming! I know that a lot of people attending were incredibly happy to meet the world-renowned Osprey expert, who was so instrumental in getting the project off the ground back in the 90s.

Roy Dennis giving his talk

Roy Dennis giving his talk


We were happy to welcome Anglian Water to partake in the celebrations, who have been, and continue to be, a great source of support to the project. The Osprey Project is, of course, a joint venture between Anglian Water and the Leicestershire and Rutland Wildlife Trust. We were also pleased that IEPUK, a company providing land-based education, work experience and training, also joined us at the Dinner, and presented us with a cheque for £814! Thank you so much to them for their generous donation.

Cheque presentation from IEPUK

Cheque presentation from IEPUK


IEPUK have supported the work of the Osprey Project for many years, and have helped to fund some of our educational work in West Africa. When JJ, our Gambian liaison, visited England last month, he met with the Director of IEPUK, George Peach, to discuss how well the programme of work in Africa has been going. Here is a video of their chat.

The Dinner was supplemented not only by Roy’s fabulous talk, but also by a brilliant raffle, which raised £1,065! The amazing array of raffle prizes included two nights’ bed and breakfast at Barnsdale Lodge Hotel, a £50 voucher for Land’s End, a meal for two at the Olive Branch, a session at the River Gwash Trout Farm for 2016, and much more! Volunteer Lynda Berry did a superb job of sourcing and promoting these prizes – we owe Lynda a huge thanks for her efforts! Thank you also, of course, to the generosity of those who donated the raffle prizes. These are Barnsdale Lodge Hotel; River Gwash Trout Farm; Anglian Water; Land’s End Ltd; Baker’s Yard, Oakham; The King’s Arms, Wing; GLOW at Barnsdale; The Olive Branch; Co-op; Tesco and Paul Stammers.

We also had a wonderful live performance from supremely talented local band, Jonny’s at One, who had everyone on their feet and dancing! They performed an excellent repertoire of songs, and I think I speak for everyone when I say we all enjoyed it immensely and thought they were superb! We owe them a huge thank you, too.


Jonny’s at One took the stage…


…and it wasn’t long before the dance floor was packed!


In total, including the donation from IEPUK, ticket sales and the raffle, the Dinner and Dance raised an impressive sum of £2,574 for the Osprey Project! We would like to extend a thank you to everyone who came to the evening, supported us and celebrated with us – we hope you enjoyed the night as much as we did!

Dancing the night away!

Dancing the night away!


Let her go

Yesterday, the Lyndon Visitor Centre closed its doors to the public for the final time in 2015. The Ospreys had already left, and there is now no denying that the end of the season is upon us. Whilst we all feel a bit teary at the end of the season, there is no cause to be sad, as life does not stop when the Ospreys leave, and we can always look back on what an amazing season it has been.

Thanks must go out to everyone who is involved in the Osprey Project, both staff and volunteers, for all their hard work, commitment and dedication throughout the season. If I started writing names, there would be an enormous list, so I won’t, but you know who you are – thank you.

It goes without saying that we could not function without our team of volunteers, who monitor the Ospreys from arrival to departure. Every year, at the end of the season, we have a get-together for all of the Osprey volunteers in order to thank them for their efforts. Last night, we hosted our volunteers’ party for 2015! It was a super evening, and a good time was had by all. There was a fish and chip supper, a light-hearted quiz, and last but not least, a little video that we put together of the Manton Bay highlights to music! Because this video was enjoyed so much, we thought we should share it here on the website, so it can be watched by all! We hope you enjoy it!

The Lyndon Centre may be closed, but work will not cease over the winter – there is much to do to keep the reserve running and prepare for next season. Keep an eye on the website, as we will keep updating it, albeit on a more infrequent basis, throughout the winter. Many thanks to all our visitors, and followers on the website. The Lyndon Centre will re-open its doors on Saturday 12th March 2016 – we’ll see you next year!


A personal best

We finally have some more data from 30(05)’s satellite-transmitter, detailing the final part of her migration! On Thursday, Tim reported that she was almost there – she only had 112km (70 miles) left to go. We are happy to report that she made it safely to her wintering grounds on the evening of 10th September. She travelled a total of 162km (101 miles) on her final day of migrating. The next morning (11th September), 30’s position indicated she was sitting on her favourite perch!

30's favourite perch, a few metres inland from the coast

30’s favourite perch, a few metres inland from the coast


Then an hour later, she had flown 16km (10 miles) out to sea to go fishing!

30 fishing 11th sept

30 settled quickly on her wintering site


This autumn, 30 has indeed set a record. Her 2015 autumn migration took her a total of 264 hours – 3 hours quicker than last year (and the year before)!

She spent 137 of her 264 hours actually flying, which works out as almost 52{aebb832937d1885646bba593f8f1074bbe61a552c8a5f5d60514d6f049ed1f58} of her time! She migrated a total of 4412km (2928 miles), averaging 401km (266 miles) per day.

This table shows the distance 30 travelled each day of her 2015 migration south, and the total hours spent flying.

Day Distance (km) Distance (miles) Time migrating Total hours
1 (31st Aug) 600 372 09:00 – 20:00 11
2 (1st Sept) 831 516 06:00 – 20:00 14
3 (2nd Sept) 389 241 07:00 – 20:00 13
4 (3rd Sept) 411 255 07:00 – 20:00 13
5 (4th Sept) 572 355 06:00 – 21:00 15
6 (5th Sept) 418 260 07:00 – 20:00 13
7 (6th Sept)  305 189 09:00 – 19:00 10
8 (7th Sept) 249 155 09:00 – 19:00 10
9 (8th Sept) 367 228 08:00 – 21:00 13
10 (9th Sept) 413 256 08:00 – 19:00 11
11 (10th Sept) 162 101 07:00 – 21:00 14
Total 4412 2928   137


We have mentioned before how we’re amazed by the ability of Ospreys to find their way to their wintering grounds, then remember the way they went and follow a similar route every year. Here is a map which serves to perfectly demonstrate this – it shows the route 30 took on each of her three autumn migrations. It’s remarkable how similar they are!

A comparison of 30's three autumn migrations - look how similar they are!

A comparison of 30’s three autumn migrations – look how similar they are!


Here is a table showing the total distance (in kilometres) 30 travelled on each of the three autumn migrations we have tracked her on. This season, she took a slightly shorter, and therefore faster, route.

Day Distance (km) 2013 Distance (km) 2014 Distance (km) 2015
1 568 521 600
2 547 508 831
3 464 516 297
4 257 259 411
5 471 413 572
6 293 536 418
7 330 354  305
8 475 561 249
9 408 351 367
10 328 165 413
11 257 449 162
12 85 53
Total 4483 4686 4412

Ospreys are incredible, and continue to amaze and astound us. We look forward to seeing what 30 gets up to over her winter months, and to following her spring migration home again next March!

Click here to follow 30’s journey on our special map (2015’s autumn migration is the blue line).

Alternatively, click here to follow 30 using Google Earth.


30 has flown 1028km across the Sahara in the past three days

Almost home

She’s made it, well, almost! The latest batch of satellite data shows that at 11am this morning, 30 was in northern Senegal, just 60km from her wintering site on the coast.

As Kayleigh reported earlier in the week, the previous batch of data had shown that 30 roosted in the wilds of Western Sahara on Sunday evening. Next morning she made a slow start to her day’s flight; by 10am she was just 10km south of her overnight roost and an hour later, she had only flown another 9km. At that point, however, she changed to a more south-westely heading, and made consistent progress for the rest of the day; flying 230km over the course of the next seven hours. As she headed south-west 30 would have been using thermals created by the searing heat , to aid her migration; soaring to gain height on the thermals and then gliding onwards. By using the airflows in this way, 30 and other migrating Ospreys are able to save valuable energy during their crossing of the desert. By 6pm 30 settled to roost for the night in the Province of Oed Ed-Dehab Lagouira in the south of Western Sahara.

By 7am the next morning – her fourth in the desert – 30 had moved 1.8km south from her overnight roost. She set-off again at around 9:30am and headed purposefully south-west, passing into Mauritanian airspace between 1pm and 2pm. By the time she settled to roost at 5:30pm, she had flown a total of 365km across the desert.

Next morning 30 set-off just after 9am, initially heading south-south-east. At 11am she changed course to a south-south-westerly heading, and made steady progress across the desert during the afternoon. By early evening she was approaching the Senegal border and must have sensed she was close to home, because she continued flying until 7pm;  settling to roost shortly after she had crossed the iconic Senegal River, after a day’s flight of 408km. For the first time in five nights she settled to roost in a cultivated area, having successfully crossed the vast and desolate Sahara once again.

30 has flown 1028km across the Sahara in the past three days

30 has flown 1022km across the Sahara in the past three days

Last night 30 roosted south of the Senegal River, just north of the vast Lac de Guiers

Last night 30 roosted south of the Senegal River, just north of the vast Lac de Guiers

The Senegal River would have been a welcome sight for 30 after her five-day crossing of the Sahara (photo by John Wright)

The Senegal River would have been a welcome sight for 30 after her five-day crossing of the Sahara (photo by John Wright)

An adult female Osprey perched beside the Senegal River - just the kind of spot that 30 is likely to have roosted in last night  (photo by John Wright)

An adult female Osprey perched beside the Senegal River – just the kind of spot that 30 is likely to have roosted in last night (photo by John Wright)

So, just 10 days after leaving Rutland, 30 is almost certain to arrive at her wintering site today. Even for an experienced adult Osprey, this is an incredibly fast migration.

This morning’s data shows that she was still at her overnight roosting spot at 7am, but by 9am she was heading south-west over Lac du Guiers; appearing to pass up the opportunity of breakfast, in favour of an early return to the coast. By 11am she was to the east of St Louis, and heading straight for her winter home. By now (4pm) she is almost certain to have made it, but check back tomorrow to be sure!

Click here to follow 30’s journey on our special map (2015’s autumn migration is the blue line).

Alternatively, click here to follow 30 using Google Earth.