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The long way home..

As our satellite tracking page was updated today, showing the migration paths of 3 of our beautiful Ospreys, I thought it would be fitting to talk a little about migratory behaviour studies, and how it is helping us understand our impacts on native and migrant species. 

For many songbirds which migrate at night, such as thrushes, warblers and cuckoos, the most important tool they have for navigation is their geomagnetic and stellar (star-orientated) compass. These compasses have been studied for many years in order to understand the underlying mechanisms for orientation and migratory behaviour. We know that birds pick up on minuscule magnetic signals from the earth’s ‘lay-lines’ to know where they are on the globe, and read the stars as a map to help orientate them further, and more importantly to stay on course during their migration.

Recent studies have investigated how birds respond to disruptions in magnetic fields and can adjust their migratory path accordingly, which would be beneficial in the wild in the event of being displaced by weather events, and simply staying on course. With changing climate happening all around us now, it is predicted that environmental cues such as average temperature is prompting birds to migrate either too early or too late, meaning they may arrive out of sync with their prey and may not breed well or even survive in good condition. In addition to these climatic changes, birds are also experiencing a greater amount of interference from urban areas, known as electromagnetic noise (radio towers and background electrical activity inside large buildings). Studies in the Eurasian warbler show that these signals are strongest around urban areas, and although we cannot detect them, for more sensitive species which rely on tiny magnetic signals, one small disruption can spell disaster. it has been found to completely disorientate birds, and this means they do not stay accurately on course for their migration, and may end up spending more energy flying around trying to find their breeding grounds, at a time in the year they need to be conserving it. 

Our Osprey monitoring programme has allowed us, over some years, to identify the migratory routes of a small sample of birds, but we have found them to roughly follow similar routes: through France, Spain, across Morocco, over the Sahara, the Gambia, Senegal… and through these findings we have been able to establish areas of complementary conservation. The Osprey Leadership foundation collaborates with locals across all of these countries to promote conservation and encourage leaders in the communities to educate, inspire and protect the Ospreys which pass through, overwinter and stop-off in their countries. Such projects have inspired local schools and helped improve education in these areas, as well as encouraging conservation practice and awareness to become established, and for communities to work together for a cause. The migration paths of individual ospreys can obviously differ quite a lot, and we have been thrilled to watch the progression of our three tracked birds as they migrate back to Rutland water this Spring. 

Such experiments are showing us a great deal of hard truths: we are having a much greater impact on native and migrant wildlife than we realise, and so it is increasingly important to collaborate with scientific research to identify solutions, management strategies and eventually sustainable methods for conservation well into the future. We have seen in our own Ospreys how their arrival dates have fluctuated, and vary a great deal between years, but patterns may be emerging if we keep a close eye on our tagged birds, perhaps we will see a shift in arrival dates earlier in the year as temperatures rise, or even a delayed arrival with more extreme weather events, such as the beast from the east last year. All we can do is work together to limit our own personal impacts on the planet (reducing emissions, reducing energy expenditure and fuel use) and supporting research into this exciting and ever developing knowledge base surrounding migratory behaviour. 

And back to our Ospreys: could S1 be due back in the next week or so? Will 4K finally roll out of bed and make it to our shores? Stay tuned!

Osprey Big Brother

Osprey Big Brother

The sun is illuminating the mirror-calm waters of manton bay, Brimstone butterflies sparkle in the fields, chaffinches, willow tits, goldfinches, chiff-chaffs and blackbirds sing in the trees… and our beloved Osprey pair, happily reunited after a long winter, are busy re-building their nest ahead of the season. Maya and 33 have been breeding together in Manton bay since 2015, and today they are showing signs of fondness still; seen copulating early this morning, and then spending the day fishing for perch and trout, and building a very luxurious nest cup for their eggs. 33 and Maya have been fishing equally, bringing back sticks and twigs for the nest, as well as soft material to line the inside of the nest. 

Our pair look very settled and are still having to protect their nest from other interested Ospreys, of which there are now 13 in the area of Rutland water! More expected over the coming weeks, keep an eye out for further activity, I’ll be updating the blog with videos and pictures due to the webcams playing up still! Apologies in advance!

Re-finding the Wild

Our fondest memories of childhood tend to be days where we have been soaked through by the rain, muddy and disheveled, witnessing a moment in the secret life of a wild animal up close, or building mental maps of the wild spaces in our home environments and feeling like we are sharing this space with something sacred, a life-force we are part of, not above. For me, this message is becoming increasingly important, as I’ve watched my home city become more and more urbanised, and the woodland and countryside shrinking into more contracted areas, leaving less room for play and less room for wild things to thrive. But something more vital is at play with the loss of our wild places, and that is lack of connection in the younger generation. We must be careful not to become desk warriors- being supportive of environmental causes but not living the message and ‘getting out in it’, and that extends to what image we create for our children of the natural world: through us they learn words, understanding their world through the vocabulary we give to them. We must also seek to spread the spirit of and affection for nature in our children, in schools, universities, workplaces and in local communities. Tree bathing has been prescribed in Japan in recent years as a means of alleviating modern anxieties, our own wildlife trusts are promoting ‘every child wild’ activities to encourage families to get out an experience nature and learn, in a fully immersive way, to ‘muddy up and rejoice with the earth’, and that includes experimenting with language to express all the wonderful natural phenomena around us.

Robert McFarlane, a fantastic nature enthusiast, adventurer and poetic genius, explored this in his beautiful book ‘Landmarks’. It is a book about “the power of language to shape our sense of place. It is a field guide to the literature of nature, and a glossary containing thousands of remarkable words used in England, Scotland, Ireland and Wales to describe land, nature and weather.” In it, he tells of the worrying disconnection between our children and the natural world. He recoiled in horror, as we all did, when in 2007 the Oxford junior edition of the dictionary removed a multitude of nature words, such as ‘moss’, ‘blackberry’, ‘adder’, replaced with ‘blog’, ‘chatroom’ and ‘broadband’. This is a chilling reflection of the way language has evolved in the modern world and society’s perceptions of what we value and use every day. But there is hope in this bleak mizzlepond (my own invention to mean that muddy, squelchy ditch masquerading as a shallow puddle that swallows wellington boots) we find ourselves. The upcoming generation of children seem keener and more aware of environmental issues than ever before, with local schools running recycling schemes, water saving campaigns, vegetable patches and local gardens. Indeed, this summer we are giving kids the opportunity to come down to the Lyndon reserve centre to become ‘reserve experts’ and learn what it takes to be a good conservation leader. They will get the opportunity to get up close with nature as never before, honing their identification skills, practical habitat skills, wildlife knowledge and above all, being out and about in whatever weather befalls us this year, to feel connected to wildlife and the landscape. This summer school runs on two separate days: one for kids aged 8-12 and the other for kids aged 12-16. This opportunity came along due to a partnership with the Cameron Bespolka Trust, started as all brilliant legacies do, by one brilliant young man’s passion for nature. You can find out more here

And that’s not all you can expect from Lyndon: we’re echoing the passions we’re seeing in the younger generation and opening our minds, and our doors, to engage more families, young people and children, to come and have fun with arts and crafts, wildlife walks, demonstrations, poetry and writing competitions, photo booths and other workshops set for the summer ahead. One of the most moving and powerful tools we have is language, and we’ll be exploring all sorts of weird and wonderful ways to keep it alive: by making you laugh mostly! If you know have young kids yourself, have friends or relatives with children then rally the troops and come down over the summer holidays and enjoy the beautiful outdoors through a new perspective! After all, our best hope for conservation and a sustainable future are the bright sparks under our wing.

WOW! It's World Osprey Week (and a half...)

WOW! It’s World Osprey Week (and a half…)

Our education officers Jackie, Pete and Ken have been rallying around local schools spreading the Osprey knowledge far and wide, engaging young budding conservationists and seeing their enthusiasm bouncing back! Here’s a summary of how all the WOW activity went!

“By the start of World Osprey Week(WOW!) the female Rutland osprey Maya had already returned to the Manton Bay nest, and just in time for our week of activities in schools.

We have had so many requests for school visits that this year we extended the WOW event into a second week, which also gave time for 33(11) to join Maya at Manton Bay and for another six ospreys to be sighted during the week as they were re-establishing their territories in the area.

This year in WOW the Education Team of Ken, Jackie, and Pete delivered whole school assemblies to eleven local schools explaining all about the Rutland Ospreys and giving the latest migration news.

Osprey Ambassadors helped the Education team in the school assemblies and class activities, and some new ambassadors were presented with their official school badges.

 In addition the “WOW roadshow “ we ran eight follow-up classroom sessions to year 4,5 and 6 primary school pupils using the “Osprey Expert” activities, in preparation for their school visits to the Lyndon Reserve to see the ospreys later in the school year. This has been made possible by Oakham Tesco in their “Bags of help” local charity scheme which has provided the funding for six of the Rutland schools to be given extra classroom sessions and bus transport as part of the Rutland Ospreys Education and Outreach programme in 2019.

A highlight of World Osprey Week was an international Skype between Empingham Primary School and Spanish school pupils at the Urdaibai Bird Reserve in Basque Spain. This reserve has just re-introduced ospreys, and during the link an osprey returned to the reserve and was captured on their live web-cam.

In World Osprey Week the Education Team gave assemblies and ran osprey activities with over 1000 young people in 2019. What a week (…and a half !)

 Fact file discussion in Exton Primary School

 Food webs in Luffenham St Mary and St John Primary School

 Osprey fact Files

 Our Osprey Education Team and The Osprey Ambassadors from Oakham English Martyrs Primary school


It’s about time!

Yesterday evening at 18.02pm, 33(11) finally returned to his breeding nest at Manton Bay! He was greeted by a patiently waiting Maya who arrived 9 days ago.

After half an hour of pottering around on the nest, they seemed more settled.

Today we have had a variety of nest squatters: egyption geese, a female mallard and our resident ospreys!

You would of thought 33 was exhausted from his strenuous migration but he was on top form dealing with an intruder and protecting his breeding site. Maya was also on the nest mantling over a half eaten fish which she eventually abandoned!

Hopefully calm will prevail, and 33 will get back to what he does best, nestoration!