A farewell blog

It is almost twenty years since I saw my first Osprey at Rutland Water. It was early August 1997, the school holidays, and my first shift as a volunteer for the Rutland Osprey Project. We were tasked with monitoring eight juvenile Ospreys that had just been released onto the nature reserve. For a 15 year-old aspiring conservationist it was exciting and nerve-wracking in equal measure. I was hooked from that moment onwards.

Almost two decades later, today is my last day as a member of staff for the Leicestershire and Rutland Wildlife Trust at Rutland Water. During that time I have gone from volunteer to Senior Reserve Officer and, for the past twelve years, manged the Rutland Osprey Project. I’ve also completed a PhD on Osprey migration. It has been a thrill and a privilege to be involved in such an exciting project.

It is almost impossible to pick a highlight from the past twenty years because there have been so many. In the early years the return of the first translocated Ospreys in 1999 was incredibly exciting and only surpassed by events in 2001 when 03(97) bred for the first time at Site B, rearing the first Osprey chick in central England for more than 150 years. 2004 saw the return of the first wild-fledged Rutland Ospreys to the area and, then, in 2007, one of them – 5N(04) – bred successfully for the first time. This was of further significance because the nest was in Manton Bay – the first nesting attempt on the nature reserve itself. That summer more than 30,000 people came to see 5N and her mate, 08(97), rear two chicks. Since then the Lyndon Visitor Centre has become the base for the project – and been visited by a quarter of a million Osprey watchers. In 2011 we satellite tagged two male birds, 09(98) and AW(06) for the first time, and that winter myself and a group of staff and volunteers visited Gambia and Senegal for the first time. Our satellite tracking research and annual visits to West Africa have enabled us to develop a new and exciting side to the project, helping us to link schools along the Osprey’s migratory flyways and engaging Gambian kids with nature. For me the Osprey serves as a powerful reminder that the conservation of migratory birds depends on partnerships and collaborations between nations.

The return of 03(97) to Site B was always a highlight each spring

The return of 03(97) to Site B was always a highlight each spring

Another immensely rewarding and enjoyable aspect of my time at Rutland Water has been working with such a committed group of staff and volunteers. The Osprey Project alone is supported by a team of 150 people who dedicate a huge amount of time every summer to monitoring the birds and sharing their enthusiasm and knowledge with visitors to the reserve. Over the years an entrepreneurial spirit has developed at Rutland Water that I hope is reflected in the successes of the Osprey Project during my tenure. Of course not everything we have tried has worked, but I think that we as a team – staff and volunteers – have demonstrated what you can achieve when you take a positive, pro-active approach to conservation. I hope that this ethos continues to underpin the work at Rutland Water Nature Reserve for many years to come. I know for a fact that the Osprey Project is in safe hands with the current team in place.

A group of staff and volunteers with the Osprey club from Tanji Lower Basic School in The Gambia

Myself and a group of staff and volunteers with the Osprey club from Tanji Lower Basic School in The Gambia

So what now? I’m pleased to say that I will be continuing my work with Ospreys with Roy Dennis and his foundation. Over the years Roy has had a real influence on my career and I am very much looking forward to the work we have planned. Keep an eye on Roy’s website later in April for more news on that. I am also in the process of setting up a new charity, the Osprey Leadership Foundation, the key aim of which will be to help young people get into conservation. This will build on some of the work we have been doing through the Osprey Project both in The Gambia and the UK.

Thank you to everyone who has followed and supported the Rutland Osprey Project over the past two decades. Little did I imagine as a 15 year-old schoolboy how that first shift as a volunteer at Rutland Water would shape the next twenty years of my life. Although today is my last day as a member of staff for LRWT, I will be continuing to work closely with the Rutland Osprey Project in my new role – and I very much look forward to the challenges that lie ahead.

Tim Mackrill

32(11) perched in mangroves at the Sine-Saloum delta - finding a Rutland Osprey in West Africa was a real highlight of the past twenty years

32(11) perched in mangroves at the Sine-Saloum delta in Senegal – finding a Rutland Osprey in West Africa was a real highlight of the past twenty years


18 responses to “A farewell blog”

  1. Valerie

    Good luck in all you do Tim , you will be missed but maybe see you in Scotland ? or at the BirdFair

  2. Alex Kitchen

    Best of luck for the future.

  3. Sally Bell

    Good luck in all you do and thank you.

  4. John Bleby

    Best of luck for the future Tim, thanks for all your efforts

  5. Bubacarr daffeh

    I am really impressed by all your work Tim,your brought nature and people together and closer.

  6. Jillian

    Good luck. I admire Roy greatly and pleased he will have someone working with him now.

  7. Val Gall

    Very best wishes for the next chapter in your career, Tim.
    I would like to thank you for all your work at Rutland & I am sure
    You will be great in your new post.

  8. Ruth Barnes

    Good luck for the future, the Ospreys of the future need youngsters to get involved and understand the epic journeys they make to Africa and back, and the project will be in safe hands

  9. Arron Bortoft

    I met you today and chatted at Rutland ( with my unruly daughter and wayward spaniel) , I didn’t realise it was your last day. I really enjoyed my visit, thank you. What a great success story.

  10. Pete Barron

    All the best Tim. I will follow your work with Roy
    with interest. Regards
    Pete Barron
    Lake District

  11. Peter & Di Pritchard

    Started as a schoolboy, still looks like one to us! We have really enjoyed our time with you and the ospreys and have seen and learnt so much ( how to tell the visitors a good story!) We wish you the very best of luck for the future. Very best Regards Peter & Di.

  12. Alison Rogers

    Congratulations on all your hard work and the legacy you are leaving. With all good wishes for your future, Michael and Alison

  13. Cynthia Moss

    All the best with your project, and thanks for all you have done in Rutland.. I well remember that 15 year old you!

  14. Sheila FE

    Wishing you much happiness and success in your next chapter. Working in the Scottish Highlands alongside Roy Dennis and engaged with osprey must surely be the dream job! I will follow Roy’s site and your news with much interest.
    I am so glad I made it to Heffers last week, and had the opportunity of a few words with you 🙂

  15. Steve Lister

    Best wishes for all you have planned Tim

  16. Tricia Lawrence

    Thanks for all,you have done for ROP and very best wishes for next chapter of your work with Oapreys and introducing more youngsters to wildlife and conservation work.
    Tricia LAwrence and all at The Martin Lawrence Memorial Trust

  17. Monica & Tony Shooter

    Tim you have put you name on a wonderful project and many people as well as the Ospreys have benefited from your knowledge. It has been a pleasure to know you. Very well done and we look forward to hearing what is being planned in the future.
    Very best wishes in your new role.

  18. Anthony Cook

    Very best wishes,Tim.Hope to see you in the Highlands some time. Tony & Judith