For the Rutland Osprey Project, January can only mean one thing… THE TRIP TO WEST AFRICA. Over the last few weeks we have been reminiscing about last year’s trip and for many months we have been thinking about what we are hoping to achieve this time. Last year, we had two main aims; firstly to establish links with people in West Africa, and secondly, to look for colour-ringed Ospreys.
One of the highlights of the trip was the visit to Tanji Primary School near Banjul in The Gambia. Here is a video of Tim talking to a group of children about our work at Rutland Water, focussing on Ospreys and migration.
From that moment, the Osprey Migration Foundation was born. Since February last year, we have been developing a wildlife education programme for Gambian schools, with Ospreys as the keystone species. We decided to raise money to provide educational resources for schools located in areas that are important for Ospreys and other European migrant birds, such as Tanji. These resources, including books, optics and computer equipment, will allow the children to learn more about the birds and other wildlife that live close to their communities. With the help of local Gambian bird guide, Junkung Jadama, we will also organise fieldtrips for school children – allowing them to see all this wonderful wildlife at first hand. Furthermore, we’ll link schools in the Gambia with schools in Rutland, allowing the children to develop friendships, with Ospreys as the common link. There is also the potential for similar links to be formed along the bird’s migration route – with schools elsewhere in Europe and North Africa.
Tim got the ball rolling by running the Berlin Marathon in September last year and raised over £4000 and with the help of Andy and Anne Strang we raised more money with a second-hand book sale. What a fantastic start! So far this money has been used to purchase 12 binoculars, a telescope and a laptop for JJ to use when he visits Gambian schools long after we have returned to Rutland in February. With the help of volunteer Ken Davies we have also written a childrens book, illustrated by Field Officer John Wright, about an Osprey’s journey from Rutland to West Africa. We will be taking copies of ‘Ozzie’s Migration’ with us to give to all the schools we are going to visit. But that’s not all! We have now successfully established several links between schools in The Gambia and Rutland. Tanji has been linked with Whissendine Primary School and St Nicholas Primary School in Cottesmore and they have given us a whole host of goodies to take with us when we visit the children in just a few days time. These include letters, football shirts and videos the children have made documenting their lives in Rutland. Not only are we visiting Tanji school but during the trip we will be visiting three other primary schools and a secondary school to tell them all about the Ospreys in Rutland and what they get up to when they’re not overwintering in West Africa. Here’s a photo of Tim with Class 3 at Whissendine this morning.
Over the month-long trip last year we saw hundreds of Ospreys, over 270 other bird species and identified 22 different colour-ringed birds. Of the colour-ringed Ospreys, 13 were German, seven Scottish, one French and one English. The English Osprey was the adult female YU from the Lake District.
This year, we are hoping to see many more colour-ringed Ospreys and even though AW and 09 may be too far away for us to visit, you never know, we may be lucky enough to see an Osprey from Rutland, or even one from Wales. If you followed Autumnwatch last year you would have seen Osprey expert Roy Dennis track down Einion, one of the Dyfi chicks, in Senegal. If you missed Autumnwatch, here is a clip of the exciting moment. Many thanks to BBC Springwatch and Autumnwatch for allowing the Dyfi Osprey Project to show this and many other clips on their website.
We will be updating the website several times over the course of the trip so watch this space! Also be sure to check out our video diaries.
You can read about last winter’s trip on a special blog that the team wrote during the month-long expedition, www.rutlandospreys.blogspot.com.