Rutland Osprey Blog

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

Our education officer 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!

A Letter from the Gambia

A hot north east wind blasted off the African desert interior towards the Gambian coast, carrying fine dust and fragments of vegetation out towards the Atlantic. This is the “harmattan”, and occurs towards the end of the dry season in Gambia and Senegal, when the breeding ospreys begin their migration north from West Africa to the British Isles. Luckily the high winds marked the end of our visit to The Gambia, and where we totted up around 200 bird species in just 10 days.

This was my first visit to The Gambia, although many of the “Rutland Osprey Team” have been to this area in January or February spanning a period of 9 years.

First light is at around 7am with a dawn chorus of a call to prayer, braying donkeys, and numerous cockerels .Soon the overnight temperatures in the 20’s rapidly rise to over 35oC by the middle of the day so the best bird watching tends to be early in the morning and later in the afternoon, making the most of the cooler parts of the day and the periods when the birds are most active.

We stayed at Farakunku Lodge, a small shady “oasis” off the highway south from Tanji. This was an excellent base for daily excursions out into a variety of woodland, field, coastal and wetland habitats.

Tanji is the main fishing port on the Southern Gambian coast. Here the large wooden fishing boats are beached on the sandy beach between forays into the coastal waters, (Figure 1) where the huge shoals of butter fish and lady fish are found. Along the coast the shallow bays and  inlets as well as the  river margins are the winter residence of the breeding ospreys, and the place where juveniles will spend three or four years before their first migrations north into Europe.

Figure 1: Beautiful fishing boats around Tanji

The ospreys have an excellent food supply and overwinter perched on their favourite trees, (Figure 2) with an occasional flight around their “patch” or short fishing excursion before returning to their roosting place. Lazy days.


 Figure 2: An unringed Osprey perched in a tree

A day down to the wetlands on the margin of the Allahein River and a boat trip down to the ocean proved to be a real osprey fest. We had seen numerous ospreys in flight during the week, and occasionally perched in the trees along the river or coastal sites we visited.

Beyond Kartong we left the main road and headed off into the tidal margins of the river.

This is an excellent site for waders, and a low tide meant there was plenty of activity from familiar species as well as my first sight of some of the African wetland birds.

In one bay we saw eight roosting ospreys, and a couple more flying overhead. Of course we were looking for the blue ringed Rutland birds, but only one black ringed osprey (German) was the best we could do.

In the late afternoon we boarded a small boat with an outboard motor and set off towards the coast down Allahein River which marks the southern border of Gambia with Senegal.

Caspian, Sandwich and more common Royal terns roosted on the mud banks facing into the strong breeze, (Figure 3) with occasional groups of Pelicans.  Figure 3: Royal Terns in a roost down on the mud bank

At the estuary the sea was quite rough and we turned around past more sandbanks go past our starting point, travel through a corridor of fishing boats at anchor, and enter a much more sheltered convoluted area of bays fringed with mangroves. Some large motionless crocodiles basked on a mud bank, and above us a African Fish Eagle, (Figure 3) perched in a large leafless tree, watched us go by.

We counted fifty one ospreys on our boat journey, but only one of them was ringed, black BOH2 , a German bird.

Our day ended and  it was time to return for our final night at the Farakunku Lodge. All too soon it was time to go to the airport for our 6 hour return flight to the UK. The migrating ospreys were going to find it difficult this year flying north into the face of the hot dusty harmattan with the challenge of a four or five day crossing of the waterless desert terrain below (figure 4).

Figure 4: Dust from the Harmattan and a grey Kestrel in the midst!

However it would only be a matter of days after our return before the first migrating ospreys were seen back in the UK.


Bird Bingo..

It’s a wonderfully sunny wednesday up at Osprey HQ and the stage is perfectly set for the long awaited return of 33 to his marital nest and his frustrated other half… Maya has been feeding very well in the reservoir and at the nearby trout farm, catching some real whoppers, roach and trout helping her gather her energy for the coming breeding season. Watching her on the nest yesterday was fascinating, as she was exhibiting a behaviour common to many birds, known as scraping. Commonly, ground nesting birds or, like the Ospreys, birds which have a large nest cup composed of moss and small twigs, the bird will lean over onto its keel (breastbone), balancing on its front, and use its large talons as a rake to kick out excess nesting material. In essence, the Osprey is making a shallow depression within her nest cup which she can lay her eggs in, and nestle on top of to incubate them over the spring. Maya is an excellent architect and has had a huge success rate in raising 8 chicks with her current man 33 since 2015. She is a very protective mother and takes her nesting duties very seriously. 

Whilst waiting for the return of 33 she has been keeping the place clean and tidy and looking after herself… enjoying the last bit of me time before he comes back. There will be some ruffled feathers when he decides to turn up! He’s probably found an Osprey stag-do to drop in on his way home… boys will be boys… In the meantime another female, S6 was spotted over at the Hornmill Trout farm today: she is a breeding female that attempted to breed last year but failed, let’s hope she’ll have more success this year!

And obviously, our website is back to normal.. we shall be keeping one eye on it, and another glued to the skies for the silhouettes of our returning Ospreys yet to come home! As for our lovely lady Maya nesting in Manton, you can still catch her on the webcams, she’s so brave and independent, oh how I adMaya her fortitude! (Pun of the week will be available to tut at in Lyndon centre too!)



Follow the path…

It’s all stations go up at Osprey HQ (my corner of the office is looking slightly less organised than before, it has since become a postit palace and half finished tea shelf!) with statistical calculations and mystic meg predictions for the return of the other Ospreys, which will hopefully be following suit after Maya’s early return to Manton Bay yesterday. So far we can hope 33 will be not far behind Maya, a male which has been her mate at Manton Bay and helped her raise 8 chicks since 2015. 

You can now see the migrations yourself of our three satellite tagged birds: 30, S1 and 4K, who are of varying inclinations to travel back to the UK! 30 is our most likely to return over the next couple of weeks but she is still a long way off. We will be trying to update the tracking page with live data wherever possible so you can follow our birds Olympic odyssey back home.

For the non-tracked Ospreys which return to Rutland water, we are relying on all the beady eyes in our arsenal, both staff, volunteers and members of the public, to send in any alerts of Osprey activity in the area, and give us an idea of our possible productivity and any new matchmaking which may be going on with our younger Ospreys! In particular, we’re hoping S1 will be able to attract a female this year, as he has successfully held territory before. We’ll equip him with some smooth chat up lines.. how could a female resist a fresh fish dinner in a beautiful canopy retreat?

Keep an eye on the epic journey of number 30, and keep your eyes peeled for the teenagers 4K and S1 to get busy making their way back home! Over and out from Osprey HQ!