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By Anya Wicikowski on August 25, 2018
9.00am, Friday morning, August 17th : Familiar sights, sounds and scents are infusing the Egleton site with a heady mix of sensations. People are pouring in, intent on finding their way to a first lecture, a favourite stand, or an early bacon roll. Staff and volunteers in high visibility vests patrol, often in twos, occasionally responding to indistinct crackles from their walkie-talkie radios. Stand holders fuss around, putting last minute touches to displays or chatting nervously to neighbours. The sweet smell of crushed grass mingles with a hint of coffee, warm canvas, outdoorsy clothing, to be tinged with pizza, hog-roast and fish and chips as the morning progresses. ‘It’s now 9.00am,’ says the voice of Birdfair over the PA, ‘and the 2018 British Birdwatching Fair is officially open.’ I check into HQ, receive a smart cap courtesy of Swarovski, and thus suitably equipped, stride out to start the day. When did I last wear a cap like this? Years ago, but hey! This is Birdfair!
On the Osprey Stand at the LRWT outdoor display, staff and volunteers watch over a newly designed area which proudly showcases the Rutland Osprey Project. A massive TV runs filmed highlights from the famous Manton Bay nest, where Maya and her partner 33(11) have raised two healthy ospreylets this year – one already on her way south. Visitors gather around, while volunteers explain the footage. New posters, merchandise for sale and a display of Osprey-themed books (what else?) attract the attention of passing fair-goers.
Perhaps the biggest attraction on the stand is the huge, soaring, life-sized wooden model of an Osprey hovering above his twig-laden nest, complete with cuddly Ospreys toys inside, and the invitation to ‘Send a message to Ozzie.’ Ozzie is Rutland’s own fictional Osprey – an amalgam of several famous real-life Ospreys we have had here over the years – and he is well-known all over the world thanks to a series of illustrated books written about his life and adventures. He is migrating about now for the umpteenth year, and wouldn’t it be fun if people wrote messages for him to welcome him back to Africa in a few weeks’ time? They will be taken out in November and will by a roundabout route make their way to an entirely new school in the village of Kartong. Everyone loves Ozzie – a talisman for the Project – always recognised, occasionally imitated, but never equalled.
Staff members and volunteers are hard-pressed to meet and greet every visitor to the Osprey stand. Some are regular, and exchange news while watching this year’s footage, but many more are here for the first time, maybe from distant parts of the UK, Europe and the world. Such is the magic of Birdfair. Among the visitors to the stand are some of our young ‘Osprey Ambassadors’ who have been watching the Manton Bay nest all season and relaying the news to their friends at home and at school. Scarlett has brought along her presentation on a famous Rutland Osprey – the Site B matriarch 05(00) – and she confidently explains this bird’s extraordinary contribution to the early success of the Project. 05 is not often given the limelight, her more famous partner 03(97) – ‘Mr Rutland’ – instead taking the plaudits, so it is very special to see Scarlett talking so well about her. Mum and Dad glow beside her.
One of our very first ambassadors, Sam, is with us at Birdfair for all three days this year, together with Mum Jo and brother Alex. For a twelve year old, his Osprey knowledge is immense, and he is happy to speak to visitors on even the most advanced aspects of these birds’ life cycles. He is also a skilled interviewer, seeking out his subjects and inviting them to the film set on our stand, before asking his guests a series of well-prepared questions appropriate to their positions. This year Sam renews his acquaintance with Mike Dilger, who tells us what he has been up since the last Birdfair. Mike has a surprise for Sam : he invites him to join in as he re-creates the mating calls and rituals of the Toucan Barbet, an elusive South American species with a strange bobbing dance and a distinctive call. The resulting scenario is hilarious and unforgettable – and all recorded on video!
Sam’s final interview on Sunday is with former Rutland Osprey leader Tim Mackrill, and he too is treated in the same relaxed and thoroughly professional manner. Afterwards Sam says ‘ It was fantastic to interview Tim – he is someone who has loved Ospreys from an early age – just like me!’ Sam’s brother Alex was even allowed to be the director of this interview, sitting behind the camera and wearing the earphones like a young Stephen Spielberg. These boys will go far.
The team on the stand take it in turns to have breaks on all three days. I use mine to wander around the marquees, pausing here and there to admire artwork, try on a jacket with hundreds of zips and pockets, look at a new book on African Raptors (I later bought it!), and cruise the various eateries. Above all though, I love to watch the people, young and old, chic and unkempt, earnest and relaxed, specialist and generalist, expert and beginner, introvert and extrovert, regular and newbie. I hope they all find what they are seeking here. I run into people I have not seen for years – old students and colleagues, visitors who have been to Lyndon during one of my Sunday shifts, boys and girls who have seen us in their schools. ‘Look, darling, it’s the Osprey Man who gave you the Ozzie book,’ says one Mum to her son. She obviously does not remember my name. No problem – Osprey Man will do fine!
Birdfair moves into Saturday. Excitement mounts during the afternoon as I prepare to move around to Whitwell Creek and help with Simon King’s evening wildlife cruise on the ‘Rutland Belle.’ At the quayside the Belle is gently bobbing in the water and a crew member is preparing her for the cruise. People are standing around, waiting for Simon to arrive and start his commentary. We scan passengers’ tickets and they embark, quickly filling the top deck and open prow area below – a favourite spot for photographers. It is eerily quiet on board, but then Simon arrives and immediately lightens the atmosphere with his genial touch, greeting old friends and welcoming new ones. The Belle slips from her moorings and we start to scan the skies and shores for Ospreys, Terns, Egrets and more – all to the gentle accompaniment of Simon’s unhurried and thoughtful comments on everything we are seeing. ‘There is no black in the Arctic’ is his mnemonic for remembering the bill colours of Common and Arctic Terns. The Ospreys prove elusive, and we are fully forty five minutes into the cruise before we see one circling above the water. We watch while it surveys the water below, waiting for the smallest silvery glint that might betray a fish. After a while, it moves on, but then we spot another one, and a third even closer. As dusk descends over the Reservoir, we glide back into Whitwell, tired after a long day, excited by the soaring Ospreys, inspired by Simon King’s insight and knowledge regarding our planet and its wildlife.
Just a few hours later I am back at Whitwell for an early morning cruise with Nick Baker, Nigel Marven and another group of enthusiastic visitors. Nick arrives at 8.29 precisely for an 8.30 departure, and comes aboard to Nigel’s gentle ribbing. Today we have a truly international contingent with us – Nigel has brought a Swedish friend who now lives in Peru and is sporting a colourful hat bearing an image of a Chestnut-headed something. We also have passengers from Colombia, Australia’s North-eastern Territory, Sri Lanka and Georgia – as well, of course, as all points North, South, East and West in the UK. Once again, the Ospreys keep us in suspense, but no matter – we have on board a double-act of entertaining presenters who keep us amused and enthralled with their tales of wildlife encounters from every corner of their patches and further afield. Holly and I assist with some Rutland Osprey background for the benefit of visitors unfamiliar with the area. Nick and Nigel circulate in an unobtrusive way, encouraging young and old alike to share their views. In the absence of Ospreys this morning so far, Cormorants take centre stage. They get mixed reviews here in Rutland, but everyone has to admit they are remarkable, adaptable and resilient birds, with a superior air, a strangely disturbing light blue eye, and an all-round pterodactylic stance.
Suddenly, after almost an hour of chat and pleasant humour on board, a familiar shape flies towards us and the cry goes up : ‘Osprey!’ He flies past us, purposeful and direct. The skipper changes direction and we begin to follow him into a quiet and secluded bay, where he circles and begins his search. He dives a few times, pulling out at the last minute in a graceful arc, and resuming his quest. We leave him to it, and head out into the deep water again. Holly suddenly shouts and points : ‘Swifts!’ And there they are – perhaps ten or twelve, dashing and diving, soaring then swooping, testing our neck muscles as they power right above the boat before splitting and leaving us wondering which one to follow. Suddenly they are gone. That was amazing, thrilling. Nick and Nigel both love them, and give advice on how we can help them in their search for summer homes. Maybe the last of the year for us here. I note the time and date : 9.40am, Sunday August 19th. A Birdfair highlight for sure. Now, two more Ospreys appear, one fairly close. Wait a minute – I think we recognise one of them. He has a kink in the primaries of his right wing, an injury sustained probably on migration at some point. So we know he is 28(10), a breeding male, born and bred here in Rutland, and with an interesting life-story. Cue more excited chatter as we watch him in his search for fish.
Back on the quayside, it’s time for thanks and good-byes. Nick and Nigel are extremely popular, and people want pictures with them before they hurry off to fulfil their obligations back on the Birdfair site. For Holly and me, it’s our final cruise of the season, so we reminisce for a while before heading off to our next duties for the day – she to ‘Wild Zone’, I to the Lyndon Reserve at Manton Bay for a Sunday afternoon shift at the Osprey nest.
Lyndon is pretty busy. People are making an early escape from Birdfair and coming over here for a last look at the Ospreys. And not just Ospreys – two statuesque Great White Egrets are out in the Bay, waders are dropping in on their long journey south, and there is a rumour of a marauding Peregrine. A distant speck on the far shore is apparently a Red-necked Phalarope – an unsatisfactory sighting in my opinion, but the cognoscenti are happy. Several visitors to the hide are sporting equipment obviously just purchased over at Birdfair – still in the boxes in some cases. One couple have a magnificent – and very expensive-looking – new piece of kit. It looks like binoculars at one end, but then merges into a telescope at the other – mounted on a sturdy tripod and complete with a carrying back pack. We all have a look. Yes, definitely a step-up from my trusty 25 year old Kowa. A small group of distant Green Sandpipers, feeding quietly on the shore further down the Bay, are immediately brought into sharp focus by this amazing equipment. I offer to swap it for my Kowa, even agreeing to throw in an extra £5…..but the owner is reluctant to part with his new device. Oh well, the Kowa has done me proud all this time – no need to change it now.
Meanwhile the Manton Bay Ospreys continue to put on a good show for a steady stream of visitors. A few are pretty heavy twitchers, intent only on that distant speck of a Phalarope, which by now is completely invisible, even through that mega scope/bins thingy. Poor souls. They miss so much else in their quest for rarities. Takes all sorts I suppose. Others are far more normal and chatty. One man collects random feathers he finds on his walks, and would love an Osprey one for his collection. ‘Do they moult?’ he asks. ‘Yes, they do, but the feathers have a nasty habit of coming down in the water. If we see one descending from a flying Osprey, I’ll swim out and collect it for you.’ Without a smile he says ‘Thank you. That would be very kind of you.’
At times all three Ospreys are in the air together, flying around the Bay in grand style. At one point they are joined by a fourth, an intruder from another site paying a visit but not receiving a friendly welcome. Then they are still again, Maya on the perch, 33 in the poplar, 3AU on the nest and constantly caterwauling for fish. No movement from the male. Time to go and find one for yourself, son. Maya in particular has the air of one who wants to be gone, her whole demeanour suggesting it will not be long now. She sits for hours, facing south, waiting for the moment.
One final flourish before this amazing Birdfair weekend ends. As I am stowing the Kowa away a shout goes up ‘Hobby!’ Hang on, it’s not. Far too heavy, dark and deadly. Peregrine, as rumoured earlier. Keeping low over the Bay, it eventually arcs up into a poplar tree and is lost to view. But it’s there, and we saw it. Even the disillusioned twitchers had to admire that.
Over on the other side of Lax Hill, Birdfair is packing up too. Reports will be written, numbers will be crunched, feedback will be requested, opinions sought. The celebs did their stuff, the debaters made their points, their messages delivered with passion and sincerity. The traders did well or not so well, the artists sold a few of their pictures, the tourist boards persuaded people to criss-cross the earth. We all talked, ate, drank, spent, networked, laughed, cried, talked some more, argued, cruised….in my case to the point of exhaustion. Would I have missed it? Of course not. And God willing, I’ll do it all again next year.
Posted in Schools Blog
By Anya Wicikowski on May 17, 2018
This year we have an exciting competition for youngsters called “Inspired by Ospreys”.
We want children and young people to be “Inspired by Ospreys” and give us their best creative work in any of these categories.
- A drawing or painting (A4)
This can be any medium, paint, pen and ink, pastel etc. (Note; NOT a digitally produced image)
- A poem
An osprey poem using any type of verse.
It can be hand written or word processed no longer than one side A4.
- A short story
A short story which is based on ospreys in some way.
It must be no longer than 600 words. It can be hand written or word processed.
It would make a great school project so a whole class can take part, and you send us the best in each category! Time is short as entries must be received by Saturday 26th May 2018.
There are two competition age groups; 11 years and under and 12 years and over.
We will award first, second and third places (plus commended) in each category and each age group.
Sending your competition entries.
Entries can be sent in by individuals or sent together from a school.
We suggest that schools hold a competition of their own so that entries can be judged and perhaps the best 3 in each category are sent to us.
- Work can be posted to us, delivered by hand or sent by e-mail;
Postal entries; Jackie Murray, Rutland Ospreys Education Officer, Anglian Water Birdwatching Centre, Egleton, Oakham, Rutland, LE15 8BT
E-mail entries; For pictures, attach a good quality photograph to an e-mail with the entrants details.
Poems and stories can be attached to an email.
- Each individuals piece of work should have these details;
Posted entries; on the back E-mailed entries; e-mailed with the attached entry.
- Pupil name and age
- School entries ; Name and school address with name of a contact teacher
- Contact details ; Telephone number /e-mail address
- Judging of the work will be Monday 4th June. Schools will all be notified of the results.
Winning Entries will be put on public display in Oakham Library
Posted in Schools Blog
By Anya Wicikowski on April 29, 2018
It was ‘all hands on deck’ at the Lyndon Reserve one day last week, as we welcomed two very important groups of visitors – one from nearby Ketton Primary School, and the other from Glaslyn Ospreys in North Wales.
It is always an exciting time when the first group of eager young people come to see the Ospreys, and this year 28 highly motivated Year 5 students from nearby Ketton, together with their equally enthusiastic teachers, arrived bright and early, hurrying into their seats in front of the big screen in the Visitor Centre, ready to start their day. Our first job was to introduce them to all the people who would be h
elping them to enjoy their experience here – not only the usual Osprey Education Team (Pete, Jackie and Ken) and the Lyndon Team (Anya and Paul), but also Becky (Senior Reserve Officer) and – drumroll here please – our very special guests from the Glaslyn Osprey Centre in North Wales!!
Rutland Ospreys’ links with North Wales go back a long way – right back to the early days when pioneering translocated Rutland male Osprey 11(98) decided to set up home there, and over the next few years raised more than 20 chicks with his unringed partner. So it is a pleasure to welcome Heather, Gwenan, Rebecca and Steve to Rutland today.
In common with all Rutland Osprey juveniles (132 up to 2017), all our young visitors (and a few of the ‘mature’ ones!) have to be ringed, so within a few minutes of arrival they are all sporting a unique ring on their right wrists or ankles, bearing their individual designation for the day. I see ‘XJ’, ‘6R’, ‘S6’ and many others! Then, after the issue of binoculars to all, we’re off to see Maya and 33(11) down in the Bay, Jackie setting a brisk pace at the front, and the rest of us following, together with our friends from Glaslyn and one or two members of the public who have decided that this all looks like fun!
Once in the hide, there is so much to do! First and foremost, of course, find the Ospreys and sort out ‘who is who’. Then look at all the other wildlife around – what are those big black birds in the dead tree? Is that a seagull ? No, it’s got a long forked tail – a Common Tern! Is that a little white heron? Yes it is, but it’s got a special name……cue to use the field guide. Then it’s time to complete the ‘Osprey Factfile’ in the activity books, and to look for the answers that have been posted all around the walls of the hide. Soon we have 28 nine and ten year old Osprey Experts around us, sharing newly learnt words such as Pandion Haliaetus and zygodactylic. This is conservation education in action – and just a few hundred yards away from the nest of a rare Schedule 1 breeding bird of prey.
While we circulate and help with the activities, our visitors take it all in and watch with interest. Newly appointed Glaslyn Osprey Education Officer Rebecca is especially keen to learn as much as she can – she will soon be starting her own programmes for schools in her area.
Soon it is time to pack our things up and make our way back to the Centre for lunch, but before we leave the hide I ask everyone to be quiet and I introduce two very important people who were already in here when we arrived – our two volunteers, Maureen and Lyn, who have been monitoring the Ospreys and welcoming visitors on the 9.00am – 1.00pm shift today. Lyn explains the role and its importance to the Project, and the children listen enthralled. ‘I would love to do what you’re doing,’ says one. Well, in a few years, you can – we need people like you to take over when we are not around any more!
We walk back to the Centre to the sound of excited chatter and discussion among our visitors. Packed lunches are eagerly unwrapped in the picnic area. Becky will take the Glaslyn contingent over to our Volunteer Training Centre on the other side of the water for lunch, and they will meet other members of the Rutland Team, including Holly, Sarah, Mat and Lloyd. We stay on with the Ketton group, and prepare for the afternoon activities in Teal Hide, where we will construct Osprey food chains, learn about special Osprey features (including that ‘z’ word again) and end with a question and answer session : ‘How do you get the rings on their legs?’ ‘Who’s your favourite Osprey?’ ‘How does satellite tracking work?’ ……
Eventually it’s time to leave, but not before a few minutes of retail therapy in the shop, and a last look at the live pictures on the screen. Two boys have bought field-guides from our second-hand wildlife bookstall, and are already checking out birds they have seen today. Others buy Osprey note-books, Osprey key-rings, Osprey pens and pencils, Osprey fridge magnets and many other Osprey themed gifts. A day to remember.
No sooner has the bus pulled out of the car-park onto the lane up to the road than the Glaslyn team are back, suitably refreshed after lunch, and still full of enquiries about the work we do here at Lyndon – especially on the Education side. Of particular interest is the Osprey Ambassador Scheme, whereby most of our local schools appoint or elect a small number of students who are then trained to act as links between us here at the Reservoir and their school. At monthly Osprey Club meetings, we provide them with updates on memory sticks which they can then use in their own class or school assemblies. Hopefully there will soon be Welsh Osprey Ambassadors too!
Finally, Heather presents a copy of Emyr Evans’ lovely book ‘The Welsh Ospreys’ to the Rutland Osprey Project – signed by all members of the Glaslyn Team. A very kind gesture, appreciated by us all. We hope to see you all again very soon.
Over a welcome cup of tea, we review the day. A great school visit to Lyndon – the first of many in the weeks ahead. And a super opportunity to meet colleagues from one of the other highly successful Osprey centres in the UK – we look forward to forging closer links with other centres doing fantastic work both here in the UK and further afield in Europe and Africa. We owe it to young people like the ones we have met today to leave flourishing wildlife populations (including Ospreys) throughout the world for them to enjoy, and we will achieve that by co-operation and friendship at all levels, irrespective of geographical and political boundaries which may be in the way. The Osprey is a ‘citizen of the world’ – and so are we.
By Anya Wicikowski on April 5, 2018
14 Ambassadors attended Ambassadors Osprey Club on a cold often drizzly afternoon, along with family and friends.
All were sustained in the cold hide by Liz’s excellent Easter cupcakes, and chocolate Easter bunnies , a reward from Ken for completing the osprey quiz!
Sam recorded 31 different bird species including excellent views of a Barn Owl , hunting over the meadows, as well as the Manton Bay ospreys!
Also seen for some time were two water voles and two muntjac deer, right in front of Waderscape hide.
Looking at the Barn Owl behind the osprey nest!
Jackie talks to Osprey Ambassadors about the presentations they have made at their school.
How many times can you find the word “egg” in this report about our young Osprey Ambassadors event ?
It is Easter Sunday and we are all very eggcited as it our first Osprey Club for 2018!
We met at Lyndon and from the eggsit of the centre to the hide we had to find pictures of ospreys pegged to the fence posts along the track.
We had to write down the legg ring number for each osprey picture to win an Easter egg prize.
At Waderscrape hide, Maya and Osprey 33 were on the nest with two eggs in their nest and a third egg expected today… this is really eggciting news! We spent some time watching the ospreys and saw about 30 species other birds. No I am not eggsaggerating …. Sam made a list!
We had lovely views a barn owl over the meadows,and many different waterfowl, but no eggrets today.
As well as meeting the other Osprey Ambassadors we were given the latest presentation to show in our school with a script and some eggstra information about this year’s “Inspired by Ospreys” competition.
Soon it was four o’clock and we had to go, even though I begged to stay for a bit longer to watch the ospreys!
Still, I can always see what is happening at home using the Rutland Ospreys live web cam.
- How many “egg” words can you find?
- Can you list the “egg” words which have spelling mistakes, with their correct spelling? Try to get it eggsactly…I mean exactly…right!
Casterton Primary School have made a special ”Osprey Ambassador” school badge
Answer = 12 Easter “egg” words
Incorrect ones with corrections
By Anya Wicikowski on March 20, 2018
The latest news from our Education Team- Ken, Jackie and Pete
Balloons blowing about in sub-zero temperatures outside our Volunteers Training Centre may seem a little out of place on this freezing Sunday here in Rutland, but it can only mean one thing – the 2018 Osprey Ambassadors Warm-Up is about to start!
And ‘Warm-Up’ is an appropriate term today! Down in the Bay, a biting east wind is whipping the water up into angry white-crested waves reminiscent of the North Sea, and Maya and 33 are spending most of their time hunkered down in the nest, with just the occasional foray during a lull to try and secure a fish. The Osprey Ambassadors, aged between eight and sixteen, and representing fifteen local schools, are arriving with parents, grandparents and other family members, keen and enthusiastic as ever, and looking forward to receiving everything they will need in order to fulfill their vital role in keeping classmates and teachers fully informed of the Ospreys’ progress between now and their departure in September.
After the briefest of introductions, we are straight into the new season, demonstrating the content of the memory sticks which the ambassadors will be using in their schools. We also issue a script, but frankly some of the ambassadors are skilled and experienced in Osprey work now, and they will make their own commentary to accompany the photographs of Maya and 33. The memory stick is updated each month at our regular Osprey Club meetings – held on the first Sunday of each month down in Wader Scrape hide in Manton Bay. And the first Osprey Club is in just two weeks’ time, on April 1st, Easter Sunday! Will there be an Osprey egg in the nest by then? Well, judging by the enthusiasm of our two Ospreys at the moment, it’s quite possible! And of course, as it’s Easter, we will be organising some sort of Osprey-related fun activity for our ambassadors….and Mums and Dads too!
After collecting membership cards, newsletters, memory sticks and everything else from the table, it’s time for cake and drinks in the kitchen next door! Our own resident Mary Berry (aka our friend Liz) has once again excelled herself and after just a few minutes the table is literally bare! Carrot cake, krispy cakes, cup cakes, chocolate cookies – where did they all go? Thank you Liz – brilliant!
Finally it’s up the gallery overlooking Lagoon 4, where the binoculars and telescopes are soon all being skillfully used to spot and identify as many species as possible in the snowy and desolate scene before us. There are no Ospreys visible from here (although there is another nest platform awaiting an adventurous pair sometime soon we hope!), but these young birders are finding some good birds. Sam is compiling an impressive list, headed by the showy and spectacular drake Smew he has found, sheltering with its more sober red-headed female by the shore. A Pochard is another good find. The whole room is buzzing with the thrill of discovering and identifying all the birds – or are they all having a sugar-rush after all that cake?
All too soon it’s nearly 4.00 and time to go – but what a terrific afternoon it has been! We are always re-assured by these afternoons – the spirit, excitement, energy and enthusiasm of the young ambassadors, the huge support of the parents and families, the shared concern among us all that the Ospreys – and all the other creatures – should thrive here and everywhere else…….
It may be freezing outside, but here today there has been a warm, rosy glow! It’s going to be a good Osprey season! We’ll see you all very soon in your schools and at the next Osprey Club!