Phew! What a few days it has been in Manton Bay. Following the excitement of 5R’s return on Sunday morning, things have just got better.
Since Ospreys first nested at Rutland Water in 2001, they have had a perennial battle each spring with geese. Most notably Egyptian geese and Canada geese. These two species, both non-native (and both accidentally introduced by humans), have increased dramatically in recent years and now provide direct competition to Ospreys for nests.
This is a new problem for Ospreys in England. 150 years ago when Ospreys last bred here, there were no Canada or Egyptian geese. And therefore no competition for nest sites.
On the morning that 5R returned to Manton Bay, a female Egyptian goose laid an egg in the nest. Her mate was initially very aggressive and repeatedly chased 5R whenever he tried to land on the nest. With his own mate still to return, 5R seemed reluctant to fight back. Instead he spent most of his first day back in Rutland sitting quietly on one of the t perches nearby.
Things changed though on Monday afternoon. Shortly after 3pm 5R began displaying above the nest. An Osprey appeared from the south and landed near the nest. It was unringed…and a female. Could it be 5R’s mate? With the male goose still being very aggressive, the female moved to the artificial nest close to Heron hide. 5R went fishing.
When 5R returned with a fish he took it to a perch on the south side of Lax Hill. Here he could eat it away from the female’s constant food-begging. He ate the fish and then made several attempts to dislodge the geese. The female, meanwhile, went fishing herself.
At first light next morning the geese were perched on the shoreline close to the nest (they do not start incubating until the female has laid a full clutch – which often takes up to a week). As if spurred into action by the arrival of the female, 5R’s behaviour was now very different. He landed on the vacant nest and this time, when the geese gave chase, he was far more aggressive – forcing them to dive under water to avoid him.
Soon afterwards he was joined at the nest by the female. She too dive-bombed the geese. Between them, 5R and the female had reclaimed the nest.
As if to celebrate, 5R presented the female with a fish and then set about adding sticks and nest lining to the nest. The goose eggs (there were now two) disappeared and so we can only assume that they either got buried beneath 5R’s numerous clumps of nest lining (as has happened in the past), or that he kicked them out of the nest (as famously happened at Loch Garten a few years ago when ‘Henry’, the old male, arrived back after his mate had laid the eggs of another male).
Even once 5R and the female had reclaimed the nest, we still weren’t certain of the female’s identity. Her behaviour indicated that she was 5R’s mate, and when John Wright compared his photos of her with those he took last year, we were able to confirm, that yes, she was the female who raised three chicks at the nest last spring. In recent years John’s photos and drawings have shown that the spots on each individual Osprey’s underwing are unique to that bird. And perhaps more significantly, they do not change from year to year. The same is true of the bird’s head pattern. The principal is like a human fingerprint and, in this case, it proved that this female is indeed 5R’s mate. Her return is a week earlier than last year, we shows her clear intent to breed once again.
If like thousands of other people, you have been glued to the webcam, or have visited the Lyndon reserve, you will know that 5R and the female have been very settled at the nest since Tuesday morning. They have been mating regularly and 5R has continued to build up the nest. If all goes to plan, the female might lay the first egg in two-three weeks’ time.