If you were to time travel back to Shakespeare’s day with a pair of binoculars, you would see Ospreys everywhere. Numerous historical documents suggest that the birds nested in every county in England and across Wales. Essentially, they were very common – to such an extent that Shakespeare refers to them in his plays. Fast forward a few centuries though and it was a very different story. Egg collecting and persecution slowly but surely eradicated these fantastic birds from all areas south of Hadrian’s wall, with the last English pair nesting in the Somerset Levels in 1847.
It was another 154 years before Ospreys nested in England again. One of two pairs to breed in 2001, was in Rutland. 03(97), a male bird translocated to Rutland Water four years previously, attracted a migrant female to his nest close to the reservoir and they reared a single chick. As you will know if you have been following the progress of the project over the last ten years, 03 has continued to breed at the same site ever since and has now fathered 23 chicks with three different females. Several of these birds have since returned to breed – most notably 5R(04) at the Lyndon reserve. Were it not for the tranlsocation project, none of this would have happened and Ospreys would still be confined to the northern part of the UK. All because of the influence of man.
Significantly the project is also having an influence elsewhere; our work at Rutland Water has really changed the distribution map of Ospreys in the UK. In 2004 a male Osprey we released in 1998 was found to be breeding in North Wales and that same year a male bird translocated to Rutland Water the previous year was also successful at another site in Wales. The North Wales bird 11(98) is still going strong and is already incubating eggs this year with his unringed mate. Check out the RSPB website for more.
Then the evening before last I got some really exciting news. Our good friend Emyr Evans phoned to say that he had identified the female Osprey who has been at a nest on the Mongomeryshire Wildlife Trust’s Cors Dyfi reserve in mid-Wales since Friday. It is 03(08), a female Osprey who fledged from the Site B nest in Rutland in 2008 (see photo above at ringing). Her father? 03(97) of course! She is with a male who has been holding territory at the site since 2009 and there seems every chance that she will breed there this year. If she does then it really does re-emphasise the influence the Rutland translocation has had on the distribution of Ospreys in the southern half of the UK. Furthermore, it clearly demonstrates the benefits of pro-active conservation. We are now keeping our fingers firmly crossed that 03 remains at Cors Dyfi and lays eggs some time in the next few weeks. We of course will keep you up to date, but be sure to check at the Dyfi Osprety Project facebook page and twitter page for up to date news and photos.
The great thing about watching an Osprey nest through the summer is that you get to know the birds as individuals. Of the three chicks that fledged from Site B in 2008, 03 was by far the strongest. The photos above show her making her first flight and then perched next to her father a few days before she migrated. John Wright was actually there when she set out on migration and he takes up the story…
“”This bird holds very special memories for me. I watched it migrate on the 23rd August 2008 – she briefly talon-locked with her brother 05 at 09.10hr and then flew over my head before circling up to 2000ft and going south. The photo of her disappearing over the trees is the exact moment she decided to go south. It was one of my 2008 Osprey highlights and I was convinced she would return in the future unlike her malingering brother, who food begged until early September. I also saw him eventually migrate.
You could have all the money in the world, however for me, seeing a juvenile Osprey embark on its migration beats anything.”
Given the way the Rutland colony is expanding and that Rutland birds have spread to Wales, it is a fact that the future looks very bright for Ospreys in southern Britain. They are becoming more numerous and more widespread each year. And all thanks to the Rutland translocation and the foresight of Roy Dennis and Tim Appleton who got the project underway in the mid 1990s and the volunteers and staff who continue to put a huge amount of work into the project today. Oh and let’s not forget 03(97), either.