Male Osprey 03(97) is one whose reputation precedes him. Translocated in 1997, he was one of the first translocated birds to return in 1999. In 2001, he made history by putting Ospreys back on England’s breeding bird list! That year, he and an unringed female produced the first Osprey chick to hatch in Central England for 150 years!
Now approaching the conclusion of his fourteenth season of breeding at Rutland Water, 03(97) has raised a total of thirty-two chicks. Several of his offspring have returned to Rutland, and he currently has grand-children that are breeding! His legacy is immense. In the world of Ospreys, he is nothing short of a superstar.
A couple of weeks ago, we had a scare that his supremacy was beginning to fade. Worryingly, 03(97) underwent a period of apparent lethargy, where he hardly moved and did not go fishing. We thought perhaps it was an illness, or possibly old age, as he is seventeen years old now. However, it was noticed that his right wing was drooping slightly, indicating a potential injury. We kept a close eye on him and saw that he could fly when necessary, but not particularly strongly.
It is interesting that the adult female suddenly began to go fishing again. It is normal for females to do this after the chicks have fledged, but the youngest chick had not yet fledged, and the oldest only the day before. Generally females won’t fish again until the juveniles have been on the wing for at least a couple of weeks, and are flying strongly. I wonder what prompted her to deviate from her typical behaviour? Perhaps she decided she had waited long enough for 03(97) to go fishing and he clearly wasn’t, or maybe she sensed somehow that something was wrong.
However she knew, it was good news that she began fishing early, as it meant that the juveniles would not go hungry. What concerned us was that 03(97) was not getting a share of any of the fish that were brought in. When there was no sign of improvement in his condition after a couple of days, the decision was made to provide fish for him on a man-made platform atop his favourite perch.
For ten days we put out fish for 03(97), and waited anxiously for signs of recovery. Then, finally, amazingly, he began to improve. His flight began to look stronger, he spent more time away from the nest, hanging around the Horn Mill Trout Farm, and then one day he came back to the nest with a fish! This was a huge relief to us all.
We have continued to closely monitor 03(97)’s progress, and have ceased supplementary feeding. We have seen an enormous improvement in his condition, and he has been catching fish every day for the past week. It seems all he needed was some time in which to heal, and so by putting out fish for him we gave him the energy he needed to recover. We hope that he now has the necessary strength to complete his autumn migration. Six months relaxing in Africa should do him good, and fingers crossed for his safe return next season!
Here are some photographs of 03(97), showing his drooping wing. There are also some brilliant pictures of the two juveniles, and of 6K(14)’s first flight! All photographs taken by our Field Officer John Wright.