It’s the final count-down…

When is it too late in January to say Happy New Year? A month on from Christmas? Well, anyway, it’s a new year and only a mere two months or so to go until the ospreys return to Rutland Water; it’s hard to believe the rapid passage of time.

The osprey aficionados among you will recall that last year the ospreys returned exceptionally early, on 12th March. With our seasonal visitor centre at Lyndon nature reserve having only opened for the new season two days before the Manton Bay female returned, we were barely ready to receive company. The mate of ‘Maya’, the male ’33’ returned just a few days after her, leading to the earliest breeding and subsequent hatching of osprey eggs the Rutland Osprey Project had seen since 2014. Who can forget the extraordinary year of weather in 2018? Beginning with the ‘Beast from the East’, a brief glimpse of spring, followed by a long, hot summer of scorching temperatures.

Who knows what this year will bring? When will the ospreys return? How many pairs will successfully breed? How many chicks will fledge? How many young birds will return for the first time and who will they be? So very many questions. It would be disingenuous of me not to admit to a slight feeling of dread wondering which of the birds may not return from migration this year, but we will just have to wait patiently and see. One statement we can make with some certainty is that in 2019 the 150th chick for the Rutland Osprey Project will hatch. Quite a milestone to have reached, I’m sure you will agree.

Perhaps many will wonder what on earth the osprey team get up to over the winter. Well we are certainly not idly twiddling our thumbs for six months, watching the skies awaiting the ospreys’ return. A great deal of planning goes into preparing for the next osprey season – from maintaining the artificial nest platforms and perches; to liaising with landowners; maintaining the camera traps we use to help monitor nests; updating the website; planning osprey cruises and events; keeping the media’s interest in ospreys piqued during their absence; recruiting for new seasonal staff to join the osprey team for the upcoming season, carrying out habitat management at Lyndon reserve via volunteer work parties – and the list goes on.

Our fantastic education team put in a great deal of time over the winter (despite being seasonal staff and therefore ‘stood down’ during autumn/winter), planning visits to schools to deliver assemblies and to bring school groups out to Lyndon reserve in the spring/summer to deliver outreach sessions via our dedicated osprey watching hide. They are also busy preparing for two new exciting education projects in 2019 (as mentioned in the previous blog post). There is a lot going on and we are very much looking forward to getting our teeth into the new osprey season.

Your guess is as good as mine as to the date the first Rutland osprey will return.
We wait with baited breath.