Here is a wonderfully inspirational piece from Ken Davies, long-term volunteer and new Osprey Education Officer for 2015! Take it away Ken…
“New Season, new job, new hide, new shirt…..and an old friend returns!”
Wednesday March 18th : Have you ever woken up with an absolutely euphoric feeling of well-being? I have to admit that I did this morning! It’s 6.00am, and I am already up and preparing for another busy day at the Rutland Osprey Project! Actually this ‘Oh Happy Day!’ feeling has been building for a few weeks now, as the new season comes ever closer and the Ospreys start to wing their way northwards. Perhaps I should start at the beginning……
Some time before Christmas I met up with Project Leader Tim Mackrill at our favourite coffee house for a general chat (or so I thought) about ‘all things Osprey’. As usual our conversation covered every conceivable aspect of Osprey life and conservation, including news from all over the world. Then – I think it was during our second latté – Tim suddenly said ‘How would you feel about joining the Osprey staff as a part-time Education Officer and co-ordinating all work with schools and colleges?’ I recall a moment of stunned silence, before blurting out an unintelligible string of disconnected phrases which probably included ‘You mean me? Are you sure? I mean yes, I’d love to, thank you, that would be wonderful!’
Well since then, people who know me well will tell you I have been floating around on air, my head definitely up there in Osprey World which I have tried so hard to describe in my diaries over the years. I actually started work – together with colleague and fellow Education Officer Jackie – in early February and have already attended induction and planning meetings and met most of my new colleagues at the Nature Reserve, especially Paul and Kayleigh, the great team responsible for the day-to-day running of the Osprey Project at Lyndon. It has been a truly heart- warming experience to be welcomed by such a friendly, supportive and committed group of people – all united in their passion for the natural world in general, and of course the Ospreys in particular. I’ve loved every minute of it.
Week by week, day by day, the new Wader Scrape hide has risen and been completed, and is already proving a valuable resource in Manton Bay. I’ve watched the hard work involved in fitting the three new cameras on the Manton Bay nest, realised how much habitat work has been completed by the weekly winter work parties, appreciated the refurbishment of the Visitor Centre – and all this, of course, whilst doing what I’ve actually been employed for – informing and (I hope!) enthusing local schools to involve themselves in the Project’s exciting work by hosting a visit from project staff to talk with students, and to sign up for fast approaching World Osprey Week.
I spent one whole day with Anya (Trainee Assistant Warden) learning how to create super-slick Powerpoint shows to WOW school students during our visits. I was a slow learner at first, but thanks for your patience, Anya! Earlier this month we were invited to Oakham School’s Science Guest Night, where we talked to Fifth and Sixth Form students, attended a fascinating lecture on Toxicology and then had supper with fellow guests and students. It was awesome – to revert to ‘student-speak’ for a moment !
Tim Mackrill asked Jackie and me to arrive early for the Volunteers early season meeting last week. We sat enjoying a tasty tea with Tim, Becky, Kayleigh and Sarah and planning the evening ahead, when Tim disappeared and returned with a large cardboard box. Another defining moment : the handing out of the staff shirts and fleeces! A moment of real pride and celebration – an ‘Is this really happening to me?’ experience. I can only liken it to the feelings a sportsman must have when handed his first England cap. I left the room and returned resplendently dressed in my new livery. Needless to say I have hardly taken it off since!
Yesterday (Tuesday March 17th), after a morning visit to Oakham C of E Primary School to advertise approaching World Osprey Week, followed by a meeting with Tim, Jackie and Anya to plan an exciting conference for teachers on Osprey education and all its wonderful spin-offs, I spend the afternoon at the Lyndon Centre with Kayleigh (Osprey Information Officer). I receive instructions on how to work the computers, the till and the coffee machine, and how to show visitors videos, still photos and highlights on the big screen – as well, of course, as the live streaming from the nest. I even take my turn in making tea for everyone! Tim, Lloyd and Dave arrive to put the finishing touches to the new Wader Scrape hide. John has been in another hide all afternoon, expectant and alert as ever, awaiting the first Osprey arrival. No osprey in the bay this afternoon, but he has observed a superb adult summer-plumaged Mediterranean Gull in the bay, and it is duly entered into the log. Lynda has been inducting a new volunteer down in the new hide, and assisting a steady flow of visitors, who return to the Centre full of her praises. During the Osprey season, the volunteers are an absolutely essential part of the Project, and consistently work hard on all aspects of the reserve’s work. I should know – I was one of their number for ten years!
At 5.00pm Kayleigh tells me it’s time to close down the Centre, and takes me through all the procedures, in case one day I have to do it on my own. We linger as long as we can in front of the big screen, hoping against hope that an Osprey might appear on the live streaming from the nest. Not today, despite the increasing sunshine and warmth this afternoon. Just as we are closing down, Lynda arrives back – no Osprey, but a Water Rail in front of the hide was an unexpected bonus! Let’s hope another one arrives and we have a breeding pair there again. Kayleigh is not going home yet – she hurries off down to the hide to join the others, who are still working there in the fading light. I decide to go home – it’s been a long day, but an exciting and often thrilling one. I drive home through the lanes – not the shortest route, but the most relaxing and enjoyable one, a gentle saunter to fit my happy mood.
I am scarcely through the door twenty five minutes later when my ‘phone pings to indicate a text. It’s Tim : ‘Brilliant news – 03 is back at Site B. What a bird!’ I sink into a chair and read it three, four times. After all the trauma of last summer, it is a huge relief. He’s back, he’s back (with apologies to Ted Hughes)
‘Look, Look, He’s back, he’s made it again,
Which means the globe’s still working…….’
Talk about a perfect end to a perfect day…….Don’t think me sad, but by 9.45 I am in bed and in the midst of an idyllic sleep after my wonderful day.
Wednesday March 18th : and it’s 6.00am. I awake to the sound of a Grasshopper Warbler reeling away on the radio as this morning’s ‘Tweet of the Day’. Still too early for them to arrive, but maybe an Osprey in the Bay today. It’s possible…..
If it’s Wednesday….it must be Uppingham Community College. We are partway through a ten day cycle of visiting local schools, bringing the good news of World Osprey Week to students and teachers alike. Today we are guests at Uppingham Community School – a really good 11 – 16 school just a few miles away – the former school of Anya (who accompanies me today), Becky (Development Officer) and Abigail (Wildskills Member and regular volunteer). We are to see two classes today, courtesy of Geography teacher Mr Redmond, and we soon have the pictures and videos up on the screen, telling them all about these spectacular birds virtually on their doorstep each spring and summer. We end each session with the catchy Osprey Song first performed by the students of Hurst Lodge School in Ascot, and it is so popular that we have to play it through twice, by which time the Year 9 group are joining in (fairly!) tunefully. We are grateful for everyone’s involvement and enthusiasm, and after a photo call from Mr Redmond (attached), we take our leave after a very pleasant morning, Anya back to the Reserve to await more Osprey arrivals, and me…….well, I think I need a little rest! After all, it’s another early start tomorrow for a visit to another school in Oakham!
I hope to continue writing diaries as in previous years, and I want to thank everyone for their kind comments at the end of last season. I’ll still be helping to monitor Site B when the time comes, and I’ll be down at the fantastic new Wader Scrape hide on alternate Sunday afternoons – and probably in another hide on the other Sundays! Pop in and see the Ospreys and the rest of us! As I keep telling myself, and as I hope you can see from this first diary of 2015…….
I am indeed a fortunate man.