Ken’s Diary – The Calm after the Storm

As we reported yesterday, 03(97) has reclaimed the Site B nest and he and his mate are now incubating a second clutch of eggs. Ken Davies was at the nest on Monday to enjoy a peaceful few hours.  He recounts the afternoon in his latest diary…

Site B : Monday 27th April.

It’s my first time here since the troubles –  that attempted coup which threatened to overturn the old order and topple the crowned head of the Rutland Osprey hierarchy. I am nervous on the walk down. Memories of that dreadful day just under two weeks ago when the air was continually rent all afternoon with chipping intruder cries and alarm calls, when the nest was constantly assailed by the two young pretenders, the lining pulled apart and the precious contents scattered, the sight of 03(97) desperately attempting to stave off the assaults – I try hard to erase the memories as I begin the walk.

The weather today is fine : a totally cloudless blue sky, bright sunshine, a light breeze blowing across the green fields. Small groups of Swallows flitter past me, even pausing to rest on the bars of the gates. I have to disturb them to pass through, but they’re back on there before I’m even ten metres further on. A dazzling male Yellow Wagtail is on a fence post just ahead of me, his tail gently rising and falling as he shares his understated, subtle song with me and any other creature who may care to listen. He does not move as I approach. I realise that behind him in the distance I can already see the Osprey nest. I re-focus. The Wagtail becomes a sulphurous blur in the front of my lens, to be replaced by the unmistakable pure white breast of 03 in a distant tree, bending regularly to break off pieces of the fish clutched in his claw. He is there.  Yes, at least he is there. Relaxed, feeding, unharried, back in his domain. I move my  binoculars to look at the nest. A small head clearly visible over the rim. Is she incubating again? It surely looks like it. I hurry on – the watchers in the hut will be wondering where their relief is. The Yellow Wagtail skips off with a characteristic ‘tsip’, clearing the crop-field in huge undulating leaps. I feel like joining him. Prospects are looking up!

I arrive at the watch-point and find my surmise was indeed correct. 03 brought a nice roach in twenty minutes ago, and is  attacking it with gusto on a favourite perch. And my relief is complete when I hear that the considered opinion is that the female is indeed incubating a new egg in the nest. After the destruction of her first clutch, she has found the will, the strength and the determination to try again. I study the pair of them for a long time. I can scarcely believe it. After the mayhem I witnessed just thirteen days ago, the scene is one of order, calm and dignity. I listen intently for intruder calls, but thankfully there are none. I watch for signs of stress, agitation, disturbance – again, none. Early days of course, and no room for complacency, but at the moment at least, the peace of this Osprey Valhalla is pervasive and hypnotic. As the Mistle Thrush, Blackcap, Chiffchaff, Wren and Chaffinch orchestrate a superb soundscape around me, and as the sun produces a shimmering heat haze between me and the nest……at last I relax. 03 stands regal, proud, defiant. I sense he is about to fly to the nest with the remains of the fish, and as he does so, I feel elated and re-energised. Dare I say that the old order is restored, that he has brought stability back to the territory? For now, anyway, he has – ‘pax et imperium’ as the Romans used to call it – ‘order and power.’

The female began sitting low in the nest on Sunday afternoon

The female began sitting low in the nest on Sunday afternoon

At 1.00pm the female is still eating the fish on the perch, and 03 is sitting low in the nest, surely incubating an egg, or even two. Encouraged by the female’s appetite, I too decide it’s time for lunch, and remember with pleasure that I have brought salmon and salad sandwiches today! We both eat our fishy meals – she on the roach, I on the salmon.  Are we so very different? At this precise moment I don’t think so…..

I record change-overs at the nest at 1.49 and 2.46.  After the second change, I hear a tapping behind the hut and go in search of the suspected Woodpecker, but fail to find it. The bluebells are beginning to appear – not the full swathes of May and early June, but the first patches amidst the greenery, breaking through in delicate fronds. At 2.59 a wily Crow hops around the base of the tree, and the female descends to harry it, chasing it this way and that until it dives for cover. Well done. Good to see she’s lost none of her spirit.

At 3.06 a majestic Red Kite flies slowly past me along the ride as I sit under the old oak tree. Slow, deep wing beats, glide, then more beats……He watches me, turning his head back to check on me even when he has gone a long way past. He was rare once too. I know that, and watch him through binoculars until he is out of sight. Beautiful : and no-one to see him but me.  At 3.09 I return to my coffee cup, but find that a fly with a shiny green body is swimming about in it. His exertions become weaker as I watch, so I insert a pencil into the cup and he feebly grasps it. I place him on a fence post to dry, and within a few minutes he is flexing his wings and preparing to launch off, hopefully re-invigorated by his caffeine experience. I decide not to drink the coffee after rescuing the swimmer.

03(97) was settled at Site B until 51(11) returned

And so the afternoon proceeds. I record more change-overs. I witness no intrusions. At 3.15 I note with pleasure the ‘kronk’ of a passing Raven – another species on the increase in these parts. The Ospreys do not react to him. By 3.30 the weather has changed : it’s cloudy now, much cooler, and the sunshine has gone for the day I fear. My relief team appears earlier than expected. I brief them on the afternoon events and prepare to leave them to their evening vigil.

I take my time on the walk back. Frequent stops to turn around and check that everything is still as I left it. Yes, there he is, still on the topmost branch of his favourite perching tree, white breast still shining despite the lack of sun now, sitting upright, preening but ever watchful, master of all he surveys. His mate sits low, safe and secure.  Two weeks ago I left here in the depth of despair, already preparing for the worst and mentally composing his obituary. His astounding powers of recovery, his strength in repulsing invading young Ospreys a quarter his age, his all-round charisma, beauty and iconic grace : no wonder he is admired around the world. Long may his rule continue!

Ken Davies

Watch out for more on the Site B saga – this time from Lynda Berry – tomorrow.