What an utterly beautiful day we had yesterday at Rutland Water, and indeed across the country. With temperatures topping 15 degrees Celsius, one could be forgiven for thinking that it was summer and glancing hopefully towards the Osprey nest in Manton Bay. We’re busy at the Centre getting everything ready for this years’ birds: Tim and Lloyd are back out on the boat (again!) making a few adjustments to the camera; a team of dedicated volunteers have been out and about this morning with Kayleigh, Sarah and Paul, helping to tidy up the hides and doing odd jobs on the reserve, whilst I’ve been in the office beavering away at sorting out our schools and education programme for the year, which will be available to download soon.
It can get frustrating being stuck in the office whilst everyone else is hard at physical manual labour, but there certainly are some perks: first of all, I am less than six feet from the kettle and an infinite supply of tea, and secondly, it’s only a few steps to the window where I’m able to watch the bird feeders, which are among the best I have ever seen. It’s addictive and hypnotic watching the little dramas unfold one by one, as new birds swoop in and out continually; if a sparrowhawk or kestrel makes a pass, things scatter towards the trees, diving for cover (except, invariably, for one chaffinch that freezes), and for a few minutes the feeders swing empty in the breeze.
But they can’t resist the draw of an easy meal, and soon it’s heaving again: Blue Tits, Great Tits, Chaffinches and Greenfinches, Brambling (one today – what beautiful birds they are?!), Yellowhammer, Reed Bunting, Tree Sparrow, Blackbirds, Dunnock, three Stock Dove, Marsh Tit and a single Robin. There’s even a group of Mallards that wander around underneath, not to mention a Moorhen or two, and two Pheasants have just joined the feast… Oh, and a Grey Squirrel that’s eating us out of house and home.
But I’m going to return briefly to one bird that will always have my heart: the Goldfinch Carduelis carduelis. As I write, one feeder has upwards of five Goldfinch on it and there’s more jostling for position. I am always left with the deepest admiration for this bird; so small and elegant, yet radiating personality and fire: they look like they’ve been decorated with some native warpaint: the fine beak, black mask and blood red face give a warrior-like appearance, especially when contrasted with the white cheek and black cap. The golden hue that gives the birds their name runs softly across the back, fading into a pale breast and belly, and stark yellow wing bars complete a striking picture. We do not appreciate this bird nearly enough – it is utterly captivating, and one of the most beautiful of our British species.
Soon we won’t be able to stop talking about Ospreys – and rightly so, they are awesome after all – but before they return, possibly very soon with this front of warm air pushing up from the south, let us raise a glass to this most beautiful of garden birds.
Eyes to the skies for Ospreys, folks! Migration has begun…