Little Warriors

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.

Copy of Goldfinch filtered

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…


11 responses to “Little Warriors”

  1. Chris and Judith Dale

    The first Osprey will return on 29th March ’14 at 13.00.

  2. Mike Tew

    First Osprey returning home to the Manton Bay nest site,
    will be at 06.00 am. Monday 17th March 2014.

  3. Giles

    So glad someone else thinks Goldfinches are wonderful birds. I work in a city centre but fortunately there seems to be a small flock of them living near my office and I hear (and sometimes see) them most days. They really brighten my day.
    I hope they’ll return to my bird feeders at home. Used to get a pair quite regularly but nothing so far this year. Keep hoping and putting the niger seeds out!

    PS I also love ospreys as well, naturally!

  4. Peter

    16th march at 10.47

  5. Lizzie manson

    The first osprey to return will be at 11am 15th march.

  6. David Alesbrook

    First osprey to return to Manton Bay March 22nd at 06.04

  7. Roger Collier

    18 March @15.26

  8. David Carrier

    The first Osprey will return on 13th March at 11am

  9. Sue

    First Osprey 17th March 10.23

  10. Hazel Earl

    Happy spring everyone! My guess is that the first osprey will be back on 18th March at 15:52.

  11. w milne

    osprey arrival at 1614 19th March 2014