Ospreys at Oundle School

As we wait to hear news from the rest of the team in West Africa, the Osprey Road Show has started the 2012 season in style with a visit to Oundle School near Peterborough. Here is Ken’s report…

Whilst the main focus just now is quite rightly on the fantastic work being done by the Osprey Team in West Africa, some activities are still taking place a little closer to home. Today, for example, Michelle is leading a talk to the Junior Science Club at Oundle School in Northamptonshire, and I am assisting her.

Michelle is not quite sure which continent she is in ~ just two days ago she was in The Gambia watching wintering Ospreys and many other birds and animals in searing heat, and now here she is on a gloomy Tuesday afternoon preparing for the first school presentation of 2012. We meet in a café to update our talk, but in fact I spend most of the time listening to fascinating African tales! If you’ve not watched the video diaries on the ‘News’ pages yet, do so without delay ~ they’re brilliant!

Suddenly it’s time to move to the School, and we make our way to the Needham Science Building, where we find a cheerful welcome from members of staff, including the teacher in charge Ms Fernandez. About fifty chairs have been set out around the lap-top, screen and projector. The boys and girls, aged 11 or 12, come in in small groups and enjoy the drinks and biscuits which have been set out for them. It’s 5.00pm now, so they’ve already had a long day in school. We hear that after our talk there’s prep to do for some, while others have a birthday party to attend! One girl will be writing a report on the presentation, and another member of staff tells us she will be taking a few photos for the school website.

We start, and the familiar pictures appear on the screen. I feel a little ‘rusty’ as we haven’t done this for a few months, but we soon warm up and get into our stride. ‘Has anyone here seen a wild, live Osprey?’ A few hands go up ~ yes, they have seen Ospreys, mainly at Rutland Water, but one person has been to Loch of the Lowes. We describe the main features of Ospreys and their world, and have a small diversion to define and even spell zygodactylic, that special word to describe an Osprey’s ability to turn a toe backwards to allow a better grip on a fish. Michelle deals with all the new data on AW’s and 09’s autumn migration and how we followed them thanks to the satellite transmitters, and she ends with a few photos of areas in Gambia, where she was herself just forty eight hours ago. The pupils are keen to ask questions, but it’s nearly 6.00pm, and everyone has commitments, so after a vote of thanks and a round of applause, we pose for a few last photos and we are given a lovely gift of a bottle of wine each. Ms Fernandez says she will be in touch with Michelle to arrange a trip to the Lyndon Reserve in late May or early June when (fingers crossed) we may have some Osprey chicks for the pupils to see, as well as the adult birds.

And with that we drive off into the Northamptonshire night ~ for me just a short drive home and for Michelle, I hope, a well-earned rest after all her travelling in the last few days………