Ospreys have now been breeding in Rutland for more than a decade. In that time these fantastic birds have become synonymous with the area. Local residents eagerly await their return each spring and literally thousands of people travel from all over Britain to come and see them at the nature reserve, or on an Osprey Cruise on the Rutland Belle.
The time the birds spend in Rutland though, only makes up part of their year. Each autumn the Rutland Ospreys head south, passing through France and Spain before crossing the Mediterranean into North Africa. They pass over the immense Atlas Mountains and then cross the vast wilds of the Sahara. Their reward for such an epic journey is the fish-rich West African coastline, where Ospreys from several parts of Northern Europe converge for the winter.
Last winter a group of Osprey Project staff and volunteers travelled to Gambia and Senegal in search of European Ospreys. During the month-long trip we visted Tanji school near Banjul to talk to the children about our work at Rutland Water, focussing on Ospreys and migration. The children were enthralled.
Following the success of the visit to West Africa we intend to develop a wildlife education programme for Gambian schools, with Ospreys as the flagship species. We will raise money to provide educational resources for schools located in areas that are important for Ospreys and other European migrant birds, such as Tanji. These resources, including books, posters, optics and computer equipment, will allow the children to learn more about the birds and other wildlife that live close to their communities. With the help of local Gambian bird guide, Junkund Jadama, we will also organise fieldtrips for school children – allowing them to see all this wonderful wildlife at first hand. Furthermore, we’ll link schools in the Gambia with schools in Rutland, allowing the children to develop friendships, with Ospreys as the common link. There is also the potential for similar links to be formed along the bird’s migration route – with schools elsewhere in Europe and North Africa.
All funds raised will be managed by the Leicestershire and Rutland Wildlife Trust and will be used specifically to purchase educational resources that can be used in the Gambian schools and to fund field trips.
As Project Officer I felt it was only right that I got the ball rolling and so I will be running the Berlin marathon in September to try and raise some money. We feel passionately that we have a unique opportunity to provide wildlife education in Gambian schools and that the work can have a real lasting legacy among communities in West Africa. Any money you feel able to donate would be greatly appreciated.
We will be travelling out to Gambia in January, enabling us to visit more schools and to distribute resources funded by our first wave of fundraising. So, if you can, please give generously.