Stormy Skies

John spotted her first, the Manton Bay female, gliding along the top of the water towards her nest, a 2lb trout clutched in her talons. A few minutes later, after apparently being mobbed by gulls, she appeared on the camera where she tucked in – the fish still kicking. It’s been getting darker and darker outside all afternoon, with showers of sleet and hail passing over the Reservoir regularly; the high, inky clouds drifted over Burley-on-the-Hill House on the other side of the water, casting gloomy, ominous shadows across the reserve. Whilst we watched, a distant rumble of thunder sent the birds scattering from the feeders, and our female Kestrel swooped back toward her nest box, where she settled down comfortably, surveying the dreary scene.

Suddenly, just as the fish had stopped kicking and flapping, the female’s behaviour changed: her body stiffened and she kept glancing up nervously, defensively, and began to spreadeagle herself across her prize. She flapped her wings once or twice, and then took to the skies. We suspected crows or gulls had been the source of her discomfort, but the truth was far more exciting. We watched the female climb higher and higher above Lax Hill, when suddenly, Sarah spotted another Osprey on the nest. A moment of confusion, and then we saw the ring: 5N has briefly returned to Manton Bay, whether to recapture her former stomping ground or just to grab an easy meal we’re not sure, but after a few moments she joined the female in the sky.

Against the blackening clouds, with the thunder continuing to rumble and the hail falling thick and fast, the female climbed higher and higher, with her half-fish still clutched in her talons. 5N was obviously worrying her, as she joined her briefly above Lax Hill, before taking shelter in the trees. But the Manton Bay female was not for giving up: she began to display dramatically, trying to distract 5N away from the nest and draw her attention. She put on a beautiful performance, especially contrasted with the stormy skies, the fish hanging limp, wings undulating elegantly.

Eventually, 5N seemed to bore of the charade, and disappeared from view, swooping low over the woods and out of sight. No doubt she’ll be back sooner or later. The Manton Bay female has since returned to the nest and her meal, satisfied with her efforts and in receipt of her reward.