Sunday 12th June : Manton Bay, 1.00 – 5.00pm : This promises to be the first really wet Sunday of the season so far, so it would be nice to have a decent packed lunch to enjoy in Wader Scrape hide to raise the damp spirits a little. Unfortunately provisions were very low at home this morning, and all I could find were two rather stale little loaf-shaped rolls, a lump of cheese, and a banana. Oh well, it will have to do. I’m reading an old book by Frances Pitt at the moment, called ‘How to See Nature’. It was published in 1940, when things were tough for everyone. She recommends ‘bread, cheese and an apple’ as the perfect accompaniment on a country ramble, so I’m in good company.
The weather forecast was right. It’s raining steadily as I arrive at the Lyndon Centre, and it continues relentlessly for the entire afternoon. Mind you, this is nothing compared with a famous day in July 2007 when I was down here all on my own during a terrific storm, during the course of which water started coming up through the floor of the hide and I had visions of myself floating heroically away in Wader Scrape, like some modern beleaguered Noah in his Ark. I survived that, and so did 08(97) and 5N(04), who raised two chicks here that summer. Today Paul makes me a cup of tea and the whole team wave me a cheery goodbye as I make for the hide.
There are quite a few visitors today, despite the awful weather. 5R, looking a bit bedraggled, is out there on his perch, and his mate is trying to shelter three rapidly growing chicks. The log shows that he has already caught several little fishes in quick succession this morning. Two families with four children and a big, wet, friendly dog pile in, and are thrilled to see the Ospreys. They don’t mind the rain. 5R obliges and goes fishing in the rain, circling above the bay before plunging in several times in full view of everyone. He catches a small fish at 2.10, which is taken back to the nest, and then another at 2.15, which he eats himself. He repeats the performance at 3.30 and 3.35, by which time he has another set of appreciative visitors in the hide. This is one intelligent Osprey. He knows he will not be able to catch a big fish in the open water in these conditions. So he has adapted his technique and is going after the smaller fry in the shallows. Very successfully too ~ that’s at least eight little fishes today so far. And this is the same bird which this time last week landed a monster bream after an epic struggle. Different day, different thinking.
After the 3.35 fish, I lay out my own meagre lunch and contemplate it without relish : two little loaves and a piece of cheese. Then the thought comes to me ~ combine my loaves with 5R’s fishes and we have the potential for a miracle of biblical proportions! We could feed every young Osprey and every family in Rutland. For ‘Rutland Water’ read ‘Sea of Galilee’ and the scene is set ~ all ingredients in place. Except one ~ we don’t have the Miracle Worker Himself. I look down the row of visitors in the hide, all concentrating on the Ospreys in the rain. No, there’s no-one there I can cast in the role of miracle worker. 5R has finished his 3.35 fish and is already looking for another. My little loaves remain on the cloth. There are still two. They haven’t multiplied. I break them into pieces to eke them out a little further, but they’re soon gone. Out on the reservoir a fisherman in a small boat casts his line in the rain : in another gospel moment I see him hauling in a net bulging with fish. Next thing he’ll be walking on the water…..
A new set of visitors bring me back to reality. One little group have come all the way from Yorkshire to see for themselves the Osprey family they’ve been watching all week on the webcam. As I prepare to leave at the end of the afternoon, 5R is still fishing, regularly returning small meals to the nest and eating the occasional one himself. In an incredible breathtaking moment he lands for us on the dead tree, staring down into the water, a stunning portrait etched into our minds forever. That was the miracle…..and we are so happy that we were there to witness it.