Many of the Ospreys at Rutland Water are already back, and on Thursday evening I did my first shift of the season (my 6th season) as a volunteer on the Osprey Project. I favour the evening shift, at Waderscrape Hide, as it gives me some time with the visitors, but also usually (but not always!) some quiet time later, after the visitors have gone - a nice mixture.
It was gloriously warm sunny weather that day, and so I set off early (it's about a 45 mile (75 km) journey from my home to Rutland Water), intending to catch up with some of my Little Owl sites that I haven't visited since last August on the way.
I found a LO at each of two of my local sites soon after leaving home, but had absolutely no luck at the other four sites I stopped at after that.
I arrived at Rutland Water with 20 minutes to spare and so, instead of going directly to Waderscrape Hide, I carried on a bit further to Shallow Water Hide. I only had five minutes to spare by the time I got there and my visit didn't reveal anything exciting and I only photographed a few Wigeon.
I arrived at Waderscrape, and was immediately disappointed to see that the channels which radiate from the hide had dried out completely. In past years these have been a source of considerable interest. However, the Water Rail that were the stars, disappeared after the harsh winter of 2010/2011. In the 2011 season the channels still provided some interest, with regular sightings of Grass Snake at close quarters being the most exciting for me.
For the past two years male Osprey 5R(04) has held the Manton Bay territory with an unringed Scottish female. They successfully raised and fledged three young last year.
This year 5R returned on March 16, but as I write this, his partner of previous years has not yet returned. Our man has not, however, been idle! He is currently enjoying a dalliance with female Osprey 5N(04) (yes, his sister!!), but another female, 00(09), has been showing interest too! For more details, please look at the Osprey Project's web site .
Female 5N was on the nest when I arrived, but we did not have to wait long before 5R appeared. He brought a tuft of dry grass, for nest lining, to the nest, and soon after was copulating with 5N.
|Ospreys 5N and 5R - from Waderscrape Hide, Rutland Water|
Sorry about the quality of the above image. It's a heavily-cropped distant shot, and the light on sunny evenings is in totally the wrong direction from Waderscrape (better from Shallow Water).
5R was quite active during the evening, flying around, off doing a spot of fishing, copulating with 5N and then off to do a bit more fishing - and so it continued!
At one point he flew reasonably close to the hide, allowing for some closer (would have been better if I'd not fluffed the exposure) shots.
|Osprey 5R - from Waderscrape Hide, Rutland Water|
On return from one of his fishing trips, he was carrying a fish which I failed to identify, but seemed to be very knobbly. He was being hounded by a young Herring Gull which was trying to relieve him of his catch. He did, however, manage to hang onto it and, after enjoying the head-end, took it to the nest for 5N to finish off.
|Osprey 5R pursued by Herring Gull - - from Waderscrape Hide, Rutland Water|
It seems that he'd been showing off and over-fishing, as 5N left the nest and the fish, and both birds flew off together, leaving the fish for a Crow to finish off!
With the lack of Little Owls seen on my outward journey, I'd been hoping that a Barn Owl would show up before I left (they sometimes do!), but I was out of luck. It was virtually fully dark by the time I departed, but as I left the reserve, there was a Little Owl perched on a fence. I've not seen one at Rutland Water before, so I'll call this my LO Site No.27, and keep my eyes open in the hope of more sightings and some images (when the days get longer).