An Irresistible Call to Depart

Peter Cairns/2020VISION

In this blog, read all about Education Officer, Ken Davies, most recent visit with a few of the Osprey Ambassadors from local schools (all did adhere to current social distancing measures) and the latest from Manton Bay.

Sit down and relax whilst reading all about Education Officer, Ken Davies', most recent visit with a few friends...

Sunday August 30th : It’s been coming for ages, of course. We have been expecting it. ‘Any day now’, we’ve been saying, and checking the Bay every morning, breathing a sigh of relief when there was at least one there. But it still takes us by surprise when it happens. And today is the day. There are no Ospreys in Manton Bay for the first time since March 16th.  They’ve gone – the juveniles one by one over the past two weeks, the adults just yesterday, or maybe today before we got here. The fact is, they’re on their way south, perhaps taking advantage of this keen north easterly which is blowing in on us as we look out from the hide. All that remains is the nest, poignant reminder of the summer saga just ended, scene of the latest breeding spectacular featuring the now world famous pairing of Maya and 33(11) and their exuberant quartet of ospreylets. To some people, just a gradually disintegrating pile of sticks, but to so many more, whether dutifully poring over their lap-tops and recording the ospreys’ every move for the statistical breakdowns which tell us so much, or watching the pair’s behaviours via the webcam in far-flung corners of six continents, or (the lucky few) watching them from the comfort of the two splendid hides here in the Bay….to all these thousands, maybe even millions, of  people, this pair of Ospreys has been solace in this most difficult of years, and a constant source of pleasure, relief and interest. Perhaps they are the most watched birds anywhere in the world.

And now they’ve gone to their other homes to the south.The prospect of over six months without Ospreys is even more gloomy this year than ever before – uncertain conditions for us all, and not even an Africa trip to look forward to in January. We will survive, of course we will, and, we hope, so will they. We’ll be here again mid-March 2021, binoculars raised to the sky, searching out that familiar profile and the rapid descent to the nest. ‘He’s back’, we’ll cry, and send the message around the world in seconds!

Maya and the four osprey chicks

The ‘end of season’ vibe today is lightened considerably by the splendid company we have here with us. Abi (Osprey Information Officer) and Laura (Centre Manager) are on duty and give us the friendliest of welcomes. My fellow Africa traveller and stalwart volunteer Linda is manning (womanning?) the counter and till, and warmly greeting a steady trickle of visitors. Osprey Ambassadors Harriet, Sam and Alex, together with parents, are here for a final Lyndon experience, and my colleagues Jackie and Pete join us for our walk down to the Bay. We assemble in the car-park, with some late Swifts overhead, and just before we set out Abi brings out a mysterious object to show us, found by Field Officer Lloyd beneath one of the outlying Osprey nests when he was there to ring the new chicks. A pellet, similar in appearance to an owl pellet, but on this occasion a much rarer, fishy one, filled with scales and indigestible remnants, by an Osprey! It is passed round reverently and examined. The younger members of our group would love to dissect it, but that is forbidden. It will remain intact, and be placed in our very private ‘Cabinet of Curiosities’!

Osprey Pellet

Osprey Pellet - like other birds of prey, Ospreys do very occasionally bring up food pellets consisting of indigestible material such as fish bones and scales.

Our happy group, some ten strong, with an age-range of over sixty years, and following all the rules of social distancing, strings out along the lower path, with frequent stops for Speckled Woods, Red Admirables (to give it its original name), shining Bluebottles and Greenbottles, and the occasional blackberry! Swallows and Martins flit with us, last signs of summer all. We meet hardly anyone.  We make straight for the furthest hide – Shallow Water – on the grounds that it is bigger and on two levels, and will be able to accommodate our group with no infringements of the rules, as long as a couple of people wait outside. The brisk north-easterly earlier referred to is blowing directly into the hide and rendering it very chilly, but Jackie soon succeeds in locating Green Sandpiper, Common Tern and Pochard. The winter gatherings of Coot, ducks and grebes are already beginning to mass. A Black-headed Gull is on the Osprey T-perch, revelling in its new found opportunity to remain there unmolested. Outside, where it feels ten degrees warmer, our intrepid young foragers find a variety of insects, which are temporarily held in entomological pots until identified, and then released. Possible owl pellets are stored ready for dissection at home. Pete takes photographs for possible use on our website later.

Speckled Wood butterfly

(C) P Murray

Speckled Wood Butterfly

Abi calls to say another Osprey Ambassador has arrived and is on his way down to see us with his family. This is Henry, all the way from Oxfordshire. He attended our ‘Warm-Up’ Meeting in March, before the Ospreys were here, and now he has come again, one day after they left! So he has not yet managed to see an Osprey, but has assured us he will be an Ambassador for his school again in 2021, when he will put that right. Let’s hope so.

Lunch is calling, so we make our way back to the Centre and go through to Teal Hide, scene in the past of many exciting Osprey activities, Summer Schools and celebrity occasions, but this year sadly hardly used at all. Abi comes down to see us, with hot news just received! One of the 2015 juveniles (S2(15),male), from the Manton Bay nest (where we have just been), has bred successfully in Holland with a German female, producing three healthy chicks! Wow, brilliant news! Abi has loads of photos, sent from her contact in Holland, and we look at them on her phone screen. A great result! Another tribute to Maya and 33(11) too.

Osprey S2(15)'s nest

(C) Hans Gebuis

S2(15), who fledged from Manton Bay in 2015, has paired up with a German female and has raised 3 chicks this year in the Netherlands.

Warmed by our lunch and this excellent news, seven of us decide to take a woodland walk to end our Lyndon day. We walk westwards, along grassy paths and beneath late summer foliage of oak, ash, hazel, hawthorn and elder. Recent gales have taken their toll, and the woodland floor is littered with remnants of all kinds…..including thousands and thousands of acorns, many still in their delicate cups and in various hues from white, to green, brown and even black. The acorns soon become objects of fascination to one member of our group, who, like some human version of the hoarding Jay, begins to select choice examples and stow them away in pockets, little bags and other secret crannies. Her Mother worries that, in months to come, they will turn up again in drawers and cupboards at home! We pass by the ancient trough, a relic of pre-reservoir days, and admire the thriving Herb Robert growing profusely in it. Self Heal and Woody Nightshade brighten the path edges, while a hundred different mosses and lichens adorn decaying branches with their delicate filigree patterns. Younger group members run on ahead, or linger behind, as the whim takes them, and the odd ripe blackberry stains fingers and lips! A few thin notes suggest Goldcrests are above us at one point, while the lone plaintive song of the Robin warns that autumn is not too far away.

Little Egret

(C) P Murray

Little Egret

Back at the Centre, we say our thanks and farewells, arranging to meet once a month through the long Ospreyless months to come.  A Chiffchaff on the bushes outside the Centre watches us with his bright and lively eye. Amid waves and smiles the last car departs, and I sit for a while with a last cup of tea and a few relics from my lunch box. Despite all the challenges and restrictions imposed on us, the season has been one of great warmth, friendship and hope. The newly formed Osprey Team of 2020 has provided real and online visitors with all information and service required for them to enjoy their experiences, proven by the countless expressions of appreciation on social media and in person. And the Ospreys themselves have played their part to perfection, not just here in the Bay, but in seven additional successful outlying nests! These thoughts brighten the late afternoon. 2021 will mark the 25th anniversary of those first pioneering translocations in 1996, and it will be celebrated with appropriate joy and delight.

For now though, it’s time to go.  The Ospreys have answered ‘the irresistible call to depart’ (Walt Whitman), and soon, all over the northern hemisphere, millions of birds, mammals and insects will be doing the same. For them, the journey is a mammoth one. For me, shorter, but no less significant. We – the creatures and I – will strive our hardest to return…………

Manton Bay Update

Apart from a couple of visits by Cormorants and the odd Black-Headed Gull, the Manton Bay nest is empty, with all the family now having left Rutland, including Maya and 33(11), having begun their mammoth journey south.

The clip below was the last time Maya paid a visit to the nest, before she left on Friday 28th August...

And here is the moment 33(11) does a final bit of nest scraping and tidying before he left, by Saturday (29th August) morning...