WOW Day 3: The Rutland Translocation Project

WOW Day 3: The Rutland Translocation Project

Day 3 of World Osprey Week is all about the Rutland Translocation Project, which ran between 1996 and 2001.

As you found out yesterday, Ospreys in the UK have had a fairly uneasy history. Although Ospreys were breeding in Scotland again in the 1950’s, it was estimated that it would be over 100 years before Ospreys were once again breeding in central England. This is because Ospreys are usually site faithful. This means that they will return to where they fledged from, so it would take a really long time for the Osprey population to spread.

To help speed up the recovery of breeding Ospreys in England, an exciting and impressive reintroduction project began, which aimed to bring Ospreys back to Rutland Water Nature Reserve. This was a very special project, which was run in partnership between the Leicestershire and Rutland Wildlife Trust and Anglian Water, as it involved a lot of planning and research before the translocation project could go ahead. Translocation is a type of reintroduction where, in this instance, 64 six-week old Osprey chicks in total, were taken from nests in Scotland and were released at the nature reserve between 1996 and 2001. In order to do this we had to be granted two very important licences from Scottish Natural Heritage and Natural England. 11 more female chicks were translocated in 2005, as we had a much larger population of male Ospreys than females.

When the chicks had arrived in Rutland, they were kept in purpose built pens and fish was supplied each day, and the chicks had as little contact as possible with people. A team of dedicated volunteers would then monitor the chicks 24 hours a day, to make sure that the chicks were safe. After just two weeks, the Osprey chicks would be ready to fledge and take their first ever flights, and when they were ready, the doors to the pens were opened, allowing the youngsters to explore the area.

It was in 1999 that we saw the first two Ospreys, which had been translocated to Rutland in 1997, return and they each proved themselves to be very important birds, and we know which birds they were due to the numbers on leg rings which were fitted when they were chicks, and all of the chicks that have since fledged in Rutland have been fitted with similar rings, which allows us to identify them.

The first Osprey to return was male 03(97), which was an individual that had been translocated in 1997. 03(97) was the first Osprey to breed in 2001, when he paired up with a metal-ringed female and raised a single chick! This was a huge milestone as this was the first time a pair of Ospreys had bred in over 150 years. 03(97) became fondly known to us as Mr Rutland as he went on to raise 32 chicks in his lifetime, including 33(11) which is the breeding male at the Manton Bay nest!

The second Osprey that returned in 1999, male 08(97), had many years before he bred successfully, but when he did, it was another important year for the Rutland Osprey Project. This is because he had paired up with female 5N(04), and she was the first “Rutland-born” Osprey to breed in 2007! 5N(04) is still with us today and this year she will be 18 years old – an incredible bird!

26 years after the beginning of the translocation project, we now see up to 30 adult Ospreys returning to Rutland each spring and have up to ten breeding pairs, meaning the aim of the initial project has been a success.

Ospreys are only here in the UK for half of the year, so where do they go when they aren’t here? Find out all about their epic migration tomorrow!