Rutland Water senior reserve officer for projects Tim Mackrill writes about a summer of records for the Rutland Osprey Project.
I know I’m biased, but when you think of summer in Rutland, one of the first things that springs to mind, are the ospreys.
Each spring the birds make a remarkable 3,000 mile journey from their wintering grounds in West Africa to nest in our area. Ospreys have become synonymous with Rutland and, in the process, are attracting people from all over the country to come and visit.
It’s very pleasing to report, therefore, that 2013 has proved to be the best ever year for the Rutland Osprey Project with a record 14 chicks fledging from a total of five nests.
Not deterred by snow and ice, the first osprey returned earlier than ever before, on March 17, 03(97), or Mr Rutland as he is increasingly becoming known, was back for his 13th breeding season in the county.
As his nickname betrays, there is no other osprey that has had such a lasting impact on the Rutland osprey population. Having raised a single chick in 2001 – the first in central England for 150 years – 03 has returned to the same nest every year since.
This year he was reunited with his mate in early April and they went on to raise three healthy chicks, taking 03’s tally of juvenile ospreys reared at the nest to an impressive, 30.
The principle aim of the project, a partnership between Anglian Water and the Leicestershire and Rutland Wildlife Trust, was to establish a self-sustaining population of ospreys in central England and 03 has been central to this.
Several of his offspring have returned to rear chicks themselves and this year he became a great-grandfather for the first time; a sign that the population is now well-established.
The most well-known of 03’s offspring, is 5R(04). This nine-year-old male nests in Manton Bay at the nature reserve.
The nest is within sight of two birdwatching hides and over the course of the summer more than 25,000 people came to see 5R and his mate raise three healthy chicks.
Unbeknown to them, they were becoming internet sensations, too. A webcam which streams live images from the nest onto the projects website was watched by well over 100,000 people from all over the world over the course of five months.
The interest the Manton Bay nest generates demonstrates the real value of ospreys to the area.
The birds are helping to put Rutland on the map, not only in terms of the number of people who visit specifically to see them, but also in the popularity of the website which attracted over 1.2 million page views this summer.
Modern technology has allowed us to gain a unique insight into the lives of the ospreys.