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Rutland Water welcomes back first osprey from Africa after perilous spring migration




A sure sign of spring hit Rutland Water on Tuesday afternoon when their first osprey returned from Africa after its remarkable annual migration.

The breeding female, number 25, fledged at Rutland Water in 2010, and was also the first osprey to return in 2020, almost exactly a year to the day.

About 26 or 27 adult ospreys return each spring after spending the winter months in the kinder climates of West Africa.

Number 25 (left), pictured visiting the Manton Bay nest, has been the first osprey to return to Rutland Water for the last two years. Photo: Leicestershire and Rutland Wildlife Trust
Number 25 (left), pictured visiting the Manton Bay nest, has been the first osprey to return to Rutland Water for the last two years. Photo: Leicestershire and Rutland Wildlife Trust

"For us the first osprey back is definitely a sign of spring," said Abi Mustard, osprey information officer for Leicestershire and Rutland Wildlife Trust.

"It is fantastic news for us and such an exciting time of the year."

The trust hopes this year will bring the return from the Gambia of the 150th chick to have fledged at Rutland Water, back in 2019.

Juveniles spend two years in Africa before making their first migration back to the UK.

The Manton webcam is fixed on the nest of breeding pair Maya and 33 who are expected to return at any day. Photo: Leicestershire and Rutland Wildlife Trust
The Manton webcam is fixed on the nest of breeding pair Maya and 33 who are expected to return at any day. Photo: Leicestershire and Rutland Wildlife Trust

The journey, which ranges from 3,000km to 4,000km, takes between three and four weeks, and is fraught with danger.

Ospreys, which feed solely on fish, can survive for up to four days without food and need such inner reserves to cross the arid Sahara Desert.

They are also shot in some countries, and have to avoid predators such as eagle owls and coyotes.

Maya catches her supper shortly after her return in 2020. Photo: Leicestershire and Rutland Wildlife Trust
Maya catches her supper shortly after her return in 2020. Photo: Leicestershire and Rutland Wildlife Trust

"After the Sahara they have difficult terrain to navigate through and then must avoid the Bay of Biscay around France because they can get blown out if weather condition aren't right," Abi added.

"What is remarkable is that the juveniles don't fly with their parents on their first migration to Africa, they just go their own way.

"They all follow a similar route, but how they know where to go and where the stop-off points are is a mystery. "

The Rutland Ospreys project to reintroduce a breeding population to the region began in 1996 and 64 chicks were brought down from Scotland in the next five years, with a further 11 chicks introduced in 2005.

This year the birds of prey can be studied in greater detail via a new webcam system which was recently installed after a £16,000 fundraising drive.

It has been set up on the Manton Bay osprey nest, where Maya and 33, have nested together since 2015. The star pair are expected back any day.

"Last year they came back the day after number 25 so hopefully they won't be too far behind," Abi said.

The webcam will broadcast pictures with sound for the first time - via www.lrwt.org.uk/rutlandospreys - and can zoom, pan, and tilt to offer a better view.

For the time being it is the only way to spot ospreys at the site.

The Rutland Water Nature Reserve has been closed since early January, in line with the national lockdown measures, but hopes to reopen on April 12.

* Leicestershire and Rutland Wildlife Trust has teamed up with osprey groups across the UK for World Osprey Week from Monday to Friday.

Each day they will share a video and free downloadable activity pack about a different topic, including activities for youngsters.

Separate packs will be available for children aged three to six and seven to 11.

To sign up and for more details, visit www.lrwt.org.uk/wow



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