A Summer of Ospreys

As the Summer draws to a close and the last of the Ospreys have migrated south to the sunny waterways of West Africa, I have taken the opportunity to reflect on this years summer of Ospreys.

As many will know who follow my Social media pages, I just adore Ospreys, without doubt my number one favourite bird, everything about them fascinates and inspires me. They are a bird that makes the huge migration to and from West Africa every year, arriving in early Spring and leaving late summer. Not only that, most birds are continually coming back to the same nest site, where they will hopefully meet up with their mate who they will not have seen since they migrated the previous year. Then throw into the mix birds that are coming back who have no nest site and are prospecting for nests and new partners, and then there are the juveniles returning again looking for partners and nest sites.

When they do settle down and breed, the female very much looks after the brooding of the eggs and the young, the male has the important duty of catching the fish to feed the family….and I have photographed some stunning male birds in action this year. But then the story of the osprey becomes even more amazing and inspiring… once the young have fledged and are flying, the female feeds up and then is the first to migrate, her job done in raising the young. The Male takes over bringing fish in for the juveniles, but this starts to lessen as he encourages the young ones to fish for themselves, building up their strength to undertake their first migration. It is just staggering that birds only a few months old, just suddenly know that the time is right and they head south on a journey they have never made, sadly some never make it, but those that do spend a couple of years in West Africa, but again instinct then drives them back north as mature adults to join the breeding process.

They are amazing birds that have only recently fought back from years of persecution to establish a steady breeding population in the UK, much of this has been down to specific individuals such as Roy Dennis, but also Organisations such as the RSPB and the various Osprey projects around the country.

And it is to these areas that I have spent a lot of time photographing my favourite bird this year.

Spring and early summer saw me head south on a few occasions to Horn Mill Trout Farm near Rutland Water, a superb facility for photographers to get you very close to the Ospreys that use the Trout farm. Jamie and Lawrence have really embraced this project, and this year has been one of their most successful with birds nesting around Rutland consistently using the farm to fish.

Two of the dominant male birds that have visited Horn Mill this year have the darvic ring numbers of 28 and 33.

28(10) is a six year-old male who fledged from Site B in Rutland in 2010. He returned for the first time two years later and was also seen several times at Clumber Park in Nottinghamshire. In 2014 28 paired up with Maya on the Manton Bay nest at Rutland Water Nature Reserve when her previous mate, 5R(04), failed to return. Within a matter of days the birds were sitting on eggs, but then 28 was ousted from the nest by 33(11). Later that summer he settled on an artificial nest away from the reserve. In 2015 28 returned to the same nest and paired up with a three year-old female, 2F(12) and raised a single chick. This spring he returned to Rutland on 23rd March and returned to the same nest. 28 is easily identified by a damaged right wing which is almost certainly the result of an old injury that he sustained before returning to Rutland in 2012.

And 33 is the male bird from the nest at Manton Bay on Rutland water who made regular visits to Horn Mill to fish to feed his family…

My sincere thanks to Jamie for his friendship, and the superb service he offers at Horn Mill and I look forward to returning in the Spring.

My next Osprey venture this year was in July when I travelled up to the Cairngorms to photograph the Ospreys using the Lochan at the back of Aviemore and the superb hides run by Gordon MacLeod.

And it was on this trip that I finally nailed the image I have been trying to get for an age, an Osprey in the last second of its dive just prior to hitting the water with its talons outstretched ready and wings swept back…in fact on this occasion I managed to get the whole dive sequence from the top of the dive the it dropped its wings and committed to the dive

I’ve watched lots of Ospreys dive but to photograph the whole sequence was a real thrill.

Gordons little Lochan again is a superb facility for photographers, the hides are set down low to the water and give you great options for side on shots, or head on as the Osprey leaves the water…. and he is always looking to improve and again I look forward to visiting next year for more shots like this…

In late August I again made the long journey up to The Cairngorms and to the place that I believe is the best place to photograph diving Ospreys, Rothiemurchas fishery, on the Rothiemurchas Estate. The location, the light and the open aspect give the wildlife photographer a superb chance to photograph them diving right down at water level. Having the choice of 4 hides gives you the opportunity to be in the right place dependent on wind direction, as Ospreys need to lift off after a dive into the wind. I spent three days in the hides in late August and had some great action, a few images of the trip…..

It has been such an enjoyable time this season photographing these amazing birds, I really hope all have made it safely to their winter home and they return safely next Spring when I will be itching to get out and photograph them again….. I hope you have enjoyed the post and do please leave me any comments or feedback.

19 Comments. Leave new

  • Gary these are possibly the most sensational osprey pictures I have ever seen. They really take osprey photography to a new level.

    • I have said elsewhere how brilliant I thought your photos were. It is always wonderful to see ringed birds whose history we may or may not know. I would love to think that Odin was one of your Rothie/Aviemore birds. Good to see that Green DY is still around. And it made me realise that Blue AU6 has an upside down ring!!
      Thank you so much, and I look foward to seeing your pics from RW and Aviemore/Rothie in 2017!

  • Suzanne Johnson
    September 29, 2016 3:33 am

    What stunning pictures! Osprey are my favorite as well, and I never tire of pictures of their dives and lifting off the water. Can you imagine the strength it takes to lift not only their body, but the water clinging to their feathers, and the fish? Amazing birds!

  • Gary…This is a fantastic account of ur Ospreys and ur account of ur times in their company x stunning photographs and wth such skill to capture these birds x blown away Gary…. thanku for sharing them …very very WOW ☺

  • Wonderful, Gary. I have bookmarked this page, to view again during the ospreyless days of Winter.

  • Hi Gary. What a superb set. No wonder you love em. Great work. Steve

  • Tiger’s post says it all. Absolutely stunning photographs.

  • Absolutely wonderful, thanks, can’t wait to see what shots you get next year!

  • Fantastic, Gary. Your pictures are simply stunning and I always look forward to your posts. Thank you!

  • Thank you Gary for your amazing pictures.They are the very best I have ever seen.They capture the complete life of the Osprey. I too Have bookmarked this page so Ican go back and see what we are missing during the long winter.

  • As Tiger says”possibly the most sensational” Thank you so much for your patience and diligence, am so pleased you captured the complete dive, you must have been on a high for several days.
    I will also bookmark your website in anticipation of next season.
    Bless you.

  • Absolutely stunning photos Gary.

  • Great pictures, Gary. Thank you so much for sharing them. Looking forward to next season!

  • Fantastic photographs and blog. Thank you.

  • Absolutely superb pictures! We too were in Aviemore this summer to see the Ospreys, they are such beautiful birds and my partner got some good pictures but we could not get close enough to get close up shots. Now we know your hiding places we may try again next year and see what we get! Thank you for sharing these, they are amazing!

  • Absolutely stunning photos Gary, thank you so much for sharing them. They truly encapsulate the magic of the moment and the spirit of the osprey. Wow!

  • You have a talent. I love all your pictures.

  • Jenny Cartwright, NTS Threave Osprey Volunteer.
    October 6, 2016 10:23 am

    Oh so FABULOUS Garry, what a collection of stunning images.

  • Gary. What can I say that hasn’t already been said.Your images of ospreys must be the best ever.I cannot imagine anything better is possible!! Well worth all the miles and time you have put into this project.I have spent some time at Esthwaite this year and did get some nice images of the newly fledged juveniles from the lakeside platform nest.These were obtained from a rowing boat which allowed a careful and quiet approach.One day I may get fishing shots but they certainly won’t be anything like yours !!! Once again Gary thanks for sharing these fantastic images.