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.