The mysteries of bird migration were explained when nine members of Leicester Novus Rotary and 10 guests spent an evening at the Rutland Osprey Project on the shore of Rutland Water.
The visit started when President Maya Vansia saw a photograph of an osprey called Maya – the only osprey to have a name rather than just the ring number on their leg to enable them to be tracked on their migration to West Africa.
Volunteer guide Paul Stammers explained that he had used the first and last two letters from the location MAnton bAY and arranged them in honour of a goddess of fertility! Grandmother Maya blushed and then entered a hide from where the visitors were able to see Maya and one of her chicks on a nest.
The nest was several hundred metres away, but guests got a good look thanks to Paul and his colleagues who had set up high-powered telescopes, through which President-Elect Sarita Shah took the photo above.
Paul explained that the breeding pairs of ospreys at the centre produced eggs about the same size as a hen’s egg in the early summer and Osprey Project volunteers would get a boat, row out to the platform, and lower the birds into the boat for weighing, ringing and sexing. At the age of seven weeks the birds fledge and at the tender age of only 13 weeks can set off — alone — for the 3,000-mile migration to the west coast of Africa where they will stay until mid March.
Paul said he is often asked why the ospreys will overwinter in Senegal, The Gambia and maybe as far south as Guinea-Bissau or even Ghana but do not breed there. He explained that sunset arrives quickly on the West coast of Africa and daylight hours (when they can catch fish) are much shorter than in Rutland.
Only two out of every 10 chicks will return to Rutland Water whereas about eight of ten adults will do so, returning to exactly the same home roost. One bird is known to return via Chichester on the south coast, staying there overnight before reaching Rutland Water by mid-afternoon. “You can almost set your watch by her,” said Paul.
Thanks to modern GPS-tracking the birds’ migration routes can be followed here https://www.ospreys.org.uk/satellite/index2018-2019.html Novus members had considered buying a GPS tracking monitor, but because they cost about £2,000 each with a real risk that the bird to which it is attached could be lost on its first journey, they decided against.
From this page https://www.ospreys.org.uk/webcam/ you can see on the webcam which birds are still at Rutland Water. The Novus visitors were delighted that there were birds still there when they visited, although one had left a couple of days beforehand. In fact one visitor, the daughter of past president Channi Riyait, was so thrilled to see the birds that she was asking about volunteering with Paul and his colleagues.
Another of the visitors hopes to catch up in February with the Gambian team monitoring the birds during their ‘winter holiday’ there.
After a fascinating 90 minutes at the osprey centre, the visitors enjoyed a meal at nearby The Horse and Jockey pub in Manton.