Rutland Water

One of the most exciting and worthwhile projects with which we have been involved has been the translocation of young ospreys to Rutland Water from 1996, and the subsequent re-establishment of breeding ospreys in the English Midlands. This has completely changed osprey distribution in the UK and enhanced the potential for recolonisation. Two males released at Rutland Water started a recolonisation of Wales.

Photo by John Wright

Rutland Water is a superb nature reserve, an artificial lake of 1255 hectares created in 1975 for water storage and supply, with a man-made nature reserve of 182 hectares managed by the Leicestershire and Rutland Wildlife Trust in partnershop with owner Anglian Water.  Migrant ospreys had been seen at the reserve since it was created, as it provides a rich supply of fish.  It was clear that it could easily support a breeding population of ospreys and we decided to try and start a reintroduction programme.

In March 1995 Roy Dennis helped Tim Appleton (Rutland Water) to erect 5 artificial eyries, built on platforms mounted on tall poles to encourage natural recolonisation, and drew up a formal proposal to relocate young ospreys from Scotland to Rutland Water.  We gained the relevant licences from SNH and then began to make preparations for the new arrivals.  Staff and volunteers at Rutland Water Nature Reserve built cages facing out over the reservoir for releasing the young ospreys.   Cages were approximately 2m square and each contained an artificial nest and perches.

On 6th July 1996 the collection of chicks began.  Single chicks were collected from broods of two or three young and this continued for five years, with a total of 64 chicks in total relocated to Rutland Water.  Three chicks were placed into each release cage, to resemble a natural eyrie environment.

The cages allowed the ospreys to see over the reservoir

Collecting young with Forestry Commission Scotland

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The chicks were kept in the cages for approximately 2 -3  weeks and fed as much fresh fish as they could eat, to make up for their parents.  Human contact was minimised and the chicks were allowed to absorb their surroundings, including the position of the rising and setting sun and the configurations of the moon and star systems overhead. The hope was that it would all become familiar as the home to which the young ospreys would eventually return when adults.

All of the chicks other than some runts in the first year, which we had selected in an attempt to save them, thrived and were ready for release into the wild by late July. The young soon learned to fish for themselves and, come August and September, they set off on their annual migrations to Africa. We were very relieved and pleased to see that the technique had worked, and that they headed for the correct winter feeding grounds!

Young ospreys being fed

Young ospreys almost ready to be released

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

May 29th 1999 was a momentous day, as it saw the first return of a chick reared at Rutland Water.  Chick number 08, released in 1997, was back.  The next milestone was in April 2001 when one of the returning young males attracted a mate and produced chicks for the first time.  This pair successfully fledged a chick, the first to be bred in the southern half of England for at least 150 years.  In 2004 one of the males released at Rutland Water was found to have successfully bred in Wales.

The project has been very successful, and ospreys are now breeding annually at Rutland Water, with a total of 117 chicks fledged so far.

To find out more about the Rutland Water ospreys visit their website: http://www.ospreys.org.uk/