Rutland Osprey in flight, photo courtesy of John Wright

The Rutland Ospreys are back from migration to spend the spring and summer around Rutland Water, much to the delight of local people and visitors from further afield. This year the Rutland Osprey team will be using cutting edge technology to monitor them.

In recent years high-tech GPS satellite transmitters have enabled the Rutland Osprey Project team to monitor Rutland’s Ospreys in unprecedented detail. The tiny transmitters, which weight just 30g, have enabled the team to closely follow the birds’ movements around Rutland and also to track their 3000 mile migration to West Africa. Now, thanks to a fund-raising appeal, the project has purchased three new transmitters that will be fitted to recently-returned birds in the next few weeks.

Tim Mackrill, Senior Reserve Officer for the Leicestershire and Rutland Wildlife Trust who run the project in partnership with Anglian Water, said, ‘The transmitters, which are accurate to within a few metres, mean we know where the birds are 24 hours a day. It enables us to track their movements around Rutland in amazing detail.’

‘We first used the transmitters, which cost £2500 each, two years ago following the disappearance of three birds in highly suspicious circumstances. Losing the three birds has had a significant impact on the population. Of the ten birds that have returned so far this year, only three are males. This makes it essential that we don’t lose any more. Tagging the birds that have returned this year means that if any of them go missing, we’ll know exactly where and why.’

Once the Ospreys migrate south in the autumn, the transmitters will enable thousands of people around the world to follow them on their migration to Africa. This data will be used to help the team develop an exciting project which aims to link schools along the Ospreys’ migration flyways.

Tim continued, ‘We already know that many schools in Rutland and much further afield use the Ospreys in their teaching and we believe it’s a really exciting way for young people to learn about bird migration as well as other countries and cultures.’

Tim and the team have recently developed a new section of the Rutland Osprey Project website that allows schools who are studying Ospreys to get in touch with each other. Tim said, ‘We launched the website in March and already have schools signed up from as far afield as North America and the Ukraine. It’s a really exciting project.’

Among the Ospreys that have returned so far this year is a pair at Rutland Water Nature Reserve, at the western end of the reservoir. Live images from their nest are relayed to the Lyndon Visitor Centre and nearby hides offer excellent views of the birds at the nest.

Paul Stammers who manages the Visitor Centre for the Leicestershire and Rutland Wildlife Trust said, ‘Despite the recent bad weather, lots of people have come to see the Ospreys since they returned at the end of March. Many of them have travelled from all over the country specially to see them. It just shows how important the Ospreys are becoming for the local economy.’

The newly-returned Ospreys are expected to lay eggs later this month, and you can watch all the action live via a high-definition camera on the project’s website at www.ospreys.org.uk.

A new book about the project, The Rutland Water Ospreys can also be purchased on the website or at the nature reserve visitor centres at Egleton and Lyndon.