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Tuesday, 28 April 2015

Rutland Water - the first quarter of 2015

I've been visiting Rutland Water on a relatively frequent basis for around nine years now, mainly as a volunteer on the Osprey Project. This winter, before the return of the Ospreys, pal Titus and I found ourselves making weekly visits to this place, largely because of the waterfowl. 

However, the main attraction is the Ospreys. The Osprey season is now in full swing, and the best place to observe them is from the Lyndon side of Rutland Water Nature Reserve, where there is an active Osprey nest in Manton Bay. Shallow Water Hide gives the clearest and closest (just) views of the nest, but Waderscrape Hide (nearer to the visitor centre) has been totally rebuilt and is now a very comfortable location, and still gives excellent views of the Ospreys. It is further enhanced by the presence of the volunteers who will keep you informed of the latest situation, and make the two project 'scopes available for you to watch the Ospreys. Also new for this year is a TV screen in the hide with a direct hook-up to the nest cam.

If visiting, please bear in mind that the Osprey is a protected species and, therefore, the observation facilities have to be at a safe (for the Ospreys!) distance from the nest. You may, however, be lucky and get a closer view of an Osprey on one of its fishing sorties.

Here are a few of my recent Osprey images:

Osprey (Pandion haliaetus) (female - 'Maya') - from Shallow Water Hide on 23/04/2105
Now here's a tip:- If you want really close-up photo opportunities of Ospreys fishing, only about 10 minutes away from Rutland Water by car you can find River Gwash Trout Farm and Horn Mill Trout Farm (both under the same ownership). Both these establishments have a hide set up overlooking the ponds where Rutland Ospreys go to fish. You could have an Osprey take a fish just 5 metres in front of you! The charge of £60 per session may sound a lot, but it is really good value for money. You can find a link here.

A dull weather visit to the Egleton side of Rutland Water on 22nd January gave some distant record shots of Smew. There seem to have been quite a few of these round this last winter. There were also good numbers of Teal and Pintail.

Smew (Mergellus albellus)  (2 male, 1 female) - Egleton Reserve on 22/01/2015
Teal (Anas crecca) (1 male, 2 female) - Egleton Reserve on 22/01/2015

Pintail (Anas accuta) - Egleton Reserve on 22/01/2015
A return to Egleton Reserve in dull weather on 12th February brought a similar selection of birds, but slightly closer views of  Pintail and Smew.

Pintail (Anas accuta) - Egleton Reserve on 12/02/2015

Smew (Mergellus albellus)  (male) - Egleton Reserve on 12/02/2015
The following week, on 18th February we were lucky to have fine sunny weather. We were hoping to get better views of the Great White Egret that we'd had very distant views of on previous visits. We were a bit more fortunate on this occasion!

Great White Egret (Egretta alba) - Egleton Reserve on 18/02/2015
If the GWEs increase in numbers like Little Egret have done over the past ten years, they're going to be a common sight in future. Those smudges in the background of the last two images are Lapwing. There were hundreds of them around.

Lapwing (Vanellus vanellus) - Egleton Reserve on 18/02/2015
Little Egret (Egretta garzetta) - Egleton Reserve on 18/02/2015
There were also good numbers of Curlew around.

Curlew (Numenius arquata) - Egleton Reserve on 18/02/2015
It was another very dull day when we returned to Rutland Water on 5th March. However, we were drawn there by reports of an Avocet. This was duly found and photographed on Lagoon 4 at some distance - in much deeper water than I'm used to seeing them in!

Avocet (Recurvirostra avosetta) - Egleton Reserve on 05/03/2015
There were three Smew visible, and also a few Pintail still.

Smew (Mergellus albellus) - Egleton Reserve on 05/03/2015

Pintail (Anas accuta) (male) - Egleton Reserve on 05/03/2015
A visit to the Lyndon reserve on 26th March didn't yield much in the way of images. The Kestrel image was from the Visitor Centre, and the gull flock was over the South Arm as we made our way back to the car park in the evening.

Kestrel (Falco tinnunculus) (female) - Lyndon Reserve on 26/03/2015
Gulls - South Arm,  from Lyndon Reserve on 26/03/2015
There was little photographed on our visit to Lyndon Reserve on 2nd April, but an enjoyable time was had, nevertheless. The Moorhen image shows how calm the water was that day. I've included the Teal image, purely because it shows how, in some light conditions, the green head flash can show quite blue. The last two images were taken on our walk back to the car park.

Moorhen (Gallinula chloropus) - from Shallow Water hide on 02/04/2015
Teal (Anas crecca) (male) - from Shallow Water hide on 02/04/2015
Reed Bunting (Embeiriza schoeniclus) (male) - from Waderscrape hide on 02/04/2015
Pied Wagtail (Motacilla alba ssp. yarrellii) - Lyndon Reserve on 02/04/2015
Reed Bunting (Embeiriza schoeniclus) (female) - Lyndon Reserve on 02/04/2015
On 16th April, we had a fine sunny day for our visit to Lyndon Reserve. At Shallow Water hide we had good views of a drake Shoveler, but his lady was not so obliging. It was also heart-warming to see the Common Terns back on the reserve.

Shoveler (Anas clypeata) (male) - from Shallow Water Hide on 16/04/2015
Coot (Fulica atra) - from Shallow Water Hide on 16/04/2015

Great Crested Grebe (Podiceps cristatus) - from Shallow Water Hide on 16/04/2015

Mute Swan (Cygnus olor) - from Shallow Water Hide on 16/04/2015

Common Tern (Sterna hirundo) - from Shallow Water Hide on 16/04/2015
Teal (Anas crecca) (female) - from Shallow Water Hide on 16/04/2015
Teal (Anas crecca) (male) - from Shallow Water Hide on 16/04/2015
I've already shown (above) some Osprey images from our visit to Lyndon Reserve on 23rd April. Here are a few non-Osprey images from that day. I'm including a few more of drake Teal as most images show them side-on, but they do look very attractive and a little different from other angles. I particularly like the view from the tail-end with those wonderful rump markings!

Shelduck (Tadorna tadornaa) (female) - from Shallow Water Hide on 23/04/2015

Teal (Anas crecca) (male) - from Shallow Water Hide on 23/04/2015
The air at Rutland Water was full of the song of various warblers on that day, and as we walked back to the car park several Whitethroat were heard, although this was the only one we saw.

Whitethroat (Sylvia communis)  - Lyndon Reserve on 23/04/2015
In summary, Rutland Water is an absolutely wonderful place to visit at any time of year. If you've never been it really is worth making the effort, but be warned - you'll need at least three days to do the place justice! For a start, there are the 36 hides to visit, plus the two visitor centres at Egleton and Lyndon!

Thank you for dropping by. Unless anything really spectacular happens my next post will be on owls - it's been an excellent month so far!


  1. Wow,what a post of delights,love the Osprey flight shots brilliant captures,your Smew looks so beautiful,not had one up close,only distant sightings.
    Your Pintail and Great Crested Grebe,looked almost touchable,great stuff.

    1. Thank you, John. The Smew never got very close - measuring on Google Earth I'd say about 120 metres or more - so I was pleased to manage any sort of image. The Pintail would have been somewhat closer, and the GKG was quite close - probably around 8 metres or less!

      Best wishes - - - - Richard

  2. Oh yes, you caught the Osprey, building a nest, excellent.

    1. Thank you, Bob. I expect that nest will get a bit higher before the season's out!

  3. Looks like a wonderful place to visit Richard with a whole range of species. I can hardly wait! There is a local land trust here called rare (odd name I know) and I am monitoring two areas for them. There are several Osprey nests throughout the extensive reserve and at a meeting on Saturday morning it was announced that funding had been secured to set up another nest tower, but the question was raised as to whether the biomass of fish populations locally will support more Ospreys. That's an indication of the recovery success here. There are also Bald Eagles, Caspian Terns and Belted Kingfishers regularly taking fish, to say nothing of herons and egrets, racoons, otters and humans. A biological inventory is going to be taken before any more towers are erected. Before the days of DDT Ospreys regulated their own occupancy of the river and nested in suitable trees which were in short supply. Now we have intervened with substitute nesting platforms (and it seems everyone wants to get in on the act) and once again in our usual anthropogenic fashions we have tipped the ecological balance.

    1. It is a great place, David, and it will be on the list of places to visit when you're here - unless you have other preferences.

      Ospreys were persecuted to extinction in UK, and the Rutland Osprey Project is a highly successful effort to reintroduce them. The Rutland project started with very young birds (not yet fledged) translocated from Scotland. We now have a good local population, and the rationale is that the population will radiate out to form a wider population. This is going to be a slow process, however, as Ospreys tend to stay true to their natal site. Not all of our birds are locally bred, however, as occasionally a passing bird gets seduced into staying! We also know, for example of one of our birds now breeding in Wales.

    2. Great Richard. Your birds "straying" elsewhere and other birds joining your populations will do wonders for genetic diversity.

  4. It's good to see the Osprey in your posts. I still get excited when I see them distantly. Some stunning images especially of the GWE however the Kestrel sneaks in as my favourite.

    1. I agree, Doug - it's fabulous to watch the Ospreys at any distance! The GWE was a highlight for me this winter and I'm delighted that I eventually got it a little closer.

      Thanks for dropping by - - - Richard

  5. Excellent selection of images showing a least 22 bird species Richard, and congratulations on your c.9 years on the Osprey Project.

    1. Thanks, Pete. I see you've been counting the non-named species too!

      Best regards - - - - - Richard

  6. Hello Richard,
    Yes you did spot the Ospreys and made some great captures of it. I think I told you that I follow two nests of the Ospreys at Loch of the Lowes and Dyfi On both the nest are now eggs. The other birds you show in your blog are wonderful. Love the Pintail and the Terns as well.

    1. Hi Roos. You should try the Osprey nestcam of Rutland Water - It's excellent, showing two views simultaneously.

      My best wishes to you - - - - - Richard

    2. Thank you for the link Richard :-)

  7. Stunning images! I love all your birds, but the Osprey and Smew take the cake. Here the Osprey are also a favorite and are in great numbers. I hope they do the same for all of you back in the UK. Strangely, we have them here in the desert during the winter months! Pretty amazing birds and I hope they make a comeback for you all. Really nice birds!

    1. Thank you, Chris. The Ospreys seem to be doing really well now, and we've got good numbers around Rutland Water. The tricky bit is waiting for them to disperse to other areas of the country, and this is a slow process.

      Best wishes - - - Richard

  8. Another super post Richard, and nice to see that you've published images of some of the more "common" birds that a lot of us tend to overlook. Please advise.........which hide would you recommend, of the 36 at Rutland (but not the offsite one @ £60) for best views/photo opportunities of the Osprey's?

    1. Hi Paul. Photographically, I'd recommend Shallow Water hide on the Lyndon side of RW for Ospreys. You'll get better views of the action round the nest than at Waderscrape. However, for chance flyovers with closer views, these tend to happen more from Waderscrape.

      For other birds, light conditions tend to be more favourable at Shallow Water hide, and the water is very high at the moment, bringing the birds closer in. However, the odd rarity can show up in front of either hide.

      The two hides are only 10 minutes walk apart.

      Don't knock the offsite facility. You could get the Osprey images of a lifetime! Just take a tripod and don't take anything longer than a 300mm lens, or you'll be too close !!

      Thanks and best wishes - - - - Richard

  9. I am following the Rutland Ospreys on FB & Twitter and following Dyfi, Loch Garten & Loch of the Lowes. So far all have eggs :) 36 hides!!! that's amazing!!! Lovely pictures, especially of the Pintails and the Ospreys :-)

    1. Thank you, Linda. I hadn't realised that you were such an Osprey fan! Best regards - - - Richard

  10. My goodness Richard, what a post!
    Again difficult to comment on each pic!
    I sincerely wish the Osprey breeding program works at its best this season, wonderful flight photos!
    Reed buntings, Shellduck, Teals, parading swans and Crested grebe are also a must!
    What a place to observe wildlife... Wish I could come too ;-) !!!!!
    Hugs from southern France, hope you enjoy a better weather than we've got down here!

    1. Thank you, Noushka. You'll have to come and visit some time!!

      The weather here is getting better at the moment. I hope yours is too!

      Best wishes for the week ahead - - - - Richard

  11. Great post, Richard! Splendid photographs of many species I haven't seen. Happy to hear the Osprey is doing well with reintroduction. We have such an abundance here in central Florida it's easy to take them for granted. We have done so with other species to our eternal sorrow.

    Looking forward to more reporting from Rutland and some of your other spots! Of course, at the same time we fully expect regular updates on the Little Owls! :)

    All The Best -- Wally

    1. Thanks, Wally. The owl situation is looking very encouraging at the moment, so expect another owl post soon!

      Best wishes - - - Richard


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