Ospreys as a breeding species had been extinct in England & Wales since 1840. The Osprey had even become absent in its more established Scottish territory between 1916 and 1954. Reintroduced in the late fifties, the small but now successfully growing population of Ospreys in Scotland, proved that a successful return was possible.
In 1996, 'Translocation' of some juvenile birds from that population to Rutland Water, eventually produced a sustainable community that now numbers 8 breeding pairs and 16 successfully fledged chicks last year.
This is EXCELLENT news, not just for this wonderful species, but for this wildlife photographer and others like me, who can now get to see these wonderful creatures, doing their stuff just a few metres from our astonished eyes, without the need to travel hundreds of miles north to do so!
I visited Horn Mill Trout Farm just a mile or so (as the Osprey flies) from Rutland Water. This Trout Farm business, eventually decided that it was more profitable to benefit from the Ospreys constant poaching of their stock, than to constantly defend their Trout from predation.
They established an excellent hide at water level on one of their pools and photographers can pay to use that concealed vantage point, to watch and record the Ospreys as they dive for their Supper and to feed their family in the nests that are dotted through the Rutland Water area.
My session this week was hosted by Gary Jones, a great photographer and all round good chap who runs Workshops that are always great fun.
The weather this June has more recently been .... terrible. The morning session suffered from rain and bad light to the extent that even the Ospreys seemed to prefer the warmth of a nest rather than the misery of a British Summer.
Undeterred we crossed our fingers that the evening session (Ospreys tend to feed at dawn and early evening) would be better.
In our wildest dreams we couldn't have wished for a better session! The rain paused briefly, and this appeared to be the cue for the local hungry Ospreys to enter a virtual holding pattern overhead (or so it seemed) to feed at the Trout filled pool.
Time and again, 4 different birds crashed from height in a powerful dive, hitting their target hard, sometimes almost appearing to be weighed down by their catch, sinking low into the water, before hauling themselves airborne with powerful wing flaps, their prey gripped by viscously efficient talons as they turned the fish to face forwards, before embarking on the flight back to their nest sometimes miles away.
It's another WILDlife spectacles to savour and something that its hoped, we will increasingly be able to see in England & Wales as the translocation process continues. Plans are underway to reintroduce breeding pairs to Poole Harbour and the careful observer can see these wonderful raptors flying North in Spring and back south in Autumn to their wintering grounds in sub Saharan west Africa.
In fact, I was lucky enough to see a migrating Osprey fly over our house in April - not something you expect to see in tranquil rural Warwickshire, but these birds are back and I for one, couldn't be more pleased about that!