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Sunday, May 07, 2017

Ospreys At Rutland Water

Last weekend we had intended visiting Rutland Water. We had done some research on the internet and decided it would be the ideal place to visit, but it would need to be reasonably dry because most of the activities, or indeed, all of the activities to be found there were outside and it was no good if it was pouring with rain. Also, it seemed just the right place to go with Alfie and he was in need of an outdoor activity which included a good walk. As it turned out the weather was unsettled so we didn't go. But this weekend we needed to get out of the house because 'next-door' were continuing with their D.I.Y. activities which included hammering relentlessly. Enough to drive anyone to distraction and it didn't seem it would end any time soon, so we went for the idea of visiting Rutland Water.

We set up the SatNav and trusted that it would get us to Rutland Water without too much bother (we call it a 'she' as it has a female voice. We call her Dora, after 'Dora The Explorer.') We would have expected to drive up the A1 and then cross towards the A1 via the A14 but we were taken across towards Bedford and then on along the bypass to the Black Cat Roundabout on the A1 and then streight up to around Stamford and Oakham. It was a relatively easy journey. When we arrived at Rutland Water we went into one of the carparks (Sykes Lane) but realised soon that it wasn't where we wanted to be as we wanted to visit the bird-watching site. Then we drove to Egleton and eventually ended up at Manton where the birdwatching site and reserve is situated. As we wanted to have a chance of seeing the ospreys and other birds and have access to the hides along the shore we had to buy permits. I was reluctant to part with any cash at first, but I was brought round when I realised that the people who run the place had done a very good job of not only landscaping the area, and providing good paths and fencing, the cost of the entry is well worth it. The reserve is managed by the Leicestershire and Rutland Wildlife Trust in association with Anglian Water who built the reservoir in the late 1970's. i remember driving up to the area with my parents to see this mammoth building project being constructed and then returning to see it being filled with water, probably in 1975-76. It's a huge area of water but considering it's a man-made structure seems very natural and seems to fit into the spectacular landscape extremely well.

The weather wasn't too kind when we first arrived, with some slight rain, but, fortunately, it eased off and we had some pleasant weather, some sunshine but not too warm.

We walked along the south shore. Quite a pleasant walk. There was a choice of two paths, one nearer the water's edge and the other, a lot higher up, with a gravel surface. We could see someone in a wheelchair further along and it did seem a better path if you were in a wheelchair, pushing a child in a  buggy or other wheeled contraption, but the lower path which we were on, wasn't really suitable for wheeled vehicles of any sort. Unfortunately we soon discovered that there were a lot of gnats or other unpleasant insects hanging in the air in vast clouds which we had to swat away as we walked along. We came to one hide but, on sitting inside and peering out through the openings we could see no sign of any birds or other wildlife. Perhaps if we'd had our own field glasses or binoculars we'd probably have had a chance of seeing something. We didn't stay in the hide too long.

We re-joined the path. We had the choice of following two paths. One signpost said 'This way to tufted duck.' I forget what the other said. I was intrigued to see a tufted duck. Well, let's be honest, what would you expect one to look like? Then we came upon yet another hide. Was this the spot to view the ever-elusive species? The intriguingly-named tufted duck? On going inside we did look through the viewing holes but no sign of any sort of bird, let along a tufted duck. We gave up. Perhaps you have to be a good deal more patient if you're to become a very active bird-watcher. We walked on and found a far larger hide. On entering we were surprised to find a crowd of people, all very earnest, although very knowledgeable and friendly. There was a television monitor set up at one end which was showing pictures of birds on a nest, being streamed live from a web-cam. It turned out to be ospreys. We were also able to actually view these birds through telescopes and on looking through these devices saw these birds, a female on a nest and another a male perched on a tree in the water a good half-mile away. Apparently Rutland Water is an important site for birds and is the first place in the British Isles where ospreys have bred in something like 150 years. We were told that if we came back in a couple of months we might see some osprey chicks because the female was supposed to be incubating some eggs in the nest. I hope we might be able to see some of the birds 'in the flesh' and not on either a video screen or through a telescope lens, but even seeing them like that was something of a thrill. We have many pairs of red kites flying around in the Chilterns, particularly where we go at West Wycombe, as these beautiful birds have been re-introduced in that area.

We walked back towards the visitor centre. It seemed a good deal further back than it was when we began our walk out along the shore-line.

For some strange reason, the SatNav directed us back home a different way to the route we took from Milton Keynes. You would imagine that it would use the route we took to get to Rutland Water. It just seems so strange. I just don't see the logic of the thing. But, after all, it is still a computerised gadget and not human.

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