Rutland Water Nature Reserve

Rutland Water Nature Reserve is 45 minutes from  home and we visit two or three times a year. We almost always go wrong somewhere along the journey and end up driving the long way around the reservoir, even with the help of the car's sat nav!  However, there is such a wealth of wildlife in the area that we don't let this spoil our day.

This page highlights two of our visits to the Nature Reserve, click here if you want to jump straight to the Osprey section.

Photography group meetup at Rutland Water

In February 2018 I joined a group of 4 other ladies, all members of a photography Facebook group I belong to, for a rainy morning meetup at Rutland Water. 

Fying Wigeon and Teal over Lagoon 1 at Rutland WaterTeal (left) and Wigeon (right) flying over Lagoon 1

We met at the Anglian Water Birdwatching Center in Egleton, bought our permits, and went upstairs in the dry to look out over Lagoon 1.

From here we  watched Wigeon and Teal fly past, male Coot fighting for territory, a pair of Stonechat catching insects for breakfast, and a surprise appearance of a stoat, who sadly caught one of the little Stonechat for his own meal.

As the stoat ran one way across the spit of land, a smaller mammal streaked in the other direction. I believe this was a weasel but it was too fast to positively visually identify it.

I was also lucky enough to have a Water Rail pointed out to me, as I hadn't seen one of these shy birds before. 

Other visitors to the center mentioned a Scaup,  but as this duck was  far across the lagoon I was unable to spot it through my lens.

After an hour we braved the rain and ventured along the muddy nature trails toward some of the outside bird hides  at Rutland Water.  Luckily, I had changed into my walking boots first!

Stonechat on post with bee in its beakStonechat with breakfast in its beak

Upon settling in the first hide, we soon spotted two kinds of heron, a Grey Heron and a Little Egret, along the water's edge.

I was really annoyed to discover after our trip that others had seen a Great White Egret around as well. How did I miss such a large white bird? These magnficent herons have increased in numbers here in the UK over the last 20 years, breeding for the first time in 2012 down in Somerset.  Apart from their size, they are easy to tell apart from the Little Egret due to their bright yellow bill. 

Grey Heron amongst the reeds at the edge of the waterGrey Heron hiding among the reeds
Little Egret standing by the edge of the lakeLittle Egret

The "normal suspects" of Mallard, Wigeon, Tufted Duck, Mute Swan, Greylag Geese, Coot and  Great Crested Grebe  were out on the water, along with a solitary male Goldeneye.  On a little island just beyond the shoreline there was a Carrion Crow feasting on a fish, being watched by a lone Lapwing and a pair of Shoveler ducks.

"There are two redheads out on the far side" stated the other occupant of the hide. From my time birdwatching I have come to understand this as meaning female ducks of a variety of species. He elaborated and it turned out that they were Smew.

Not visible to my naked eye he kindly allowed me to look through his spotting scope and I caught a glimpse before one dived under the surface. Enough to add Smew to my list of species seen so far in 2018. They were way too far out to photograph, even with my 100-400mm lens on the Canon 7D mk ii crop sensor camera. I am still waiting in anticipation to see my first male Smew, a  beautiful white duck with smart black markings. They had been reported on the reserve that day, but they didn't show for me, sadly.

After visiting 4 hides we headed back to the Birdwatching Center and spent a few minutes checking out the feeding area. The ground below the feeders was busy with Pheasants and Moorhen, in addition to the normal small garden birds that were tucking in to the free food on offer.

It was nearing 2pm before we said our goodbyes to the rest of the group and headed home after an enjoyable, if cold and damp, visit to Rutland Water. 

Rutland Water Osprey

Flying OspreyOsprey taken from the boat with a 70-200mm lens

The bird that Rutland Water is most famous for is the Osprey. It was the first place in England for 150 years to have breeding birds in residence after they were effectively wiped out in the 1840s by humans. They fared a little better in Scotland.

Due to their habit of coming back to breed near their own nest site, it can take a long time for the Osprey to spread out and increase in numbers. They badly needed our help! 

It was discovered that after constructing the reservoir at Rutland Water in the 1970s Osprey were stopping over during their migration from Scotland and Sweden, on route to Africa. Hoping to encourage them a nest platform was built, but before a full scale effort could go ahead there was lots of planning and red tape to get through. 

In 1996,  license was granted by Scottish Natural Heritage to translocate a number of Scottish chicks to Rutland where they were carefully reared with as little disturbance from their human carers as possible. By the autumn they left for sunnier climes, with everyone involved hoping they would return to their nesting area the following spring. Which they did!

Since then the Osprey have bred regularly, with the addition of a further group of all female chicks from Scotland boosting the numbers in June 2005.

Our visit in February 2018 was too early in the year to see these beautiful birds, but back in 2017 we made a special visit to Rutland Water especially for the Osprey.

Rutland Belle cruise

Photo of a family of Egyptian GeeseEgyptian Goose family

We booked a dawn cruise on the Rutland Belle as my birthday treat in July. Getting up at 4.30am on a Saturday morning was a struggle but necessary if we were to arrive at Rutland Water before the sun rose. We boarded the boat in plenty of time and watched the Swifts dart around at breakneck speed as we waited for everyone else. By the shore we spied a pair of Egyptian Geese with a large brood of goslings. 

Eventually the boat set off across the resevoir, and we saw the sun rise over the half submerged church at Normanton at the edge of the water.

Although we met our objective of seeing the Osprey sadly, due to the lens I had available at the time, I was only able to achieve some record shots, not great photographs. To avoid disturbing them, the boat keeps its distance from those birds perched on the breeding platforms. Other Osprey were  flying over the water hunting for fish, their main diet, but they did not come close to the boat.

Flying Common TernCommon Tern

With limited room onboard, it wasn't feasible to take a tripod and it was therefore necessary to handhold the camera and lens. This made wildlife photography challenging, to say the least.

Some species of bird did fly closer to us, enabling shots such as this one of a Common Tern who obligingly travelled at a similar speed to the boat.

We also saw gulls, swans, geese, ducks and cormorants.

On our next Osprey adventure we will stay onland and hope to photograph them fishing from one of the bird hides. I will be sure to share any great photographs with you here after that event.

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