Leicestershire and Rutland Wildlife Trust

INTERVIEW WITH TIM APPLETON,
September 2003

 

With the end of this highly successful season for the Osprey Project, we thought it would be a good time to ask some questions of Tim Appleton, the Manager of Rutland Water Nature Reserve.

Tim, you must be really pleased with the outcome of this year's breeding?
Absolutely delighted.

After nearly nine years waiting from the conception of the project to this stage, it is almost unbelievable. You must remember that unlike other reintroduction projects involving birds of prey in the UK, Ospreys are long haul migrants and face so many hazards. Of course males don't normally breed until they are five years old. So for us it's been a real waiting game.

  When and how did you get the idea to re-introduce Ospreys to Rutland?

Back in 1994 I was in my back garden - it was actually 15 May - when I noticed a single Osprey sitting on a dead tree. By the 21st it had been joined by a second bird. They stayed in the area until 28th August by which time I was convinced that the following year Ospreys would be filling the skies over the reservoir!!

I was slowly let down from my "high" by the expert knowledge of Roy Dennis who explained that the behaviour of Ospreys was to return to set up breeding territories close to their natal sites, in other words, where they first took to the skies.

Well, why not let Rutland Water be that place, but how? Translocation was a possible answer. At the time, both Red Kites and White-tailed Sea Eagles were being translocated in Britain. So why not Ospreys, I innocently asked myself!

When will you feel certain that the translocation has proved successful?

For me, the success of the project will be when birds, hatched at Rutland Water return and breed either here or at another location in the near vicinity. I cannot stress how important it is to have a "loose" colony established. Pioneering single pairs rarely hold territory for any length of time - they need to interact with other Ospreys.

Why do you think the birds have chosen to nest away from the edge of the reservoir?

Traditionally in the UK, Ospreys have bred in remote areas of Scotland where there is little or no disturbance. Our first breeding male was paired to an unringed female, so maybe she would not tolerate the recreational activities on Rutland Water. Now that one pair has bred successfully, perhaps the 2003 pair felt safer breeding closer to an existing pair ( which takes us back to what i was saying about colony behaviour).

How many nests do you think there will be here in 10 years' time?

As I have never entered a betting shop or bought a lottery ticket I am not sure I am qualified to answer this one. BUT if pushed, and I assume you are talking about Ospreys in Rutland, then a rather unscientific guess (or is that a shot in the dark) might be between 10 and 15 pairs.

What effect has the Osprey Project had on the work of the reserve?

It's certainly added another dimension!!

I like to think this reserve is very progressive and have always been a keen supporter of conservation programmes involving the re-introduction of species that have been lost through man's impact on the environment. This project has helped focus our attention on what Rutland Water can do to help threatened species and with our high profile we have been able to demonstrate to large numbers of visitors the importance of "giving wildlife a helping hand" .

What effect has the Project had on the wider community in Rutland?

Firstly, it has brought us into much closer contact with our landowning neighbours. This is good not just for the project but for raising the profile of the work of the Wildlife Trust in Rutland.

I am sure the project has been financially rewarding for local hotels and B&B's. Eco-tourism is so important for conservation in my opinion. If local communities benefit from your work then they are much more likely to be supportive and watchful!

Have you had any thoughts about further translocations at Rutland Water

Many times................................................!

 


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