Leaders and families from Macclesfield RSPB Wildlife Explorers travelled to Rutland Water for a weekend of birdwatching and natural history. The Rutland Water Nature Reserves are run by Leicestershire and Rutland Wildlife Trust in partnership with Anglian Water.
The whole of the first day was based at the Anglian Birdwatching Centre at Egleton. A nature walk in the morning gave the group chance to see lots of different birds – migrant Chiffchaffs and willow warblers sang and blackcaps chattered in the trees.
There were huge numbers of house martins and sand martins feeding low over the water of the reservoir. As well as the feathered wildlife we also spotted lots of insects including green dock leaf beetles and speckled wood butterflies.
After a picnic lunch the group were ready for a different challenge. In the afternoon the team took on some conservation work – refurbing two different Insect Hotels . Now these invertebrate habitats have a new lease of life and will show visitors how they can create similar environments in their own gardens.
Now it was time for some wildlife investigation – pond dipping followed by bug hunting in the woodland clearing. The pond was full of life and as well as fierce-looking water beetle larvae explorers netted caddis fly larvae, mayfly larvae and dragonfly nymphs. Lots of fun was had examining water creatures close-up in the dipping trays.
In the leaf litter spiders, beetles, springtails, centipedes and millipedes were amongst the best finds. Leader Tina was really excited to find a couple of pseudoscorpions under stones. Thanks to Joelle and Luke from the reserve for all of their help and guidance. A very welcome delivery of fish and chips was devoured by a hungry group!
In the evening Wildlife Explorers took over the classroom at Egleton. They began with a big craft project – constructing a huge osprey collage. This was presented to Joelle later as a thank you to the Wildlife Trust team for their hospitality.
Then it was time for Leader Martin to take the stage as ‘Taskmaster’ in a specially adapted version of the TV game show that pitted teams against each other completing a whole range of very silly tasks. From sock-swopping to making paper planes the room was full of giggles and laughter.
After an action-packed day it was time for an early night to recharge batteries for a second day of Wildlife Explorer fun.
On the second day of the weekend Explorers headed to Normanton. No weekend away is complete without some competitive silliness – it was time for the wildlife assault course. Nearly everyone attempted the assault course – some achieving better times than others! (And at least one of the mum’s competing with a toddler in tow!)
A brief attempt was then made complete a set of human sculptures. Ragworm, sea anemone and even a hedgehog were created – then some of the children rolled down the hill pretending to be cheeses (as in the Gloucestershire tradition of rolling cheeses down the hill!).
We were close to Normanton Church which stands out, half-submerged into the water as a reminder that the area and was flooded when the reservoir was constructed. Sandwiches were hungrily consumed on the shore as we watched hundreds of sailing boats across the water.
The group then boarded the ‘Rutland Belle’ at the Normanton pontoon for a short cruise across the water learning about the history of the reservoir and how it is currently used a centre for leisure and recreation.
After disembarkation Explorers headed over to the Lyndon Nature Reserve Visitor Centre to look for the iconic species associated with Rutland Water – the osprey. Ospreys are migrant, fish-eating raptors that are present at Rutland Water during the breeding season (March to September). The birds were re-introduced in the 1990s after huge declines in population and eventual extinction, driven by man. Ospreys return to the breeding sites where they were born so despite some natural re-population in Scotland from 1954 – the only way to encourage new pairs to nest further south in the UK was through a re-introduction programme. The first successful breeding took place in 2001 and since then the programme has gone from strength to strength.
Two teams then competed in a bird race – walking the length of the reserve, visiting most of the hides and recording the birds spotted and heard. Perhaps the most incredible sight of the whole weekend was the osprey nest – the female sat on eggs with her mate standing guard from a nearby branch.
Wildlife Explorers said their goodbyes after a very special weekend of wildlife adventures.
We would like to thank all of the staff at the Rutland Nature Reserves for their assistance planning and running our weekend. We had a fabulous time.