After booking some time off work at long last, I had promised to take Dad to see the ospreys at Rutland Water. He'd never seen one before, though he has wondered about a large bird that flew over his garden last year, which was at the right time of year to see one migrating.
The walk to the Shallow Water hide was long and rather warm, and also plagued with midges and flies. I've never seen a place with so many swarms as Rutland, in some cases the insects formed cloud-like mists, which we fought through. On the way, whitethroats teased us, never coming out of the bushes, and willow warblers sang from overhead wires, before flying away before we could get a shot.
The hide itself was empty - rather surprising given the weather, although it was pretty windy. Outside the window, gadwalls and mallards pottered about in the water, with the first terns of the season, fluttering by, dropping like darts into the water. The now-common Egyptian geese also fed nearby, unlike the ospreys who were sat on the other side, on their eggs.
Not quite the view I'd hoped for, though perhaps I'm spoiled after visiting Scotland last year. Eventually though, the male took over egg duties, and the female took off for a fly around. Given the distance she was from us, the pics came out quite well. I had worried about heat-haze, but in general that didn't seem to affect things.
She didn't fish, but she simulated it, when going for a few dips to wash. After circling round some more, she returned and swapped back over with the male. And that was that.
We wandered back along the lakeside, calling in at all the hides to see what was on offer, though surprisingly little. But with time on our side, I suggested we try the other side (Egleton) for a look.
The feeding station was amusing, as a family of brown rats have moved in, and are taking advantage of spilled seed. Some people detest these rodents, but they amuse me. So long as they stay outside, of course!
The hides on this side were more sheltered, so we sat for longer in one, watching the terns, and masses of martins. I spotted one of the ospreys from this side, and also a hobby, but that blasted overhead too quickly for Dad to lock on to, alas. With one eye on the time (it was a day before a Bank Holiday), I eventually dragged myself away, to get Dad back home and not be sat in a traffic jam.
Getting home, I'd suggested we go to the pub, when opening the boot of the car I realised something, that made me feel sick inside. Whilst being concerned about not having Dad sat in traffic jams, I'd left the hide and forgot to pick up my camera bag. Normally, with the gear sat next to me on my seat, I'd have spotted the mistake instantly, but with Dad sat there instead, I just didn't think. I couldn't believe my stupidity and absent-mindedness, and promptly cancelled the pub trip, trying desperately to work out what to do.
I was enroute back to Rutland, though knowing in my heart they'd be closed by the time I got there, when I remembered that a friend had volunteered for Rutland's Osprey Watch in 2010. I asked him for their number, and thankfully he sent it quickly. After the week I'd had (car broken into, and stuff stolen from it), this was the end as far as I was concerned.
Or was it? Calling the number, a lady answered. They were still open, thank goodness. I then asked. Had anyone handed in a camera bag?
They had. She had it on her lap, and was amazed anyone could have left behind something so heavy. Quickly checking it was mine, I asked a few questions about content, and she gave all the right answers. Some very kind gentleman had found it, and handed it in.
To say I was relieved was an understatement. I could have cried with joy. She then allowed me to make arrangements to collect it early the next day, and the trip to the pub was back on once more. My word, I needed a pint after that scare.
There seemed little point driving all the way to Rutland to just collect the bag, so I decided to take a longer look around the Egleton side of the reserve. I thanked the lady in the office for keeping hold of the bag overnight and allowing me to collect it early, and made a donation to the Trust too. I also got the name and number of the man who'd found and handed in my bag - Martin, I owe you more than a pint! You also restored my faith in humanity.
Then it was off around the reserve. Eventually the sun made an appearance, and I got some decent views of greenshank, a grey plover, bar-tailed godwits, various warblers, including a garden warbler, and for the second day that week, the highlight was a pair of great crested grebes.
Unlike the local ones, who'd already hatched their chicks, this pair were still courting. Presenting gifts to one another, performing the dance, and flaring their crests. All wonderful to observe.
Less serene was the battle that occurred when another rival male ventured too close, and was attacked and seen off by the resident male bird. Dramatic and violent, for what is normally seen as a calm bird.
More dancing followed, before they both disappeared from view into the reedbed nearby.
Having missed the Royal Wedding (such a shame - yes, I am being sarcastic), I headed back to go to watch Brit Floyd perform at the NIA. A great gig, and a good end to what could have been such a very different week.