Eggsactly what we were waiting for!

We are over the moon because, at long last, the pair of birds nesting by Bassenthwaite Lake have produced their first Egg of the Season.

 This image is of a first egg laid at Bassenthwaite in a previous year with parents KL and Unring -slightly different weather!

The female’s behaviour was observed to have changed radically at 16.00 hours on Monday  April 20th by local sharp eyed Staff and Volunteers on their exercise walk.

From the footloose and fancy free ‘honeymoon’ period where she had been seen flying about the valley, mating with the male bird and collecting nest material, she is now sitting solidly in the nest cup.

The two birds arrived at the end of March, so we were hoping to see a first egg on the Easter weekend. Generally, if all is going well with the courtship, eggs are expected 13 or 14 days after arrival. However, this year, the romance seemed to be a bit off and on the boil. A couple of times the male bird was observed to be mantling fish – holding it under his wings – and not handing it over to the female. As fish is the equivalent of giving chocolates for ospreys, both for bonding and protein, it is perhaps not surprising she was a little tardy in producing. The male bird seems to have got into the swing of things now though and is bringing fish to her on the nest.

Usually ospreys lay 2-3 eggs at 48 hour intervals so it’s to be hoped that by the weekend she will be sitting on a full clutch with the long haul of incubation lying ahead.

At this period it is critical that these Schedule 1 Protected birds are not disturbed, and the clutch not jeopardised.  We would ask that everybody enjoys the ospreys, through media, news and updates, from the comfort of their own homes, observing the government guidelines for exercise and social distancing.

Easter Roundup

Looking back to Easter  – 14

 We had hoped to bring you news of Easter eggs with the osprey pair on Bassenthwaite. They had been here for over a fortnight so a first date for that happy event could have been over that weekend.  However, nothing happened during the night, so this is not to be!

Easter is always a good time to consider the miracle of new life and new hope. For ospreys that is a double miracle. There is the one that happens every year with individual pairs; eggs being laid with the promise of a future generation, and there is the one for the species, within our lifetime coming back from extinction in the UK.

It has not happened easily. The mindset of a nation has had to be turned, from seeing birds of prey as a menace, to seeing them as a vital part of the eco system and beautiful in their own wild right.

The means were not hype or high tech, just one person talking to another, just  someone giving up time to watch, just someone who organised a rota, just someone who wrote to the newspaper.

So the third miracle is, that it is in the small things each of us do that can turn a nation, or a world from one course of action to another. It has worked for Ospreys.

It can work for anything.

Bassenthwaite Birds

Coming back to the two miracle birds in the Bassenthwaite valley, they have not been idle in the beautiful Spring sunshine. Our Ranger and local Volunteers, using their hour’s exercise to good effect, have watched them mating and bringing in sticks to the nest platform. A sharp eyed individual saw one of them swooping down amongst the trees and breaking off dead branches. This is classic osprey behaviour as they don’t like settling on the ground, but it can be tricky because if the branch twangs instead of  snapping there can be a sort of boomerang osprey effect.

Other watchers have seen the continuation of the hate hate relationship between the birds and crows, whose territory is nearby, with some aerial battles. Another action high spot was when an intruder osprey attempted to land on the nest – probably with conquest of either nest or female on its mind, but it was seen off with gusto. So, with all this action and excitement it’s not surprising that the female hasn’t quite settled down to lay eggs.

No 14 Home Visits

In South Lakes No 14 is obviously over the moon to be back in his old stamping grounds. Taking up from where he left off last year he visited all the other osprey nest sites in Lakes Peninsulas  in quick succession. We suspect he is the Rhett Butler of the Southern osprey estates as he seems to enjoy seeing how much mayhem he can cause at each established territory, causing lots of screaming and shouting from the avian owners, and then he’s gone with the wind. No signs of a Scarlett O’Hara for him in the offing though.

The map says it all.

Bar Thomson and the Lake District Osprey Project team

Flowers – Blackthorn

If you like the idea of a virtual walk by the shores of Bassenthwaite Lake by St Bega’s this is a good one.

Lakes Landing, No 14 arrives

The Destination! 13


No 14 has reached his destination!

At 13.00 on April 5th he was ‘pinged’ near Esthwaite Water.

He started on March 17th, St Patrick’s Day in Bioko and ended on April 5th Palm Sunday in Cumbria, a journey of over 4000 miles in 20 days.

It’s something we can marvel at but even after years of research we don’t really understand.

Why do ospreys migrate?

In general it is thought that animals migrate to exploit food supplies. For example, the grazing herds of Africa follow the new grass cycle with the rains. The easy take on this is, Ospreys fly north in Spring to exploit the rising fish in colder Northern climes. Hours of daylight give longer fishing times to rear healthy chicks.

An explanation as to how this developed would be that during the last ice age, 10,000 years ago, ospreys were confined to the Equatorial regions where water did not freeze and fish did not sink dormant. As the ice retreated the opportunity to fish slowly extended North, and birds followed both for fish and to escape pressure at nest sites. Now ospreys make these huge journeys from end to end of the range. No 14 is a classic example.

But we are finding that although this will be broadly true, the dispersal pattern isn’t that simple. Our theories have often been based on observations of the low osprey numbers in Western Europe where there have been centuries of persecution. It is only now as they are returning over the area that their behaviours are posing us more questions.

Why don’t more ospreys breed in their wintering grounds in West Africa where fish are plentiful? The majority are migratory.

However, those in the Red Sea are pretty much resident all year.

Re-colonisation in the Mediterranean shows ospreys breeding in Corsica just moving a short way East to Spain in winter. They are over-flown by the long distant osprey migrants like No 14.

But then, a few of the UK breeding ospreys have been discovered ducking out of making the full journey and are stopping over in the Mediterranean in winter. So, it doesn’t seem as if the migratory instinct is quite so hard wired in as we thought. There can be modifications or even a switch off if conditions change.

Global Thinking

Arm-chair travelling with No 14 has been very exciting, ‘visiting ‘ so many wild, strange and exotic places that our bird will have seen with his own eyes and that we can follow and virtually see, through the power of technology. It is one of the great paradoxes of our time that we know and understand more about how our world works than at any time in the past and yet as we watch we are destroying what we love and what makes our world the fantastic, beautiful, terrifying, wonderful, bio-diverse,  home we inhabit.

Corona creates a further paradox as our inactivity drives down global pollution. There is a breathing space in the middle of the restriction and fear, to reflect and appreciate that we can live more simply and less wastefully than we thought.

And there is always the thought that however far No 14 has travelled and whatever he has flown over there will be very few areas of the planet that are as beautiful, verdant and spectacular as Cumbria and the Lake District. Attachment – overlooking Coniston Water

Summer 2020

So, we really  hope that No 14, at 7 years old and in his prime, will get his act together and take up seriously with a female bird somewhere in South Lakes this year . We would definitely like to see his strength, intelligence and tenacity passed on to the next generation and many of his baby ospreys colonising both North and South of the county.


Northern France to Northern England

Northern France to Northern England

No 14 did not hang about in N. France, despite the lure of over 20 nest sites in the Forest of Orleans, (the biggest National Forest in France) well within his flight path.

French ospreys have had as rocky a history as that of the UK, culminating with their extinction in the late 19th century, a bounty being paid then for every osprey killed.

However, since 1972 they have been protected, as have all birds of prey.

Their success in the area just South of Paris is due in a large measure to the work of one man – Rolf Wahl. Originally from Sweden and a keen ornithologist he recognised the importance of the first breeding nest in 1984 near the fish-teeming waters of l’étang du Ravoir, also home to salamanders, newts and frogs – a smashing wetland area!  He is certainly regarded as the foremost osprey expert in France but he is best known to us in a practical way – the stress free ‘tea-towel’ method of weighing chicks, taken up by our Ringer Pete.

As well as the conservation and statistical information Rolf provides it is always good to hear about how people get to be involved in such projects in the first place. Here he has created a short biography: (You can generally get a google translation if you go up to the top right hand corner of a page)

And Onwards to England

How high must he be and from how far away can he see the shores of Britain whilst flying over France?

It looks as though he made the rite de passage and left France just East of Dieppe. He hit England scudding across just West of the wide sky-scapes near Rye Harbour Nature Reserve, one of the foremost conservation areas for birds in the UK, with its wild salt marshes. Below him the huge pale shingle and brackish wetland area would already be filling up with birds eager to start their families. Forty one species breed there in the Spring including 3 sorts of Tern, the Common, Sandwich and Little, this last one only the size of a starling. All three are masters of migration and will have flown at least 3000 miles, perhaps double,  from West and South Africa to return and find a nest site cuddled down on a wind-scoured shingle scrape.

The view over the marsh from the steeple of Rye Church – an excellent spot to see migrants passing, with jolly good coffee shops to warm up at just below.

The download for April 5th shows that he had moved North and at 06.35 was flying just South of Gainsborough. near the River Trent. Would he reach his destination  by the evening or the next morning?

Home and Abroad

Home and Abroad 11

 At Home

In these strange times it is easier to find out what a single bird is doing half way across the globe than it is to find out what is happening in your own back Yard, or Lake!

The Lake District Osprey Project is lucky in that one of the Rangers has his house in Whinlatter forest and has been able to use his hour’s exercise on some days to monitor what is going on in the Bassenthwaite Valley. Volunteers living around the Lake side have also been reporting their sightings. But there is no doubt that this information is fragmentary compared with the daylong watches that have been the norm over the last 20 years from Dodd.

So, to round up what we know so far – For the past 10 days osprey activity has been seen, with two birds flying and mating around the nest platforms near the Lake. Were they passage birds or previous residents?  Repeated sightings have led us to think they are possibly/probably the pair that bred last year;  Unring, the male who first bred 2013, and a new female that turned up last year, whom we think is also unringed. Without a camera the finer details of their life this season will be curtailed. But daily observations from the Ranger, taking time to look at other osprey sites on line – we can all do this – and our own long experience should make it as usual, an interesting time.

We have had reports too of fishing at Cogra -again from a local resident using the hour’s exercise usefully.

This clip was taken on March 30th by Lee

A large Rainbow trout!

(If you don’t do Facebook, look at the picture of Cogra above and imagine.)


And Abroad

There are two maps that show no 14 setting off cross country early morning on April 3rd. At 05.53 crossing over the Canal du Berry near the villages of Augy sur Aubois and Nueilly en Dun  and at 08.19  near St Armand Mont Rond.  It would take an hour and 28 mins cycling, so he’s taking his time.

This is an area that no 14 knows well – if we believe that ospreys hold maps within their heads. And talking of holding maps in heads or within the ‘brain’ of the internet, here’s a couple who take human migration and perambulation beautifully. This will be the sort of view that No 14 saw, from their pictures along the Canal.

In past years he has slowed his flight down around both here and spent time feeding and resting at the Lac du Mont Belier, a bit further South. This little highland Lake looks a bit like Cogra Moss , in slightly more wooded agricultural setting. Pete says that it is favoured by passage ospreys  – so must have a good fish supply and is also only a day’s journey from  that area of France holding their greatest number of breeding ospreys.

Looking at other ospreys’ flight patterns we’ve seen that many of them will spend time, perhaps only a day or two’s flight from ‘home’, just loafing around, after marathon flights over Africa and Europe. Is this to do with wind direction, or that they are not in full breeding condition, or simply feeling a bit tired? Making a decision to rest but not getting back to your nest territory in good time is a bit of a gamble it would seem. On the plus side, when you do arrive you will be full of vim and vigour, ready to start off the breeding season. However, other hopeful ospreys may have arrived before you and be making themselves at home in your territory, possibly with your partner. There will inevitably then be a lot of energy expended on regaining the ground you have lost or perhaps being driven off.

However, even if you have staked your claim, others may challenge that and yesterday  after a large bird with a white flash on its wing was spotted further down the Bassenthwaite valley in the morning our Ranger watched an aerial battle  in the afternoon as an intruder osprey attempted to land on the chosen nest platform of the pair. He did not succeed. Hah!



Massif Central – No 14 Fire and water

 2020 Migration of No 14

The Massif Central  – No 10

The Massif Central now rises across the flight path of no 14. It’s a tortuous uplifting of volcanic rock domes, cut by snaking rivers, and set with crater lakes, with its highest point the Puy de Dome, a volcano that erupted a scant 10.000 years back.

It is the waterways that hold most charm for a fish eating bird and on the night of April 1st No 14 could have been spotted fishing and then roosting – as many of us do at 22.00 – by the Dore River, just outside the small rural town of Puy Guillaume. In the evening maybe trout or grayling would have made some ill-timed forays to the surface after an early hatch of midges, with breakfast on April 2nd perhaps of a sluggish jack pike or perch hiding in the weed .

Water Journey

Over his journey it is water that has dictated his survival. As it dictates ours. It is one of the greatest challenges of our time as we see it changing from being an uncontrolled gift of nature to a paid for commodity. At every stage of this arm-chair journey people are being challenged by how they can access clean drinkable H2O, raising the questions; How finite is it? How fragile is its origin? Who controls it? Who gets it? How much does it cost?

Bassenthwaite Lake and Force Crag Mine

Back closer to home the water of Bassenthwaite Lake has been the subject of on-going monitoring and tests for quality. ‘Bassenthwaite Reflections’ was set up to address the failings and was intimately connected with the LDOP at its inception in early 2000’s. The osprey (No-ring at that time) was a top-of-the-food-chain, indicator species, regarding the health of fish and the Lake. From that initiative the new sewage works at Keswick now extracts phosphates from detergents, lessening algal blooms, local farmers are using less fertiliser, private septic tanks have been upgraded, tree and riparian planting has begun to stabilise banks, war is being waged on non native plants – such as Himalayan Balsam and Dubwath Silver Meadows is recognised as vital for mitigation of flooding.

Vastly more difficult was the problem of the poisonous seepage out of Force Crag mine into the catchment behind Braithwaite. A study for the Environment Agency identified the environmental impact from the metal mine as being one of the worst in the UK.

Photo credit Fr Tom Singleton

The Coal Board does not have an easy time at the minute as the detrimental environmental impact of fossils fuels is now all too obvious, but they have many  projects and unsung individuals who are spending their lives trying to make safe the residues and hazards of past workings

This report should bring more than Volvic joy to all the Lake users.



Bar Thomson. Lake District Osprey Project Information Officer.






Jet-setting to France

2020 Migration of No 14 


Over the last 3 days No 14 has motored on – and this time has chosen an easier looking route than his usual one, which entails crossing the Alps. Instead, he has dodged around their Southern end, travelling North West from Sardinia to hit the French coast at St Tropez, fitting for a Jet Set bird.

There are not many red dots on these maps. There seems to be a lag in the download from the satellite – which may catch up with itself over the next days.

Thus the two red dots and times for 28th March 17.07 and 17.57 in the middle of the ocean are of no great significance ie he did not land on a boat!


The dotted red line just joins these dots with the next definite location on March 30th 21.34. and does not indicate his actual route . So, no data yet for the roosts of March 28th and 29th.

On March 30th he stopped for the night in the middle of the Parc Naturel regional de Monts d’Ardeche, near the village of St Martin de Valamy on the Eyesse River, where fishermen regularly pull in common carp. So he is likely to have enjoyed a couple of  whiskery meals.

And have a look at the St Martin de Valamas Tourist Office website – it looks a great place to earmark for holidays – has any one been?

What might he be flying around with?.

The Ardeche area is home to sixteen different species of birds of prey, plus eight owls. Here’s a full bird check list.

Some of the more exotic sounding raptors are the three vultures, Egyptian, Griffon and Cinereous. Vultures have had a hard time of it over the past decades particularly suffering from persecution and poisoning and habitat loss and have been rare over much of Europe for centuries.

Re-introduction projects can be very successful, if managed with the right level of education and protection strategies, of which satellite tracking is one. Cinereous Vultures have been released over the Verdon, near No 14’s flight path and hopefully, like the Griffon vulture will increase in numbers over the next decades.  Both these vultures have an eight to ten foot wing span, designed for lift – but only when the sun shines, according to David Attenborough

Osprey Re-introduction Projects

Roy Dennis Wildlife Foundation

Of course UK ospreys were amongst some of the earliest birds to be translocated, to increase rate and spread of numbers.

Rutland was the first osprey re-introduction project in Britain in the early 2000’s, with breeding numbers dispersing and increasing since then. This year Maya already has an egg, laid Sunday 29th March, after her usual early arrival

I went to visit the second one, Poole Harbour Osprey Release Project, in the Autumn last year.  A really interesting time. Poole has had passage ospreys stopping at the harbour for many years, but with no signs of any stopping to breed.  A translocation and release program was set up from front opening cages near Poole. It looks good with young birds already seen returning this year. So, crossed fingers all round for breeding on the South coast in the near future.


Skimming over Sardinia

2020 Migration No 14   Sardinia

Suddenly, the map changes from Khaki to Indigo and Viridian; from colours of death and dehydration to the colours of life and good fishing.

No 14 has had a couple of nights of respite in Tunisia  and then made a very early start on the morning, Sat 28th March 2020, to get him across the 132 miles of the Mediterranean, sensibly island hopping to Sardinia. He arrived at 06.00 travelling at about 30kph at an altitude of 505 metres. (the first red dot on the Sardinia map.) Close to Lake /Largo de Malargia

Economic development of a country is usually detrimental to its wildlife but in Sardinia the advent of tourists has been most beneficial for passing ospreys. Previously this rocky island had only one large lake. This gave the authorities a challenge to find enough water for visitors to squander on drink, showers, and toilets. The result is a series of 57 dams, often with hydroelectric associated.

For example the Lago de Coghinos, dam, combines utility with a relatively new ‘green’ feature to help eels move up and down .

At 09.00am, at the second red dot, No 14 was flying at an elevation of 1,260 metres just below the highest point of the island, the mountain Punta la Marmora 1,834 m.  and he will have passed over Lake Coghinos soon after that- watch out eels!

A comparable program in the Lake District can be seen in the Ennerdale Valley with the efforts being made to re-instate the Arctic char and provide a way upstream to their gravel spawning grounds. From a handful of fish left in the early 2000’s their numbers have risen to over 300.

This 2014 video tells the first part of the story and features our own Wild Ennerdale Forestry Ranger, Gareth Browning. Hurray!

It’s got to be, Sardines for tea.

No14 may be lucky and pick up an energy rich sardine by the coast this evening but they are generally found closer to the surface of the water, eating plankton in the warmer months.

Interestingly, sardines do not feature in the Sardinian’s top ten traditional cookery recipes. In the past the people were too busy avoiding the waves of Romans, Vandals, Byzantines, Barbarians, Saracens, Aragonese, Spanish, and Austrians, to live anywhere near their coasts.

However, try this for a taste of the Med. with a couple of tins of sardines from the cupboard.

  • Mix in a bowl – some oil from 2 tins of sardines with 1 minced garlic clove, 1 small chopped and fried onion, 1 tsp French mustard, 1/2 lemon juice, 1 tbs oregano/marjoram/sage/parsley – whatever’s growing. Pinch paprika, .
  • Place the sardines on a tray and roll/cover with mixture.
  • Cook in a 200C oven until sizzling.
  • Eat with new potatoes and roast fennel.

Ennerdale Water from the Dam

Time in Tunisia

2020 Migration of No 14

Nestling between the green fells, the blue line of Bassenthwaite Lake has a surface area of 5.128  km2. Ospreys can travel one end to the other in the space of minutes. The lake No 14 pinpointed as his destination yesterday is, in nearly every particular, different.

Bassenthwaite Lake

North Edge of the Sahara – Tunisia 

Under cooler skies 15C he reached the edge of the Grand Erg Oriental Desert and in a zig-zag course veered slightly Northwest to visit the Chott el Djerrid, The Lagoon of the Palms. It sounds like a good choice. It looks wet on this map.

However, he may have been in for a huge disappointment as Chott is a Salt Lake – the largest in the Sahara with a water surface area ranging from 7000 km2 to 0km2.

In winter, run off from the Atlas Mountains fills the below-sea-level basin with brackish water. In summer, this evaporates leaving a dry sea of silver, pink, purple and orange salts glittering with eye-watering intensity under the sun. Around the level margins of the lake there are no green plants to be seen except patches of the salt tolerant date palms. Instead, roadside traders sell ‘desert roses’ with their delicate petals of gypsum and sand. At no point can a fish exist in such a salinated environment.

From the flight path it looks as if No 14 may have found a pool at the edge of the Lake at between 09.13- 09.26am. Perhaps he had a quick plunge or bathe but then he went on straight North, aiming for the coast.

Why the zig -zags?

One of the things to remember about trackers is that they can pin point the position of the bird on the map, but they can’t tell you why a bird does one thing rather than another. So, when there is a zig-zag line of flight, as in the first map, we have to make guesses.  It would seem that he had made a decision to fly towards Chott el Djerid but was doing it in short hops with a short stop at each of the red dots. There was not any strong winds forecast and there are no valleys to dictate his course. Perhaps he was flagging a bit and needed a breather.

Of course, it might also be that he found himself in an ‘Arabian Nights’  scenario, seeing castles in the air, following a visitation from the Fairy Morgana.  Not impossible!

The optical phenomena of the Fata Morgana occurs when there is a thermal inversion – often occurring after a night of clear skies when surface temperature drops. It is particularly prevalent here as the cold air puddles in the empty lake basin. As the sun comes up creating a warmer layer over the cooler one an atmospheric lens is created so that objects at a distance are reflected, often upside down, in a mirage. Fata Morgana are a complex type of stacked mirage, weaving a moving magic in the air. Can birds see them and be allured by them? Who knows?

Prosaically, his erratic path might after all be a data error. Mystery!


Listen to Scheherazade telling the stories of desert, sea and adventure in the music of



Algeria -The Grand Erg Oriental Desert








Algeria – the last Sahara Slog

No 14’s journey now takes him over that part of the planet washed by the great dry seas of the Sahara, made up by arid mountain ranges, vast plains of pebbles and rolling sand deserts of wind created dunes. He entered the Grand Erg Oriental Desert on Tuesday 24th March, roosting overnight a third of the way over. If you travelled a distance similar to that of Land’s End to John of Groats you would still be within the giant basin of the Grand Erg Oriental and in all that time you would have seen nothing but sand and an endless horizon quivering with heat. It’s the last push before he can reach water and food.

Two days before and further South he was flying over the mountainous area of the Ahaggar and Tassili n’Ajjer National Parks. It is a land of dramatic sandstone pillars and forests of wind sculpted rock. Still stark and largely waterless, Tassili n’Ajjer bears witness that as little as 2000 years ago an osprey’s forbears could have fished and bathed easily there. Under overhanging eaves the smooth rock surfaces hold hundreds of paintings depicting scenes from as far back as 8000 years. They show the valleys running with rivers between groves of trees and a thriving population of wild animals, and people, dancing, hunting and swimming. The pictorial time line continues, mapping the environmental decline of the area. Wild animals are replaced by cattle which are replaced by camels until the desert takes over and the paintings cease.

Have a look at some of them.

Reminding us of our own pieces of neolithic rock at Castlerigg – this is a sight that migrating ospreys may be looking out for as they fly up the Bassenthwaite valley over the next few weeks.

Castlerigg Stone Circle, Keswick