Ospreys

Ospreys are Spectacular fish-eating birds of prey with a wingspan of nearly five feet. Find out more about Ospreys with our Osprey Fact File or check out the BBC’s Osprey web page.

Other Cumbrian bred Ospreys

As osprey numbers rise we can expect to see an increase in the number of pairs in Cumbria, although this is a slow process as only about 3 in 10 naturally survive to adult hood.

For the last 5 years YW, our 2008 male chick, has bred  successfully at Fowlshaw Moss, with broods of healthy chicks.

Another of our male chicks has been breeding in South Scotland for a number of years.

In 2010, one of the Bassenthwaite chicks from 2007 bred with another un-marked Osprey and laid eggs in South Cumbria but unfortunately none of the eggs hatched, not unusual for young inexperienced Osprey pairs. The pair were later seen on the coast nest building in late Summer, which is known as frustration behaviour, and often occurs after an unsuccessful breeding season.

An Osprey believed to be another Bassenthwaite chick from  2007 was seen regularly around the Thirlmere area during 2010 but since then there have been no sightings.

Osprey nestOther Great Places to See Ospreys

Cumbrian Ospreys History

In 2001 a pair of ospreys nested beside Bassenthwaite Lake and became the first wild osprey to breed in the Lake District for over 150 years.

The birds were encouraged to stay with the help of a purpose built nest provided by the Forestry Commission and the Lake District National Park. This was the culmination of several years of hard work. Ospreys had been summering in the Lake District since the mid 1990’s and in 2001 they started breeding, immediately adding sticks to the nest.

Once the eggs were laid, wardens kept a round the clock watch to prevent disturbance and deter egg thieves. Ospreys usually lay three eggs, which take about six weeks to hatch. The young stay in the nest for seven or eight weeks. In late summer, the adult female will migrate south, leaving the male to feed the youngsters until they master the art of fishing.

Bassenthwaite Lake is a National Nature Reserve, owned and managed by the Lake District National Park. Most of the surrounding woodland is managed by the Forestry Commission and provides valuable habitats for wildlife.

Threats

Although in the UK the osprey population doubled during the 1990s, and has steadily increased since then, with perhaps 300+ pairs now in the UK, ospreys remain the fourth rarest bird of prey in the UK. Their eggs are still at risk of being stolen by collectors and they are easily disturbed by human presence. If water quality deteriorates, a reduction in fish could have a dramatic effect on the number of young birds raised. Finally, as ospreys migrate, they are vulnerable to habitat changes across southern Europe and Africa, and risk being shot by hunters.


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August Ospreys

 

photo James Vaitkevicius

Now

Blue 400 and Unring are still to be seen around the valley together with other migrating ospreys , so it is worth taking your optics and having a look! Let us know if you see Blue 400 catch a fish!

August review

After a much wetter than average August it is time to take stock of the Bassenthwaite osprey family.  Blue 400 has had a difficult time learning to fish after her very successful fledging. This has not been for lack of trying!

Rain in itself does not bother ospreys, although they always look very bedraggled and miserable in a downpour with the rain dripping off their beaks. The problem is in the quality of the water they are trying to fish in. Rain on Lakeland’s bare fell tops loosens soil already eroded by centuries of overgrazing and mining and the many feet and bikes that churn up the paths. Streams in spate, with little in the way of bigger vegetation on their banks pull away more earth and this all rolls down into Bassenthwaite. Indeed Bassenthwaite, having one of the largest catchments, is the Lake most liable to silt up. Estimates put this at being between 15% and 20 % faster than it should. Nearly every day this month we have seen the Lake water turn milky brown spilling from Newlands Beck and the Derwent River. Ospreys hunt by sight so murky water inhibits them. (It must be uncomfortable for the gill-breathing fish as well) . Rain also creates flooded areas in the marsh and Blue 400 did much of her practising in these clearer lagoons. Wonderful viewing, with her wings held back like an avenging angel’s in classical pose, head forward til the last second and then feet plunging in the water. However, lagoons will only have a very few stranded fish in them so we have not seen her catch there.

It is always difficult to know how much behaviour is instinct and how much learnt. Fishing itself we know is instinctive, as has been proved by the re-introduction programs of osprey to Rutland in the early 2000’s and now at Poole in Dorset. Young birds are transferred to large open fronted cages so they can fly over the water and supplementary fish are posted in from behind a screen to keep their energy levels up. (A surrogate Dad technique). We also know also from our own observations that osprey Dads encourage their chicks to fledge initially by holding out fish as they fly past, so Blue 400 will have been watching both parents’ fishing patterns and picking up skills that way. At 5 weeks she was a big strong bird but has she caught enough and fed enough to make the migration?

 

 

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