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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Buckle up, its a rollercoaster ride!

Where do I begin! Watching the ospreys is many things: rewarding, entertaining, and sometimes, downright hard. Much like the nations favourite soap operas, it gives us plenty of drama, suspense and, as has been the case over the last couple of days, mystery.

The week started reasonably uneventfully (which believe me, can actually be a good thing). First time mum was feeding the chicks and sitting with them in the sunshine. Dad was seen sitting out on his favourite perches, keeping an eye out for threats and bringing in fish for the family. Until he wasn’t.
All day Tuesday we didn’t see him. Not a glimpse of glossy brown or a flash of white. Where could he be? Mum found an old bit of fish in the nest with which to feed the chick(s), so whilst it is unusual for the male to be gone so long, there was no cause for alarm.

A family photo from a previous Bassenthwaite brood.

Wednesday dawned with still no sign of dad. Mum was clearly getting antsy and as the second day wore on, faced a choice. At two weeks old, the chicks are still a little small to be left alone on the nest, but they also need to eat. She could go and try to bring in fish herself, but in doing so, leave the chicks at risk of being predated, or she could sit and wait. But for how long? There have been females that have chosen to wait, and tragically lost their chicks to starvation. As a young, inexperienced bird, we really had no idea what she would do.
With a hungry brood pecking away at her feet, mum decided on very short forays along the nearby beck and over the end of the lake before returning quickly to sit with the chicks once again. Each time, we crossed our fingers and toes that lady luck would smile on her. Finally, just after lunch, SUCCESS! I am not ashamed to say we may have cheered a little when we saw that silvery snack clasped tight in her talons. She made short work of lunch, diligently feeding the chick(s) before taking some for herself.

A beautiful day in the valley and some good fishing conditions helped mum out

Thoughts turned to the mystery of where dad might have got to? Perhaps there had been a tenacious intruder on the nest early the previous day and dad was busy trying to drive it away? It seems we may never know for certain, but I am pleased to report that late on Wednesday, dad came winging his way home across the water. Though he didn’t exactly get the warmest welcome as mums first reaction seemed to be quite similar to ours;
“Where an earth have you been?!”
But he is home. A little worse for wear, lending support to the intruder theory, but safe. It didn’t take him long to catch himself a fish supper, which he devoured with relish. This is great news for the whole family and we hope dad will resume his normal duties tomorrow, bringing in plenty of food to smooth over any ruffled feathers.
As always it is a privilege to get a glimpse into the lives of these fascinating birds and their struggle to survive and raise chicks and times like this are no exception. I for one think mum deserves a round of applause, after all, not all hero’s wear capes!

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