High hopes for Ospreys
HOW do you spend your late summer, sunny Mondays? Last week I was helping to build an osprey nest.
Helping? Well, watching and taking pictures as a base and then a manmade nest was placed on top of a 30ft-high telegraph pole at our Brockholes nature reserve.
There has been a lot of scepticism about this structure but I was caught up in enthusiasm for the project when I spoke to Darren Moore, of Friends of the Osprey.
Darren has been involved in the putting up of 18 of these osprey platforms on sites across north Wales.
Eight of these platforms have been taken up or visited by these magnificent birds of prey with chicks being born three years running on one site.
Darren said the Brockholes site looks ideal – being in the middle of a network of lakes and close to the River Ribble.
We have also had more than 20 osprey sightings at the reserve over the past three years. So could we have the first osprey nest in the north west in living memory?
Darren said: “I came five weeks ago to look at the site, I wouldn’t have come back if I didn’t think it had potential.”
The nest is built from various kinds of wood with soil and carpet used to make it a little more comfortable for feathered youngsters. It certainly is a striking structure and we could not have put it together without the help of the team from Electricity North West who, obviously, don’t put up osprey nests every day.
Ospreys are seen around the region but generally they are just passing through heading towards nesting grounds in Cumbria, Scotland or Wales or heading to overwinter in Africa.
Known as the fish eagle, their diet is 99 per cent fish so they tend to live close to the sea or lakes and rivers.
Ospreys and owls are the only raptors with a reversible outer toe allowing them to grab slippery fish. They are able to see fish from the air before swooping spectacularly to grab their prey. In mythology it is said that they mesmerise their prey, who just give up, turn over onto their backs and wait for their fate. This has not been scientifically proven.
These are big birds, up to 2ft long with a wingspan of nearly 6ft across. An osprey has a white head with a dark mask across its eyes. It has a black bill and golden-brown eyes. Its wings are brown, making its white chest stand out. This really is a beautiful bird.
Ospreys are one of the few birds found all over the world, even in Antarctica, so why can’t we have a few stopping over in the north west?
Like the majority of birds their numbers have dropped dramatically, almost 30pc in 30 years. So while building an osprey platform in the middle of a lake away from normal breeding areas may seem a shot in the dark, if a pair of ospreys do make their home there it will be a massive boost for one of Britain’s most spectacular birds.
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The osprey nest is raised at Brockholes Nature Reserve. Inset, an osprey, one of the few birds found all over the world