High hopes for Ospreys

Stockport Times West - - WILDLIFE -

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.

To support the work of the Wildlife Trust for Lan­cashire, Manch­ester and North Mersey­side, text WILD09 with the amount you want to do­nate to 70070.

The os­prey nest is raised at Brock­holes Na­ture Re­serve. In­set, an os­prey, one of the few birds found all over the world

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