Osprey breeds for first time at National Nature Reserve

One of the two male Osprey chicks being ringed at Roudsea Wood last week. Photo: Rob Petley-Jones (Natural England).
One of the two male Osprey chicks being ringed at Roudsea Wood last week. Photo: Rob Petley-Jones (Natural England).
Natural England have announced the fledging of two male Osprey chicks at Roudsea Wood and Mosses NNR, Cumbria, the first successful breeding on any of their reserves.

It is hoped  that the birds – which tend to be faithful to a nest site - will return to breed at the reserve in future years and raise more young. There have been a record six breeding pairs of Osprey in Cumbria this year, the highest number since the bird returned to breed in England in 2001, after becoming extinct as a breeding bird in the country in 1840. Today, there are between 200 and 250 pairs of breeding Osprey in Britain, but most are in Scotland where it recolonised in 1954.

The Roudsea Wood birds attempted to build a nest on a nearby electricity pylon last year, just outside the reserve boundary. This blew down during last winter’s storms, but Electricity North West eagerly offered to fund the construction of a new nesting platform in the nature reserve, on top of a 30 m-tall Scots pine tree and within sight of good viewing positions on the reserve. The platform was erected on 17 March, and by 2 April the newly arrived fish-eating raptors had adopted the platform and were already starting to build their nest.

Little is yet known about the parents – many breeding Ospreys in England are ringed to help track their movements and support conservation efforts, but Roudsea’s breeding female bird is unringed, and may have come from Scotland or Scandinavia. It will soon start its return migration to West Africa, while the male will remain for the next few weeks to make sure the offspring know how to fish, before they also return south.

Roudsea Wood and Mosses NNR is one of the most important English wildlife sites. An extensive mosaic of ancient woodlands, raised bogs, fens, reedbeds and saltmarshes provide habitat for a range of species including European Otter, Kingfisher, Hazel Dormouse and several species of rare butterfly and insects. Visitors to the reserve have had unbridled views in the last few weeks of the attentive parents, catching and bringing in fish, including mullet, to feed the fast developing young.

Natural England’s Senior Reserve Manager at Roudsea Wood, Rob Petley-Jones, said: “We are overjoyed at their breeding success, and it’s been brilliant to watch the family’s progress. We’ve worked hard for many years to manage the site for wildlife and feel rewarded that the conditions were right to encourage these rare birds to nest here.

"We’ve all been keeping our fingers crossed that the birds would return after last year’s initial nesting attempt, and it was great to have the enthusiastic support from Electricity North West who funded the construction of the new platform. Visitors to the reserve have also been fascinated with views of the male bird regularly bringing back huge, flapping fish for his mate and their growing offspring. We look forward to welcoming them back again next year.”

Natural England has plans to install a webcam and improve access at the reserve for people to view the birds if they return next year. 2015 will also mark the Diamond Jubilee for Roudsea Wood and Mosses NNR.