21/08/2003
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Osprey Chick Learns Fish Catching Trick

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Last Chance to see Cumbria's Famous Fisher Kings

Osprey: (Photo: Steve Round)

Anyone who wants to catch a glimpse of Cumbria's famous Ospreys before the birds head south for the winter should make tracks to Dodd Wood near Bassenthwaite before the end of the month, the Lake District Osprey Project advised today.

The adult female has already set off on the journey south to Africa and was last seen in the Bassenthwaite area on Sunday 17th August. The male and the juvenile could remain in the Lakes for another week or so before heading south, although nobody knows for sure how much longer they will stay.

The message from the Osprey Project team is that people need to move fast if they want to be sure of catching a last look at the spectacular fish-eating birds of prey.

Until Sunday 31 August, visitors will still be able to watch the ospreys through high-powered telescopes provided at the public viewpoint at the Forestry Commission's Dodd Wood, near Keswick. Project staff are on hand at the Viewpoint from 10 am to 5 pm.

Visitors to the Viewpoint could be fortunate enough to witness a very special event, as the Osprey chick born in the Lake District nest this year has learnt how to fish for itself. One lucky observer recently watched the young bird make a spectacular dive into the water at the north end of Bassenthwaite Lake. It was later seen back at the nest with a fish and looking very wet - a sure sign that it had made a catch.

"To start with young Ospreys rely on their parents to catch and deliver food," says Pete Barron of The Lake District National Park Authority, "but they need to learn the skills themselves, and fast, if they are to find enough food to survive their first winter. It certainly looks as if our youngster has successfully caught its first meal, and now that it's had its fish-catching baptism we hope it will be the first of many fruitful dives."

Plucking a slippery fish from below the surface of a lake takes skill and practice for an Osprey and none of the other chicks hatched in Cumbria have ever been seen catching a fish. This year's youngster is a fast learner, according to experienced Osprey watchers, and the project team hopes that its new found skill bodes well for its chances of survival on the long and hazardous journey to Africa.

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Thousands of visitors have made the journey to the Osprey Viewpoint at Dodd Wood to see the Ospreys this year. At the Forestry Commission's Whinlatter Visitor Centre, a giant 'video wall' showing live footage beamed from a camera overlooking the nest has been an equally popular attraction.

Graeme Prest of The Forestry Commission, said: "The new-look Forestry Commission Centre at Whinlatter has been a great success and a popular destination for visitors this summer, with thousands of people enjoying the Osprey experience. We are delighted to be able to provide this unique opportunity for visitors to watch all the action from the Osprey nest as it happens and at incredibly close quarters. Even after the Ospreys have left there will be lots to do here, and between next month and the return of the Ospreys in the spring there will be plenty happening at Whinlatter."

Video highlights from the season have been screened on the Whinlatter video wall since the young Osprey left the nest, and this will also continue until Sunday 31 August. Once the Ospreys have left the area, attention will focus on a different bird experience, with live pictures screened from bird feeders where Great Spotted Woodpeckers and Siskins are among the regular visitors. There are also plans to show live pictures of Red Squirrels beamed from nearby woodland.

Although the Osprey nesting season will soon be drawing to a close, the Lake District Osprey Project team are already looking forward to next year.

Bill Kenmir of The RSPB says: "This has been another exciting and successful season for the ospreys and for the Osprey Project partnership. We hope the adult Ospreys will return to the Lake District again next spring and during the winter, we will be planning for next year's nest protection and public viewing schemes.

"We are also keeping our fingers crossed that the chick born here in 2001 will return to Cumbria for the first time next spring. That would be a real red-letter day and another amazing milestone for this popular and successful project, which is not only helping the return of Ospreys to England but also supporting the local economy."

The Lake District Osprey Project is a partnership between The Forestry Commission, The Lake District National Park Authority and The RSPB with the support of many volunteers and funding bodies.

Paying tribute to the hard work of hundreds of volunteer helpers, Graeme Prest said: "The fact that everything has gone so well this year is a tribute to the hard work of all the volunteers and staff involved in the project. We are enormously grateful to them all for their support and dedication and thank everyone who has helped by backing the Lake District Osprey Project."

For further information about the Osprey project contact: David Hirst on 0191 2126121/6100 or Mobile: 07885 834889.

Where to see the Ospreys: The Lake District Osprey Viewpoint is located at Dodd Wood, 3 miles north of Keswick, off the A591 - follow signs to Mirehouse. The Viewpoint is open all daylight hours. Until Sunday 31 August, osprey project staff are on hand between 10 am and 5 pm with telescopes for visitors to use. When the Ospreys are not present, the site is still an excellent place to watch wildlife - including Red Squirrels, Ravens and Otters.
Written by: David Hirst, RSPB