Breeding programme celebrates 200th chick since returning ospreys to England

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Osprey in the Dyfi Estuary (credit Andy Rouse 2020 Vision)
Osprey in the Dyfi Estuary (credit Andy Rouse 2020 Vision)

A project set up in 1996 to reintroduce ospreys to England has seen its 200th chick fledge.

The breeding programme at Rutland Water was started by the Leicestershire & Rutland Wildlife Trust more than a century-and-a-half after ospreys had become extinct in England and Wales, and has led to the spread of breeding pairs in both countries.

The Trust said the 200th chick, a female, fledged in July and was ringed with the number 360 to identify her.

The newest arrival and other ospreys hatched this year are likely to remain in Rutland until early September, before they begin a 3,000-mile migration journey south, to the west coast of Africa.

An osprey chick at Rutland Water, the 200th bird to hatch since a programme to reintroduce the birds to England was set up in 1996. (Abi Mustard/Leicestershire and Rutland Wildlife Trust)
An osprey chick at Rutland Water, the 200th bird to hatch since a programme to reintroduce the birds to England was set up in 1996. (Abi Mustard/Leicestershire and Rutland Wildlife Trust)

Experts expect the chicks will remain in their African wintering grounds for the first couple of years, so it will not be until at least 2023 before they are likely to return.

As well as establishing an osprey population in and around Rutland Water nature reserve, the project has helped the birds to breed in other parts of England and Wales.

Ospreys are now found breeding in Cumbria, Northumberland and North and West Wales, while Suffolk Wildlife Trust is working with the Rutland Osprey Project and the Roy Dennis Wildlife Foundation to bring breeding osprey back to East Anglia.

Meanwhile, Essex Wildlife Trust has erected nesting platforms around the Abberton Reservoir to attract the birds.

The Rutland Osprey Project started translocating birds from Scotland in 1996, carefully collecting 64 osprey chicks from Scottish nest sites and releasing them in Rutland between 1996 and 2001.

A further 11 female birds were translocated in 2005, the first breeding pair of ospreys successfully raised a single chick at Rutland in 2001, and there are now approximately 26 adults including up to 10 breeding pairs in the Rutland area.

The Leicestershire & Rutland Trust’s osprey information officer Abi Mustard said: “This year is an important and exciting year for the Rutland Osprey Project – we’re thrilled to be celebrating our 25th anniversary and also welcoming the 200th chick.

“It’s brilliant that we now have a self-sustaining population of ospreys in England.

“The success of the Rutland Osprey Project is not only due to the resilience of the birds themselves, but also to the hard work, support and dedication of everyone who has been involved – we have a wonderful team of volunteers, staff, local landowners and supporters who have helped facilitate these incredible achievements.

“We are all looking forward to seeing what the next 25 years brings.”

An osprey flying over the water. (Andrew Mason/An osprey chick at Rutland Water, the 200th bird to hatch since a programme to reintroduce the birds to England was set up in 1996. (Abi Mustard/Leicestershire and Rutland Wildlife Trust)
An osprey flying over the water. (Andrew Mason/An osprey chick at Rutland Water, the 200th bird to hatch since a programme to reintroduce the birds to England was set up in 1996. (Abi Mustard/Leicestershire and Rutland Wildlife Trust)

The Scottish Wildlife Trust has been helping to increase the number of ospreys in Scotland for over 50 years. Three of its reserves host breeding pairs.

The Trust’s Loch of the Lowes Wildlife Reserve has been at the forefront of the recovery of the species since 1969, when it became the fifth known breeding site in Britain. Some 85 chicks have fledged from the reserve in the past 52 years.

Rob Stoneman, director of landscape recovery for The Wildlife Trusts, said: “Seeing 200 chicks successfully hatch at the Rutland Osprey Project is a fantastic achievement.

“These beautiful birds belong in our skies, and it’s thanks to the hard work of so many people over the last 25 years that we now have osprey across England and Wales.

“Success stories like this prove what’s possible and help us to visualize how our countryside could look in the future – with wildlife in abundance, a rich tapestry of habitats, green corridors for species to move through landscapes, rivers and lakes free from pollution, and access to nature for all.”

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