Time to branch out

5 Sep 2019 11:54
Published by: Daniel Almond

YOU may not think a bird of prey landing on a branch is big news – but if that bird is a young osprey on a special branch in Lancashire think again.

The last time ospreys bred in Lancashire was in the mid-18th Century, so imagine the excitement when this bird of prey, sat on the branch high above the Brockholes nature reserve, eying up a ready-made nest.

The “osprey platform” was built at the reserve in 2013. Volunteers and staff from Electricity North West erected the structure on an island on the Meadow Lake.

Similar platforms have been successful in Wales, with ospreys nesting and raising chicks safely.

Ospreys have been seen around Brockholes, near Preston, in the intervening years but they have mainly ignored their home-from-home.

So hopes were raised when the osprey landed on the branch which is attached to the platform.

Tim Mitcham, director of conservation at The Lancashire Wildlife Trust, which owns Brockholes said: “We have seen ospreys here every year but they have been passing through on the way to breeding grounds in the Cumbria and Scotland in spring and off to overwinter in Africa in late summer.

“However, this is the first time a bird has shown an interest in our osprey platform, which exciting. It is interesting to think that it will pair up with a mate and nest here next year, but we can hope.

“There is certainly plenty of food at Brockholes, in the Ribble and in the estuary, where ospreys can feed so there is no reason why they wouldn’t nest here.”

The osprey platform was built with instructions from Darren Moore of Friends of the Osprey. Darren has been involved in the erection 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 was ideal being in the middle of a network of lakes and close to the River Ribble.

The nest is built of various kinds of wood with soil and carpet used to make it a little more comfortable for feathered youngsters.

The osprey’s arrival caused a real stir at Brockholes and birders Ian McGill, Jim Beattie and Bill Aspin were on hand to film and photograph the occasion.

Known as the fish eagle, the osprey’s diet is 99 per cent fish so they tend to live close to the sea or lakes and rivers.

These are big birds, up to two feet long with a wingspan of nearly six feet 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. Numbers have dropped dramatically, almost 30 per cent in 30 years.

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