Posted 2nd Mar 2018
At one point, there was only a single pair of ospreys surviving in Scotland - now they are back, and the arrival of March will see these nesting birds throughout England, Scotland and Wales
There are very few species that evoke the wonder of bird migration quite like the osprey - this stunning fish-eating bird of prey will undertake an epic 3,000-mile migration from the UK to winter in sub-Saharan West Africa. Having spent the winter on a Senegalese or Gambian beach the birds will then head north again in early March, battling their way across the vast Sahara wilds, through Europe and back to their nests in England, Wales or Scotland.
They will typically arrive on the very day they did the previous spring.
In the UK, ospreys represent a conservation success. They had been driven to extinction through persecution in the Victorian era, and since then, they have made a remarkable comeback.
The first birds to return were a single famous pair in Scotland in 1954. Thanks to a lot of hard work from conservation bodies, there are now 300 pairs in Scotland, and, coupled with a successful reintroduction at Rutland Water, the birds have managed to re-establish themselves in England and Wales.
How to do it
The four reserves listed below all have hides which overlook active osprey nests, with telescopes available for a closer look and volunteers on hand to say more about the birds. Alternatively, you can try an osprey cruise at Rutland Water on board the Rutland Belle. There will be a good chance of seeing fishing ospreys from the boat and you will be able to enjoy wonderful views of the area too.
If you can't get to the special places listed below...thanks to the wonders of technology, you can follow the day to day lives of the ospreys at the nests via webcams. And it's not over when the birds leave their nests either - an increasing number of individuals are fitted with satellite transmitters each year, so you can follow their aw-inspiring journey in minute detail, as the young birds head back down to Spain, across the straits of Gibraltar and down the west coast of Africa for another season in the sun.
There are four Wildlife Trust nature reserves which give you the chance to watch nesting ospreys go about their daily business, something which is especially impressive when you think that there was only a single well-guarded pair in the entire country.
At Scottish Wildlife Trust's Loch of the Lowes in Perthshire, a pair have nested each year since 1969 - at that time, it was one of just five nests in the whole country. A new female osprey arrived in 2015, replacing the previous incumbent who nested there for 24 years, raising 50 chicks.
Ospreys were extinct in England until Leicestershire and Rutland Wildlife Trust and its partner Anglian Water stepped in. A translocation project started at Rutland Water in 1996, with young ospreys brought from nests in Scotland to be released at the reservoir. In 2001, a single chick was raised by one of these translocated birds together with his mate, the first-time ospreys bred in England for 150 years. Since then, they have bred every year. In 2015 the Rutland population stood at eight pairs, with over 100 chicks fledging there since. One of these pairs nests on the Lyndon reserve, from which you can get views of the birds during the summer.
The Dyfi estuary in Powys has been a regular stopping off point for migrating Scottish ospreys for many years now. In 2007, Montgomeryshire Wildlife Trust built a nesting platform at their Cors Dyfi reserve as they hoped to attract some of these passers-by to stay - amazingly the very next year, a bird did just that.
Christened "Monty", he was finally joined by a female in 2011, and then by another in 2013 when his previous mate failed to return from Africa.
Both females were birds hatched at a Leicestershire & Rutland Wildlife Trust reserve, Rutland Water.
The pair breeding at Cumbria Wildlife Trust's Foulshaw Moss are relative newcomers, first nesting there as recently as 2014. Chicks are fitted with coloured leg rings, and so we know the female (known as Blue 35) was hatched from a nest in Kielder Forest in 2010, while her older mate (White YW) is a local boy, from Bassenthwaite Lake in 2008.
Text and information courtesy of The Wildlife Trusts / image courtesy of © Emyr Evans