THE first osprey chicks to hatch in Northumberland for at least 200 years are in tip top condition – much to the relief of wildlife experts.
A team from the Forestry Commission paid an early morning visit to the remote nest in 155,000-acre Kielder Water & Forest Park to ring the youngsters, note their vital statistics and take the first pictures of the three youngsters. Wildlife ranger Paul Pickett, from Kielder, scaled a tree to reach the nest, built on an artificial platform erected last year.
He carefully lowered the birds to the ground in bags to enable rings to be fitted by ornithologist Martin Davison, aided by ecologist Tom Dearnley.
A second coloured ring was also added which will enable each bird to be identified in future.
Placid throughout and with the mother circling overhead, the chicks, which are about five weeks old, weighed in at around 1,700 grammes each, with their feathers now almost fully developed.
Their wingspan was measured at 3ft – that of a fully grown male is 5ft.
It is expected that the trio will fledge in a couple of weeks when they take to the air for the first time.
Visitors will then be treated to the sight of the osprey family fishing together.
Elisabeth Rowark, director of the Kielder Partnership, said: “Things have gone brilliantly so far and it’s incredibly reassuring to learn that the birds are in such fantastic health.
“Hopefully they will soon earn their wings and then visitors can look forward to seeing them being taught to fish on northern Europe’s biggest man-made lake.”
Tom Dearnley said: “To see the three calmly sat on the grass without a care in the world was pretty mind-blowing. The ringing only took 20 minutes or so and the mother soon perched herself on a nearby branch when the chicks were put back on the nest.
“They seem perfectly healthy and have done incredibly well so far, which is great news.
“Their development has been rapid thanks to the exemplary care of the adult birds, who are almost certainly first time parents.
“Conditions have also obviously been right. There is plenty of food available and we picked a decent nest site in the first place.”
Amanda Miller, RSPB North East conservation manager, said: “We are thrilled by the success of the young ospreys. Hopefully they will continue the steady revival of this bird of prey.”
Northumbrian Water has organised special sailings of the Osprey ferry on Kielder Water staffed by bird experts and departing daily at 10.45am. Booking is advisable on 01434 251000, or on site at Leaplish Waterside Park and Tower Knowe Visitor Centre.
A public osprey viewing area is also in daily operation at Mounces Car Park, off the C200, near Leaplish Waterside Park in Kielder Water & Forest Park.
Page 3 - Fall and rise of a threatened bird >>
Fall and rise of a threatened bird
IT was probably the early 1700s when the last ospreys hatched in Northumberland.
Ospreys were once distributed widely, but persecution resulted in the species becoming extinct in England as a breeding bird in 1840 and in Scotland in 1916.
Some birds re-colonised Scotland in the 1950s and today there are about 200 breeding pairs.
2001 saw the first successful osprey nests in England for 160 years by re-colonising birds in the Lake District and re-introduced individuals at Rutland Water in the East Midlands.
The Kielder mother osprey will leave first on the perilous migration to Africa.
The father will remain to continue to teach the youngsters how to fish.
The young birds will leave in August for a first migration – the most dangerous time of their lives.
There was a medieval belief that fish were so mesmerised by the osprey that they turned belly-up in surrender, and this is referred to by Shakespeare in Coriolanus: