Take off for Northumberland′s rare ospreys

02.08.2010

KIELDER PARTNERSHIP - Press Notice 13864

Northumberland’s three osprey chicks have taken to the air for the very first time.

The Kielder Partnership can reveal that the young birds, named Aqua, Splash and Spray, and only the second osprey family raised in North East England since records began 200 years ago, have all successfully flown in Kielder Water & Forest Park.

Over the past week rangers have been monitoring CCTV coverage beamed live to Kielder Castle Visitor Centre as the chicks exercised their wings and leapt into the air, getting ready for take off. Two of the birds left the nest for the first time some days ago, but the third – the smallest of the brood and possibly a male - proved reluctant to leave and has only fleged in the past couple of days.

Facing the world is a daunting challenge, but the chicks’ instincts are driving them on. For while mum and dad will continue to feed them and they will stay near or on the nest built in a tree by Forestry Commission rangers. But they need to gain their wings quickly and learn to hunt for themselves on Northumbrian Water’s Kielder Reservoir.

Kevin Hudson, Northumbrian Water leisure manager said:

"The ospreys′ diet exists almost exclusively of fish. Kielder Water is well stocked with rainbow trout - a favourite dish for these raptors. Visitors to the Park now have a rare opportunity to watch the family of birds hunting as the parents will be showing the three chicks how it′s done. The best place to catch sight of these sensational creatures is from the aptly named ′Osprey′ Ferry, which sails daily throughout the summer."

The adult male will teach his offspring to fish – and it really is a crash course. Because by the end of August they will start a hazardous migration to sub-Saharan Africa – a 5,000 mile journey – when they must fend for themselves or perish.

Martin Davison, Forestry Commission ornithologist, explained:

“The chicks need to put on extra body fat to tackle the long flight. Ospreys are expert hunters and will often hover over water to spot fish close to the surface. After fixing on their prey, they take the plunge with legs extended forward and wings swept back to keep them dry, before lifting away with a fish held in powerful talons. It’s amazing how quickly young birds learn, but it is a matter of survival.”

Northumbrian Water’s ′Osprey′ Ferry departs from Leaplish Waterside Park and Tower Knowe Visitor Centre. Booking is advisable on 01434 251 000 or by enquiring on site.

Kielder Osprey Watch 2010 is organised by the Kielder Partnership, the RSPB and Northumberland Wildlife Trust. The partners are working hard to ensure that the ospreys are here to stay by maintaining a high quality habitat in Kielder Water & Forest Park and safeguarding and monitoring the nest site. To find out more go to www.visitkielder.com

Notes to Editor

Kielder Partnership members include: Calvert Trust Kielder, Environment Agency, Forestry Commission, Northumberland County Council and Northumbrian Water. Northumberland Wildlife Trust is an associate member.

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 by 2001 there were nearly 160 breeding pairs (today about 200). The same year saw the first successful osprey nests in England for 160 years by re-colonising birds in the Lake District and re-introduced ones at Rutland Water in the East Midlands. Kielder is only the place in England where the bird has returned to breed naturally.

Media calls to:

Richard Darn, Forestry Commission, on 01226 246351. Mobile 0775 367 0038.
Philippa Clark, Communications Advisor (Kielder Water & Forest Park), on 0191 301 5538. Mobile 07970 897 756 or philippa.clark@nwl.co.uk

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