Record breaking number of osprey chicks ringed at Kielder

a tracker being attached to a chick from nest 2

18 July 2014

A record number of osprey chicks have been ringed at Kielder Water & Forest Park in Northumberland this week.

The delicate task of ringing the eight young ospreys, by experts from the Forestry Commission, is an important task in helping the team at the Kielder Osprey project to monitor the birds’ progress and keep track of the recovery of ospreys in England.

With eight chicks being reared over three nests established, this year has been ground breaking for the Kielder Osprey Project.

For the first time at the Kielder Osprey Project, three of the chicks have also been fitted with trackers, tiny backpacks which send information via the mobile phone network and satellite. This provides more effective monitoring of the birds than by ringing alone.

The process of ringing and tracking provides ecologists and ornithologists with detailed information on subjects such as migration and feeding behaviour. It is a brief and painless but key moment in the early lives of the osprey chicks; a species which only returned to Kielder in 2009 after a greater than 200 year absence.

At over 250 square miles, the mix of forest and water is perfect for the rare species. They feast on trout from the largest man-made lake in northern Europe, Northumbrian Water’s Kielder Water, and nest among England’s largest working forest.

Since 2011, visitors to the Park have delighted in following the story of the two breeding osprey pairs, while the third pair of parents, which had been seen in previous years, only laid eggs in 2014. The Kielder Osprey Project team were thrilled with the news that they have successfully raised two chicks and to have three breeding pairs so close to each other is a new record in England.

Tom Dearnley, Ecologist at the Forestry Commission, said: “Ospreys are a fascinating species and one which continue to recover in southern Scotland and northern England.

“Ringing the chicks allows us to examine the health of the six week old birds and make various checks and measurements. The chicks are not small - with a wingspan of about one metre - and the ringing, which was carefully managed under license, was completed successfully for all eight chicks.

“As Kielder Water and Forest Park continues to age, it is becoming more diverse and ospreys are a great illustration of this natural succession, delighting visitors to the area.”

Visitors to Kielder Water and Forest Park can keep up to date with the birds’ progress by visiting the Osprey Watch.
Kelly Hollings, Estates Officer for Northumbrian Wildlife Trust, who works with the Osprey Watch team, said: “Ringing is a momentous moment in the lives of these fabulous young birds. We have had hundreds of visitors coming to the Osprey Watch at Leaplish Waterside Park to see and hear about the ospreys from the expert volunteers.

“The progress of the chicks has also been seen by many others via the live camera feed into Kielder Castle Café, where visitors have enjoyed the local food while watching the screen.

“The ospreys have created such a popular following that they even have their own blog, updated daily by the dedicated osprey volunteers giving expert updates on the progress of the birds.”

The blog also features a selection of remarkable close-up images of the birds taken from the webcam feed installed just above their nesting platform. The blog can be found at kielderospreys.wordpress.com

Kielder Osprey Watch 2014 continues to run every weekend from 11am - 4.30pm until Sunday August 11, 2014, behind the Boat Inn restaurant at Leaplish Waterside Park. It will also be open on Wednesdays from 23 July until 6 August. This season, the Osprey Watch has a powerful new telescope generously funded by the Northumberland and North Tyneside Bird Club.

The Osprey Watch is organised by Kielder Water & Forest Park Development Trust and Northumberland Wildlife Trust, with support from the RSPB. 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.

For more information contact Janine Scott, communications advisor on 0191 301 6713 or Janine.scott@nwl.co.uk

1. Historically ospreys lived in Northumberland, hunting on the once extensive network of marshes. However, records going back more than 200 years fail to mention any ospreys breeding in the county. Ospreys were once distributed widely, but persecution resulted in the species becoming extinct in England as a breeding bird in 1847 and in Scotland in 1916. Some birds re-colonised in Scotland in 1954 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.

2. Osprey Fact File:
• Ospreys are migratory and arrive in late March and April and leave again for Africa in August and September.
• The bird is an Amber List species because of its historical decline (due to illegal killing and egg theft) and low breeding numbers.
• Ospreys normally breed for the first time when they are aged between 4-5 years old.
• They are largely monogamous and faithful both to nest and mate.
• The nest is generally built on the top of a large tree.
• Females lay two or three eggs at 1-3 day intervals which are incubated for about 38 - 42 days per egg.
• Ospreys divide the nesting duties between the pair. The female does most of the incubating, brooding and direct feeding of the young. She guards them throughout the nesting period and will share the hunting at later stages when the chicks are larger. The male is the major provider of fish for the female and chicks.
• Chicks fledge about seven weeks after hatching.

3. Kielder Water & Forest Park, which spans 250 square miles, is home to the largest working forest in England and the largest man-made lake in northern Europe. It was awarded the number one tourism experience in England by VisitEngland 2013, and the most tranquil place in England by the Campaign to Protect Rural England. Together with Northumberland National Park, it was granted gold tier Dark Sky Park status in December 2013. For more information see www.visitkielder.com.

4. Kielder Water & Forest Park Development Trust is a registered charity working at Kielder to promote sustainable development, provide recreational facilities, improve knowledge of the natural environment and encourage the arts. The Trust works with the range of communities to benefit from these activities. Members, who have appointed directors/trustees to serve on the board, are Northumbrian Water, Forestry Commission, Calvert Trust Kielder and Northumberland County Council. Affiliate organisations that are not members but have a close working relationship with KWFPDT include Arts Council England, Northumberland Wildlife Trust, Environment Agency, The Scout Association and local decision making bodies such as the parish councils.

5. Northumberland Wildlife Trust is the largest environmental charity in the region working to safeguard native wildlife. One of 47 Wildlife Trusts across the UK, Northumberland Wildlife Trust has campaigned for nature conservation for over 40 years. It aims to inform, educate and involve people of all ages and backgrounds in protecting their environment in favour of wildlife and conservation. Supported by over 13,000 individual and 56 corporate members in the Region, Northumberland Wildlife Trust manages and protects critical species and habitats at over 60 nature reserves throughout Newcastle, North Tyneside and Northumberland.

6. The Forestry Commission is the government department responsible in England for protecting, expanding and promoting the sustainable management of woods and forests and increasing their value to society and the environment. The North England Forest District looks after forests in Cumbria, the Lancashire, Northumberland, Tyne and Wear and County Durham. Further information can be found at www.forestry.gov.uk.

7. The RSPB is the UK’s largest nature conservation charity, inspiring everyone to give nature a home. Together with our partners, the RSPB protect threatened birds and wildlife so our towns, coast and countryside will teem with life once again. They play a leading role in BirdLife International, a worldwide partnership of nature conservation organisations.

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