07 April 2015
Birders in Northumberland are in a flap after two amorous ospreys returning from Africa before their other halves have enjoyed a sneaky fling.
Picture shows the amorous couple eyeing each other up (credit Forestry Commission)
The two-timing birds are the first ospreys to be seen returning to Kielder Water & Forest Park, with the male arriving first and the female three days later.
With their partners still away, they shared a romantic encounter before the male sealed their new found affection with a gift - a freshly plucked trout from Kielder Water.
The rare species, which normally form faithful pairs for life, were extinct in England for 150 years but have bred successfully in the Park every season since they returned to the North East in 2009.
This is the first year at Kielder that an established female has returned before her male and another established male is already present without his female partner to court.
While the ospreys’ fowl play might initially ruffle the feathers of their partners, it’s hoped that they too will return home safely to breed with their respective half and all will be forgotten.
Joanna Dailey, Kielder Osprey expert volunteer, said: “We’re very excited by the arrival of our birds.
“This ‘hedging the bets’ is normal behaviour, and it is fascinating to observe, but we hope it will end very soon with the arrival of the long term partners!”
The antics are being watched by visitors through a camera on the nest and footage is beamed to visitors at Kielder Castle.
Wildlife lovers can also keep up to date with the story as it unfolds through the Kielder osprey blog at www.kielderospreys.wordpress.com.
For more information contact Janine Scott on 0191 301 6713
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 100 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.
5. 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. Forestry makes a real contribution to sustainable development, providing social and environmental benefits arising from planting and managing attractive, as well as productive, woodlands. Further information can be found at www.forestry.gov.uk.