Great places to see ospreys

Osprey - image (c) Geoff HarriesOsprey - image (c) Geoff Harries

Ospreys are awe-inspiring birds to watch as they ward off intruders from a nest or wrestle a large fish from a lake. Look out for them from mid-March through to the end of the summer - before they return to Africa.

The Wildlife Trusts are working across the UK to help these amazing birds and provide people with opportunities for seeing and enjoying them. Some have welcomed back the same birds year after year 

The osprey is a large fish-eating bird whose numbers dwindled drastically in the UK due to persecution – this incredible bird was sadly extinct in England for 150 years.  

Numbers picked up in Scotland in the 1950s and since then the species has spread south. In 1996 they were reintroduced to central England and it is this burgeoning population at Rutland Water that has now spread to Wales.  

In the UK there are now close to 300 breeding pairs – the majority of these are in Scotland while there are increasing numbers in England and Wales, thanks to the efforts of Wildlife Trusts, landowners and volunteers. The ospreys' breeding successes are celebrated by volunteers, visitors and online followers.

The sight of an osprey soaring is not be be missed! See below for details of where you might be lucky enough to spot one in spring and summer.

And if you can't get outdoors check out those webcams...

Where are the top places to spot ospreys? Find out here

Great places to see ospreys in the UK

Rutland Water (Leicestershire & Rutland Wildlife Trust)

Rutland Water is home to the first ospreys to breed in England for 150 years thanks to a translocation programme, now in its nineteenth year. The ospreys are observed from their arrival from Africa in spring through to their autumn migration. Go to Rutland Water Nature Reserve to learn more about these magnificent birds! It’s a ground-breaking project in many ways:

  • Rutland Water hosts World Osprey Week towards the end of March. This is an exciting opportunity for schools to follow the amazing migratory journeys of satellite-tagged ospreys and to make contact with other schools on the migratory flyways.  There are lots of free learning resources all available on the website
  • The Rutland Water team are hoping for their 100th osprey chick to hatch in 2015.
  • In 2015 the first osprey 03(97) arrived back on Wednesday 18 March. He is affectionately known as Mr Rutland and is in his fifteenth breeding year at Rutland Water
  • Follow the progress of Rutland’s tracked ospreys - be amazed at the distances, speeds and terrains travelled!

All information on the project can be found here: http://www.ospreys.org.uk/

Over the last few years LRWT have also been working with schools in The Gambia to help the students to learn more about the ospreys and the rest of the amazing wildlife on their doorstep. The hope is that the students will be encouraged to take more of an interest in the natural world - and perhaps even pursue a career in the environmental sector!

Loch of the Lowes (Scottish Wildlife Trust)

The Scottish Wildlife Trust’s Loch of the Lowes Wildlife Reserve has been home to breeding ospreys since 1969.

Osprey fever grips the Scottish Wildlife Trust team at Loch of the Lowes from the moment their ospreys return to nest and their website buzzes with sightings and discussion of osprey parental techniques! They have even named one of their trees after 'Lady', a magnificent osprey who nested in it for 24 years up until 2015. 

The visitor centre is open daily from 10am-5pm, with the observation hide accessible 24/7. Alternatively, if you can’t make it along in person keep an eye on the nest by visiting scottishwildlifetrust.org.uk/ospreycam

  

Leaplish Waterside Park (Northumberland Wildlife Trust)

For many years ospreys were seen passing through Kielder Forest without stopping, always on the way north to more long-standing nesting sites in Scotland. As more and more of the best nesting spots were taken it was just a matter of time before they stayed south of the border. To encourage this, the Forestry Commission installed a number of platforms around the Forest after a failed attempt to nest by two young birds in 2008. This paid off, as following an absence of about 200 years in Northumberland, ospreys returned to nest at Kielder in 2009.

Since 2009 a watch point has helped show off these wonderful birds to the visitors who make the trip to Kielder Water & Forest Park. Kielder currently supports four breeding pairs whose offspring have later bred successfully elsewhere including other Wildlife Trust’s reserves. Additionally we are lucky to have a very rare occurrence of two breeding males being brothers from Glaslyn, Wales – born in different years and migrating separately but both ending up in Kielder! Northumberland Wildlife Trust run Osprey Watch from a viewpoint at Kielder Waterside, giving visitors an opportunity to see and learn more about the Kielder osprey population while nearby at Bakethin reserve ospreys are seen perching on a platform providing fantastic views.

The watch is open from around the time the eggs are due to hatch until about the time the young fledge. Volunteers, with telescopes, are available at Leaplish Waterside Park to help the public view the birds on Nest 1 as this is the only nest that can be seen from this point. 

Three of the healthiest birds have been tagged with a satellite transmitter, so their progress back to Africa can be monitored. Follow the birds’ progress via the Osprey Watch blog: www.kielderospreys.wordpress.com.

Watch out for osprey activities on Northumberland Wildlife Trust's website www.nwt.org.uk.

Cors Dyfi Nature Reserve (Montgomeryshire Wildlife Trust)

Stars of the BBC's Springwatch series, Monty (male) and Glesni breed on Cors Dyfi Reserve.

The Dyfi ospreys are one of four pairs that breed in Wales and since 2011, they have produced 13 chicks. The Dyfi Osprey Project has a visitor centre and a new 360 Observatory less than 200m from the nest - ideal for close-up views and photography. Both are joined by 600m of extra-wide boardwalk through the stunning reserve.

Over 100 volunteers donate their time to the Dyfi Osprey project and someone is always on hand to help our visitors get the most from their visit. Four HD cameras monitor the nest 24/7 and we have a Live Streaming and Chat facility here.

The Dyfi Osprey Project is open everyday between 10:00 and 18:00 from 1st March to 1st October and is situated three miles south of Machynlleth on the A487 road to Aberystwyth. There is free car parking, a cafe selling refreshments and the entrance charge is a suggested donation of £3. Post Code SY20 8SR.

You can follow the Dyfi Osprey Project on Facebook and Twitter.

Foulshaw Moss Nature Reserve (Cumbria Wildlife Trust)

Cumbria Wildlife Trust’s work to restore Foulshaw Moss Nature Reserve (just off the A590 in south Cumbria) has encouraged ospreys to visit since the late 1990s. At first they were just appreciating the stop-off point in their autumn passage and the opportunity to take a rest on their long journey to West Africa. One day, eight ospreys were seen on the nature reserve at one time!

Improvements to the habitat for many species at Foulshaw Moss Nature Reserve, now provides the ideal habitat for ospreys to nest and to breed.  The team installed a number of nesting platforms to encourage the ospreys to nest. They are delighted that the ospreys liked the look of one – the birds chose one in a tree in a very wet area of the nature reserve.  One reason Foulshaw Moss makes such a good nesting site, is it gives the birds options of where to fish. Being next to the Kent Estuary as well as near to the rivers, lakes and tarns is the equivalent of us having options of where to shop for food – if one store is out of stock they simply go to the next.

In 2014, for the first time, a pair of osprey successfully bred and reared three healthy chicks.  It is very exciting and rewarding to have a breeding pair of ospreys at this stunning nature reserve (which, as well as having the osprey, is nationally important for the habitat as well as being the site of the first UK re-introduction of the rare white-faced darter dragonflies was undertaken in 2010 and Foulshaw Moss Nature Reserve is now one of only three sites in England where the dragonfly can be seen!).

If you time your visit to the nature reserve when staff are present there may be a telescope focused on the nest so you can get a good view.  With more hard work and more habitat improvements Cumbria Wildlife Trust hopes that ospreys will become a more common sight across the whole of the UK.  

Cumbria Wildlife Trust are currently raising funds to improve the habitat for wildlife and the access for people.  You can view the osprey live cam here: www.cumbriawildlifetrust.org.uk/osprey-cam. Sign-up to receive osprey email updates by emailing michellew@cumbriawildlifetrust.org.uk including your name, address and email address.

Cumbria Wildlife Trust is also appealing to people for binoculars (new and used) so that we can provide them at the reserve for people to use to get a closer look at the ospreys.

Abberton Reservoir (Essex Wildlife Trust)

Essex Wildlife Trust is delighted to be working with Essex & Suffolk Water at Abberton Reservoir to provide four osprey nesting platforms, to be situated at various locations around the reservoir.  The hope is that young ospreys will find the platforms irresistible and stop on migration – and, over time, perhaps stay for a summer and even breed - making Abberton their home, year in year out. The platforms were erected in March. Now, it’s a case of wait and see! The hope is that this is just the first phase of an expanding project.

Osprey facts:

  • With a wingspan of 1.5 metres they are one of our largest birds of prey.
  • They are the only bird of prey in the world to eat only fish.
  • Ospreys can live for more than 20 years.
  • Most European ospreys migrate to Africa for the winter. Ospreys that breed in North America migrate to South America for the winter.
  • It takes an osprey two to three weeks to fly 3000 miles when they migrate in Spring and Autumn – that’s around 200 miles a day. They can travel at speeds of over 50 miles per hour. 30(05) from Rutland has the record for the fastest timed osprey migration, completing the 3,000 miles in just 10 days.
  • They arrive back at their nests at the end of March to breed and raise young before returning to Africa for the Winter.
  • In the UK there are over 250 breeding pairs in Scotland, 20 in England (five at Rutland Water and others in Northumberland and Cumbria) and four in Wales.