Is osprey here to stay?

Darren Leen, Highways England

An osprey hunting on the River Ribble near to the Brockholes nature reserve is raising hopes of the birds nesting in Lancashire for the first time in more than a century.

While ospreys have passed through the reserve over the last couple of years, they have not nested in Lancashire since the mid-18th Century.

The bird of prey was photographed sitting on a bridge near the entrance of The Lancashire Wildlife Trust nature reserve near Preston by Darren Leen who works for Highways England’s traffic officer service from an outstation next to the M6 and A59 at Samlesbury.

Osprey

Darren Leen, Highways England

Traffic officer service team manager Darren, said: “I was on a break at the outstation when I saw the osprey on a motorway bridge, it had been scanning the River Ribble for his/her next meal, sitting unfazed by 44-tonne vehicles passing less than three metres away.”

Darren went on to say, “I recognised the features of the bird due to being a bird watcher in my younger days, seeing this beautiful bird so close to the Motorway was very much unexpected but a great joy to see”.

The bird already has birders getting excited on social media but no-one can get too close because it is in a restricted area and due to Covid-19 lockdown regulations, Brockholes is closed to the public and unnecessary car journeys to Brockholes will be fined by the police. The Wildlife Trust supports the Government's message of Stay At Home and emplores people not to break these rules to photograph or view the osprey.

Osprey on bridge over River Ribble

Adam Sharples

Lancashire Wildlife Trust Director of Conservation Tim Mitcham said: “We had a juvenile male here late last summer, showing an interest in the osprey eyrie at the top of a telegraph pole, which we built with the help of Electricity North West in 2013. We were hoping it would return this year with a mate. So this is very exciting.

“Brockholes is closed in the lockdown so there is little disturbance - which will benefit this osprey. So there is a greater chance of it looking at the eyrie.

"Hopefully, people will adhere to the lockdown allowing the birds an opportunity to settle and when it ends and we open the reserve again, who knows, our cameras might be showing off osprey chicks?”

Ospreys nest in Scotland and Wales, and at Foulshaw Moss in Cumbria, which is as close as they get to Lancashire.

This large bird of prey with a 1.6 metre wingspan, has a white head and underparts and dark brown upper parts. Their wings during flight show strong barring and distinctively dark brown, angled “wrists”.

The bird will have flown in from Africa to look for somewhere to nest. That trip from the south may have taken 20 days, with stops along the way to refuel. Normally Lancashire is just a refuelling spot.

Tim said: “Of course the bird may just be stopping over before moving on and could be gone by tomorrow.”

Brockholes is closed to the public during the lockdown and the bird’s perch is difficult to access, so the Wildlife Trust is asking birders and visitors not to flock to the reserve and to abide by the Government's social distancing rules.

Under lockdown regulations, photography and bird watching are not “essential travel”.