In July, the groundbreaking Rutland Osprey Project celebrated a key milestone by releasing its 200th fledgling into the English skies.
The Leicestershire & Rutland Wildlife Trust began the initiative 25 years ago in a bid to reintroduce this magnificent bird of prey to England and Wales, where they had been extinct for more than 150 years.
Ospreys are large fish-eating birds that can live up to 20 years and have a wingspan of nearly 5 feet. They were originally found across the UK, but were subjected to widespread persecution, including shooting, egg collection, and habitat loss, leading to their extinction as a breeding species in England in 1847.
In the mid-1950s, a population began to slowly recover in Scotland, and in 1996, the Rutland Osprey Project started to translocate birds to central England by carefully collecting osprey chicks from Scottish nest sites.
As well as establishing an osprey population in and around Rutland Water nature reserve, the project has helped the birds to breed in other parts of England and Wales.
Ospreys are now found breeding in Cumbria, Northumberland and North and West Wales, while Suffolk Wildlife Trust is working to bring ospreys back to East Anglia, and Essex Wildlife Trust has erected nesting platforms to attract the birds to its Abberton Reservoir.
This year’s osprey chicks will most likely stay in Rutland until early September before embarking on their incredible 3000-mile flight south to their wintering habitats on Africa’s west coast, before returning here in a few years.
Visitors to Rutland Water Nature Reserve can see nesting ospreys by visiting the Lyndon Visitor Centre – further details lrwt.org.uk/lyndon-nature-reserve – or by watching the 24/7 nest webcam at lrwt.org.uk/rutlandospreys.
Main image: Osprey © Andy Morffew