6 ISSUES FOR £6 Subscribe to Hertfordshire Life today click here

Fisher king: The osprey returns to Hertfordshire

PUBLISHED: 11:13 11 September 2017 | UPDATED: 11:14 11 September 2017

Large bodies of water, both fresh and salt, attract osprey. Nesting platforms and perches have been installed at several lakes in Herts (photo: iStock/PATIENTS)

Large bodies of water, both fresh and salt, attract osprey. Nesting platforms and perches have been installed at several lakes in Herts (photo: iStock/PATIENTS)

iStock/PATIENTS

The spectacular fish-eating bird of prey, the osprey, has been sighted in Herts at this time of year as it refuels before flying to Africa. Charlotte Hussey of the Herts and Middlesex Wildlife Trust celebrates its return

Osprey, while widely distributed worldwide, were exterminated in Britain by collectors in the early 20th century. Years of conservation effort to protect Scandinavian osprey that naturally colonised in the years following the demise has meant that this amber listed species can now be spotted across the UK, including in Hertfordshire.

While osprey populations have increased in this country they are still a rare sight and a real treat to see outside of their strongholds. The main UK outpost is Scotland but they can also be seen in north Wales and breeding took place in the Lake District in 2001 – the first osprey nest in England for more than 150 years. Osprey were also introduced at Rutland Water in the east midlands in 2001 where they are now an established breeding species.

Osprey, which have a wingspan of up to 1.8m and are recognisable by their distinctive ‘highwayman mask’ face markings, are migratory birds and most overwinter in Africa, arriving in the UK in late March and April to breed before leaving again in late August and September. When the birds first arrive they are keen to get to their areas of breeding and stop briefly only to feed. Osprey almost always return to their previous nest site, with older more experienced birds arriving first, and newly established pairs having to find new suitable sites after migration. This is no easy feat as osprey nests are large – often over a meter wide – and as the birds feed almost exclusively on fish, the nests are usually within five kilometres of water. Osprey also prefer an open area around the nest to make landing easier. They will happily take to man-made structures such as pylons, as well as artificial nests specifically made for them.

The birds usually pair for life, coming together once a year to breed. New chicks spend up to eight weeks in the nest, fed primarily by the mother with fish. Over these weeks the chicks begin to move round, eventually preening and exercising their wings until they are ready to attempt a first flight. Fledglings will return to the nest for at least two weeks, eating food the parents bring back and honing their flying skills until they are able to catch fish for themselves.

Nests can measure over a metre wide Nests can measure over a metre wide

At three to five years osprey will begin breeding and they often won’t return to the area in which they fledged until this time. They sometimes arrive the year before, when a newly formed pair will establish territory and build a nest together ahead of breeding the following year.

After adults have ensured their offspring are fledged and feeding for themselves they will make their way down to the south of England before heading to Africa. This is the best time to see osprey in Hertfordshire as the birds will make sure they are in peak physical condition for the long flight back south. This means lots of fishing and preening.

Hertfordshire has good habitat for osprey – large bodies of water – during this important time for refuelling. The lakes, reservoirs and rivers of the Colne Valley, Lee Valley and notably Panshanger Park in Hertford are good places to spot them.

Since the turn of the century an osprey has been seen every September in Panshanger Park, spending anything from a few days to a couple of weeks in the area.

The Herts and Middlesex Wildlife Trust, together with park owners Tarmac, have created a special osprey viewpoint for visitors. The trust has also been working hard to encourage visiting osprey in other Herts areas and in 2007 invited Roy Dennis, who was responsible for osprey reintroduction at Rutland Water, to identify areas of the county osprey might stop. A number of the trust’s nature reserves, including Broadwater Lake, Stocker’s Lake and Amwell were listed, as well as surrounding areas, like Holyfield Lake in the Lee Valley. The trust has since installed artificial nesting platforms and perches in these areas with help from external funders and hopes to continue this work in other suitable areas around the county.

Keep an eye on the trust’s Twitter account @HMWTBadger and the Herts Bird Club website hnhs.org/herts-bird-club/home for up to date news of osprey sightings in the county this month.

0 comments

Welcome , please leave your message below.

Optional - JPG files only
Optional - MP3 files only
Optional - 3GP, AVI, MOV, MPG or WMV files
Comments

Please log in to leave a comment and share your views with other Hertfordshire visitors.

We enable people to post comments with the aim of encouraging open debate.

Only people who register and sign up to our terms and conditions can post comments. These terms and conditions explain our house rules and legal guidelines.

Comments are not edited by Hertfordshire staff prior to publication but may be automatically filtered.

If you have a complaint about a comment please contact us by clicking on the Report This Comment button next to the comment.

Not a member yet?

Register to create your own unique Hertfordshire account for free.

Signing up is free, quick and easy and offers you the chance to add comments, personalise the site with local information picked just for you, and more.

Sign up now

More from Out & About

A former rail line between Welwyn GC and Hertford could once again be a transport route - a green one, in more ways than one

Read more
June 2018
Wednesday, June 6, 2018

The boom in swimming and lidos in the 1930s left a legacy of beautiful open air pools in the county. Those that remain are now cherished as fun and healthy community assets. Bianca Wild dives into the wonderful world of lidos

Read more
Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Herts and Middlesex Wildlife Trust has teamed up with The Grove hotel - part of a scheme to utilise private land for nature

Read more
June 2018
Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Opulent country houses, perfectly kept formal gardens and sweeping parkland vistas: Hertfordshire’s stately homes make perfect days out

Read more
Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Ahead of a Tate exhibition exploring Van Gogh’s links with Britain, India Paine charts a little known fact - the artist’s sister lived in Welwyn and Vincent walked 100 miles to visit

Read more
June 2018
Monday, May 21, 2018

Garden town or Green Belt? The countryside around three villages could change forever if plans for a new ‘garden town’ are approved

Read more
May 2018
Monday, May 21, 2018

From Aldbury to Wheathampstead, Hertfordshire has a plethora of pretty villages. We have picked just 10 that you should visit

Read more
Tuesday, May 8, 2018

The fabulous Herfordshire County Show takes place at the County Showground, Redbourn on May 26-27. Here are 20 reasons you shouldn’t miss it!

Read more
Tuesday, May 8, 2018

On the 20th anniversary of his death, Herts and Middlesex Wildlife Trust explores the work of nature artist Gordon Beningfield and the Hertfordshire landscapes he treasured

Read more
May 2018
Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Bijou charm and stately British heritage is vividly portrayed in the stylish surroundings of The Kensington, London

Read more
 
Great British Holidays advert link

Newsletter Sign Up

Sign up to the following newsletters:

Sign up to receive our regular email newsletter

Our Privacy Policy




Topics of Interest

Food and Drink Directory

Job search in your local area



Local Business Directory

Hertfordshire's trusted business finder

Search For a Car In Your Area

Property Search