Tuesday, 8 September 2015

Day 300 - Outstanding Ospreys

Osprey (Panino haliaetus)
Hi everyone - it's DAY 300 - well that feels like quite a milestone and as ever when I hit a milestone I like to do something special. Yesterday's Tawny Owl was starting it really as that was pretty special too and today I have something else that I really like seeing. I made a special trip to the Lake District with Dad to see these lovely birds, and that was great, I got to watch them for quite a while. I was also really excited when I found out that I'd probably see some when I went to Birdfair too. You'll probably know that I'm talking about.... Ospreys!

There are three in this tree at Rutland
When I went to the Lakes I saw three Ospreys and there was a great Lake District Osprey Project. The people there told me lots about them. The Ospreys were a bit far away for my camera there. When I went to Rutland Water though they were much nearer and I saw five! Managed to get some better shots too.

So what did I find out about these wonderful birds:

They are huge - much bigger than me!
  • They have a number of common names including  fish eagle, sea hawk, river hawk or fish hawk.
  • Even with their latin name (Panino haliaetus) the last part translates as sea eagle. The first part refers to a mythical Greek king.
  • Until I went to the Lakes I didn't realise quite how big they are, they are 60 cm long and have a 180 cm wingspan. They weigh 1600g!
There are three in this tree in the lakes too -
they were much further away, this is through a scope! 
  • Their markings are lovely and they have a dark 'Highwayman's mask' around their eyes, dark brown upper parts and white underparts.
  • Ospreys are probably best known for their hunting habits, as the common names suggest it hunts for fish and snatches them from lakes, or the sea, in a shallow dive. I found a great bit of film from a BBC Two programme about them - love the presenter trying to conceal their identity - guerilla bird spotting! 

  • Fish are its main diet but they also may eat small mammals, reptiles etc. Generally they nest near to freshwater lakes or lochs but also will fish in the sea.

Me in a model eyrie doing my best Osprey impression!
  • They build big nests made out of sticks called eyries but they are happy to settle in artificial nest platforms. 
A real Osprey in an eyrie at Rutland! 
The fifth Rutland Osprey I saw
  • Ospreys lay around 2 to 3 eggs in a clutch and incubate then for around 37 days before the chicks hatch.
A sneaky close up :-)
  • The young stay in the nest next for 7-8 weeks fed by mum tearing off bits of fish flesh 
  • Chicks exercise and flap their wings called helicoptering (hovering above) until ready to fledge
  • They are a widely distributed bird and are found in North America, Northern Europe and Asia, also Australia
  • Ospreys from the UK generally fly to West Africa, mainly Senegal or the Gambia for the winter. Young Ospreys stay there for 3 years before flying back to the UK to breed. 
  • They are an Amber status bird and there are around 200 breeding pairs in the UK but it's not always been that way. 
  • In the UK collectors extinguished the Osprey population completely in the early 20th century and they didn't return to the UK to breed until 1954. The first new arrivals were Scandinavian birds naturally returning.  They were guarded carefully and their eggs were protected!
  • The recolonisation began in Scotland and then in 2001 they nested in the Lake District for the first time in 150 years.
  • They also bred in 2001 at Rutland Water as part of a translocation programme.
  • After their African holiday they return to UK late March. Pairs won't have stayed together over the winter but will often meet up again to breed and often in the same Eyrie.
  • The presence of one pair will encourage others to colonise
  • Generally they live for around 10 years but have been known to be up to 25 years old. The oldest ringed bird in Rutland at the moment that is known, is now 18.

If you want to find out more about these wonderful birds try these sites:

Lake District Osprey Project

Rutland Ospreys

BTO Birdfacts - Ospreys

Hope you enjoyed,



  1. Awww, Ospreys, they're just the loveliest! Awesome post Zach! - Tasha

  2. Wow, Zach! Thanks for the Day 300 Celebration! Stunning footage from the masked ? filmmakers and BBCTwo! Funny you in your model eyrie; I thought some Osprey face paint would have upped the commentator with the wooly mask! But it still gets my "pic of the day" vote. What a day it must have been for you, so thanks again for sharing all of your documenting! Am glad the glorious Osprey is reintegrating despite human disruption. Nature wins!

    1. Thank you very much for your comments Lauraellen, so glad you enjoy the posts :-)