Wildlife: Osprey alert at North West nature reserves

ALL ABUZZ: Sightings of ospreys have caused a stir recently (Image: Darin Smith)

We have been all abuzz at Brockholes over the past few weeks with three ospreys paying a visit to our nature reserve.

A couple just popped into the reserve just off the M6 ​​at Preston, while a younger bird hung around and hunted in the lakes and the nearby River Ribble.

The thought of this magnificent bird of prey making a home in the North West is just too exciting to contemplate and we have had a couple of close encounters in recent years, with other sightings in Wigan and West Lancashire.

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About 10 years ago Electricity North West erected a telegraph pole at Brockholes and we placed a nesting platform, a high rise flat for ospreys.

A couple of them have investigated but over that decade we only had birds dropping in as they head north to Cumbria or Scotland in spring or Africa in autumn.

Then two years ago, an osprey that had been chased away from its territory in North Lancashire, spent quite a few weeks hunting on the Ribble and at Brockholes, delighting birders, many of whom broke lockdown rules to get a closer look.

RARE SIGHTING: An osprey on a motorway bridge (Image: Darren Leen, National Highways)

This bird looked as though it was hanging around.

Unfortunately, a foolish person pushing a bicycle illegally along the hard shoulder spooked the bird and it was hit by a lorry and died.

Then to add insult to injury someone stopped to pick up the body with the intention of having it stuffed, but they were asked to hand it over so the authorities could investigate its death. Nothing like a chance, eh?

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This was devastating but proved that ospreys are now eyeing up the North West as possible nesting sites for the future.

The nearest nest at the moment is Foulshaw Moss, a Cumbria Wildlife Trust nature reserve, close to Ulverston.

Ospreys are hunting for fish, catching them in dynamic fashion as they dive towards lakes and lochs, stretching out their talons and scooping the fish from the water with ease. It is astonishing to see.

EN ROUTE TO AFRICA: An osprey will be passing through now (Image: Darin Smith)

The osprey is a brown-and-white bird which is often mistaken for a large seagull at a distance.

It is a large bird of prey with dark brown upperparts and contrasting white underparts that can appear mottled in females.

It has a white head with a dark brown mask around its yellow eyes.

Just about now the ospreys will be heading for winter warmth in West Africa.

Some have been known to fly more than 250 miles in a day, taking 20 stops along the way.

So the autumn visits to our sites at Brockholes, Mere Sands Wood and Wigan Flashes to refuel are really important in preparation for the flight.

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Traditionally the osprey has been a bird of water bodies in the Lake District, Scotland and Wales, but they are joining red kites and being seen more in our region.

Let’s hope that our three ospreys return to Brockholes in spring and set up home in their high rise apartment, and then watch the birders flock in from far and wide.


The Wildlife Trust for Lancashire, Manchester and North Merseyside is dedicated to the protection and promotion of the wildlife in Lancashire, seven boroughs of Greater Manchester and four of Merseyside, all lying north of the River Mersey.

It manages around 40 nature reserves and 20 Local Nature Reserves covering acres of woodland, wetland, upland and meadow, and has 29,000 members, and over 1,200 volunteers.

To become a member of the Trust go to the website.

For more wildlife columns, click here.

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