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Record number of osprey chicks hatch

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A record number of osprey chicks have hatched at Rutland Water.

Despite a long winter, five breeding pairs returned from Africa this spring and between them they have given birth to 14 live chicks.

Tim Mackrill, of Leicestershire and Rutland Wildlife Trust, said: "We are very pleased with the numbers of births this year. It is a record.

"All five breeding pairs have offspring. Our previous record was 12 and that was two years ago."

The Rutland Water colony was founded in 1996 when ospreys were brought from sites in Scotland. They did not start breeding successfully until 2001.

Mr Mackrill, a senior reserve officer, said: "We put the record number of chicks down to having a relatively dry spell over the past two months, so the nesting conditions were good.

There is also a ready and plentiful supply of fish in Rutland Water and surrounding lakes.

"Ospreys feed on fish of 2lb or under. They take brown and rainbow trout, roach and even pike.

"It means the adults are well nourished. The average egg number in a nest in Scotland is three, but we have a number with four."

He said he expected all 14 chicks to fly the 3,000 miles to Africa for the winter.

Since the birds of prey started breeding at Rutland Water, there have been 76 live births.

Mr Mackrill said: "The ospreys are doing very well here and they attract 30,000 visitors to Rutland Water each year so are a very good for the economy."

He said a third of the new chicks were likely to return to the UK in two years time to breed.

They could set up home in any of eight nesting sites being established in surrounding counties by the trust.

"Our site at Rutland Water is self-sufficient now and we have worked with other counties in southern Britain to build nests to expand the range that ospreys nest in," he said.

Nests have been built in Nottinghamshire, Cambridgeshire, Lincolnshire, Suffolk, Norfolk and Northamptonshire to encourage new pairs to breed there.

Mr Mackrill said: "Ospreys mate for life but they only get together at breeding time.

"In the winter they stay thousands of miles apart in Africa.

"They meet up in the UK. It is the male that chooses the nesting site and if there is a readymade one, which is unoccupied, near water, he will go for it."

Before the adults set off on the hazardous 3,000-mile migration in late August or early September, GPS tracking devices will be attached to selected adults to allow researchers to see where they go.

The youngsters, which are now aged between two to five weeks, will also soon start to fly, hovering above the nest before they fledge.

They will be fitted with coloured rings so their migration flights can be monitored.

Mr Mackrill said one of the nests on the reserve was fitted with a webcam so people could monitor the chicks' progress:

www.ospreys.org.uk

Record number of osprey chicks hatch


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