Three chicks for record-breaking ospreys
Three chicks have been born to a pair of ospreys which made history by being the first to colonise a remote corner of England for 200 years, conservationists said yesterday.
Rangers at the Kielder Water & Forest Park, in Northumberland, have been anxiously monitoring a clutch of three eggs produced by the record-breaking osprey couple earlier this year.
The birds of prey - some of England's rarest - were encouraged a year ago to settle on a specially built platform in the 155,000-acre park.
They reared three chicks last summer and the forestry commission and the RSPB have been keeping their fingers crossed for a similar event this year.
Malte Iden, a ranger at Kielder Castle Visitor Centre, said: "We have been watching riveting cctv coverage being beamed back to Kielder Castle.
"The other morning we were absolutely thrilled to see little ospreys on the screen. We can see them really clearly and dad has been bringing them fish to build up their strength."
Mr Iden said, all being well, the chicks should make their first flights seven weeks after hatching.
The nest - or eyrie - has been built high in a tree by forestry commission rangers, although the birds have been busy making the place their own by bringing in vegetation and twigs.
Elisabeth Rowark, director of the Kielder partnership, said: "The nest is only the second location in England where ospreys have re-colonised naturally.
"Every osprey born here carries the hopes of conservationists keen to see the bird make a comeback.
"Last year's chicks all fledged successfully and a repeat of that would be brilliant. It gladdens the heart to see ospreys becoming as iconic at Kielder as red squirrels.
Accounts from the 18th century refer to "fish-eating hawks" in Northumberland, which were probably ospreys, but there have been no records of the bird breeding in the county for well over 200 years.
The Kielder pair were thought to originate from the expanding Scottish population.
Ospreys were once distributed widely but persecution resulted in the species becoming extinct in England as a breeding bird in 1840 and in Scotland in 1916. Some birds re-colonised Scotland in the 1950s and today there are about 200 pairs.
The three eggs were laid over six days and the mother was seen turning them over and ensuring they were kept warm as the expectant father fed her with fresh trout plucked from Kielder water, which is the UK's largest man-made lake.