Ospreys breed successfully in Wensleydale — the first to be recorded in Yorkshire

Rufus Orde-Powlett observing Jill Warwick and Peter Davies ringing.

A pair of ospreys has successfully bred at a site in Wensleydale – the first breeding pair recorded in Yorkshire since records began in the 1800s.

The nest was built on the Bolton Castle Estate, with the breeding pair producing two chicks — one male and one female.

The osprey was once common across Europe but was driven to extinction in many parts, including Britain, in the 1800s.

In recent years, with active reintroductions, it has been making a comeback, but threats still remain.

Sacha Dench, founder of Conservation Without Borders and Ambassador for the UN’s Convention on Migratory Species, visited the nesting site today with Bolton Castle Estate owner Tom Orde-Powlett.

Sacha is leading the Flight of the Osprey expedition, an epic 10,000km conservation journey from Scotland to Ghana, which aims to bring together UN agencies, scientists, governments and communities to address the effects of climate change and human threats to the osprey and other migratory species.

Sacha Dench is known as “the human swan” for her journey following Bewick’s swans from Arctic Russia to the UK by paramotor.

The mother of the new chicks is known as Blue KS1 and hatched at Glaslyn in Wales in 2018.

Her mate is un-ringed.

KS1’s mother is known as ‘Mrs G’ and has been returning to Wales since 2004 and her father known as Aran has been with Mrs G since 2012.

It is believed that this is the first of Aran’s offspring known to be breeding.

Tom, in cooperation with a number of interested organisations, has tried to help the re-colonisation on the Bolton Castle Estate.

One of the estate’s gamekeepers noticed two birds together in the area and this gave Tom the confidence that there could be a pair establishing a territory.

With the expert help of Mike Thornley, of Thornley Wildlife Trust, and Brian Towers, a Bolton Estate river keeper and former tree surgeon, two platforms were built.

The pair that had been seen by the gamekeeper ultimately built a nest on one of the platforms and produced the two chicks in mid-June, which have now been ringed.

Brian Towers building a nest platform.

Tom said: “Over the last 20 years or so I had seen ospreys with increasing frequency, and in 2019 what we thought might be a pair were spotted.

“I decided to stock two ponds near where we had seen them with some trout, hoping that a good food source would keep them here and also reduce pressure on wild fish.

“Friends, family and colleagues from Natural England, the Cumbria Raptor Study Group, BASC and the Lower Ure Conservation Trust all helped in assessing where might be best to build nesting platforms near the areas where the pair were mostly frequenting

“We were overjoyed when they eventually built a nest on one of our platforms and we saw the hen bird apparently sitting on something – we hoped an egg in May – which would mean potential hatching in mid-June.

“One of our keepers has taken a keen interest and has been checking the nest every day of incubation.

“I had a real shock on the day we thought was hatching day when a local farmer who had been observing them on his rounds, saw a large amount of net trailing behind the flying male bird.

“We climbed up to the nest site but luckily by the time we got there the male had freed himself of whatever it was and seemed fine.

“We were pretty confident of one chick but when we went to ring them we were thrilled to discover two, one of each sex.”

Sacha added:  “I am incredibly honoured to be able to visit the very first osprey breeding pair in Yorkshire. What Tom and his colleagues have achieved is nothing short of a miracle.

“Our expedition is designed to shine a light on some of the fantastic efforts organisations and individuals like Tom are making to address the challenges faced by ospreys and other migratory birds.

“In the long run we humans can do so much to help ospreys and a wide range of other birds and animals whose lives, like our own, depend on healthy, unpolluted land and oceans.”

Osprey hunting. Photo: Mike Thornley.

Simon Warwick MBE, director of the Lower Ure Conservation Trust, said: “Based on photos, it appears that the male Osprey comes south to Nosterfield Nature Reserve to fish on most days – an easy return trip for an osprey – interestingly every fish we have managed to identify him catch has been a chub.

“It has been a real delight to work with Tom on this and to witness his enthusiasm.

“As he suggests, all our research indicates that this pair is the first in Yorkshire in historic times – incredibly exciting and hopefully the beginning of a Yorkshire dynasty.”