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Friday, 11 May, 2001, 17:06 GMT 18:06 UK
Ospreys nest in England again
Osprey in flight RSPB Images
Ospreys are nesting in England after a two-hundred year gap
By BBC News Online's environment correspondent Alex Kirby

UK bird lovers are jubilant at the news that a pair of ospreys is incubating eggs at a site in the north of England.

This is almost certainly the first time the birds have nested in England for more than two centuries.

The site is being kept secret to protect the birds from disturbance by intruders.

The eggs are not thought likely to hatch for at least two weeks.

The news that the ospreys had nested came from the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB), which has worked to re-establish the species in the UK for nearly half a century, starting at its Loch Garten nature reserve in 1954.

Ospreys were wiped out in Britain by collectors of eggs and birds, and the last pair bred in Scotland in 1916.

Spreading south

Although there are no official records of ospreys breeding successfully in England, the RSPB believes they did so in the late 18th century.

Dr Mark Avery, the RSPB's conservation director, said: "We are delighted that these wonderful fish-eating birds of prey are now breeding again in England.

"This is largely a result of the increasing Scottish population spreading naturally over the border."

Osprey on nest RSPB Images
The only threat is from egg collectors
The society is working to protect the nest with Forest Enterprise and a third organisation, which it says it cannot yet name without betraying the exact location.

Mike Everett, of the RSPB, told BBC News Online: "I belong to the days when there was just one pair of ospreys in the UK.

"Now there are more than 130 pairs in Scotland, and we've been thinking for years it was time they spread south into England.

"It's splendid news, and we hope it will be the first English nest of many. It's an important milestone in the ospreys' recolonisation of the UK.

Well protected

"There are probably three eggs in the nest, though we don't know for sure. Normally all the birds that hatch do survive, if there's enough food available.

"Ospreys will take any fish they can find near the water's surface, including trout. But they're generally left alone by gamekeepers and anglers, and by almost everyone really.

"The one threat is egg collectors. They're very keen on osprey eggs, because of their rarity.

"But this nest is well protected. I hope we can forestall any attempts on it."

Photos courtesy of RSPB Images

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See also:

01 Aug 00 | UK
'Solar-powered' ospreys
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Bird's eye view of osprey odyssey
03 Sep 99 | UK
Ospreys return to England
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