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Last Updated: Monday, 5 May, 2003, 09:10 GMT 10:10 UK
Osprey egg surprise
Osprey chick - Norman Healy/Forestry Commission
The ospreys have produced three chicks at the nest

The Lake District's famous ospreys are incubating eggs, the Lake District Osprey Project has announced.

The news has taken the ospreys' guardians by surprise, as the female has laid her eggs in the nest near Bassenthwaite Lake almost two weeks earlier than in 2002.

A change in the behaviour of the birds in the last few days has alerted the project team to the news the eggs have been laid.

The female is now sitting on the eggs, while the male occasionally takes his turn at incubation and delivers a regular supply of fresh fish to the nest.

Protection scheme

Ospreys first nested at Bassenthwaite in 2001 when they successfully raised one chick.

In 2002 the pair returned to the same nest and reared two chicks.

After wintering in Africa, the pair of ospreys returned to the Bassenthwaite area in April, the male returned on Tuesday, 8 April, with the female arriving the following Wednesday.

A round-the-clock protection scheme is now in place to safeguard the nest from egg thieves or other disturbance.

A team of more than 60 volunteers is helping to guard the nest.

'At home'

If all goes well, the eggs should hatch in June.

Pete Barron of the Lake District National Park Authority, said: "We are thrilled by the news that the ospreys are incubating eggs so soon after they arrived back in the Lakes.

"They obviously feel very much at home here in Cumbria and quickly settled back at the nest that they have used for the last two years."

Bill Kenmir of the RSPB added: "There is a huge amount of interest and good-will towards these fantastic birds and they have many fans not just in Cumbria, but throughout the world."

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