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Last Updated: Friday, 20 August, 2004, 05:45 GMT 06:45 UK
Welsh osprey makes history
The only osprey chick in Wales : picture Steve Phillipps for the Welsh Wildlife Trusts
The nest has had round-the-clock protection
Conservationists have revealed that an osprey chick has successfully fledged for the first time at a secret location in Wales.

The chick, which hatched in May, flew this week for the first time.

The Welsh Wildlife Trusts have kept the location of the nest under wraps to protect the safety of the chick and its parents.

Only one other pair is known to have bred in Wales, but their chicks died after the nest fell to the ground in high winds earlier this year.

"It is incredible news for Wales," said Welsh Wildlife Trusts spokesman and life-long ornithologist Derek Moore.

Scientific name : Pandion haliaetus
Wingspan : 5ft
Clutch: 3, but not all fledge
Sexual maturity: Three to five years
Diet : Mainly fish, particularly perch, pike, and trout

"What has happened goes against what all the text books say.

"Male ospreys prefer to return from migration to the area where they were hatched, so it is really surprising that a male has settled so far away from the natal nest."

Identification rings on the legs of the new parents have shown that they are both originally Scottish birds.

The female came from the Black Isle in the Scottish Highlands - but the male was one of those which had been relocated from Scotland to the Wildlife Trust nature reserve at Rutland Water in the East Midlands, where a project to reintroduce osprey began eight years ago.

More than 60 young birds were transferred to the reserve under special licence between 1996 and 2001.

Wildlife broadcaster Iolo Williams has praised all those involved in safeguarding the first successful fledgling and its parents.

The Greek name for the bird, Pandion haliaetus, comes from the mythical king of Athens, Pandion, whose daughters were turned into birds, the Greek words halos, which refers to the sea, and aetos, meaning an eagle
The common name is from the Latin word ossifragus, meaning 'a bone breaker'
"It is fantastic news that this pair has successfully bred and reared a chick," he said.

"I really would like to take my hat off to the Welsh Wildlife Trusts, the landowner, and the volunteers, who have handled the whole operation superbly well."

Osprey experts at Rutland Water are just as thrilled as their Welsh counterparts about the first successful hatch in Wales.

"Everyone is delighted at the news, and it shows that the project has not just worked here, " said Tim Appleton, reserve manager at Rutland Water.

"We hoped our project would expand the population of ospreys throughout Britain, but we didn't envisage it happening in Wales quite so soon - we thought we were much more likely to see other parts of England being colonised first."

The news of the first Welsh fledgling has delighted naturalists everywhere who were bitterly disappointed that an earlier attempt to raise chicks at another site in Wales ended in disaster in June.

Derek Moore, Welsh Wildlife Trusts
Delighted : Derek Moore of the Welsh Wildlife Trusts
A pair successfully bred at a site between Porthmadog and Beddgelert earlier this year.

The nest was built in a high tree and two chicks hatched.

Sadly, bad weather swept away part of the nest, taking the chicks with it. The male parent was another of the Scottish birds released at Rutland Water in 1998.

The osprey was persecuted to the brink of extinction in Britain by gamekeepers and fishermen in Victorian times.

It took until 1954 for birds to be spotted again in Scotland. Although numbers have recovered considerably there, it remains an Amber List species, which means it still needs protection for numbers to recover to an acceptable level.

The core population remains in Scotland, where there are about 160 pairs, and some have spread to the north of England.

Birds which were transferred from Scotland have begun breeding successfully at Rutland Water, thanks to an ambitious reintroduction programme backed by Leicestershire and Rutland Wildlife Trust and Anglian Water.

The first osprey in Wales : picture Steve Phillipps for Welsh Wildlife Trusts
There are hopes the parents will return next year
Osprey - which have a wingspan of up to 5ft - are among the biggest birds of prey in Britain.

Some have been seen in recent years flying across Wales - as they travel to and from west Africa, where they overwinter - there are no records of them having nested successfully here.

Despite their increased numbers, osprey nests are still targets for egg thieves. The RSPB has logged more than 100 cases where clutches of eggs have been taken from UK nests.

Collectors would have paid a premium to own the first osprey egg laid in Wales, so strict security surrounded the birds in Wales as they built their nest and brooded.

Sadly, severe weather wrecked the nest and the chicks did not survive.

But, as osprey tend to return to their nests year after year, there are hopes that the pair will try again next spring.

High winds kill osprey chicks
03 Jul 04  |  Wales
Lake's ospreys hatch first chick
05 Jun 04  |  Cumbria
Double joy as osprey chicks hatch
28 May 04  |  Scotland

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