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Last Updated: Saturday, 3 July, 2004, 16:54 GMT 17:54 UK
High winds kill osprey chicks
osprey (RSPB)
The nest was guarded while the chicks hatched
Ospreys have nested for the first time in Wales - but bad weather killed their chicks.

The rare fish-eating birds hatched chicks at Pont Croesnor - between Porthmadog and Beddgelert - but their offspring died when the nest collapsed.

The location - on a reserve owned by the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds - was kept secret.

The RSPB has set up high-powered telescopes at a vantage point so at least the parents can be viewed.

Osprey - which have a wingspan of up to 5ft - are among the biggest birds of prey in Britain.

There are still fewer than 200 pairs in the whole of the UK, and they are still considered a rare species and remain on the Amber List - which means they still need protection for numbers to recover to an acceptable level.

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.

OSPREY FACTS
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

As a superb hunter, the osprey was persecuted from as far back as the Middle Ages.

Early in the last century, it was driven to the brink of extinction by Victorian fishermen and gamekeepers.

It took until 1954 before the birds were seen again in Scotland - and this year the RSPB is celebrating the 50th anniversary of their reappearance.

The core population is still in Scotland, where there are about 160 pairs. A few have also spread to the north of England.

Pairs have also been breeding at the Wildlife Trust reserve at Rutland Water, thanks to an ambitious reintroduction programme which involved relocating birds from Scotland.

Conservationists believe that the pair in Wales are descended from the Scottish birds.

WHAT'S IN A NAME?
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'
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 north Wales pair as they built their nest and brooded their clutch.

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.

"They are very faithful to their nest site," explained the RSPB's Richard Farmer.

"So they are not only likely to come back to Wales, but to the very same tree."


SEE ALSO:
Lake's ospreys hatch first chick
05 Jun 04  |  Cumbria
Double joy as osprey chicks hatch
28 May 04  |  Scotland



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