[F]ollowing his arrival back at Bassenthwaite this Easter, the famous male osprey known as ‘Unring’ has been delighting staff, volunteers and visitors to the Lake District Osprey Project (LDOP). Sadly, his partner of five years, known as ‘KL’ has not returned, but he has finally found love in a new, unringed female osprey, which arrived over the bank holiday weekend.
Intrigue was caused at the start of the season when Unring returned first and then a new, unringed female turned up a few days later. The pair were seen mating and feeding together. It was expected that KL would return and reclaim her partner, but she never arrived, and the new female also moved on after a few days. This left Unring sprucing up the nest site alone, with sadly no female to impress. However, hope for a successful breeding season has been restored by the arrival of a new female this weekend [Saturday 5 May].
Cath Johnson from the LDOP said: “It has certainly been a dramatic start to the season this year! Several Bassenthwaite osprey fans have been asking why KL hasn’t returned, but as she is not satellite tagged, we can’t know for sure unless she is found or photographed. There were a lot of ospreys arriving back late this year, due to severe weather further down their migration path, so we weren’t worried at first. However, she would not have been delayed for this amount of time. Ospreys spend the winter in West Africa, so have a long journey to the UK in spring. Natural dangers such as weather and predators, as well as human-caused problems such as the loss of fishing habitat for feeding en route, or shooting, can affect their return. There are a lot of potential perils for migrating birds to overcome.”
The vast majority of established breeding ospreys return successfully every year, but a small percentage will unfortunately die over the winter or on their way back. Ospreys live an average of 7-10 years, although occasionally they have been known to live over 20. They don’t begin breeding until they are 3-5 years old. KL fledged from a nest in Inverness-shire in 2009, so would have been 9 this year, within the average expected lifespan of an osprey.
Cath added: “It is sad that KL has not come back this year, as she has bred for the previous five seasons at Bassenthwaite and was a great mum, hatching 13 chicks in that time. However, this new female arriving this weekend has raised our hopes of having chicks this year, as the pair have been seen mating, and Unring has been adding flowers to the nest, so he is trying to impress her. We’re keeping our fingers crossed for them.”
A dedicated team of staff and volunteers can be found at the osprey viewpoints at Dodd Wood which are open every day from 10 am-5 pm until the end of August. At nearby Whinlatter Visitor Centre, the public can also watch nest cam images on flat screen televisions, between 10am-5pm.
To help support the project, which has attracted more than 1.5 million visitors since it started, people can also donate at justgiving.com/lakesospreys
The Lake District Osprey Project is a partnership between the Forestry Commission, the RSPB and the Lake District National Park.