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Cumbrian osprey spotted in The Gambia

Young osprey which hatched last year at Foulshaw Moss in Cumbria is now thriving on the West African coast
Juvenile osprey Blue 5N, which hatched at Foulshaw Moss Nature Reserve in 2018, was seen recently at a disused sand mine in the northern area of Gunjur in The Gambia. Credit: Chris Wood.

A one-year-old osprey has been spotted in The Gambia, some 4,000 miles away from where it hatched at Foulshaw Moss Nature Reserve near Witherslack. The male juvenile bird of prey (tagged as Blue 5N) was spotted last week by Chris Wood in Gunjur, in the south west of The Gambia.

Chris, who is a volunteer on Rutland Ospreys identified the osprey through his telescope thanks to the bird’s leg ring. He said: “It’s great to see the young boy, he looks very white. At first I was a little confused, as one of the Rutland breeding females is 5N but this bird is male. Our 5N has a green ring, this one has a blue ring. It’s exciting to follow these special birds and to actually see a known one!”

Blue 5N is one of three chicks that successfully fledged from Cumbria Wildlife Trust’s nature reserve in 2018. Paul Waterhouse, Reserves Officer at Cumbria Wildlife Trust said: “This is very exciting news indeed! We know that the osprey chicks which hatch in Cumbria face a long and arduous migration to West Africa, when they are about five months old, and sadly as many as 60-70% don’t survive this first journey. We know their survival chances are very slim so we’re really pleased to hear that Blue 5N made it and seems to be thriving nearly one year on. In December we had a sighting of Blue 7N, another chick from the same brood, which wintered in Southern Spain. The fact that two chicks from a brood of three have survived their first migration, when the mortality rate is so high, is fantastic news.”

Osprey chicks are tagged at around three months old and Paul explains why this is so important: “These leg tags enable us to identify the birds individually, keep tracks of their movements and understand their life history, as with this sighting of Blue 5N. They are fitted with metal BTO rings, as part of the national bird ringing scheme and also a plastic colour ring, which allows individual birds to be identified in the field using a telescope or telephoto camera.”

A pair of ospreys has been breeding successfully at Foulshaw Moss Nature Reserve for the past five years and a total of 11 chicks have been raised so far. Paul and his colleagues are hoping that the breeding pair will return again this year (usually in late March/early April).

Foulshaw Moss Nature Reserve is open daily to visitors and throughout the breeding season (April to September) staff will be on hand to show visitors the osprey nest, using binoculars and telescopes set up on viewing platforms. The nature reserve is fully accessible, with an all-weather boardwalk which has opened up previously inaccessible parts of the nature reserve. This season visitors will also benefit from newly-installed information panels, which help to bring the nature reserve to life. The boardwalk extension and information panels were both funded by LEADER.

Foulshaw Moss Nature Reserve is located off the A590 near Witherslack. Full directions are available on http://www.cumbriawildlifetrust.org.uk/reserves/foulshaw-moss.

Please note the nature reserve will be closed between 25 March and 1 April 2019, to enable road re-surfacing work to be carried out, to improve visitor access.

The Trust is working to get the osprey web cam up and running for later in March. You can make a donation to help with the running costs of this camera at https://www.cumbriawildlifetrust.org.uk/wildlife/cams/osprey-cam

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