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  • Writer's pictureNEMM

Ospreys breed on Belvoir Estate for first time in 200 years

Two Osprey chicks have been reared naturally on the Belvoir Estate in the Vale of Belvoir for the first time in more than 200 years.

It is the culmination of an eight-year biodiversity project coordinated by members of the local community in conjunction with the estate, tenant farmers, the Roy Dennis Wildlife Foundation, the Leicestershire and Rutland Wildlife Trust, and Western Power.

One of the birds in-flight over the Belvoir Estate. Photo: Jon Scrimshaw Instinctive Photography

Beth Dunstan, the Environmental Project Manager at Belvoir Castle said, "We are delighted to have attracted ospreys naturally back to Belvoir after all this time. They are a beautiful and iconic bird and are right at home in this fantastic landscape with its many lakes, reservoirs, streams and even a canal nearby to fish. It has been a real triumph for persistence, teamwork and collaboration.”

After becoming aware ospreys were visiting the area eight years ago, Belvoir worked to identify potential sites for nesting platforms on the estate, building in secret locations and and maintaining them each year in the hope the birds would find one to their liking.

Katrina Woodhead (Duchess PA and Conservation Assistant), Dr Tim Mackrill (Ornithologist and former Manager of the Rutland Osprey Project), Simon Curtin (volunteer biodiversity advisor at Belvoir Estate) Beth Dunstan, (Environmental Project Manager at Belvoir Estate). Photo: Supplied

Beth added: “It was a case of hoping 'if we build it, they will come', and thanks to good site selection, within a few seasons a male was naturally prospecting both of the two platforms we had built at secret locations on the estate.

"The male was identified by his ring as 4K, who hatched at Rutland Water in 2013. He is fitted with a satellite tag so we are able to follow his amazing migration back to Guinea in Africa each autumn - over 3,000 miles away - and his return trip back to Belvoir each spring. Having had a few false starts in past seasons, he finally established a pair bond with an unringed, probably Scottish-born, female this year. We crossed our fingers and hoped for success and are thrilled with the two chicks reared, who were ringed recently, and have now fledged.”

The migration of 4K to Western Africa this autumn is to be followed in person by a team from the charity Conservation Without Borders, led by Sacha Dench - the Human Swan and UN Ambassador for the Convention of Migratory Species. This is a great opportunity to follow and understand the habitats and obstacles on the ground as 4K undertakes his annual migration.

The Duchess of Rutland said: "We are absolutely delighted with the return of breeding Ospreys to Belvoir. It forges our bond with the county of Rutland, given the male parent osprey was born at Rutland Water as part of that successful project, and has chosen here to breed. With as few as 30 breeding pairs of ospreys in England it is still very rare to see.

“It seems amazing to think that the osprey probably last bred at Belvoir back at the time when Capability Brown was surveying the castle grounds in the late 18th Century to draw up his proposed landscaping plans. With Brown's originally unfinished plans recently completed and established at Belvoir, and so much wildlife conservation work undertaken here, it seems a fitting 'stamp of approval' to have the Osprey back - it's as though we have come full circle, our link to the past forging a new future for wildlife."

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