Osprey chick number 100 (left) and its sibling number 101 (right)

The Rutland Osprey Project celebrated a major milestone this week, when the 100th Osprey chick to fledge from a nest in the Rutland Water area took to the air for the first time. The eight-week-old Osprey is one of 15 chicks to have flown from eight nests in a record-breaking summer for the project. 

The fledging of the 100th chick is the latest landmark for a project that has successfully restored a population of these magnificent birds of prey to the skies of central England for the first time in over 150 years. Having been extinct in England since the mid-1800s, 64 six-week-old Scottish Ospreys were released at the reservoir in England’s smallest county between 1996 and 2001 in a partnership between reservoir owners, Anglian Water, and the Leicestershire and Rutland Wildlife Trust. The first translocated Osprey returned to breed at its adopted home in 2001and the number of breeding pairs has gradually increased since then.

Rutland Water Nature Reserve Manager, Tim Appleton, said, “Our long-term aim was to restore a self-sustaining population of Ospreys to central England, and the fact that the 100th chick has fledged shows that it is working well. Several of this year’s breeding birds are second or third generation Rutland Ospreys which proves that we now have a well-established population.”

Three of this year’s chicks have fledged from a nest at Rutland Water Nature Reserve, where visitors have the opportunity to enjoy close-up views from a purpose-built hide. Live images from the nest are relayed to the hide as well as to the Lyndon Visitor Centre and onto the project’s popular website. Tim Mackrill who manages the project said, “It is always a thrilling moment to see a young Osprey make its first flight and this year the high definition cameras that we have on the nest gave us an incredible view as the young Ospreys took to the air for the first time. Both the visitor centre and hide were buzzing with excitement when the chicks left the nest”

The innovative project - which was the first of its kind in Europe - forms part of a long-term partnership between Anglian Water and the Leicestershire and Rutland Wildlife Trust at Rutland Water.

Peter Simpson, chief executive of Anglian Water said: “This is a major milestone in this project, and it shows clearly what can be achieved when industry and conservation work together. I am personally very proud of the part Anglian Water has played in this project and of the partnership we have created with the Leicestershire and Rutland Wildlife Trust.

“We have been working with the Trust since Rutland Water was constructed in the 1970s and the Osprey project is a real highlight of our work together. We did something that had never been done before and we had just the right people on board to make it a success.”

This year’s Osprey chicks are likely to remain in Rutland until early September when they will set-off on a 3000 mile migration to West Africa. If they survive the epic journey, the young birds will remain in Africa until they are two years old. Tim Mackrill said, “Of the Rutland-fledged birds that are old enough to have returned, 40% have made it back. Most have returned to the Rutland area, but two have bred successfully in Wales; helping to re-establish Ospreys there for the first time in over 400 years. In the years to come we hope that the Rutland birds will spread to other parts of the southern part of the UK and, with this in mind, we’re working with landwoners and other conservation organisations to encourage a programme of artificial nest building. One day we hope that people walking along the River Thames will be able to look up and see an Osprey. That would be a real sign of success!”