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Artificial nest built to attract ospreys to Ranworth Broad

PUBLISHED: 06:30 18 March 2013

Osprey nest built at Ranworth Broad

Osprey nest built at Ranworth Broad

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An artificial osprey nest has been built at a secluded location on the Broads to encourage the majestic bird to breed in Norfolk for the first time since the 1840s.

The Norfolk Wildlife Trust (NWT) initiative on its Ranworth Broad reserve has been prompted by the visit of an osprey to the beauty spot two summers ago.

While ospreys are often seen fleetingly on the Broads during their spring and autumn migration between breeding grounds in Scotland and their winter home in West Africa, they usually only stay a few days.

However, the 2011 visitor created a stir of excitement by staying on the broad throughout the summer and generating a roaring trade for the NWT pleasure boat Damselfly.

NWT assistant field officer Paul Waterhouse has led the project, funded by Biffa landfill tax cash, with practical help from experts at Rutland Water in the Midlands, the closest osprey breeding site to Norfolk.

Arriving on a dull winter’s morning, Rutland Water senior reserve officer Tim Mackrill and his assistant Lloyd Parker ferried construction tools across the broad by boat to the spot chosen by Mr Waterhouse last winter and declared it to be an ideal location.

After deciding which tree was most suitable, they climbed it and made space for the base of the nest high in the tree top.

The put in place a metal mesh platform, permitting drainage yet strong enough to hold the weight of a nest measuring more than a metre across.

Mr Waterhouse, who has himself worked on the Rutland Osprey Project, said: “We then started to gather sticks for building the nest from around the site which were hoisted up the tree.

“They were arranged to make the nest and secured using wire and cable ties. The last ingredient was mud and moss to line the nest and make it look like the real thing.”

He said that it required a lot of skill and knowledge from the osprey team to make the nests so convincing.

“Rutland Osprey Project has now made many of these nests, not just in Rutland, and they have been successful in attracting breeding ospreys,” he said.

Mr Waterhouse stressed it was a long-term project and it still might be many years before ospreys bred on the Broads; the project at Rutland began 18 years ago but it was not until 2001 that it achieved its first breeding success with one pair returning to raise one chick.

However, he said: “Tim agreed that the Norfolk Broads is a fantastic habitat for ospreys and it was well worth attempts to encourage them back into the area.”

It was most likely that ospreys, which will be passing through early next month, would initially use the nest as a resting place before continuing to their breeding grounds; as birds from Rutland gradually spread there would be an increasing chance of them staying to breed.

“In 2004 Rutland released birds bred in Wales for the first time in several hundred years,” he said.

The Rutland project, which has seen 43 ospreys successfully fledged since 2001, has generated an estimated £750,000 a year boost to the local tourism economy.

However, Mr Waterhouse said the main driver for the NWT’s work at Ranworth was simply to “encourage these magnificent birds back into the Broads”.

“Watching a fishing osprey is one of the most memorable wildlife experiences you can have,” he said.

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