Operation Osprey lands at Ranworth

Seventeen years after the majestic osprey was introduced as a breeding bird to Rutland Water in Leicestershire it is generating an estimated �750,000 a year to the tourism economy.

Now staff at Norfolk Wildlife Trust (NWT) are preparing to lay the platforms - quite literally - for what they hope could eventually be a similar soaraway success on the Broads.

Last summer, trips on the NWT pleasure boat Damselfly did a roaring trade when an osprey unexpectedly took up residence at Ranworth Broad, near Great Yarmouth for months - and there was even greater excitement when two were spotted together for a time in June.

Trust conservationists are determined to make the scenic broad even more inviting for ospreys next year by putting up platforms and building nests out of sticks and moss to place on the top.

Leading the plan, which it is hoped could lead to ospreys breeding at the site in seasons to come, is NWT assistant field officer Paul Waterhouse, who spent three summers working on Operation Osprey at Rutland Water.


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Mr Waterhouse, who focused his university dissertation on the planned movement of ospreys to Rutland Water from Scotland, said: 'Ospreys are often seen on the Broads when they pass over the area on their spring migration from West Africa.

'But they normally stay around just a few days and it was unusual one stayed so long last summer.'

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It was believed that last year's visiting osprey had visited Ranworth and neighbouring Cockshoot Broad the summer before and as they were site faithful birds there was a good chance of it returning.

He said: 'By putting up nesting platforms they will think ospreys are breeding here and are likely to land and take an interest. The Broads is a fabulous habitat for them.'

The platforms - put up over the winter - would probably be positioned at the top of prominent trees near the water where ospreys normally nested.

He said: 'Around half of the UK's ospreys are breeding on artificial nest sites. In years to come, if they do start to breed at Ranworth it would be fantastic.

'They are amazing birds to watch and if you see one fishing it is a magical wildlife experience.'

A cause for optimism was that the population of ospreys was growing again with 200 pairs now in the UK and over time they were likely to gradually spread out from Rutland Water.

They had been exterminated as a breeding bird in the 19th century and only returned to Scotland as recently as the 1950s.

Tim Appleton, reserve manager at Leicestershire and Rutland Water Wildlife Trust, said they now had five breeding pairs in the area.

He said: 'We wish the Ranworth project the best of luck. Some of our ospreys are now breeding in Wales.'

However, on a more cautious note, he said last year's visiting osprey to the Broads may have been a young bird on its first return from winter migration.

'When they come back to breed it is more typical they would head for their natal site,' he said.

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