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The osprey’s beautiful springtime ballet


Spring is the ideal time for walkers and birdwatchers to enjoy an unexpected treat, as Simon Finlay discovered on a fishing trip…


A couple of years ago, my fishing buddy Steve Lucas and I were on the banks of the Arlington Reservoir when something other than extracting trout from this very fine still water caught our attention.


What appeared to be a large bird circled, turned into an anchor-shaped plunge and crashed feet first into the water. It momentarily flapped and seemingly floundered before taking off again. It then did the same again – circle, plunge, splash…and flew off again. On the third attempt, the bird – somewhat closer this time – performed this ballet once more and this time emerged from some way in the water, in great muscular


24 Mid Kent Living 24 Mid Kent Living


wingbeats, with a rainbow trout of around one pound which was taken off torpedo-like in its talons. It was an osprey, for sure, on a fish-rich stopover on migration from Africa to the breeding grounds of northern England or Scotland. We hadn’t banked on that treat during a day’s fly-fishing and goes to prove the old adage that there is more to fishing than catching fish.


The osprey, rather like the red kite in Wales, the West Country and lately Kent, is something of a success story. It was totally extinct by 1840 in England and gone in Scotland, too, by 1916. A few passage migrants – possibly lost, blown off course or in search of new breeding grounds – colonised


Factfile The Osprey


Migrant birds, such as the osprey, are still regularly shot in southern Europe, although British ospreys migrate through Spain where they are at less risk than in some other countries.


Contamination of birds with mercury and organochlorine pesticides, and entanglement in fishing line occur, but cooperation with anglers has reduced the latter problem significantly.


Ospreys are surprisingly tolerant of regular activity, such as passing vehicles, but they are extremely nervous of unusual activity, and hence there can be a risk of a nest being deserted following disturbance, both intentional and accidental. (Source: RSPB)


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