Is Preston's new resident bird of prey here to stay for the first time in 200 years?

An osprey hunting on the River Ribble is raising hopes of the birds nesting in Lancashire for the first time in more than two centuries.

Friday, 17th April 2020, 1:02 pm
Osprey enjoying the sun and a quiet M6 on a motorway bridge over the River Ribble in Preston. Pic credit: Darren Lean

The bird of prey has been spotted on a motorway bridge over the M6 in Preston, near to the Brockholes nature reserve.

The sighting is causing a lot of excitement because ospreys have not nested in the city for centuries.

While ospreys have passed through the city and its nature reserves over the last couple of years, there is no record of one nesting in Lancashire since the mid-18th century - more than 250 years ago!

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Osprey on bridge over River Ribble in Preston: Pic credit: Darren Leen

The bird of prey has been photographed sitting on a bridge near the entrance to the Lancashire Wildlife Trust nature reserve.

Darren Leen, a traffic officer with Highways England, has snapped some incredible pictures of the bird next to the M6 and A59 at Samlesbury.

"I was on a break at the outstation when I saw the osprey on a motorway bridge," said Darren.

"It had been scanning the River Ribble for its next meal, sitting unfazed by 44-tonne vehicles passing less than three metres away.

Highways England Traffic officer Darren Leen who first saw the osprey on the motorway bridge in Preston. Pic: Highways England

"I recognised the features of the bird due to being a bird watcher in my younger days.

"Seeing this beautiful bird so close to the motorway was very much unexpected but a great joy to see."

The osprey already has birders getting excited on social media but no-one can get too close because it is in a restricted area.

Wildlife Trust Director of Conservation Time Mitcham said: "We had a juvenile male here late last summer, showing an interest in the osprey eyrie at the top of a telegraph pole, which we built with the help of Electricity North West in 2013.

Osprey spotted on bridge over the River Ribble in Preston: Pic credit: Adam Sharples

"We were hoping it would return this year with a mate. So this is very exciting.

"Brockholes is closed in the lockdown so there is little disturbance - which will benefit this osprey.

"There is a greater chance of it looking at the eyrie.

"Hopefully, people will adhere to the lockdown allowing any birds an opportunity to settle and when it ends and we open the reserve again, who knows, our cameras might be showing off osprey chicks?"

Ospreys nest in Scotland and Wales, and at Foulshaw Moss in Cumbria, which is as close as they get to Lancashire.

This large bird of prey with a 1.6 metre wingspan, has a white head and underparts and dark brown upper parts.

Their wings during flight show strong barring and distinctively dark brown, angled "wrists".

The bird will have flown in from Africa to look for somewhere to nest - a trip from the south may have taken 20 days, with stops along the way to refuel.

Normally Lancashire is just a refuelling spot for these majestic birds of prey.

"Of course the bird may just be stopping over before moving on and could be gone by tomorrow," added Tim.

But Lancashire Wildlife Trust is recommending birders don’t flock to see it on its perch near the motorway bridge.

"It is a difficult place to see the bird and, at the moment, we feel it is unwise and dangerous to travel to see it," said Tim.

Brockholes is closed to the public during the lockdown and under lockdown regulations, photography and bird watching are not considered “essential travel”.