I visited Blashford Lakes today to help Ed and the volunteers put the finishing touches to the osprey nest platform mounted on the telegraph pole on the north-east shore of Ibsley Water. The pole and basic platform went up a long time ago, but a combination of unsuitable conditions and the need to get working at height training had put off the final stage, building the nest. We did try last week but strengthening winds meant we never got started, but today conditions were ideal.
The idea is to make top of the platform look like a successfully used nest.
We started with just the few branches around the edges that were there when the pole was put up. The picture above shows me up the ladder and the team getting set to pull up materials. We added lots more branches around the sides and filled the middle with heather bales, turves and woodchips. Although we were working fairly continuously for a couple of hours, on odd occasions there was time to admire the splendid view.
We took the task of working at the nest in turns, and Ed took over midway, by which time it was not looking quite so sparse.
Lastly we topped up the inside of the nest with woodchip to level it off. If birds actually use the nest they would dig a lot of this out, but this is what a used nest looks like. You might wonder why we want it to look like an old used nest rather than a sparkling new des res. The reason is that the most likely birds to start nesting away from a traditional area will be young ones, they will try to find a territory with signs of previous successful nesting, in other words one with a proven track record and what better than a nest that looks like one that had large young in it last season. Better still they like an area with several such nests, so this is only one site of many already in place or planned to be built.
It took quite a while but it was really good to finally get the job done and have it look somewhat like the original plan.
All we need now are some ospreys. We know that most of the Scottish population migrate in and out of the UK on a line over the Isle of Wight, so a lot must fly down the Avon Valley, certainly many more than we see. All we need is to get a few interested in saving some time and energy travelling all the way to Scotland and settle down with us. If they ever do they should do much better nesting here, the summer weather is generally better and there is much more food, both within the valley and also on the coast, where grey mullet are a favourite prey. In fact they used to be known as “Mullet-hawks” in this area a hundred and fifty or more years ago. In addition nesting here would make the most dangerous leg of the young birds first journey south much easier. Many from Scotland get displaced west to Devon and Cornwall and if they are unlucky head south a drift off into the Atlantic missing France and Spain entirely. From here it is much harder to miss France, so more should survive.
There were a few birds about today, as I arrived I heard a brambling calling near the entrance gate and the screen in the Centre showed the great white egret was still about and it was later seen from the Ivy North hide.