OSPREYS have returned to nest in the forests of Kielder Water & Forest Park for the 12th year in a row.

While it is just another season for the ospreys, it is a year unlike any other for their many fans.

In support of the national effort to combat coronavirus, Forestry England and Northumbrian Water took the unprecedented decision to close all recreational facilities at Kielder Water & Forest Park on March 23.

When the birds return to nest at Kielder from their migration each year, they always attract a large number of visitors.

Lynn Turner, director of Kielder Water & Forest Park Development Trust, said: “The Kielder Osprey Partnership would like to send a clear message to everyone who would ordinarily delight in coming to Kielder to see the ospreys for themselves.

“The most important thing for all of us at Kielder Water & Forest Park is to keep the public and our staff safe.

“The Government has said everyone must stay at home apart from essential travel. Sadly, this means we have to ask you not to come to Kielder. We will keep monitoring the situation closely and follow the latest advice from Public Health England.”

But for osprey fans, it is still possible to keep an eye on how the birds are doing from the comfort of their homes.

Forestry England has been preparing for the 2020 season by sprucing up the nest platforms; replacing cameras and working with consultants to ensure that all electronics are in place to provide reliable footage from the nests. Staff are currently able to receive images from two of the nest platforms, and are still working on being able to safely obtain footage from the other nests.

This footage is being closely monitored by dedicated osprey consultant, Joanna Dailey.

Joanna will be posting all the latest news and images on the Kielder Osprey Project blog throughout the breeding season.

She said she believed the first osprey to make the return journey from its wintering grounds was male osprey known as YA, who arrived on March 26.

Jennifer Watson, a Forestry England recreation ranger, said: “While we are all undergoing restrictions on movement for good reason at the moment, we are delighted to be able to keep open a window on the natural world and check in with some of our winged residents.

“Our ospreys are a welcome reminder that wildlife is still out, is safe in Kielder Forest and will be in the future.”

Before their recolonisation, ospreys had not been observed in Northumberland for nearly 200 years, largely due to persecution in earlier centuries.

Kielder Water & Forest Park has proved over the past 12 years to be a good environment for ospreys to thrive, with 250 square miles of forest surrounding the birds as well as the open water of the biggest man-made lake in northern Europe.

The Kielder Osprey Project is being operated through a partnership between Kielder Water & Forest Park Development Trust, Forestry England, Northumberland Wildlife Trust, Northumbrian Water and Calvert Kielder.

The partners are working hard to ensure that the ospreys are here to stay by maintaining a high quality habitat in Kielder Water & Forest Park and safeguarding and monitoring the nest sites.