This is a guest blog written by Bywyd Gwyllt Glaslyn Wildlife, a small Community Interest Company (CIC) working to protect breeding ospreys and other wildlife in the Glaslyn Valley in north west Wales.
Ospreys in the Glaslyn Valley
Thanks to concerted conservation efforts, the osprey has in recent decades made an encouraging comeback in parts of the UK, none more so than in a stunning corner of North West Wales, the Glaslyn Valley near Porthmadog, where a special success story continues to unfold.
It was in 2004 when a local man first spotted an osprey flying up the Valley carrying a fish. He later found a nest and a temporary viewing area and nest protection scheme was quickly organised.
The male osprey was a Scottish bird born in 1998, Ochre 11(98) who had been translocated to Rutland Water, before making his way to Wales. His partner was an unringed female, now known as Mrs G, who remarkably has this year returned for her 19th year and is Wales’ oldest female breeding osprey.
[Scottish osprey Ochre 11]
It wasn’t the best of starts in 2004 with the nest blowing down in a storm, killing two chicks. The nest was repaired over the winter and happily the pair returned the following year and went on to breed until 2014. Their dynasty has since spread far and wide.
Bywyd Gwyllt Glaslyn Wildlife, now in its tenth year, runs Glaslyn Ospreys and has managed the project since the RSPB’s stewardship of the project came to an end in 2013. BGGW is an entirely volunteer-run operation relying on visitor and supporter donations.
The success story of Glaslyn’s ospreys took a new turn in 2015 when 11(98) Mrs G’s partner of eleven years, failed to return.
There were various potential suitors at the Glaslyn nest including one of Mrs G’s chicks from 2012, Blue 80. After some uncertain weeks, an unringed male, thought to be around three years old, Aran, arrived on the scene and went on to breed successfully with Mrs G producing two chicks that year. By 2020 they had gone on to raise a further 13 chicks, some of which have since been resighted in the UK and Africa. A new chapter had opened in the story of Glaslyn Ospreys.
[Osprey pair Mrs G and Aran]
By 2021, forty-one of Mrs G’s chicks with her two partners had fledged and five of them were continuing to breed in the UK. Furthermore, three grand chicks were also known to be breeding in Northumberland and Scotland. In total there were 112 grand chicks and ten great grand chicks the project knew of. Offspring continue to be spotted in their winter migration grounds in Africa and in 2022, the first male chick from 2005, Yellow 37, returned to breed for the twelfth year at Kielder. A family tree produced this year illustrates the story so far.
In 2021 the Glaslyn pair returned to the nest in the Spring and three eggs were laid. Unfortunately, the hatching of the eggs coincided with a severe storm during which Aran injured his wing and, consequently, was unable to fish. Sadly, the chicks died, the first time since 2005 that none had fledged from the Glaslyn nest. It was a tremendous blow for the project, but gradually over the summer Aran went on to make a full recovery, fishing and re-enforcing his bonds to Mrs G and the nest. He returned in perfect condition from his winter migration in April this year and the pair have had three more chicks, bringing the number of the female’s offspring to 52.
[Chicks from the 2014 season – Blue 7C, 8C and 9C. Chick 9C is breeding in northern England and chick 8C was re-sighted this year at Poole Harbour in Dorset and then Loch of the Lowes in Scotland]
In the Glaslyn Valley alone, no fewer than 19 different ospreys were seen and many of them identified on the Glaslyn nest or in the surrounding area last year. Many were Welsh born returnees. In 2022 there are seven known nests in Wales, three of which are in the Glaslyn Valley.
Today, a popular Visitor Centre and a new Hide (recently opened by Iolo Williams) at Pont Croesor provide a place where people from far and wide can see these magnificent birds. Live pictures are streamed from the nest and followed by thousands. The Centre is open every day between 10.30am and 4.30pm until the birds migrate in September.
The project will be represented at Wild Justice’s forthcoming Hen Harrier Fest at Adlington Hall & Gardens in Cheshire on Sunday 24 July. Call in and see us!