Putting up nesting platforms for Ospreys is one of the best ways in which to attract them to a specific area, and encourage them to stay in the area and breed. Whilst it is true that Ospreys are perfectly capable of constructing their own nests, they prefer to take-over established ones. It is much more energy efficient, as they do not have to build from scratch, and it saves them the trouble of choosing where to site it. This means that in areas where there are no vacant natural nests, artificial structures are a superb way of encouraging the birds to spread to new areas. Also, the platforms can be sited in areas where nesting Ospreys will be protected from disturbance.
Several artificial nest platforms have been erected over the years at Rutland Water and the surrounding area. We now have eight pairs of Ospreys in Rutland, and six of these pairs are utilizing artificial platforms. Another factor that proves the importance of providing nest platforms is the data we have collated through the use of colour-ringing studies. Sightings of Ospreys elsewhere in the country have highlighted the ability of these birds to cover large distances in very little time. Some Ospreys have been seen to travel between Rutland and Wales on a daily basis. These young birds are looking for vacant sites in which to nest in the future; whether in Wales, Rutland or somewhere in between.
The provision of nest platforms is therefore crucial, in order to provide more opportunities for Ospreys to breed. An Osprey is more likely to stay in an area in which there is a platform, than one where there is not. As such, the Leicestershire and Rutland Wildlife Trust have been working closely with other Wildlife Trusts, organisations and land-owners, both in this area and further afield, in order to put up nest platforms in as many suitable locations as possible.
The construction of nest platforms is ongoing, and I recently attended the installation of some. It was fantastic to see how it is done! We were fortunate to have the assistance of Western Power, who provided the poles, and whose help was essential in order to get the nest poles into the ground. The platform itself is made from a sheet of 3/4 inch-think plywood, cut into a metre-diameter circle, fitted with drainage holes and attached to a framework to secure onto the top of the nest pole.
Before being installed, the requisite French perch was secured to the above platform. Western Power then used their superb equipment to dig a deep enough hole, lifted the pole and placed it in, and then ensured it was straight and secure.
The next job was to build a basic nest structure on top of the platform. Several piles of different sized sticks had already been collected, and Tim went up to the nest in the cherry picker to construct the basis of a nest. Each bunch of sticks was hoisted up using a rope.
Several bunches of sticks were needed, starting large then getting smaller, then turf was collected to make a nice, soft centre. Here is the end result – a perfect Osprey nest!