Osprey on nest copyright RSPB

Osprey Watch

Ospreys in the Lake District

The osprey is a fish-eating bird of prey with a five-foot wingspan. There was no record of osprey nests in England since the 1830s, until a pair arrived in the Lake District in 2001 and successfully bred near Bassenthwaite Lake. Since then, the birds have spent the winter in Africa and returned in the spring to nest and rear their chicks.

The ospreys usually arrive around April and stay until early September when they migrate back to Africa. The return of the ospreys was the result of several years’ work with our partners: the Forestry Commission and the RSPB who erected artificial nest platforms at Dodd Wood near Bassenthwaite Lake, now a National Nature Reserve, and the ospreys chose to nest on one of them. Until recently you could view the nest from viewpoint at Dodd Wood managed by FE and supported by the RSPB and LDNPA until the birds decided to nest in a location less visible.

Ospreys spend the summer in England before starting the long 3,000-mile flight back to West Africa in mid-to late-August. Satellite tracking has shown them flying up to 430 km in just one day. It takes them about 20 flying days to complete the journey, but, in autumn, birds stop off to refuel at lakes and reservoirs. They tend to arrive back here in late March or early April each year. Eggs are laid towards the end of April and hatchlings usually appear in early June.

The birds can be seen regularly flying, fishing, and feeding throughout the breeding season, but the best time to look for ospreys is between June and August when they will have to hunt more to feed their young chicks. Though they are likely to be seen at any time of day, early morning and late evening are the best times.

Where to see ospreys in the Lake District

Located in south Cumbria Foulshaw Moss Nature Reserve is a lowland raised mires; one of Western Europe’s rarest and most threatened habitats. The current pair have been successfully breeding for a number of years and can be seen from a special viewing platform. You can also observe them all hours through online webcams at certain times of the year.

Esthwaite Water

Esthwaite lies between the larger lakes of Windermere and Coniston water, south of the village of Hawkshead. It is a private fishery and provides a haven for wildlife. The Osprey Safari is a self-drive or guided boat trip around beautiful Esthwaite Water to view our spectacular resident Ospreys when in season. The First week of April to the first week of September.

Cogra Moss Ospreys

Cogra Moss near Workington is a little-known reservoir in the Western Lakes. It regularly attracts feeding ospreys.


Lake District Osprey Project

The Lake District Osprey Project was a partnership set up between the Forestry Commission, Lake District National Park and Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) supported by many volunteers, initially aimed to ensure the continued success of breeding ospreys at Bassenthwaite; to assist with natural colonisation elsewhere in the Lakes; and to provide visitors to the Lakes with the opportunity to see and find out more about ospreys.

Offspring of the original breeding pair at Bassenthwaite have been spotted around Thirlmere, South Cumbria, Foulshaw Moss and South Scotland. The project was disbanded in 2022, due to the successful re-establishment of breeding pairs at locations around the Lake District.