Ospreys in Poland

Earlier this month Tim Mackrill was invited to attend a workshop on the conservation of ospreys in Poland, as part of an EU LIFE project. The general trend among the European population is positive, with translocations and artificial nest building helping to restore the osprey to many parts of its former range. One of the countries where the situation is not so encouraging, however, is Poland. Here the population has declined to less than 25 pairs, leading to concerns that if action is not taken the species may be lost altogether. In a country that still supports an amazing diversity of wildlife including many iconic species such as lesser and greater spotted eagles, white-tailed eagles, wolves, beavers and bison this is a worrying situation that requires urgent attention.

The project, coordinated by The General Directorate of The State Forests (GDSF) in Poland, aims to identify the reasons for the decline and to implement key conservation actions to reverse it. You can find out more here. The workshop provided a valuable opportunity to review the work that has been completed to date and to discuss future plans. Tim was invited to talk about our Osprey conservation work in the UK and was joined by colleagues Urmas Sellis from Estonia and Flavio Monti from Italy.

Participants in the workshop held in Olsztyn, Poland

The project has already completed an impressive amount of work, including the construction of over 125 artificial nests. This work has been undertaken in the north-east and west of the country where the remaining pairs continue to breed. It is hoped that this will facilitate the spread of the German population. There are now over 700 pairs of Ospreys in Germany, many of which breed on electricity pylons. By constructing up to 50 nests on similar pylons in western Poland it is hoped that he German birds will be tempted to cross the border. Artificial nest construction has greatly facilitated the geographical expansion of the UK Osprey population and suggests that the Polish work will also be successful.

Whilst artificial nests are clearly an important conservation measure, it is essential to have a clear understanding of the reasons for the recent decline. With this in mind efforts will be made during 2019 to understand more about the fishing behaviour of breeding males.  Our satellite tracking studies in the UK have provided a valuable insight into where and when adult male ospreys catch fish; demonstrating that individual birds visit numerous different sites and will sometimes travel surprising distances for fish. It is not uncommon for ospreys in both Scotland and England to make 40km round trips for fish on occasion. Satellite tracking adult male ospreys in Poland will give the team similar insights which will be useful in advising and directing future conservation effort. Although there are many natural lakes in Poland, particularly in the regions with breeding ospreys, the local birds also visit fish farms. I was pleased therefore to talk about the proactive efforts that have been undertaken in both Scotland and England to address this issue. The recent establishment of a photographic hide at River Gwash Trout Farm in Rutland is one such example which has been extremely successful. Income from the photographic hide now forms an integral part of the business; demonstrating that wildlife and commercial activities can coexist if a positive proactive approach is taken.

We wish the Polish team all the very best for their valuable project.

A Polish fish farm visited by Ospreys. The birds also forage in the many natural lakes in the region.

The photography hide at River Gwash Trout Farm in Rutland offers great views for photographers and valuable income for the fish farm (photo Geoff Harries)