Conservationists hope fake nests will see ospreys stay

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Ospreys, the majestic fish hawks which are spreading in the wilder parts of Scotland, the Lake District and Wales, are being offered the chance to set up home in the gentler landscape of Dorset – in fake nests.

Conservationists are using man-made nests in an attempt to tempt the birds to stay and breed in the Poole Harbour area, which they pass through every year on their migratory journeys to and from Africa.

The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds has put up five of the artificial nests in trees at its reserve at Arne, and two more at another Poole Harbour site. It is hoped the model homes – which have been daubed with white paint in place of bird droppings for added realism – will fool visiting birds, which tend to be faithful to their previous nest sites, into thinking ospreys have nested there before, and will encourage young males that are less than three years old and older females that have lost their partners into staying and breeding.

The hope is that a breeding population can be re-established, from which ospreys can spread out to recolonise the south. The birds returned to breed in the Scottish Highlands in the 1950s after becoming extinct in Britain four decades earlier.