Rare osprey spotted in St Albans

An osprey in flight with fishhawk wings spread

An osprey in flight with fishhawk wings spread - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

A rare bird of prey has been spotted in the Ver Valley in St Albans.

An osprey was sighted on Wednesday, August 26, near Shafford Mill, just north of the city, by John Fisher, one of the Ver Valley Society water bailiffs who go out once a month to survey a section of the river, record birds, fish, insects and flowers and measure the water flows.

John, who is a keen birdwatcher and member of the Watford RSPB group, said he first saw a large bird of prety in the pouring rain last Wednesday when he was approaching Shafford Mill.

“At first I assumed it was a buzzard, pretty common in this area, but when I saw its white chest and legs and blackish back it was clearly an osprey. They are a similar size.”

He explained: “Although they do pass through Hertfordshire on autumn migration they visit the larger lakes and reservoirs such as those at Tring and in the Lea Valley Park where they can feed up on their long journey to West Africa where they winter.

“Ospreys travel singly, not in family groups like geese or swans, with the adults starting south in mid-August and the young a few weeks later. I think my bird was an adult, perhaps from Rutland Water where there are several breeding pairs nowadays. “

John went on: “The storms on Monday may well have triggered their departure and this one was caught again on Wednesday and had to shelter during the worst of the downpour.”

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He said that it was unusual to see an osprey perched in the Ver Valley but added: “A few springs ago one stayed at the London Colney fishing lakes for a few days and Panshanger Park near Welwyn Garden City is a regular stop-off, so much so that a gravel pit there has been renamed Osprey Lake.”

John has checked on Herts Birdline but no-one else seems to have seen the osprey - which he pointed out was not surprising really as he was probably the only birder out in poor weather.