Somerset Wildlife Trust

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Ospreys in Somerset

by photographer, Tim Taylor

The story of osprey migration has been told many times before and people with an interest in birds will be aware that the birds they see in the UK tend to over-winter in Africa.  This is what gives us the opportunity to see them in Somerset as, during the autumn and spring migrations, birds occasionally stop near our lakes and reservoirs to fatten up before the flight south or to recover after arriving after their long journey north. 

The site where ospreys are most commonly seen on my patch is on Noah’s Lake at Shapwick Heath NNR. However, there was a new twist this year when a young bird arrived on September 1st at Hawkridge reservoir on the Quantock Hills just ten minutes drive away from my home. Usually stopovers of this sort are short, perhaps up to ten days, but on this occasion the visit has stretched to over 4 weeks.

The bird, ringed on its left leg with a blue ring ‘ND’, has spent its time moving between Hawkridge reservoir where it has been seen catching trout and rudd, and Ashford reservoir where is has been found catching pike. It is at this smaller reservoir where I felt my best opportunities for good photographs lay.

The photographic challenges and solutions

Distance from the bird Choice of site ­ smaller reservoir
Big lens ­ canon 600mm f4 + 1.4x teleconverter
Poor light High ISO ­ OK to use with Canon 1D Mk IV
Fairly fast motion of bird diving Minimum shutter speed 1/1600th second. 10 frames per second available on camera
Variable background ­ trees, water, sky while bird is on the move Use of manual mode on the camera ­ commonly ISO 1250, 1/1600th sec, f 5.6


Osprey with pike by Tim Taylor

About Tim Taylor

Tim is a hobby nature photographer living in Bridgwater. He spends much of his free time roaming the wild areas of Somerset capturing images of the abundant wildlife.

More of his pictures can be seen at


About Ospreys

The osprey (Pandion haliaetus) is a relatively large bird of prey, somewhat larger than a buzzard and with much longer wings spanning some 150-180cm or nearly 6 feet. Whilst it is clearly not on the scale of the golden eagle or white-tailed eagle that you may be lucky enough to see on a visit to Scotland, for us in the South of England, this is a most impressive visitor. Ospreys now breed in good numbers in Scotland but have also established themselves or been introduced to the Lake District, Wales and Rutland Water in England. The total breeding population in the UK has been estimated at up to 250-300 pairs. They are largely dependent on fish for their diet and because of this gravitate to areas with suitable lakes or lochs.

Learning about behaviour

As well as technical challenges, it was also necessary to learn the behavioural pattern of the osprey in order to know where to look for it and to recognise when it was about to dive for prey. The bird tended to shuffle to the edge of the limb on which it was perched, become more intent on staring down into the water, empty its bowels and then dive.

If I wasn’t paying attention, it was easy to miss the moment. We have observed that the interval between catching a fish can be as short as 90 minutes - however, 90 minutes doesn’t seem particularly short if you’re snatching a bit of time before work or if it’s pouring with rain so it’s best to get it right first time!

The pictures below I hope illustrate some of the thrill of watching these great birds

Landing in a tree by Tim Taylor

Landing in a tree © Tim Taylor

Watching for fish by Tim Taylor

Watching for fish © Tim Taylor

Lightening the load by Tim Taylor

Lightening the load © Tim Taylor

Diving osprey by Tim Taylor

Diving osprey © Tim Taylor

Diving by Tim Taylor

Diving © Tim Taylor

Osprey with pike by Tim Taylor

Osprey with pike © Tim Taylor

What we know about this osprey...

Brian Gibbs of Somerset Ornithological Society has found details of the origin of this osprey as follows:

Details of the colour ringed Osprey at Hawkridge Reservoir

I have received the details of the colour ringed juvenile Osprey ‘ND’ which was until recently at Hawkridge and Ashford Reservoirs. It was ringed by Roger Broad in Scotland (BTO:1421529), one of a brood of three on 10/07/12 near Loch Awe, Argyll. One of its two other siblings has also been found on its first journey south, but sadly got no further than Yorkshire where it was reported as a "rail casualty" on 02/09/12.
Hopefully this bird will be more successful on the rest of the journey south. Thanks to Roy Dennis and Roger Broad for providing the information.

To read the original forum post click here to go to the Somerset Ornithological Society forum