Wildlife lovers have been asked to scan the skies for signs that rare ospreys have returned to Kielder Water & Forest Park.
The iconic species – which was extinct in England as a breeding bird for over 150 years – nested in the North East for the first time in over two centuries in 2009.
Since then the original pair have produced seven offspring and last year saw another huge breakthrough when new birds settled on another artificial nesting platform, raising two more chicks.
Now rangers have their fingers’ crossed that the success story will continue.
Tom Dearnley, Forestry Commission Ecologist, said: “All being well the adult birds will have begun their long journey back to Northumberland from sub Saharan Africa where they spent the winter. There are many hazards along their 5,000 mile flight, not least of which could be bad weather. So nothing can be taken for granted.
“But people can help us plot their return by reporting osprey sightings around the forest. It’s likely the males will show up first towards the end of the month, followed by females soon after. Some of the original chicks could also make their way back to the UK for the first time providing they have survived.
“It’s certainly possible that they may come back to the general Borders area.”
Tree climbers have refurbished all four osprey platforms in the 62,000 hectare (155,000 acre) wilderness in the hope that more birds could be enticed to breed. If the birds do return, both resident osprey couples will become local TV stars.
The Forestry Commission and Northumbrian Water have installed a second camera to monitor the nest which produced young for the first time last year. Footage from both cameras will be beamed into Kielder Castle and Leaplish Waterside Park for visitors to enjoy.
Elisabeth Rowark, Director of the Kielder & Water and Forest Park Development Trust, added: “Ospreys have been a massive boost for Kielder and a huge hit with the public. They have also become an emblem for the many conservation successes we have achieved in this truly spectacular place.”
The excitement around the birds has drawn many people to taking holidays in Northumberland or making daytrips to the county in the hopes of seeing the birds.
You can also follow the ospreys fortunes at http://kielderospreys.wordpress.com and sign up for regular updates on Twitter @KielderOspreys
Kielder Osprey Watch 2012 is organised by the Kielder Water & Forest Park Development Trust, the RSPB and Northumberland Wildlife Trust.
The partners are working hard to ensure that the ospreys are here to stay by maintaining a high quality habitat in Kielder Water & Forest Park and safeguarding and monitoring the nest site. To find out more go to www.visitkielder.com.