The Lake District ospreys are some of the national park’s most famous animal residents. The large birds are an impressive sight with a wing span of up to 5.5 feet and beautiful brown and grey colouring. Gliding through the sky, they can be spotted easily amongst other smaller birds, but the real delight comes if you’re lucky enough to catch them hunting. With a diet that primarily consists of fish, ospreys can be seen diving into lakes, wings back and claws forward, at up to 125 kilometres per hour! After almost fully submerging themselves in the water, they’ll often resurface triumphantly, carrying a large fish in their talons.
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The history of ospreys in the Lake District
A pair of ospreys first started nesting near Bassenthwaite Lake in the Lake District in 2001. It was an exciting event, as they were the first wild breeding pair in the national park in over 150 years! Ospreys have been returning ever since in order to lay eggs and raise their young.
Ospreywatch Cumbria keeps track of the Cumbrian ospreys, their nesting habits and their behaviour. They have managed to track a number of the chicks as they spread their own wings and start breeding further afield. Offspring of the original breeding pair at Bassenthwaite have been spotted around Thirlmere, South Cumbria, Foulshaw Moss and South Scotland.
Where can you see ospreys in the Lake District?
Bassenthwaite Lake ospreys
The best known of these visiting raptors are the Bassenthwaite Ospreys. Bassenthwaite Lake was the original nesting place after the bird’s return to England in 2001, and it has been the location of choice since then. Though the original pair are no longer around, familiar faces return again and again, including a male named Unring.
As a well-stocked late, Bassenthwaite is a feast for ospreys. It’s a favourite hunting ground and they can often be seen during breeding season plummeting into the deep water. The A66 runs alongside the west side of the lake and a number of laybys allow easy access to the shore. Alternatively, on the east side, the grounds of Mirehouse are open to visitors (ticketed) and provide another fantastic viewpoint. Read our guide about things to do in and around Bassenthwaite for more ideas.
Dodd Wood ospreys
On either side of Bassenthwaite Lake are two woodlands that rise up above the water. Dodd Wood (near Keswick), on the east, is an excellent place for spotting birds in flight or fishing in the lake.
Park at the Dodd Wood car park, or take a bus to the same place, then follow the woodland trail up a reasonably steep track until the trees open out to spectacular panoramic views. The viewpoint is currently unmanned, so it’s recommended that you take your own binoculars to get the best chance of spotting the birds.
On the opposite side of Bassenthwaite Lake is Whinatter Forest. While there is currently no live feeds there currently, the Whinlatter Visitor Centre does still have historic footage playing, as well as fascinating information boards about the ospreys.
Esthwaite Water ospreys
The Esthwaite Water ospreys are truly in abundance, with three nests near the lake, which sits between Windermere and Coniston Water. As a fishing lake, this body of water is kept well stocked, which is probably part of the reason the birds love it here!
Though most of the land around Esthwaite Water is private, you can book fishing there, or take a self-drive or guided Osprey Safari boat tour. If you’re very lucky, you could be on the water to catch a close-up of the bird’s spectacular fishing skills!
Foulshaw Moss Nature Reserve ospreys
In the south of Cumbria you’ll find ospreys at Foulshaw Moss, a nature reserve made up of lots of important habitat. The current pair have been successfully breeding for a number of years and can be seen from a special viewing platform.
If you can’t travel, Foulshaw also has a number of excellent webcams that can be viewed online. Two daytime cameras and a night time feed allow you to observe the birds in their natural habitats at all hours. There’s even a special 360° camera that lets you see even more of the nest, the birds, and the surrounding landscape!
Cogra Moss ospreys
Cogra Moss near Workington is a little-known reservoir in the Western Lakes. As another popular fishing location, it regularly attracts ospreys, and the Bassenthwaite Ospreys are known to take day trips here for a change of scenery. You can fish here (with the appropriate licenses) and keep an eye out, or enjoy a short walk around its shores.
When can you see ospreys in Cumbria and the Lake District?
The Cumbria ospreys tend to arrive in the county in late March or early April each year, after a long migration from Africa. Eggs are then laid towards the end of April, with the first hatchlings usually appearing in early June.
The ospreys spend the summer in England before starting the long 3,000-mile flight back to Africa in mid- to late- August.
The birds can be seen regularly flying, fishing and feeding throughout the breeding season. Though they are likely to be seen at any time of day, especially when there are chicks to feed, they are most active in the morning and evening.
Stay in a self-catering holiday cottage near the ospreys
Osprey Cottage - Portinscale | sleeps 4 + 1 dog
Stay at this delightful Osprey-inspired holiday home in Portinscale. Located just 0.5 miles from the stunning Derwentwater, it's the perfect getaway for a family of four or for a couple's break. Within walking distance of Portinscale, this 18th-century cottage is a great retreat and you can reach many of the osprey haunts in this guide with ease.
Osprey Cottage - Underskiddaw | sleeps 6
Spot ospreys at the nearby Bassenthwaite Lake and Valley when you stay at this beautiful holiday home for six guests. Imaginatively restored for comfort, this luxury character cottage has been refurbished to a lovely standard and its position below Skiddaw is absolutely stunning, as are the local views of Coledale Fells and Barf.
Eagle Cottage - Glenridding | sleeps 4
If you are looking for a quaint and secluded place to stay with your loved ones, then look no further than Eagle Cottage in Glenridding. This beautiful stone-built Lakeland cottage is an absolute dream, with lake views and direct access to the fells and a trail up to Lanty's Tarn, Sunday Crag and the Helvellyn range.
Find your perfect Lakeland accommodation
If you find the right holiday accommodation, you may be lucky enough to spot the ospreys flying over the garden while you’re enjoying a morning cuppa or an evening al fresco meal. Many visitors to our Bassenthwaite cottages have reported such sightings.
Disclaimer: Whilst every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of the information at the time of writing,
please ensure you check carefully before making any decisions based on the contents within this article.