Osprey hunting on the Mersey, says Cheshire Wildlife Trust
A rare bird of prey has been spotted hunting on the River Mersey, according to a wildlife charity.
Cheshire Wildlife Trust said an osprey had been seen fishing there and been seen several times at Norton Marsh nature reserve near Runcorn.
It said it was "highly unusual" as other osprey pairs were raising chicks currently, with the nearest confirmed nests being in Wales and the Midlands.
Ospreys were extinct in Britain between 1916 and 1954.
- They are very distinctive with white underparts and brown above
- Ospreys feed exclusively on fish, the only bird of prey in Britain to do so
- They have a retractable claw which lets it grasp fish with two talons either side to allow it to fly longer distances with prey
- The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds estimates there are between 250-300 breeding pairs of ospreys in the UK, the majority of which are in Scotland
The wildlife trust said the bird could be a young adult who had migrated from Africa but been unsuccessful in finding a mate this season.
Ospreys returned to the Highlands of Scotland during the 1950s and 1960s after decades of absence following persecution, said Cheshire Wildlife Trust.
The majority of breeding pairs of ospreys found in the UK in the summer months are in Scotland.
After nesting, both adult and newly-fledged ospreys migrate back through the UK to countries such as Senegal between August and September.
The last time an osprey visited the Mersey area for an extended period was in 2006, when the trust said one remained hunting along the Mersey for several weeks during the summer.
Tom Marshall, from the Cheshire Wildlife Trust, said it was a real treat to see an osprey as birdwatchers often have to travel hundreds of miles to see one.
"To witness an osprey with all its fishing prowess here on the Mersey is very special indeed."