Eagle explorations

The satellite data continues to provide a fascinating insight into the movements of the four juvenile White-tailed Eagles that we released on the Isle of Wight last August in partnership with Forestry England. While two of the birds, G318 and G324, have remained in their favoured areas in the North York Moors and the Isle of Wight respectively, the two male birds, G274 and G393, have continued to explore since our last update. Here is an account of these most recent travels by Tim Mackrill.

G274

In our last update we reported that G274 had flown 163 km (100 miles) west along the South Coast from the Isle of Wight during the afternoon of 15th April. That night he roosted in woodland near the Exe Estuary, and at first light the next morning he flew back along the coast to Sidmouth and spent an hour perched in trees at Sidmouth Golf Course, perhaps looking for rabbits, which we know constitutes a key part of the diet of the young eagles. At 09:00 he resumed his journey, flying north over Honiton at an altitude of 320 metres at 10:45 and then pausing for 50 minutes beside some small lakes near Rawridge. He crossed into Somerset at 13:00, and 40 minutes later was over the M5 approaching Taunton at an altitude of 559 metres. He skirted around the east side of the city and then continued on a north-easterly track, passing low over Avalon Marshes and then across the west side of Westhay Moor NNR in the Somerset Levels – undoubtedly a potential future breeding area for White-tailed Eagles.

G274 made a distinct turn to the east-south-east upon reaching Cheddar at 15:40, pausing for 25 minutes a short while later, and then crossing into Wiltshire at 17:45. He eventually settled to roost in Southleigh Wood to the south of Warminster at 19:15 after a day’s flight of 150 km (93 miles).

G274’s change of direction in Somerset indicating he was heading back to the Isle of Wight, and on the morning of 18th April he left his roost south of Warminster at 05:40 and again headed south-east along the Wylye valley. However, the weather was poor and G274 spent much of the day perched in two different arable fields between Warminster and Salisbury, perhaps having found some carrion. When he eventually settled to roost in woodland just to the north-west of Salisbury, he had only flown 18 km (12 miles). Remarkably he spent the night 1 km from a favoured roost site of G318 during her stay in Wiltshire in March.

Next morning G274 continued south-east towards Salisbury, passing to the west of the city at 07:50 at an altitude of 123 metres. He crossed into Hampshire and then spent two hours perched beside the River Avon at Fordingbridge from 09:50. When he resumed his journey, G274 zig-zagged his way across the New Forest, generally flying at altitudes of between 150 and 300 metres. He passed over Brockenhurst at 14:36 and then crossed the Solent from Lymington back to the Isle of Wight half an hour later. That night he roosted in one of his favourite woodlands after a day’s flight of 96 km (60 miles), having flown 427 km (265 miles) on his four-day exploration around the south-west. It is very significant that he again returned to the Isle of Wight after this long flight – indicating that he now regards the Island as home.

G274 flew 427 km (265 miles) around south-west England from 15th-18th April

G274 has remained on the Isle of Wight since, and both he and G324 have again been seen hunting mullet in one of the estuaries on the Island. Studies of White-tailed Eagle diet around Europe demonstrate that they preferentially take fish when they are available and it is encouraging to see G274 behaving in this way. There is no doubt that the estuaries around the coast of the Isle of Wight, and in the wider Solent region, will provide a valuable food source for the eagles in years to come.

G393

Unlike G274 who has returned to the Isle of Wight after his flights around south-east and south-west England, G393 has been much more nomadic, spending the winter in Oxfordshire and then wandering widely across England in recent weeks.

In our previous update we reported that the young male roosted near Needham Market in Suffolk on the evening of 15thApril. He remained in the local area until 11:00 the next morning and then headed north-west, passing over Bury St Edmunds at an altitude of 372 metres at 12:06. At 13:51 he was over the Ouse Washes at Manea – flying at an altitude of 124 metres – and half an hour later he returned to the Nene Washes, a superb RSPB wetland reserve that he had visited briefly two days earlier. He remained there for the rest of the afternoon, having flown 98 km during the course of the day.

G393 flew from Needham Market in Suffolk to the Nene Washes near Peterborough on 16th April, a flight of 98 km (61 miles)

G393 remained at his roost site until 10:50 on the morning of 17th April, before flying a short distance to March Farmers on the Nene Washes, where large numbers of wintering wildfowl were still lingering. He spent an hour there before heading east along the washes. At 14:20 he was seen circling high and then drifting west by Charlie Kitchin, the RSPB Site Manager, and the satellite data shows he continued west across Peterborough, passing just to the north of Ferry Meadows Country Park at an altitude of 803 metres. He then settled for the night in Castor Hanglands – a large woodland a few kilometres to the west of Peterborough.

G393 has begun his first moult – with an obvious gap in his inner secondaries (photo by Tim Melling)

After a run of fine weather, rain on the morning of 18th April meant that G393 remained in the Castor Hanglands area all morning. He moved 4 km north-west as the weather cleared around midday and was perched in an arable field to the east of Wittering for just under two hours from 12:20, where he may have found some carrion. From there he flew a few kilometres north to a woodland near Stamford, and roosted there.

G393 was active soon after first light on 19th April and made a short flight to Burghley Park on the outskirts of Stamford. He then headed slowly west through Rutland, passing over the North Arm of Rutland Water (where he spent two nights in early April) between 11:00 and 11:20, before flying north-west over Melton Mowbray. Interestingly, we later learned from Josh Jones at Birdguides, that another White-tailed Eagle – which had been heading north from Peterborough – made a sudden change of course when it was over West Deeping. At this point it was less than 32 km (20 miles) east of G393, suggesting the sight of another eagle may have instigated its shift of flight track to the west. This second bird was likely one of the various immature White-tailed Eagles present in southern England during March and April.

At 13:18 G393 was flying a north at an altitude of 395 metres over Holme Pierrepont beside the River Trent on the east side of Nottingham. With a stiff easterly wind for encouragement, he continued north-west through Nottinghamshire and then Derbyshire, passing over Sutton-in-Ashfield at an altitude of 1051 metres at 14:30 and then skirting around the east of Chesterfield half an hour later at a lower altitude of 255 metres. He continued on across the Peak District, passing over Ladybower reservoir at 15:45, and then over Glossop 40 minutes later at an altitude of 421 metres. He continued flying until 18:50 when he eventually settled to roost on a wooded hillside in the north of the Peak District, having flown 188 km (117 miles). He has remained in the Peak District since, and his satellite data provides a fascinating insight into his minute-by-minute movements. It will be very interesting to see how long G393 remains there. If the past few weeks are anything to go by, it may not be that long.

G393 flew 188 km (117 miles) from Stamford in south Lincolnshire to the northern Peak District on 19th April

In addition to the movements of the Isle of Wight birds, there have been further sightings of other White-tailed Eagle that are likely birds from continental Europe. It seems probable that both G393 and G318 have recently encountered other eagles in Cambridgeshire and North Yorkshire respectively and another immature White-tailed Eagle was photographed near Preston yesterday. A key aim of the Isle of Wight project is to help link up the expanding White-tailed Eagle populations in continental Europe with those in the Isle of Wight as well as Scotland and Ireland, and it is very encouraging to see the upturn in sightings this spring. The satellite data is shedding new light on how young White-tailed Eagles learn the landscape and it is quite clear that the other eagles being seen across England are behaving in a very similar way to the Isle of Wight birds. If you are fortunate to see a White-tailed Eagle over your home or garden then please report it using our online form, but please do remember to stay at home at the present time.

G393 flew from Suffolk to the Peak District between 16th and 19th April

Eagle wanderlust

The country may be in coronavirus lockdown, but thanks to the vigilance of birders watching the sky from their gardens there have been numerous sightings of White-tailed Eagles in many parts of England in the last week. The latest satellite data shows that some, but by no means all, of these sightings relate to birds that we released on the Isle of Wight in August 2019, in partnership with Forestry England. Here, Tim Mackrill summarises the recent movements of the four translocated birds.

G393

In our last update we reported that G393 flew north to the North York Moors on 5th April. We now know that he remained in the area for six days. During this period, the young male spent most of his time in the north-east of the National Park, but on 7th April he and his compatriot from the Isle of Wight, G318, flew to the coast together. They spent four hours exploring a 12 mile stretch of coastline between Whitby and Saltburn-by-Sea and were perched together on arable fields near Skinningrove for approximately two hours from midday. When G393 few back inland to the moors the next day he was photographed by Emma Thurlow.

G393 was photographed in the North York Moors by Emma Thurlow on 8th April

On the morning of 12th April , G393 headed west across the northern moors, and then turned south-west aided by a strong north-easterly wind. He was photographed by Nathaniel Dargue as he passed to the west of Thirsk at midday and, at 13:45, he crossed the west part of Leeds at an altitude of 667 metres. An hour later he was over the northern Peak District near Holme at an altitude of 687 metres. He passed over Torside Reservoir and then Glossop at 15:00, where he was seen distantly. He continued south-south-west for another hour before arriving in Macclesfield Forest where he roosted having flown 174 km (108 miles) from the North York Moors.

G393 headed south next morning at 06:40, passing to the west of Leek at 08:05 and then over Stafford at 09:20, where he was seen in flight. He made fast progress south in a strong north-easterly wind, and at 10:50 he was just 5 km north-west of the centre of Birmingham at an altitude of 491 metres. However, rather than flying directly over the city, he double-backed and skirted around the east side, passing over Sutton Coldfield and then pausing for a break for half an hour in a small wood near the village of New Arley, west of Nuneaton. When he resumed his journey, G393 flew around the east side of Coventry and then over Draycote Water at an altitude of 576 metres at 15:05. He continued flying until 16:20 when he was perched in a small wood in farmland near the village of Maidford in the south of Northamptonshire after a day’s flight of 185 km (115 miles).

G393 skirted around the east side of Birmingham on 13th April

G393 was present around Maidford until 10:30 on 14th April, when he headed north-east along the Nene Valley. He was photographed by Steve Fisher over his Irthlingborough garden at 13:00, shortly before flying low over Stanwick Lakes, and then over Titchmarsh Nature Reserve at an altitude of 300 metres, half an hour later. After skirting around the southern part of Peterborough, G393 arrived in Nene Washes RSPB reserve at 15:50, and lingered there for an hour, perching on the marshes for at least half of that time. However, at 17:00 he took off again and headed east, passing to the north of Wisbech at 17:50 at an altitude of 241 metres. He continued flying until 19:05 when he settled to roost in a woodland near Marham in West Norfolk having covered 147 km (91 miles) during the course of the day.

On 15th April G393 set off at 10:10 and headed east. Two hours later he was just north of Dereham flying at an altitude of 252 metres, and then turned to a south-easterly heading, passing over Wymondham at 13:10 (413 metres altitude) and just south-west of Bungay (356 m) at 14:25 where he was seen being mobbed by four Buzzards. At this point G393 made a distinct turn to the south-west, following the course of the River Waveney almost as far as Diss, before heading south for another 29 km (18 miles) and roosting near Needham Market after a day’s flight of 127 km (79 miles). Interestingly, he is now following a very similar route to G324 when she flew south through East Anglia last week (see below). Will he follow suit and return to the Isle of Wight?

G393 has flown 633 km (393 miles), from North Yorkshire to Suffolk, in the past four days.

G318

G318 has remained in the North Yorkshire Moors since arriving on 5th April. She visited the coast with G393 on 7th April but then frequented a relatively small area in the northern part of the National Park for the next week, with a longer flight across the moors on 15th April. Her satellite tag is providing valuable data throughout the day on her movements.

G324

G324 has generally been the most sedentary of the four birds since release, but on the morning of 4th April she crossed the Solent and, with a brisk southerly wind at her back, she passed Winchester at 13:00. Two hours later she was flying north-east through Cambridgeshire at an altitude of 720 metres and that night she roosted in arable farmland just north of Lakenheath Fen RSPB reserve in south-west Norfolk after a flight of 245 km (152 miles). Next day she continued north-east for another 64 km (40 miles) and reached an area of private land close to Cley on the North Norfolk coast. She remained in that area on the morning of 6th April, but set off south soon after 13:00 and was photographed as she flew over Bungay on the Norfolk-Suffolk border three hours later by Peter Randall. She flew another 18 km (11 miles) south before roosting in a small wood near the village of Peasenhall in Suffolk, having flown 80 km (50 miles) during the course of the day.

G324 about to be dive-boded by a Buzzard over Bungay on 6th April (photo by Peter Randall)

On 7th April G324 recommenced her journey south just before 10:00 and was seen and photographed by Ellie and Justin Zantboer as she passed over their Ipswich garden at 12:15. She continued to make leisurely progress south and arrived at Abberton Reservoir at 15:00, before roosting just to the south-west after a day’s flight of 71 km (44 miles). Next morning G324 remained at Abberton until 10:00 when she continued south-west. Three hours later she was just south of Basildon at an altitude of 150 metres and approaching the River Thames. She crossed the Thames at Grays and then passed to the east of Dartford and Orpington before roosting in woodland to the west of Biggin Hill having flown another 79 km (49 miles) south-west.

It was now clear G324 was heading back to the Isle of Wight and, after spending the morning around the woodlands to the west of Biggin Hill and Tatsfield she headed south-west and three hours later she was over Hambledon in Hampshire, around 13 km (8 miles) north of Portsmouth, flying at an altitude of 62 metres. She perched on the shore of the Solent at the mouth of the Beaulieu River for some time that evening, before crossing the Solent back to the Isle of Wight before dark, having flown 121 km (75 miles) from Biggin Hill.  This meant she had flown 660 km (410 miles) during the course of her six-day return flight to North Norfolk.

She has remained on the Isle of Wight since, often with another of the translocated birds, G274. These two birds also spent much of the winter together. Encouragingly the two birds have been seen hunting mullet in at least two of the estuaries around the coast of the Isle of Wight.

G324 flew 660 km (410 miles) in six days, to the Norfolk coast and back to the Isle of Wight.

G274

Having completed a 523 km (325 mile) tour of south-east England from 1st-4th April, G2-74 remained on the Isle of Wight until 15th April. During this period, he has generally favoured coastal areas and was seen hunting mullet in at least two of the estuaries. On 15th he crossed the Solent from Yarmouth to Lymington at 13:05, and then headed west along the south coast, passing over Poole Harbour at 14:05 at an altitude of 160 metres and then over Weymouth at 15:30 where Joe Stockwell filmed him flying past his house.

 

G274 flew across Poole Harbour and then continued west along the coast (GPS fixes – blue squares – are every five minutes)

G274 continued to follow the coast to the west of Weymouth, passing over Bridport at 15:10 at an altitude of 332 metres and then passing to the north of Lyme Regis and Sidmouth. At 17:12 he was perched beside the River Otter near Colaton Raleigh and he remained there for 25 minutes before continuing south-west and then settling to roost near the Exe estuary. He had flown 163 km (101 miles) along the coast in less than six hours. It will be very interesting to see whether he continues west, or returns back towards the Isle of Wight.

G274 flew 163 km (101 miles) west along the South Coast on 15th April

As we reported in our last eagle blog, these exploratory flights are a vital part of the way young White-tailed Eagles learn the landscape. Although it is well known that the young eagles can be very nomadic in the first two years of their life, the satellite data is providing a remarkable insight into their movements and navigational capabilities. It is no coincidence that the birds tend to choose the best days to make their big moves – preferring a tailwind and clear skies.  It is also revealing that four satellite-tagged birds of the same age in the Netherlands have been behaving in a very similar fashion in recent weeks. Continental White-tailed Eagles continue to be seen in England too. For example, a bird photographed over a Worcester Park garden in south-east London on 13th April, was definitely not a bird from the Isle of Wight – and most likely one that had wandered across the North Sea. Similarly, a bird seen in County Durham on 10th April and then in the Yorkshire Moors the next day could not be linked to the movements of the two Isle of Wight birds present in North Yorkshire at the time.

We are delighted at the interest shown in the satellite data, and we will continue to publish regular updates on the movements of the birds while there are interesting flights to report. We do, however, have to be mindful of not disclosing the location of birds when they are on private land or sensitive sites, and for that reason it is usually necessary for the data and maps we publish to be historic and low resolution. We are sure you appreciate the reasons for this. What the data does show is that the birds can turn up anywhere, so keep your eyes to the skies when you’re at home in the coming weeks. If you are lucky enough to see an eagle from home, please send us details of your sighting using our online form.

The recent flights of G393 (orange), G324 (pink) and G274 (yellow). G318 is still in the North York Moors.

 

Eagle wanderings

We may be living in very strange times, but it is reassuring that the natural world continues as normal. As I write four newly-arrived House Martins are zipping around over my back garden and I only have to log on to the web to watch a pair of Ospreys already incubating eggs at Rutland Water.

Thankfully technology is also allowing us to keep track of the movements of the four juvenile White-tailed Eagles that we released on the Isle of Wight last summer, in partnership with Forestry England. After a winter when all four birds were extremely sedentary, often living in very small areas and proving highly elusive, the recent longer days and warmer weather has prompted a clear shift in behaviour. All four of the birds have started wandering away from the places on the Isle of Wight, and Oxfordshire/Buckinghamshire that they favoured in the winter and their satellite transmitters have proved invaluable in monitoring these movements and understanding how young White-tailed Eagles learn the landscape.

G393

Perhaps unsurprisingly G393, the male eagle who spent the winter in Oxfordshire and Buckingham, was the first to make a significant move. On 20th March, six months after arriving in Oxfordshire, he flew 71 km west, aided by a stiff easterly breeze, into Wiltshire and roosted in an area of woodland between Swindon and Malmesbury. Next day he was on the move again and headed north-west, flying at altitudes of up to around 500 metres towards the Severn Estuary. He paused for over two hours at Slimbrdge WWT reserve and then headed across the estuary to the Forest of Dean where he was seen by a number of observers, including Ed Drewitt who photographed the bird passing over his garden. That night G393 roosted in a wood beside the River Wye in Herefordshire having flown another 80 km during the course of the day.

G393 flew from Oxfordshire through Wiltshire, Gloucestershire and Herefordshire on 20-22 March

The young eagle meandered 26 km north along the Wye and the Lugg valleys in Hereforshire on 22nd March, but then made a much more concerted move the next day, flying 97 km north-east to Staffordshire, flying at relatively low altitudes for much of the day, but apparently going unseen. He remained in Staffordshire until the morning of 2nd April, favouring an area of woodland near Keele and making only short local movements during the day, likely feeding on carrion and rabbits; behaviour much more reminiscent of how he had spent the winter.

After a week in Staffordshire G393 headed east on 2nd April, skirting around the north side of Derby and then the south-west of Nottingham, again flying at altitudes of less than 200 metres. At 15:50 he was at an altitude of 400 metres directly over Melton Mowbray in Leicestershire and half an hour later he arrived in the North Arm at Rutland Water.

Rutland Water is a place certainly capable of supporting breeding White-tailed Eagles in the future, and G393 spent all day there on 3rd April, favouring a small area in the North Arm near Barnsdale, where he was seen chasing Egyptian geese. In the Netherlands the goslings of feral geese are a favoured food item, and the birds are also capable of catching sick or injured adults.

After a day at Rutland Water, a stiff southerly wind encouraged G393 to head north again at 10:30 on the morning of 4th April. He headed north-east through south Lincolnshire, and at 13:40 was just west of Mablethorpe. He then followed the coast north and was photographed by Owen Beaumont from his garden near Louth at around 14:25. Eventually G393 stopped 10 km south of Grimsby in an area of scattered trees and woods, having flown 80 km since leaving Rutland Water.

After some short local movements, G393 resumed his flight north at 09:30 yesterday, crossing the Humber from Barton-on-Humber at 10:20. An hour later he was perched in a wood north of Beverley. From here it seems certain that he caught sight of another of the Isle of Wight birds, G318, who was passing to the west, because the two birds then flew north together for at least the next 17 kilometres. While G318 paused in an area of woodland, G393 continued north into the North Yorkshire Moors and eventually settled to roost in an area of woodland in the east of the National Park having flown 123 km.

After spending a week in Staffordshire, G393 (orange line) flew to Rutland Water on 2nd April and then north through Lincolnshire on 4th. That same day G318 (blue) followed a remarkably similar route north through Lincolnshire and both birds roosted just south of Grimsby.  The next day they flew north together for at least 17 km through Yorkshire.

G318

G318 was undoubtedly the most sedentary of the three birds that spent the whole of the winter on the Isle of Wight. In February, for example, she lived in an area of less than 1km². However, that changed on 16th March when she crossed the Solent and flew north-west across the New Forest to north-east Dorset. She spent all of the next day in a wooded area near Sixpenny Hendley, and then made her way slowly north into Wiltshire on 18th.  After two days in an arable area west of Salisbury, G318 flew to the Wiltshire-Somerset border near Longleat on 21st March and next day she completed an amazing 101 km circuit of Somerset. She passed over Westhay Moor in the Somerset Levels at around 9:00 before continuing west, almost to the coast. After pausing in an arable field east of Burnham-on-Sea she headed north towards Weston-super-Mare and then east over Banwell and Sandford. At 14:40 she was just 3.5 km south of Chew Valley Lake, flying south-east at an altitude of 432 metres. Two hours later she was back on the Wiltshire border.

Female eagle G318 flew a 101 km circuit of Somerset on 22nd March

After her excursion around Somerset, G318 returned to the arable area west of Salisbury and remained there until 31st March, likely feeding on carrion with the local red kites and favouring a small area of less than 1 km². She made a return flight back to the Somerset border on 31st March and 1st April and then next day flew 56 km north-east to Berkshire. After spending all day in arable fields between Newbury and Hungerford on 3rdApril, a stiff southerly breeze encouraged G318 to head north at 11:00 on 4th.  By 14:00 she had already flown 104 km and was passing just to the east of Daventry at an altitude of 521 metres and at 14:20 she was a few kilometres west of Rutland Water at an altitude of 474 metres, the second White-tailed Eagle to be present in the county that day. By this stage G393 had already left Rutland and was three hours and 90 km ahead of G318, but she headed north on a similar track through Lincolnshire and then settled to roost just 10 km north-west of him, in a wood between Grimsby and Caistor having flown a remarkable 263 km during the course of the day.

Yesterday, like G393, G318 also continued north, crossing the Humber at Winteringham at midday and then joining up with her compatriot from the Isle of Wight just north of Beverley. She paused in a wood near North Grimston for an hour in the early afternoon, but then resumed her flight across Yorkshire and arrived in a Forestry England woodland in the North Yorkshire Moors National Park just before 16:00 having flown 108 km.

G274

Male G274 is another of the birds that remained on the Isle of Wight throughout the winter, other than for a six-day excursion into the South Downs and New Forest from 8th-13th February.

Like the other birds, G274’s behaviour began to change in mid-late March and on 27th he crossed the Solent and completed a 125 km circuit of the New Forest and River Stour valley before returning to the Isle of Wight. Then on 1st April he again headed across the Solent, from Culver Down to Hayling Island, and flew east along the Sussex coast, passing over Bognor Regis, Worthing and Brighton, at altitudes of 500-600 metres. Once east of Brighton G274 cut inland, passing to the north of Eastbourne at 14:45 and then heading north-east, just inland from the coast, crossing into Kent at 16:00 and eventually settling to roost in a Elhampark Wood, a Forestry England woodland near Stelling Minnis, after a day’s flight of 225 km.

Next morning, on 2nd April, G274 flew south-east to the coast at Dover and was perched on the shore for an hour from 8:30 to 9:30, perhaps eating. He then followed the Kent coast north and again paused on the shore at Sandwich and Pegwell Bay NNR for over two hours from 11:20. When he resumed his journey G274 headed west, skirting around the north side of Canterbury and the roosting in woodland 6 km south-west of Faversham having flown 103 km during the course of the day.

On 3rd April G274 reached a maximum altitude of over 100 metres as he resumed his journey west, passing to the south of Gillingham and then north of Sevenoaks and Reigate and then on across the woodlands of the North Downs in Surrey. When he settled to roost, he had flown 106 km during the day.

It was now apparent G274 was on his way back to the Isle of Wight, and sure enough, when he set off at 08:10 he headed purposefully south-west, despite a stiff headwind. Four hours later, he had covered 63 km and he was flying at an altitude of 37 metres over Hayling Island. He then headed back across the Solent and returned to one of his favoured areas of the Isle of Wight. He had flown 524 km.

G274 completed a 524 km loop around south-east England between 1 and 4 April

G324

As Project Officer, Steve Egerton-Read reported in his December blog, G324 spent all winter on the Isle of Wight, often in the company of G274. Her first flight away from the Island was a brief two-day excursion into Sussex and Surrey, but after roosting in woodland near Goodwood on the night of 25th March, she returned to the Island the next day. However, on the morning of 4th April she crossed the Solent and was photographed by Amy Robjohns from her garden near Fareham. A brisk southerly wind appeared to be encouraging G324, and she passed Winchester at 13:00. Two hours later she was flying north-east through Cambridgeshire at an altitude of 720 metres and that night she roosted in arable farmland just north of Lakenheath Fen RSPB reserve in south-west Norfolk after a flight of 245 km. Yesterday she continued north-east for another 65 km and reached an area of private land close to the North Norfolk coast.

G324 was photographed by Amy Robjohns over her garden on 4th April

 

As this report shows, the data we receive from the satellite transmitters provides a fascinating insight into the movements of the young eagles during a period that is key in them learning the landscape. Interestingly, the recent explorations of the Isle of Wight birds mirror the behaviour of four satellite tracked juveniles in the Netherlands, who have dispersed into Belgium, France and Germany in recent weeks. You can view that data on a fantastic interactive map, here. Young White-tailed Eagles are known to explore widely in their first two years, before usually returning to their natal area (or in the case of the Isle of Wight birds, the release site) as they approach breeding age. This is exemplified by the fact that, at present, there could be as many as four or five continental birds wandering around the UK, including a metal-ringed bird that is thought to be from Sweden. It is possible that this particular individual has been present since winter 2018/19 when it was seen in the New Forest and other sites in Hampshire. What our satellite data can’t show us is whether the Isle of Wight birds have encountered any of these individuals on their travels – but it certainly seems likely.

The young eagles have wandered widely since late March

It Is going to be very interesting to follow the young eagles progress over the coming weeks, and we will be providing regular updates on their movements. We are also working to collate sightings of continental birds to try and determine exactly how many of these birds there may be around southern and central England at present. With this in mind, if you are lucky enough to see a White-tailed Eagle over your garden, please send us the details using our new online reporting form. Given the way these birds readily travel over towns, villages and even cities, there is a chance of seeing one wherever you live – so keep looking up, but please do stay at home and stay safe.

He’s back!

He’s done it! After an extraordinary eight day, 680 km flight around southern England, Culver made it back to the Isle of Wight today. What’s more, he made landfall over Culver Cliff – the site of the last known breeding White-tailed Eagles in southern England in 1780; the place he’s named after.

Culver on Thorney Island this morning. Photo by Wez Smith.

This morning Culver remained close to his roost site on Thorney Island until just after 09:30. While he was there he was seen by Wez Smith, who sent us this great photo of Culver.

Wez saw Culver head-off south-west and, sure enough, at 10:05 he began crossing the Solent. The 15 km crossing took him 40 minutes to complete. As he passed over the famous cliffs he was flying at an altitude of 222 metres.

Very appropriately Culver made landfall on the Isle of Wight over Culver Cliff

Once on the Island, Culver showed now sign of letting up. He continued on a westerly heading and at 13:08 was just south of Yarmouth at an altitude of 379 metres and then, twenty minutes later, he was circling over another of the Isle of Wight’s famous landmarks: the Needles. He then turned back east over Tennyson Down – the exact spot he had set-off from eight days earlier. What an incredible flight for a young White-tailed Eagle.

Culver’s flight to the Isle of Wight from Thorney Island

It will be fascinating to see what Culver does next. Will he remain on the Isle of Wight, like the other five young eagles, or go wandering again? Watch this space…

Culver flew 680 km in eight days on his extraordinary flight

Please support us

This is a start of a journey for the young White-tailed Eagles and for the project team – the start of a five year project by Forestry England and the Roy Dennis Wildlife Foundation to restore White-tailed Eagles as a breeding species on the Isle of Wight and along the Channel coasts. We will have regular updates, maps and photos on all six eagles although no maps for those that have stayed close to the release site. Please check in to find news of them here.

We would be delighted if you would like to join us on these journeys and very grateful if you wished to help by donating to contribute to the costs of satellite tracking the eagles and other elements of the project. For more information, click here, or simply click donate below and select White-tailed Eagle project when prompted.  With sincere thanks.




Almost home!

We have just received tonight’s update from Culver’s transmitter and it shows that at 18:20 this evening he was at Thorney Island, a few kilometres east of Portsmouth. Having having flown just under 90km during the course of the day he’s almost made it back to the Isle of Wight!

After roosting just north of Burgess Hill, Culver set-off this morning at 11:00. He skirted around the west of Burgess Hill and then continued south-west towards the coast, flying at a maximum altitude of 768 metres. At 13:00 he reached Shoreham-by-Sea and circled up on a thermal, reaching an altitude of 807 before heading west along the coast. At one point, as he skirted across the northern part of Worthing he was flying at just 51 metres. Someone must have seen him!

Culver skirted over the northern part of Worthing between 13:37 and 14:00

After passing Worthing, Culver headed more inland, passing to the north of Arundel and then across the southern part of the South Downs, flying at a maximum altitude of 1242 metres at 15:58 when he was 5 km north of Chichester.  At that point he would have been able to see the coast and he headed straight for it, arriving at Thorney Island just before 17:00.

Culver was perched on the south-west end of Thorney Island this evening at 18:20

At 18:20 – the last data point in the batch he was perched on the ground in the south-west corner of Thorney Island. From that point he is just 16 km from the coast of the Isle of Wight. Will he return there tomorrow, or linger on the mainland coast? Check back tomorrow evening to find out.

Culver is now just 16 km from the Isle of Wight after a day’s flight of around 90 km.

Culver’s incredible exploratory flights over the past six days shows what remarkable navigational powers these young White-tailed Eagles have.

Culver’s flight, 29 August 4 September

Culver reaches West Sussex

Culver has continued his flight west through the Sussex countryside and the latest data shows that he was perched on the edge of a field 2 km north of Burgess Hill at 18:20 this evening after a day’s flight of around 70 km.

Having roosted 8km north of Bexhill last night and then made a few local movements during the morning, Culver set off in earnest at 11:10. He initially headed south-west towards Beachy Head, but then changed track as he approached Eastbourne, turning north-west.   At 12:30 he passed over Arlington Reservoir at an altitude of just 70m, but didn’t linger there. Instead he continued north-west, reaching altitudes of close to 650 metres.

Culver passed over Arlington Reservoir at 12:30 before quickly gaining altitude

At 14:30 he flew low over Barcombe Reservoir, before again gaining altitude, up to a maximum of 876 metres. By 15:52 he was just south of Haywards Heath and this prompted a shift in track to the west. He flew for another 4 km before seemingly landing on a pylon in the middle of an arable field. He then remained in the vicinity until the final data point of this batch at 18:20.

Culver flew approximately 70 km through Sussex today

Culver is now just 15 km east of the Knepp Estate in West Sussex, home of the famous rewinding project. It will be fascinating to see if he pays a visit. Or perhaps he will be seen at RSPB Pulborough Brooks, a further 10 km further on? Check back tomorrow evening to find out.

Culver is now just 15 km west of the Knepp Estate in West Sussex and may also pass over Pulborough Brooks tomorrow if he continues west.

Culver’s flight 29th August – 3rd September

Culver continues west through Sussex

After his amazing exploratory flights of the past four days, we were eagerly awaiting news of Culver this evening. The latest satellite data shows that as we expected, he did fly west through Sussex but, rather than head along the coast, he cut inland as he approached Hastings and between 16:00 and 18:20 was perched in a field near Ashburnham, 9km north-west of Bexhill. He is very likely to have roosted nearby.

This morning Culver left his overnight roost just north-east of Rye at around 09:50 and ten minutes later he was circling over Rye Harbour Nature Reserve. From there he headed west along the coast, pausing briefly as he approached Hastings, and then heading north-east to avoid flying over the town.

Culver flew over Rye Harbour Nature Reserve at 10:00 this morning

At 14:30 Culver was circling at 499 metres over the south end of Powdermill Reservoir before heading west, passing over Battle at 14:54 at an altitude of 154 metres and then eventually stopping in the field near Ashburnham just before 16:00 having flown approximately 50 km during the course of the day. Perhaps he found some food?

It will be interesting to see what Culver does tomorrow. Will he continue west through Sussex or head south back to the coast? Watch this space.

Culver’s flight through East Sussex today

Culver’s flight 29 August – 2 September

An amazing flight to Essex

Its now ten days since we released six juvenile White-tailed Eagles on the Isle of Wight. Each is equipped with a satellite transmitter that logs the bird’s location once every three minutes, and this has given us a fascinating and very detailed insight into their movements since release. Five of the birds have remained at or close to the release site on the Isle of Wight, but one – G3 22 – has surprised us by making an incredible flight over central London to Essex. Research in Scotland and elsewhere has shown that juvenile White-tailed Eagles often wander widely in their first two years – often venturing 200km from their nest site. What we weren’t expecting, was for one of the Isle of Wight birds to to do it within two weeks of release. It is testament to what good condition the bird is in.

G3 22 is a male from the North of the Island of Skye, and rather than refer to it by its ring number, we thought it good to choose an Isle of Wight/Solent name. So we’ll now be referring to G3 22 as ‘Culver’ – after Culver Cliff – the last place that White-tailed Eagles bred in southern England.

After release on 22nd August, Culver spent a week exploring the Isle of Wight, circumnavigating the Island before roosting in a small path of coastal woodland a few kilometres east of the Needles on the evening of 28th August. Next morning he left his overnight roost at around 10am and slowly headed north. Just over an hour later he was circling over Yarmouth and then, at 11:21 he set-off across the Solent. It took him 15 minutes to fly 6km to Lymington – following the route of the Wightlink ferry!

Culver crossed the Solent between Yarmouth and Lymington

By the time he reached the shore at Lymington he was flying at just 89 metres, but once over land he quickly gained altitude and set-off north across the New Forest. He passed to the east of Brockenhurst at an altitude of 955 metres and then continued on a north-west heading across the forest, reaching a maximum altitude of 1008 metres to the north-west of Bolderwood. At 12:57 he was 357 metres over Blashford Lakes near Ringwood and he spent the afternoon making short local movements in around woodland a few kilometres to the west.

Culver’s flight on 29th August

Culver spent much of the next morning exploring the Avon Valley between Fordingbridge and Blashford Lakes before heading off north at 13:30. By 14:45 he had flown more than 40 km and was just west of Stockbridge flying at an altitude of 505 metres. At this point he began heading south again and over the course of the afternoon flew a further 46 km, passing over Romsey at 16:26 at an altitude of 375 metres and then following the River Test south, before settling to roost in the New Forest 5 km north-west of Lyndhurst.

Culver flew more than 100 km on 30th August

Having flown over 100km the previous day, we wondered if Culver may remain in the New Forest on Saturday. In fact, he did quite the opposite. After a relatively slow start he crossed Southampton Water at 11:00, and then flew east across the city at an altitude of over 500 metres. He continued on the same easterly heading for the next hour, passing to the north of Portsmouth, before turning changing track to the north-east. Now aided by a fairly brisk south-westerly tailwind, he made fast progress through Surrey and at 13:40 passed over Queen Mark Reservoir near Staines at an altitude of 473 metres. As he approached Heathrow airport, Culver wisely turned to the east and headed for central London. Incredibly, at 14:23 he was directly above Big Ben at an altitude of 705 metres.

Culver flew over Westminster as he passed over London on Saturday afternoon

Culver followed the course of the River Thames as he flew over London

We wondered if anyone saw Culver as he passed over central London and, sure enough – they did. Ed Pack got in touch to say he and his son took a phone pic of it over Victoria Street as just as speck in the sky.

Having passed over London, Culver showed no signs of letting up and continued to follow the River Thames east, passing over Canvey Island at 15:20 and then Southend-on-Sea ten minutes later at an altitude of less than 200 metres. Eventually, at 15:44, he landed on the North Sea coast near Great Wakering, just north of the mouth of the Thames Estuary. After such an amazing flight it was no surprise that he remained in the same area for the rest of the afternoon. It is quite possible that he found a dead fish or bird to eat on the beach, before flying half a kilometre inland to roost in a small wood after an incredible day’s flight of 220 km.

It will be fascinating to see what Culver does next. Will he stay in Essex, or continue north up the East Anglian coast into Suffolk? Might he even cross the North Sea to the Netherlands? Or will he return back to the Isle of Wight? We will receive the next batch of data from the transmitter later today, so check back this evening to find out.

After arriving on the Essex Coast, Culver spent several hours perched on the shore, before moving inland to roost.

Culver flew over 200km to the Essex coast on 31st August

Culver’s explorations, 29-31 August

Update – we have just received this evening’s data. It shows that Culver flew east out to sea at 09:32, before turning to the south and heading for the Isle of Sheppey. He made landfall at 10:35 having flown 30 km in an arc across the sea. It must have been fairly tough going because he was flying just a few metres above the waves when he made landfall near Eastchurch.

 

Culver flew 30km in a wide arc from the Essex coast to the Isle of Sheppey

After resting for just under an hour he set off again across the east end of the Isle of Sheppey before crossing the estuary to Faversham. He continued south through the Kent countryside at high altitude – flying in excess of 1200m at times. At 12:50 he was 643 metres above Ashford, still heading south. He crossed into East Sussex at around 13:40 and then stopped 3 km north-east of Rye, a few kilometres from the coast and 14 km west of Dungeness. He was still there when we received the last data point in the batch, at 18:20, having flown just under 100 km during the course of the day.

Culver flew just under 100 km south through Kent today.

It’s going to be fascinating to see where Culver’s travels take him tomorrow, but it looks like he may follow the Sussex coast back towards the Isle of Wight. Watch out for another update on Monday evening or early Tuesday morning.

Culver’s flight, 29 Aug – 1 Sept

Please support us

This is a start of a journey for the young White-tailed Eagles and for the project team – the start of a five year project by Forestry England and the Roy Dennis Wildlife Foundation to restore White-tailed Eagles as a breeding species on the Isle of Wight and along the Channel coasts. We will have regular updates, maps and photos on all six eagles although no maps for those that have stayed close to the release site. Please check in to find news of them here.

We would be delighted if you would like to join us on these journeys and very grateful if you wished to help by donating to contribute to the costs of satellite tracking the eagles and other elements of the project. For more information, click here, or simply click donate below and select White-tailed Eagle project when prompted.  With sincere thanks.