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.


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 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 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.


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.