Taking ownership

The Isle of Wight Sea Eagles featured in two things that arrived on my laptop today. The first was a video that Steve, the sea eagle project officer, had been given by a fisherman fishing from his boat south of the Isle of Wight.  Looking towards Blackgang cliffs from the Channel it showed a big cloud of gulls milling around after fish over the glassy sea and then one of the eagles flying through them and diving down to snatch fish from the water. This wasn’t a case of perching on a cliff or tree and patiently waiting for a fish to swim in range. This was a conscious decision to fly out over the open sea to hunt fish, encouraged by the swarming gulls.

G274 regularly catches fish around the coast of the Isle of Wight (photo by Ainsley Bennett)

The tracks from the eagles’ satellite transmitters are also showing us their flights out to catch salt-water fish, especially in calmer weather. When they were younger they started to catch grey mullet in estuaries around the Island, but now the older ones, enjoying their second winter, are much bolder and capable of fishing in the open sea.  Even eating small ones while in flight. Last week one of them, G274, flew two-thirds the way across the Solent to fish and then returned to the Island. This behaviour is very important for the future because fresh fish is excellent food to feed any future ‘islander’ eaglets in their nests. 

The second was details of how to buy packs of a lovely Christmas card featuring one of the sea eagles in flight over the Isle of Wight with the distinctive Needles Lighthouse in the distance. It is the result of a competition for young artists organised by the Ventnor Exchange’s Brave Island programme. The winner is Charlotte Parr-Burman and her card design is beautiful as well as very evocative of one of eagles looking out into the Channel for fishing opportunities. And the proceeds from the Christmas cards raise money for the Ventnor Foodbank. Packs of cards can be purchased at their shop in Ventnor or online here.

Charlotte’s winning Christmas card design

For the reintroduction team it’s really great to see how the sea eagles are becoming part of the Island’s life and times. We have also been amazed at the enjoyment expressed by many on the Isle of Wight and across England who have seen one of the huge birds fly over them during lockdown. I love it that communities are taking such interest and ownership in having the sea eagles back home after two centuries of absence.

Happy Christmas and wishing all a better 2021