Death of White-tailed Eagle G461

One of the most pleasing aspects of the first three years of the White-tailed Eagle project has been the great excitement of people who have seen one of the birds. The far-ranging exploratory flights of the young eagles has meant that they have been enjoyed by birders and wildlife enthusiasts across much of the UK. People often ask us to give the eagles’ daily locations on the website but we need to prevent disturbance to the eagles and local people. We have made many friends in the farming, forestry and landowner communities who have welcomed the great birds on their land.

Encouragingly, we are now seeing some of the older birds – those released in 2019 and 2020 – returning to the Isle of Wight and the wider South Coast region where we hope an initial breeding population will become established. On the Isle of Wight two eagles released in 2019, G274 and G324 have paired up, and, although still too young to breed, they are showing territorial behaviour. Meanwhile two of the 2020 cohort – male G471 who recently returned to the South Coast after an extended stay in southern Scotland, and female G405, who spent much of last year in South West England – are showing the first signs of forming a second pair, and have spent much of the past week in the South Downs in West Sussex, which is another potential breeding area.

Another bird that returned to the South Coast after spending a prolonged period away was G461. This male eagle, released on the Isle of Wight in 2020, explored widely along the South Coast during spring 2021 and then spent much of last summer in West Norfolk. After returning south in September, and being chased away from the Isle of Wight by G274, the young male began favouring Poole Harbour in Dorset. This huge natural harbour, with its abundant populations of a favoured prey species, the Grey Mullet, is a likely breeding site for White-tailed Eagles in the future.

G461 at Poole Harbour in October 2021 (photo by Mark Wright)

G461 spent much of the autumn and early winter at Poole Harbour where many excited birdwatchers and members of the public were able to enjoy watching it.  On one occasion a boat full of school children enjoyed a fly past during a trip organised by the local charity Birds of Poole Harbour.

When not at Poole Harbour, G461 also visited the nearby Purbeck coastline, and spent time in North Dorset, in an area that has been visited by several other White-tailed Eagles since the project began.

G461’s movements after release on the Isle of Wight in 2020

Sadly, in late January the data from G461’s satellite tag gave us cause for concern, and we subsequently recovered the bird’s body in North Dorset on 27th January, with Dorset Police and members of the RSPB Investigations team.

Post mortem and toxicology testing through the Wildlife Incident Investigation Scheme has subsequently identified brodifacoum poisoning as the cause of death. Brodifacoum is a highly toxic anticoagulant rodenticide that causes internal haemorrhaging. The bird’s liver contained approximately seven times the amount of brodifacoum required to kill a bird like a White-tailed Eagle. The satellite data indicates that the eagle, which was otherwise healthy, deteriorated and died over a period of several days.

Dorset police have today made a statement that no further police action will be taken.

Recent evidence indicates that brodifacoum poses a serious threat to birds of prey. It accumulates in the food chain and can cause secondary poisoning as a result. A number of cases where dead raptors have been found with very high levels of brodifacoum have suggested that it could also be illegally misused in some instances to target birds of prey. White-tailed Eagles are particularly at risk because carrion can form a significant part of the diet, especially of birds in their first year.  EU Environmental Risk Assessments have previously concluded that second generation anticoagulant rodenticides (SGARs) such as brodifacoum should not be permitted for external use because the environmental risk is too great. However, regulations around their use in outdoor settings in the UK have been relaxed in recent years, and we believe this could pose a significant risk to birds of prey and other wildlife.

It is very disappointing that G461 has become the latest bird of prey to die of brodifacoum poisoning, and we hope that the death of this bird serves as a reminder of the toxicity of anticoagulant rodenticide poisons and the impacts they can have on wider wildlife.

More encouragingly, two female White-tailed Eagles, G318 and G801 are the latest birds to take up residence at Poole Harbour, and there have been numerous sightings in recent weeks. With G463 back in England after spending five months in continental Europe last year, we are hopeful that the young male may eventually join the birds at Poole Harbour, particularly as G318, released in 2019, is now approaching breeding age. Since arriving back in England last November G463 has spent much of its time in East Anglia, but also returned to Chard area in Somerset – where it had spent its first winter – and visited Knepp in East Sussex last week.

Despite the loss of G461 we very much hope that White-tailed Eagles will become an increasingly familiar sight at Poole Harbour and in other parts of southern England, and that many more people will be able to enjoy seeing them in years to come.

G461 perched on the Brownsea Lagoon, with Poole in the background (photo by Alison Copland)

Roy Dennis receives RSPB’s most prestigious award

Roy Dennis MBE – ‘the man who brought the white-tailed sea eagles back to England’ – received the RSPB’s most prestigious award at the charity’s Annual General Meeting (AGM) on Saturday 16 October.

Leading conservationist, Roy, 81, has devoted his whole life to protecting and enhancing wildlife. His love of birds began as a child in the 1940s exploring around his home in the New Forest. Little did he know then that one day, in his lifetime, the south coast of England would once again see white-tailed sea eagles soaring over the Solent. And that he would be the man that brought them back.

After school, Roy worked at Lundy and Fair Isle Bird Observatories (FIBO) where he met his mentor George Waterston who would go on to be the first Director of the RSPB in Scotland. In 1968, they pioneered the first trial reintroduction of sea eagles on Fair Isle. This paved the way for Roy to carry out many more translocation and ecological restoration projects which continue to this day. 

From 1963 to 1970 he directed FIBO before chairing the Trust and is now its President. Roy served the RSPB as its Highland Officer from 1970 to 1990 where he oversaw the management of iconic nature reserves like Loch Garten, protected nesting ospreys and golden eagles from egg thieves, and represented the charity in this key area for UK nature at a critical time in the RSPB’s history. 

Roy Dennis(left) and George Waterston (right) with a recently arrived juvenile White-tailed Eagle to be released as part of a reintroduction attempt, Fair Isle, Scotland, 1968

Roy became an independent wildlife consultant in 1990 and formed the ‘Highland Foundation for Wildlife’, now the ‘Roy Dennis Wildlife Foundation’, in 1995. The success and range of projects undertaken by him since then has been phenomenal.

He received an MBE in 1992 for ‘services to nature conservation’; in 2004 he received the RSPB Scotland ‘Golden Eagle Award’ as the ‘person who has done most for nature conservation in Scotland in the last 100 years’. As a skilled communicator, he is the author of several landmark, inspirational books and is a regular on TV and radio.

Roy Dennis MBE expressed his great appreciation of the honour accorded to him. He said: “I am honoured to receive the RSPB Medal.  My lifetime in conservation has been wonderfully rewarding, from the first pair of ospreys with the RSPB at Loch Garten to the restoration of red kites to England and Scotland and sea eagles to the Isle of Wight.  In my middle years with the RSPB, we faced tough battles over agricultural intensification, blanket forestry, and North Sea oil, but I always refused to give up. Now, I’m encouraged to see great steps forward in ecological restoration but at this time of global crisis, it’s for the young to lead the way and be the ones who refuse to give up.”

Roy releasing an Osprey he had just satellite-tagged in 2017

Kevin Cox, RSPB Chair of Council, said: “We are delighted to honour Roy with the RSPB Medal. His partnership working, stamina and not letting obstacles stand in his way have achieved great things for UK wildlife and we’re pleased he can add the RSPB Medal to his already long list of awards and accolades.

“The boy from Hampshire who raised a brood of shelduck and collected newts and slow worms continues to drive forward for birds and wildlife at home and abroad. When we next see a red kite, osprey or sea eagle gracing our UK skies, we know who to thank.

“The nature and climate emergency is the biggest threat in our lifetime. If we do not act soon and fast some of the wildlife we see today could be lost for good. Roy and his amazing achievements should be an inspiration to us all.”

The RSPB Medal is the charity’s most prestigious award, presented at the AGM each year. It is awarded in recognition of major achievement in the cause of nature conservation.

RSPB Council, its Executive Board and people across the RSPB were asked to nominate recipients and the shortlist was compiled from these nominations.  

Previous RSPB Medal winners include Caroline Lucas MP (2018), Stanley Johnson (2015), HRH The Prince of Wales (2010) and Sir David Attenborough (2000).

In 2012 there was a very unusual winner; the entire community of Tristan da Cunha were awarded the Medal for their efforts when the ship MS Oliva ran aground at Nightingale Island, 30km from Tristan da Cunha, spilling 1,500 tonnes of oil into the sea and threatening globally endangered species, including two-thirds of the world’s population of rockhopper penguins.

Roy with (l-r) Steve Egerton-Read, Tim Mackrill and Ian Perks and one of the young White-tailed Eagles released on the Isle of Wight in 2019

Summer flights

It is now more than two years since we began the White-tailed Eagle reintroduction project on the Isle of Wight, in partnership with Forestry England. A total of 25 young eagles, all translocated from nests in Western Scotland, have now been released, including 12 this year. This year’s birds have yet to disperse away from the release site, but we have been monitoring the movements of the 2019 and 2020 cohorts closely throughout the summer via satellite tracking and field observations. 

The satellite tracking has provided a very detailed insight into how the young birds are learning to live in the landscape, and the extent to which they disperse and wander during their second calendar year, in particular. It has been noticeable over the past few months, how the behavour of the two age classes has varied. The 2019 birds have all gravitated back to the Isle of Wight, and with one exception, have remained local thereafter, whereas the 2020 birds are still in peak exploratory mode and are widely dispersed from northern Scotland, to the Netherlands. Here Tim Mackrill brings you up to date with their movements over the last few months. 

2020 birds


Earlier in the spring we reported that female G405 had made a return trip to southern Scotland, covering  2279 km (1416 miles) in four weeks. She returned to the Isle of Wight on 13th April and has since spent all of her time in southern England, favouring three key areas: the Isle of Wight, Exmoor and Longleat in Wiltshire.

Following her return to the Isle of Wight on 13th April, G405 headed north-west to Longleat the next day. She spent much of the next month favouring an area of some 20 km². This included the grounds of Longleat Safari Park, where she was seen taking carrion left out for the park’s wolves. She also made a two day return flight to south Devon on 17th and 18th April and three-day visit to the South Downs between 2nd and 5th May.

On 14th May G405 headed west through Wiltshire and Somerset to Exmoor where she remained between 17th May and 23rd June. During this time she ranged over a core area of 85km², favouring several areas where rabbits are numerous. Significantly, she was observed with a second White-tailed Eagle on a number of occasions, and interestingly, this was not one of the Isle of Wight birds. We very much hope that as a breeding population becomes established in southern England it will encourage wandering young birds from continental Europe to stay and breed, and so it is encouraging that G405 was interacting with another young eagle in this way. 

G405 photographed at Longleat earlier in the spring (photo by Phil Mumby)

After leaving Exmoor G405 spent another week near Longleat before heading back to the Isle of Wight on 2ndJuly where she remained until 18th July, spending most of her time in areas she had favoured during the winter, both inland and at the coast. She then crossed the Solent again and spent time in the South Downs before before completing a two day loop through Kent, and then skirting along the south side of London, passing over Dartford at 13:00 on 23rd July before heading south through Surrey and into East Sussex north of Brighton.  She lingered around Ashcombe Bottom just north-west of Lewes until 3rd August when she headed back west to Longleat and then Exmoor. She has remained in Exmoor since, favouring the same areas as before. A least one other eagle has been present during the same period.


G408 is the only member of the 2020 cohort to remain exclusively in southern England since release. With the exception of a two day return flight to the Quantock Hills in Somerset on 3rd and 4th April, G408 has been faithful to two main areas throughout the spring and summer: the Arun valley and a nearby area of the South Downs in West Sussex, and the Isle of Wight. The young male spent several weeks in the company of 2019 male, G393 in the Arun valley during the early spring, and has remained a regular visitor since, spending prolonged periods at Pulbrough Brooks RSPB Reserve and neighbouring Amberley Wildbrooks, as well as other locations along a five mile section of the valley. The satellite data shows that G408 was present in the Arun valley between 16th April – 7th May, 19th May – 16th June, 23rd June – 22nd July, 11th – 22nd August and 25th-31st August. He returned to the Isle of Wight during the intervening periods, favouring three main coastal locations where he was observed fishing, and also an inland area where rabbits are numerous. His visits to the Isle of Wight were often cut short by 2019 male G274 who became increasingly territorial during the spring and early summer, and chased the younger male across the Solent on a number of occasions. Like the other older birds, G408 also visited the release site once this year’s juveniles began flying.

Most recently G408 has spent time in the South Downs to the west of the Arun valley, where he was seen with G461 (see below).

G408 has returned to the Isle of Wight frequently this summer (photo by Ainsley Bennett)

During the spring G461 ranged extensively along the South Coast, wandering to Cornwall in the west and Kent in the east. On 22nd April the young male headed north from Kent, crossing the Thames just to the east of Greenwich before continuing north through Essex and Cambridgeshire to North Norfolk. He lingered south-east of Holt for a week and then moved to West Norfolk. 

G461 then spent the majority of May on the south side of the Wash in Lincolnshire and West Norfolk, moving between Frampton Marsh RSPB reserve, the Wash NNR near Guy’s Head, the mouth of the Great Ouse near Kings Lynn and inland sites in West Norfolk, including the Norfolk Wildlife Trust reserve at Roydon Common, while also completing a two-day flight around the Lincolnshire Wolds on 16th and 17th May. 

G461 spent prolonged periods around the Wash through the spring and summer
G461 in West Norfolk (photo by Gary Rugless)

On 29th May G461 flew 150 km (93 miles) south-west, and was seen passing over Rutland Water before continuing through Leicestershire, Warwickshire and Gloucestershire and eventually roosting in the Cotswolds south-west of Cheltenham. He flew a further 80 km (50 miles) to the Mendip Hills in Somerset on 30th, and 71 km (44 miles) to south-east Devon on 1st June. He then spent time along the coast to the west of Lyme Regis, and inland near Axminster, before heading 70 km (44 miles) east to Poole Harbour on 8th June and roosting on Brownsea Island that night. Next day G461 flew over Bournemouth and back to the Isle of Wight for the first time since 15th April. 

Having returned to the Isle of Wight, G461 stayed for only three days before crossing the Solent again on 12th June and flying 102 km (64 miles) north to Berkshire. He lingered to the west of Reading for two days before travelling a further 206 km (128 miles) north through Oxfordshire, Northamptonshire, and Lincolnshire on 15th June, back to his favoured area on the south side of the Wash. 

Having arrived back on the Wash, G461 lingered in the area for the next 2.5 months, alternating between the same favoured areas as before. Interestingly G461 spent time in many of the same areas as 2019 male G393, who was present in West Norfolk and the Wash during the latter part of 2020. 

G461 finally headed south again on 6th September, spending a night in rural Essex near Great Bardfield before continuing south over Greater London next day, passing over Hyde Park at an altitude of 450 metres at 17:08, and the over the London Wetland Centre soon afterwards. He roosted in farmland near the M25 at Cobham that evening before continuing south-west through Surrey and into the South Downs in West Sussex where he met up  with G408 on 12th September. He subsequently returned to the Isle of Wight on 15th September.

G461 flew directly over Hyde Park in central London on 7th September

As we reported in the spring, G463 was the first and, to date, only, of the Isle of Wight birds to cross the English Channel.  The young male made a 47 km (29 mile) crossing from Dungeness to Boulogne-Sur-Mer on 5th April before heading north to Germany. He remained on the south side of the River Elbe until 18th April when he continued north into Schleswig-Holstein, a stronghold for White-tailed Eagles in Germany. From there he slowly made his way along the Wadden Sea coast over subsequent days and, on 25th April, crossed into Denmark. Three days later G461 was on the south side of Ringkøbing Fjord, which turned out to be the most northerly point of his explorations. 

G463 remained on the Danish coast until 29th May and during this period favoured an area of the mainland coast adjacent to Rømø, the southern most of Denmark’s Wadden Sea islands.  Whilst here G463 frequented the mudflats, tidal channels and salthmarsh, but also spent time in wooded areas inland. 

G463’s core area on the Danish Wadden Sea coast

G463 headed south back into Germany on 29th May, returning to the River Elbe and then continuing south into the Netherlands and then Belgium. On 13th June he crossed the border into France and that evening roosted in woodland just to the east of Boulogne-Sur-Mer, very close to where he made landfall after crossing the English Channel in April. He lingered in the area for the next few days and on 16th was at the coast south of Ambleteuse. Had the winds been from the east it seems likely he would have attempted to return to England that day, but the wind turned to a relatively strong southerly, and this appeared to dissuade the young male from venturing out to sea. Instead he lingered inland and then on 20th June headed back into Belgium and then the Netherlands. He flew 170km (106 miles) north-east through the Netherlands on 24th June, passing over the Biesbosch where several pairs of White-tailed Eagles breed and eventually roosting in a forested area in the Hoge Veluwe National Park. Next day he travelled even further, covering an amazing 303 km (188 miles) back to the River Elbe in northern Germany, and again demonstrating how quickly young White-tailed Eagles learn the landscape. Next morning G463 crossed the Elbe and flew 51 km (32 miles) north to the estuary of the River Eider. 

G463 remained at the mouth of the Edier for the next month, usually roosting in woodland near Katinger Watt Nature Reserve and often perching on mudflats at the mouth of the Eider and also 15 km (9 miles) to the north. 

G463 remained in an area close to the River Eider during July

On 24th July G463 headed further south into Lower Saxony, before moving west into the Netherlands, where he again favoured areas on the Wadden Sea coast, initially at Ijsselmeer (4th-7th August) , a closed off inland bay, and then Lauwersmeer National Park (10th-16th August) on the north coast. He then moved a little further east and, since, 21st August has been frequenting the estuary of the Ems on the German border. It will be fascinating to see if and when the young male returns to England. He will have been encountering other young White-tailed Eagles throughout his travels, but the urge to return to the Isle of Wight is likely to prompt him back across the English Channel at some stage; although that may not be until next year.

G463’s movements in Europe since 15th April

G466, a female, was the last of the 2020 cohort to leave the Isle of Wight in the spring, but quickly made up for lost time. She spent time in the South West and also East Anglia before heading north in mid-April. On 12thApril she flew 228 km (142 miles) from the Suffolk coast to North Lincolnshire and then a further 163 km (101 miles) to County Durham next day. She continued north into Scotland on 14th and at 14:30 that afternoon reached the Firth of Forth, east of Edinburgh. She headed west along the south side of the Firth before flying over the west side of Edinburgh and then into Perth and Kinross. That night G466 roosted in a forested area near Glensherup Reservoir after a day’s flight of 255 km (158 miles). She again headed north on 15th April, flying 200km (124 miles) through the Cairngorms and then across the Black Isle before roosting to the north of Bonar Bridge close to the Dornoch Firth. She then made shorter movements of 32 km on 16th April, and 19 km on 17th April, before arriving at Loch Naver in Sutherland. 

The young female has remained in northern Scotland since, ranging widely in Caithness and Sutherland, but favouring two key areas. Her core area during April, May and June was a 24 km² area centred on Loch Naver, although she also made regular flights into Caithness, venturing as far as Loch Calder to the south of Thurso and Helmsdale on the east coast of Sutherland. On 1st July she moved to the north-west and began favouring Cape Wrath, the most north-westerly point in Scotland, as well as a series of Lochs 10 km (6 miles) inland, including Loch Na Gainmhich. She also began visiting Loch Eriboll from 8th August, extending her core range in the north-west to some 340 km². Like G463 in Europe, G466 will be encountering other White-tailed Eagles during her explorations, but we still expect her to head south at some stage. It will be very interesting to see when she does so.   

G466 has remained in Northern Scotland since flying north in mid-April
G466’s movements in Northern Scotland

After wintering near Bude in Cornwall, G471 headed north-east in early spring and spent time in north-west Norfolk and the Ouse Washes. Then, on 13th and 14th April the young male headed south-west, travelling 310 km (193 miles) to Herefordshire. Like G466, southerly winds encouraged G471 to fly north and on 15th April he flew 276 km (172 miles) north through Shropshire, Cheshire and then Merseyside and the North West to the Yorkshire Dales. He subsequently flew a further 73 km (45 miles) to the northern Pennines on 16th, and then 56 km (35 miles) on 17th, passing Kielder Water en route to a roost site just south of the Scottish border. He continued onto Kelso on 18th and spent much of the day along the River Tweed, before moving to the northern end of the Lammermuir Hills in East Lothian the next day.

On 20th April G471 crossed the Firth of Forth west of North Berwick and then the Firth of Tay into Angus. He then headed west and eventually roosted in woodland near King’s Seat, 13 km north-east of Perth after a day’s flight of 130 km (81 miles). G471 continued north-east into the Grampian Mountains and then the southern part of the Cairngorms National Park on 21st April. He then turned south at 15:00 and roosted on the south side of Loch Tay after flying a further 161 km (100 miles). G471 continued south the next day, travelling 162 km (101 miles) back across the Firth of Forth into East Lothian, before roosting in the south- east of the Lammermuir Hills. He then crossed back into England on 23rd, before settling in the Cheviot Hills, having flown another 107 km (66 miles) south. 

G471 remained in the Cheviot Hills for the next fortnight, favouring various locations, including Catcleaugh Reservoir. He then headed north again on 11th May and, other than a brief return to the Cheviots in early June, has spent the rest of the summer in southern Scotland, moving between various locations in the Southern Uplands. During this period he has favoured various water bodies in the area, including Hule Moss, Watch Water Reservoir and Hopes Reservoir, while also visiting the coast near Dunbar. Most recently, on 11thSeptember, G471 flew back south to Northumberland.  

G471 has remained in the Southern Uplands and Northumberland since 17th April
G471’s explorations since mid-April in the Southern Uplands and Northumberland
The six 2020 birds have dispersed widely since mid-April (G405 = red, G408 = cyan, G461 = green, G463 = magenta, G466 = white, G471 = yellow)

2019 birds

While the 2020 cohort are still in the peak of the dispersal phase, three of the four surviving birds from the 2019 releases are now very settled on the Isle of Wight and the wider Solent region. 

G274 and G324

Like G466 and G471, G324 spent the summer of her second calendar year in the Lammermuir Hills. She subsequently returned to the Isle of Wight in early September, and has been present ever since. During this period she has paired with 2019 male, G274, and the two birds have spent almost every day together since. It was notable that the two birds caught fish around the coasts of the Isle of Wight for much of last winter, and this preference for fish has continued through the spring and summer, with favoured species including Grey Mullet and Common Carp. Like last summer, G274 has again been seen catching Cuttlefish in the Solent, taking advantage of the seasonal abundance caused when Cuttlefish spawn in the seagrass beds off the coast of the Island. The two birds have also been seen catching Coot, gulls, corvids and injured or weak Canada Geese. They have also been observed stealing food from Marsh Harriers, Buzzards and even a Peregrine.      

G324 (left) and G274 (photo by Ainsley Bennett)

It has also been highly encouraging to observe G274 and G324 exhibiting territorial behaviour throughout the summer. They rarely tolerate other White-tailed Eagles in their favoured coastal locations, and have been observed chasing other birds, most notably 2019 male G393, and 2020 male G408, on a number of occasions. Although White-tailed Eagles usually do not breed until they are four-five years old, the signs are certainly encouraging. Interestingly this territorial behaviour did not extend to this year’s translocated juveniles, and both G274 and G324 have been observed at the release site regularly since the first of the 2021 cohort began flying.

G274 and G324 have been together as a pair since September 2020

Like the 2020 cohort, G393 ranged widely during his second calendar year, before finally returning to the Isle of Wight in February this year, after 17 months away. Since his return G393 has remained much more local, spending the majority of his time in and around the Solent. Like G274 he has become proficient at catching fish, and has taken advantage of the abundant Grey Mullet in estuaries, while also predating gosling Greylag and Canada Geese, which are a key prey item of White-tailed Eagles in the Netherlands.  

G393 has been in heavy moult over the summer (photo by Ainsley Bennett)

Interestingly, in June, G393 flew north to one of the sites in Oxfordshire where he spent the majority of his first winter. He remained there for over a month between 15th June and 17th July before returning to a favoured location on the Solent. 

Like G274 and G324, G393 has spent prolonged periods at the release site with the 2021 juveniles. He appeared as soon as the first young birds were flying and was present for an initial week-long period before being seen off by G274. He then returned again on 28th August, and remained until 3rd September, which again coincided with another visit by G274 to the release site. The satellite data clearly demonstrates that the two males have become territorial and that G274 appears dominant over his compatriot from 2019. Nevertheless the time G393 spent at the release site should have provided plenty of stimulation for him. Seeing newly fledged juveniles, especially as they often directed food-begging calls towards him, will have been a valuable experience for G393.

G393 (front) at the release site with a food-begging juvenile. Notice his yellow bill, which is typical of older birds.

Unlike the other 2019 birds, G318, a female, has remained rather nomadic over the summer. After returning to the Isle of Wight for the first time in almost a year during March, she ranged widely in Dorset, Wiltshire and Hampshire. She spent time with G393 on several occasions during April, but unlike G274 and G324 has not formed a bond with the male; potentially because the two birds shared a pen together, and thus consider each other siblings. Despite a few visits to the Solent shoreline and another excursion to the Isle of Wight, she continued to favour inland areas where rabbits were her main prey item.

G318 continued to range between south Wiltshire and the Isle of Wight until 23rd April, when she made a 256 km (159 mile) flight to North Wales. That night she roosted in woodland 4.5 km south-west of Mold. Next day she continued to the north coast near Prestatyn before heading west, and then south, into Snowdonia. She passed to the east of Snowdon before settling in a large plantation to the north of Llyn Tryweryn after a day’s flight of 113km. She remained in the local area all day on 25th April, and roosted in the same location that night.

On 26th April she headed east to western Staffordshire where she remained for two days before crossing into Derbyshire on 29th and then north Nottinghamshire on 30th.  Later that day she arrived in the northern part of the Lincolnshire Wolds; an area she had frequented during the winter. 

G318 remained in the Lincolnshire Wolds until 9th May when she headed across the Humber and then north over Hull. Two days later she was back in the northern part of the North York Moors; again an area she knew from previous explorations. In fact, she returned to exactly the same locations as spring 2020. She remained in the North York Moors for over a month, again favouring areas where rabbits are common, before flying 142 km (88 miles) south to the Lincolnshire Wolds on 15th June. She lingered in the Wolds until 23rd June and then flew 232 km (144 miles) south through Lincolnshire, Northamptonshire, Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire before roosting just north of Newbury. She remained in the same area all day on 24th before continuing south on 25th and returning to favoured haunts in north Dorset and Wiltshire, where she remained until 8th July.  

G318 in Berkshire on 24th June. Like all White-tailed Eagles she is adept at perching inconspicuously in trees (photo by Tim Mackrill)

On 8th July G318 was on the move again, flying north through Wiltshire, before skirting around the east side of Swindon and continuing north into Gloucestershire the next day. She then spent three days around woodland in north-east Gloucestershire near Longborough, before flying 154 km (96 miles) north through the West Midlands on 18th July. That night she roosted in eastern Staffordshire, before continuing north through the Peak District the next day. She subsequently settled close to the Upper Derwent Valley, living in an area of approximately 8km² for almost two months.

The latest satellite data indicates that she has now begun moving south again, and so it will be interesting to see if she heads back to the Isle of Wight, or continues her nomadic existence for a while longer.

G318 has continued to range widely since April

 It has been a very encouraging few months for the project, and it will be fascinating to see how events unfold this autumn. Last year’s juveniles began dispersing in late September and early October, and so we expect to see this year’s birds making flights away from the Isle of Wight before long. We are always delighted to hear of the excitement birders and members of the public gain from seeing the birds, and we will report the movements of the eagles as much as possible as they disperse. However, please remember that it is not possible to disclose the location of individual birds if they are on private land or other sensitive sites. This is not only to prevent disturbance to the birds themselves, but also to the site and local people. Please keep an eye on the website and our social media, and don’t forget to submit any sightings via our online form. Very many thanks to everyone who has submitted sightings so far, and to everyone who has expressed interest and support for the project – we greatly appreciate it.

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White-tailed eagles successfully returning to the English landscape

A further 12 white-tailed eagles have been released on the Isle of Wight in the next stage of one of England’s landmark conservation projects. Begun in 2019 the project, led by Forestry England and the Roy Dennis Wildlife Foundation, is closely monitoring these iconic birds as they successfully return to the English landscape. 

The project, based on the Isle of Wight, released six birds in 2019 followed by a further seven last year. Evidence from similar reintroductions suggests that the rate of survival to breeding age is around 40%. Ten of the 13 birds previously released have survived and are doing well. 

White-tailed eagles are Britain’s largest birds of prey with a wingspan of up to 2.5 meters and were once widespread across England until human persecution wiped them out. The reintroduction project is bringing them back after an absence of over 240 years by releasing up to 60 birds over five years. It aims to establish an initial population of six to eight pairs with breeding activity not expected to start until 2024 at the earliest. 

Two of the young White-tailed Eagles contemplate their first flight, while another bird looks on (Forestry England/RDWF)

Each bird is fitted with a satellite tracker to enable the team to monitor and track their progress. Three years into the project, this data and considerable field observations are showing encouraging signs of the birds developing key skills and improving their understanding of the landscape around them. 

As expected, the previously released birds have explored widely, taking many journeys across Britain as they build up their knowledge of the landscape. One bird released in 2020 crossed the English Channel earlier this year and has since spent time in France, The Netherlands, Germany and Denmark. There have also been several sightings in southern England of white-tailed eagles from Europe, raising hopes that some of these wandering birds will pair up with those released on the Isle of Wight in years to come. Connecting white-tailed eagle populations in this way, is a key long-term aim of the project. 

However far the birds travel, the tracking data clearly shows that the birds consistently return to the Isle of Wight, their release point. This means they see the Island and the surrounding coastline as their home and is an encouraging indicator for potential successful breeding conditions in the future. 

Two of the young eagles preparing for their first flight (Forestry England/RDWF)

Two birds in particular, G324 and G274 have already formed a close and lasting pairing and are showing some signs of territorial behaviours with other eagles. Whilst it too early to predict, the team are hopeful that these early signs may lead to breeding activity over the next few years.  

Between their explorations, the data and field observations have also shown how the birds have honed their hunting skills as they learn more about their surroundings and the availability of prey. Last winter fish remained a key prey item, with the eagles catching bass off the south-west coast, as well as pirating fish from gulls and cormorants.  Grey mullet is plentiful during the spring and summer in the estuaries around the south coast and has been an important prey item through the past two years. These abundant food supplies around the coasts of the Isle of Wight were one of the key reasons the area was selected for the reintroduction project. 

With each year’s releases there is an opportunity for the youngest birds to observe and learn from those who are more mature. Whilst the older birds will gradually become more territorial, there are still many chances for the younger birds to identify key feeding locations and skills from their older cohort. Over time it is expected that the birds will establish more formal territories and disperse across the south coast of England. 

Birders and members of the public across the country have supported the project by reporting sightings of the eagles and sharing these via @seaeagleengland on social media or via the Roy Dennis Wildlife Foundation website

Roy Dennis, MBE, Founder of the Roy Dennis Wildlife Foundation said: “We are now three years into this reintroduction project, and it is extremely encouraging to see just how successfully white-tailed eagles are settling into the English landscape. Highlights for me have included watching the birds learn how to successfully fish all year round and the growing interactions between the birds. I am also always fascinated in tracking some of their huge exploratory flights across England and Europe and their ultimate return back to the Isle of Wight.” 

“We have seen from other reintroduction programmes that returning lost species offers real benefits for the health of our environment, and to people and local economies. None of this would be possible without the support of many people and I would like to thank everyone who has helped us again with this year’s release and ongoing monitoring of the birds.” 

Steve Egerton-Read, White-Tailed Eagle Project Officer, Forestry England, said: “Over the last three years we have closely tracked the progress of these incredible birds. It’s been brilliant to see how well they are fitting into the landscape and we are hopeful that before too long they will breed in England again.” 

“It’s been particularly rewarding to hear from people across the country who are delighted to have seen the birds in their local area. It’s still a real thrill for me to see these incredible birds in the skies above the Isle of Wight and I look forward to the day that they are re-established right across southern England.” 

The reintroduction of white-tailed eagles is being conducted under licence from Natural England, the Government’s wildlife licensing authority. All of the young birds involved in the project are collected under a NatureScot licence from the wild in Scotland and brought to the Isle of Wight.  

Natural England Chair, Tony Juniper, said: “Today’s release marks another important milestone on the road toward the restoration of these magnificent birds as a breeding species in England. I’m so encouraged to see this project go from strength to strength, with this third release enabling white-tailed eagles to strengthen their foothold on the Isle of Wight.” 

“We will continue to work closely with Roy Dennis and his team, Forestry England and various stakeholders to ensure this project serves as a guide for further successful species reintroductions in England, which are a vital part of achieving our overarching goal for nature recovery.”

This year the project again received valuable support from pilot Graham Mountford, and his daughter, Helen, who flew a cohort of birds south from the Outer Hebrides in his plane, thereby greatly reducing the transit time for the birds. 

The Isle of Wight was chosen as the location to reintroduce the white-tailed eagles, also known as sea eagles, as it offers an ideal habitat for these coastal loving birds with plentiful sources of food in the surrounding waters. It also offers a central position on the south coast allowing the birds to disperse and link with other populations in Scotland, Ireland and on the continent.

A comprehensive feasibility study and public surveys were conducted prior to reintroduction and a steering group made up of local organisations and members of the community are helping to guide the project. 

Watch out for a comprehensive update on the recent movements of the birds released in 2019 and 2020 on our website in the coming days.

Poole Harbour Ospreys 2021

2021 is proving to be an encouraging year for the Poole Harbour Osprey Project, which we run in partnership with Birds of Poole Harbour and Wildlife Windows.

The long term aim of the project is to restore a population of Ospreys on the South Coast of England, where they have been absent for 200 years. This involves the translocation of young from nests in Northern Scotland. You can learn more about the project in our podcasts here.

Young Ospreys usually return to the UK for the first time in their third calendar year, and so this spring we were hopeful we would see some of the birds released in 2019 back in Dorset for the first time. Satellite tracking studies have shown that young Ospreys wander widely when they first return, but they usually visit their natal site (which in the case of the translocated birds is the release site) at some point during their first summer back in the UK. A key part of this behaviour is to prospect potential breeding sites, and, as a result, young birds often intrude at active nests. The movements of satellite-tagged male Rothiemurchus when he first returned to Scotland in 2011, is a good example of just how far young birds wander before they establish their own nest site.

In the early years of colonisation, it is usually males who establish territories, before attempting to attract a mate, but the difference for any returning male to Poole Harbour this year, was the presence of an unpaired female. CJ7 fledged from a nest in Rutland in 2015 and has returned to the Poole Harbour area each summer since 2017. It seems that the presence of translocated juveniles in the area has been a key factor in her settling in Dorset. She paired with a translocated bird, LS7, in 2019 but sadly the young male failed to return from migration last spring. Unperturbed, CJ7 has remained faithful to the same artificial nest for the past two summers and has laid unfertilised eggs on each occasion, demonstrating her eagerness to breed.

As those of you who have watched the Birds of Poole Harbour live stream this summer will know, there was great excitement on 18th May when CJ7 was joined at the nest by 022, a male that we had translocated from a nest in Strathspey in 2019. The two birds paired up immediately, and were seen mating regularly. It is highly unusual for two year-old Ospreys to breed, but we were hopeful that CJ7 may lay eggs in late May. That did not happen, but the two birds have remained together since, and, assuming they both return from migration, we are hopeful that they will attempt to breed next spring. What is not so certain is with nest they will choose – in recent weeks they have been seen at various artificial nests around Poole Harbour, and have been interacting with this year’s newly-released juveniles, even perching on nests with them.

022 (left) and CJ7 on the nest
The two birds began mating almost immediately

Whilst the key long-term aim of the project is to restore breeding Ospreys to the South Coast of England, early evidence is showing that this new population will also help to link different populations of Ospreys. The presence of translocated birds in and around Poole Harbour has led to CJ7 taking up residence in Dorset, while a female that we translocated to Poole has bred successfully in Wales for the first time this summer. 014, a female released in 2018 has bred for the first time this year at a nest at Pont Croesor in the Glaslyn Valley near Porthmadog in North Wales. She raised a single male chick (ring number 494), with a four-year-old male, Z2 or Aeron, from the Cors Dyfi nest in mid-Wales. Meanwhile a second female, 019, released at Poole Harbour in 2019, was also seen in Wales earlier this summer. She was captured on camera when she visited the nests in the Glaslyn Valley on 5th June. This was the first sighting of her back in the UK, although she was seen on a number of occasions at Gunjur Quarry in The Gambia during her first winter and again in March this year. She was subsequently seen at Cors Dyfi further south in Wales on 30th June and possibly again on 5th July. This demonstrates how widely young birds wander when they first return; helping them to develop important knowledge of where other Ospreys are breeding. It will be very interesting to see if and where the young female appears next spring. Research has shown that male Ospreys typically breed close to their natal site, but females often disperse further, and so it is possible that 019 may follow 014’s lead and also return to Wales in future years to breed. Or should another translocated male return and set-up territory at Poole Harbour, we may yet see her back in Dorset.

019 at Gunjur Quarry in The Gambia in January 2020 (photo by Chris Wood)

A key element of the project at this early stage is the continued release of young birds, and during July we translocated a further ten juvenile Ospreys from nests in Moray and Highland. The young Ospreys are collected under a special licence issued by NatureScot from broods of two or three and then held temporarily at Roy Dennis’s home near Forres, before being transported by road to Dorset. You can hear more about our work collecting Ospreys by listening to one of our podcasts from 2019 here.

Once the birds had arrived at Poole Harbour on 15th July they were immediately moved into holding pens and monitored by the Birds of Poole Harbour team. CCTV cameras enable the birds to monitored closely during this period and released when appropriate. The first five birds were released on 2nd August with the remaining younger birds making their first flights ten days later.

Two of the translocated juveniles feeding after release. Magpies often take advantage of a free meal at the release site too.

The post-release period is critical in the imprinting process because it is when the young Osprey learn that Dorset is home. They generally remain close to the release pens for the first ten days, before venturing further a field and exploring the wider landscape. Fresh fish is provided by the team on a daily basis in order to replicate what happens at natural nests, and so even when the young birds make longer exploratory flights, they usually return in the evening to feed. Most young Ospreys do not catch their own fish until they depart on their first migration, and so the fish provided by the project team is essential in helping the birds to get into the best possible condition for the long flight south.

In the last few days the juveniles have been seen in the presence of CJ7 and 022. At Rutland Water there were instances of non-breeding adults feeding translocated juveniles, and we wonder if that may be repeated in Dorset this summer. Both 022 and CJ7 tolerate food-begging juveniles perching on artificial nests with them, and it will be interesting to see if they respond to the incessant food-begging, by providing fish. Regardless, the presence of the young birds will further strengthen the very strong bond that both CJ7 and 022 already have to the area.

Translocated juvenile 375 food begging to 022 (left) and CJ7 on an artificial nest at Poole Harbour

This year’s juveniles are likely to remain at Poole Harbour until early September before setting off on their first migration. An excellent way of seeing them before they depart is to join one of the Birds of Poole Harbour Osprey cruises. You can find out more here.

White-tailed Eagles at Ken Hill

We are delighted that Natural England have granted a licence for the Foundation and Wild Ken Hill to reintroduce White-tailed Eagles to West Norfolk and the surrounding region. 

The go ahead has been given after the project team completed a detailed feasibility study, alongside a public consultation which took place during January and February. 91% of participants gave their support for the proposals, including 83% of people who were “strongly supportive”. 63% of farmers also indicated support for the proposals. The complete feasibility study, including results of the consultation can be downloaded from our website here

The West Norfolk project will become the next phase of national efforts to restore White-tailed Eagles to England, which began with the release of birds on the Isle of Wight in 2019. That project is a partnership between the Foundation and Forestry England, and you can read the latest updates on our website here.

The Natural England licence will allow up to 60 juvenile birds to be released at Wild Ken Hill over a ten year period, with the aim of establishing a small breeding population of 6-10 pairs in the region. White-tailed Eagles usually do not breed until they are five years of age, and so it will take some time for the population to become established. 

The juvenile birds will be translocated from Poland, where there are over 1,000 pairs of White- tailed Eagles. Current complications with international travel under Covid-19 restrictions mean that the first birds are likely to be released in 2022. 

Also known as the sea eagle, the White-tailed Eagle is a native bird of prey, and the UK’s largest, with a wingspan of 8ft (2.4m). It was persecuted to extinction in Britain in the early twentieth century. The species has subsequently been successfully reintroduced to Scotland, and more recently, Ireland. 

We are delighted to be working on the project with Wild Ken Hill, a conservation and sustainable farming project on the West coast of Norfolk. You can read more about their work on their website.

Dominic Buscall, manager at Wild Ken Hill, said, “We are delighted to have the go ahead to bring back White-tailed Eagles to Eastern England, and overwhelmed by the support we have received from all sectors. We have also carefully been listening to concerns where they have arisen, and we are now committed to delivering this important conservation project and working with all of our stakeholders to ensure its success.” 

G393, here seen with a Red Kite, spent five months in West Norfolk from 1st August 2020- 4th January 2021 before returning to the Isle of Wight (photo by Tim Smith)

Roy Dennis who has been instrumental in the recovery of the species in the UK, said, “This is the next logical step to restore this magnificent bird to England and compliments efforts across Europe to help the species. We have carefully considered the potential ecological and socio-economic impact of the project and initial results from the Isle of Wight, and evidence from across lowland Europe, shows that this is a bird that can live successfully alongside people and fit into the East Anglian landscape very well.” 

Dave Slater, director for wildlife licensing at Natural England, said: “After thorough consideration, we have granted a licence allowing the Roy Dennis Wildlife Foundation to release white-tailed eagles at Wild Ken Hill in Norfolk. Our experts have carefully assessed the project against guidelines for the reintroduction of species, as well as the potential environmental, social and economic impacts. And we are satisfied that there are no significant risks associated with it. We’re content that the applicant’s experience, as well as our expertise and licensing process, ensures the project will be carried out in a responsible, well-managed way that takes account of concerns and makes a positive contribution to both people and wildlife.” 

The project is now running a crowdfunding campaign to raise money for the initial costs. 

A viable population on the East coast centred around West Norfolk would help to connect existing White-tailed Eagle populations in Scotland, Ireland – also established through reintroduction projects – with those in the South of England, and mainland Europe, including the Netherlands, Denmark, and Germany. 

Indeed, six juvenile birds released on the Isle of Wight have spent periods of time in Norfolk over the last year in addition to others from the continent, demonstrating the suitability of the area for the species. One of the Isle of Wight birds subsequently crossed the English Channel and is now in Denmark. 

Roy Dennis said, “The breeding biology of White-tailed Eagles means that although young birds range extensively in their early years, they usually return to their natal area to breed. However, if, in the future, young birds from other populations encounter a small breeding population of White-tailed Eagles in East Anglia, they may be encouraged to stay.” 

White-tailed Eagles are opportunistic predators with a preference for fish, waterbirds, and for carrion. No issues with conservation sites or farming systems have been recorded with any of the 13 birds released on the Isle of Wight to date. 

Wild Ken Hill was chosen for the next phase of national efforts to bring back the bird because of its coastal location as well as its quiet woodlands, which together provide highly suitable loafing areas for young birds post-release, and in time, nesting locations.

G383 at the Ken Hill Estate in September 2020 (photo by Tim Mackrill)

Crossing the Channel

The key aim of the White-tailed Eagle project on the Isle of Wight, which we run in partnership with Forestry England, is to restore a breeding population to the South Coast for the first time since the late 1700s. This, we hope, will provide an important link between existing populations in Scotland and Ireland with those in continental Europe.  There has been a marked upturn in the number of sightings of wandering White-tailed Eagles from continental Europe in England during the last two springs, and while these young birds are likely to eventually return to their natal areas, some may stay if they encounter a breeding population on the South Coast.  Similarly, we expect young birds from the Isle of Wight to venture across the English Channel, particularly in their early years. While most are likely to return to the South Coast as they approach breeding age, it is possible that some will join the expanding populations in countries such as the Netherlands, France and Germany. With this all in mind, it was very significant that, on 6th April, G463, a 2020 male, was the first Isle of Wight bird to make it across the English Channel, as Tim Mackrill explains.


After wintering near Chard in Somerset, G463 was one of three Isle of Wight birds to spend time in East Anglia this spring. The young male arrived in early March and spent three weeks in the Brecks and West Norfolk. He was photographed at Thornham beach on 19th March before returning south to the Brecks that afternoon. Next morning he was on the move again, and flew south-east to the Suffolk coast near Southwold. The Suffolk estuaries are another superb area for White-tailed Eagles, and G463 spent time at the mouth of the River Blyth at Southwold on 21st March, before heading further south along the coast to the River Alde, between Aldeburgh and Orford Ness where he remained until the morning of 25th March.

G463 receiving unwanted attention from a Carrion Crow on Thornham Beach in Norfolk (photo by Richard Campey)
G463 being mobbed by a Common Buzzard in West Norfolk (photo by Andy Bloomfield)

On 25th March G463 flew north along the Suffolk coast, passing over Minsmere at 10:15 and then Lowestoft just before midday. He then headed into the Broads and spent four days in the Horsea area until 29th. G463 subsequently headed west along the North Norfolk coast and returned to his favoured areas in West Norfolk before moving south back to the Brecks on 1st April. The next morning he crossed back into Suffolk and then spent two days around Ampton Water north of Bury St Edmunds.

G463’s explorations in Norfolk and Suffolk during March and April

G463 was on the move again on 4th April, passing over Bury St Edmunds at 15:05 before heading south-east into Essex. He was over Colchester at 17:05 and then the Colne Estuary soon afterwards. The young male then headed north back into Suffolk and spent the night in woodland near Alton Water to the south of Ipswich. The next morning G463 initially flew north to Stowmarket, but strong north-westerly winds then encourage him south again. He crossed the mouth of the River Thames at 12:30 and the Isle of Sheppey soon afterwards. By 13:30 he had reached the south Kent coast at Dover and that afternoon flew 7 km out into the English Channel at an altitude of over 700 metres, before turning back again.

That night G463 roosted 10 km (6 miles) inland, but was back on the coast at 08:30 the next morning. At 09:52 he was 7 km out to sea once again but, like the previous afternoon, subsequently returned to land. He then flew south-west along the Kent coast to Dungeness. At 13:02 he was circling 1382 metres above and with a strong north-westerly wind providing perfect tailwind assistance, he headed out across the Channel a few minutes later. The transmitter logged the bird’s location every five minutes as G463 crossed the sea and showed that by 13:22 his altitude had dropped to 404 metres, but at the point of the next GPS transmission he had succeeded in gaining altitude to 582 metres. G463 continued on the same south-easterly course before making landfall just to the north of Boulogne-sur-Mer at 13:45, having completed the 47 km (29 mile) crossing in just 40 minutes at an average speed of 70 kph (43 mph).

G463 circled up to an altitude of 1382 metres over Dungeness before heading across the English Channel
G463 took just 40 minutes to make the Channel crossing

After reaching French airspace, G463 continued to make good progress and flew a further 176 km (109 miles) south-east through France, eventually stopping to roost in a small wood near the village of Douilly in the Picardy region, at 19:40 local time.

G463’s flight between 6th and 8th April

Next morning the wind had changed to a south-westerly and this perhaps influenced a distinct change of course for G463. After leaving his roost site at 06:55 the young male headed north-west towards the Ardennes Forest. By 12:40 he was flying close to the Belgian border, and eventually crossed into Belgian airspace near the town of Givet an hour later. As the afternoon progressed G463 turned to a more northerly heading and eventually stopped to roost in a forested area just to the south of Liege having flown 237 km (147 miles) during the course of the day.

On 8th March G463 left his roost site at 08:00 and again headed north, skirting around the west side of Liege and then on towards the Netherlands border. He passed into Dutch airspace just after midday and headed NNE, following the course of the Meuse River for 30 km before crossing into Germany at 13:30. He continued flying north for less than an hour before stopping in woodland on the south side of the River Rhine having flown 158 km (98 miles) during the course of the day.

On 9th April G463 left his roost site at 07:30 but stopped again in farmland nearby soon afterwards. He eventually resumed his journey at 11:00, crossing the Rhine and then heading north-east through the German regions of Münster and then Lower Saxony until 14:30 when he stopped in an area of woodland and arable farmland near the town of Herzlake. G463 remained in the local area for the rest of the afternoon, but had still covered 154 km (95 miles) in just 3.5 hours of flying.

G463 remained in the local area for the whole of the next morning, but then headed north again at 13:00, flying 39 km (24 miles) north to Leegmoor, a wetland nature reserve. He roosted locally and then remained in the area all day on 11th .

On 12th April G463 was on the move again. He set off from Leegmoor in a north-easterly direction shortly after 10:00 and reached Jade Bight, a bay on the Wadden Sea coast at midday. He then skirted around the southern end of Bremerhaven before continuing north-east, pausing in a forested area south of Wingst, north-west of Hamburg, for four hours between 14:10 and 18:10, before continuing a little further north to a small wood on the south side of the mouth of the River Elbe. By the time he went to roost G463 had flown another 158 km (98 miles) during the course of the day, and was now just south of Schleswig-Holstein the most northerly of the 16 German states and a stronghold for White-tailed Eagles in Germany. G463 will now be encountering many other eagles on his travels.

G463’s flight through Germany, 8-12 April
G463’s travels since 1st March

G463 remained on the south side of the River Elbe all day on 13th April. This is an excellent place for the young male to spend some time, and it will be fascinating to see how long he lingers in the area, and if and when, he heads back towards the Isle of Wight.

G463 remained on the south side of the River Elbe all day on 13th April


G463 is not the only Isle of Wight bird to wander a considerable distance this spring. Female G405 has also ranged extensively, but unlike her compatriot from the 2020 cohort, she returned to the Island yesterday after a month of explorations that took her as far north as East Lothian in southern Scotland.

In our previous update we reported that G405 had spent much of February and early part of March at Longleat in Wiltshire. She subsequently returned to the Isle of Wight via Dorchester and Poole Harbour on 16th March, but only remained on the Island for three days before heading north again back to Longleat on 19th March. She completed a short circuit of Warminster and Westbury on 21st, but then made a more determined movement to the north-east on 22nd, flying 132 km (84 miles) to south Northamptonshire. Interestingly that night she roosted in the same wood near Silverstone as 2019 female, G318, had a few weeks earlier.

A brisk south-westerly wind encouraged G405 to continue north-east the next day and by 10:40 she was over Tallington in south Lincolnshire, flying at an altitude of 583 metres. She continued on the same heading through the Lincolnshire Fens towards Mablethorpe before turning north-west to head into the Lincolnshire Wolds. That night she roosted in a small wood near the village of Burgh on Bain having flown 193 km (120 miles). The next day G405 made a shorter movement of 40 km (25 miles) to the north-west and roosted in Laughton Woods in north-west Lincolnshire.

G405 left her roost site soon after first light on 25th March and headed north-west into South Yorkshire and then north towards York. At 11:30 she was 12 km (7 miles) east of the city, flying purposefully north at an altitude of 717 metres, and an hour later she was photographed circling over Appleton-le-Moors. She subsequently headed north-west into the North York Moors having flown 118 km (73 miles) from Lincolnshire.

G405’s flight to the North York Moors

G405 remained in the south-west of the North York Moors for six days, and in that time favoured an area frequented by G318 last year, tending to remain on the lower slopes rather than the open moors.

On 31st March she flew 123 km (73 miles) west to the Yorkshire Dales and roosted in woodland south-west of Cowgill in Cumbria. The next morning she flew north the western part of the Yorkshire Dales and then into the Lake District. She was perched just to the north of Haweswater, between 12:22-12:37, close to the area where Golden Eagles used to breed, but then continued north again, passing the east end of Ullswater at 13:15 and then to the east of Carlisle at 14:25. She then crossed the border into Scotland at 16:00 before stopping in woodland 10 km (6 miles) north-west of Kielder Water, having flown 170 km (105 miles) from the Yorkshire Dales.

G405 passed Haweswater and Ullswater in the Lake District on 1st April
G405’s flight north through the Yorkshire Dales and the Lake District, 31st March – 1st April

G405 remained in the local area on 2nd April, but then headed further north on 3rd April, passing Jedburgh at 11:45 and then completing a circuit of the Lammermuir Hills, where G324, a 2019 female had summered last year. At 14:45 G405 was at the most northerly point of her journey, 587 km (367 miles) north of the release site on the Isle of Wight. At this point she began heading south again, and eventually stopped in woodland 4 km (2.5 miles) south-east of Selkirk having flown 147 km (91 miles).

The next morning G405 headed slowly south-east and crossed the border back into England at 12:20. She then continued south-east through Northumberland before roosting in woodland just north of Rayburn Lake after a flight of 70 km (43 miles).

G405’s movements in Scotland and northern England 2-4 April

Having initially been encouraged north by southerly winds, a distinct change in the weather to cold northerly winds appeared to prompt G405 to head south again. She left her roost site at first light on 5th April and flew purposefully south, passing directly over Newcastle at an altitude of 601 metres at 09:47 and then to west of Middlesborough at 10:30. By 11:00 she was back in the North York Moors, and she flew a wide arc around the east side of the moors before stopping in Dalby Forest soon after midday, having already flown 170 km (105 miles). She remained in the local area for the rest of the afternoon and then next morning flew 7 km (4.5 miles) south before spending the day beside the River Derwent west of Yedingham.

G405 flew south through the North-East on 4th April

On 7th April G405, again encouraged by northerly winds, was on the move again. At 11:40 she was 21 km (12 miles) south-west and now back on the exact track that she had used to fly north. She followed an identical route for 48 km (30 miles) and then continued on the same SSW heading over Worksop in Nottinghamshire at 13:36 (997 m altitude) and then Nottingham between 14:10-14:26. She subsequently skirted around the east side of Leicester and then directly over Market Harborough between 15:13-15:18 at an altitude of 469-499 m. At 15:43 she was just to the east of Northampton (840 metres) and then over Milton Keynes at 16:13 (630 m). She continued south, aided by the strong wind and skirted around the west side of Tring between 16:43 and 16:48 (207-338 m) before finally stopping in woodland to the west of Amersham at 17:25 having flown an impressive 323 km (201 miles) from North Yorkshire.

G405 used an almost identical route south through Yorkshire as her northward journey in March
G405 flew 323 km (201 miles) south on 7th April

Next morning, G405 headed south-east towards London, and was flying at an altitude of 466 metres to the west of Wembley. At 11:15 she was directly over the River Thames to the east of Richmond at a low altitude of just 154 metres and she was then photographed by Ian Jones as she passed over Beddington Farmlands in south London at 11:50. Once past the capital she continued south-east into Surrey, Kent and then East Sussex. At 14:05 she was just 12 km (7.5 miles) north of the South Coast but at that point she turned to the east and flew back into Kent before settling to roost in Park Wood, north-west of Elham and east of Ashford, having flown another 188 km (117 miles).

G405 flew over London on 8th April

Next morning, 9th April, G405 flew 22 km (14 miles) to the East Kent coast at Pegwell Bay and remained there for three hours before returning to the same area as the previous night to roost. She then lingered in the local area for all of the next day, before heading west on the morning of 11th April, passing just to the north of Rye Harbour at 10:15 and then north of Lewes at 11:40. She spent two hours near Plumpton during the middle of the day before continuing west and eventually stopping in Westdean Woods the South Downs north of Chichester.

G405 remained around Westdean Woods all day on 12th April but then headed south on the morning of 13th. She crossed Thorney Island at 10:30 and then headed west to the north of Portsmouth and then across Southampton Water. At 12:30 she was close to Lyndhurst in the New Forest and she then headed south to Lymington before crossing the Solent back to the Isle of Wight after just under four weeks away, have flown 2279 km (1416 miles) in that time.

G405’s flight back to the Isle of Wight on 13th April
G405 flew 2279 km (1416 miles) between 19th March and 13th April

G405’s return to the Isle of Wight is another demonstration that the translocated birds regard the Island and the South Coast as home. This is also evident in the differing behaviour of the 2019 and 2020 cohorts during the past month. After wandering extensively last year, the four 2019 birds are now spending all of their time either on the Isle of Wight or neighbouring areas of the South Coast. It is particularly encouraging that male G274 and female G324 seem to be forming a pair, and are spending most days together in coastal locations around the Isle of Wight. They have been observed catching both marine and freshwater fish on a frequent basis as well as Coot, Black-headed Gulls and even an injured Canada Goose. They also appear to be keeping the other two 2019 birds, G393 and G318, away from the Island wherever possible. This is the first indications of territorial behaviour, and is another encouraging sign for the future.

G274 and G324 have spent most of the past month together on the Isle of Wight (photo by Ainsley Bennett)

In contrast all of the 2020 birds continue to explore extensively. G461 has ranged along the whole of the South Coast from Kent to Cornwall in the past month, while female G466 has travelled west to Cornwall, completed a circuit of East Anglia and, most recently, was flying north through County Durham this morning. G471, meanwhile, has spent the majority of the past month in East Anglia, favouring the North Norfolk coast and also the Ouse Washes in Cambridgeshire, but then flew south-west today and was heading into Herefordshire at 17:00. G408 has generally remained more local, but visited the Somerset coast near Burnham-on-Sea on 4th April and has also spent prolonged periods in the Arun valley in West Sussex where he has been joined, on occasions, by 2019 male G393. These movements are typical of young White-tailed Eagles during their second calendar year, but the satellite transmitters are providing a fascinating insight into their daily explorations. It has also been excellent to hear about sighings of the birds on their travels – very many thanks to everyone who has been in touch and sent photos.

G471 has spent much of the past month in East Anglia (photo by Andy Bloomfield)
All of the 2020 birds have ranged extensively during the past month
(G405 = blue; G408 = white; G461 = purple, G463 = green; G466 = yellow; G471 = orange).
G274 and G318 at dawn on the Isle of Wight (photo by Ainsley Bennett)

Can you help us?

Satellite tracking is a key element of the project, and as such, a core cost that we have to cover. Donations of any amount make a big difference, and so if you are able to make a contribution, please click the donate button below and select White-tailed Eagle project when prompted. Any donations, no matter how small, are very gratefully received. The Foundation relies on the generosity of our supporters to carry out our various projects. If you like what we can do, please click here to find out how your support can help us.

Spring Explorations

After a prolonged spell of cold and wintry weather, spring is finally in the air. The first Sand Martins have appeared in southern England, and, like at this time last year, the White-tailed Eagles that we released on the Isle of Wight in July 2020 in partnership with Forestry England, are beginning to range widely. We are also building up detailed information on how the 2019 birds are learning to live successfully in the English landscape, as Tim Mackrill explains.

2019 birds


Previous research on the dispersal of young White-tailed Eagles has shown that they often explore extensively during their first two years, before eventually returning to their natal site. This has been exemplified very well in recent months by the behaviour of G393. This immature male, one of the first birds to be released, headed north from the Isle of Wight in mid-September 2019 and subsequently spent the winter in Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire. It then ranged extensively during spring 2020 – from Suffolk in the east to Gloucestershire in the west – before spending several months in the North York Moors, favouring areas with good numbers of Rabbits. Later in the summer G393 moved south again, lingering for a short while in rural Leicestershire before heading east to West Norfolk on 1st August. The young male remained in West Norfolk for the next five months, catching Black-headed Gulls at a small reservoir  on the Westacre estate and then spending much of November and December around the Wash. During this period the satellite tracking data showed that the bird flew out onto the mudflats, in search of carrion, on 59% of days from 1st November. It also frequently visited the mouth of the Great Ouse in the south of the Wash.  

G393 finally left West Norfolk on 4th January and then, over the course of the next month, slowly made its way back to the Isle of Wight, spending time in rural Lincolnshire and Leicestershire and then arriving at Pitsford Reservoir in Northamptonshire on the evening of 29th January. It remained in the local area for the next two days, and was seen by a number of local birders exploring bays on the north side of reservoir’s causeway.   

G393 was still present at Pitsford during the morning of 1st February and was then watched heading south from the dam at 14:00. Remarkably G318, another of the 2019 cohort, which had been residing in the Lincolnshire Wolds for much of the winter was now also flying south and arrived in a wood just over two miles to the west, as G393 was circling south of the Pitsford dam. It seems very likely that good weather and the sight of another White-tailed Eagle had enticed the female south, because she subsequently retuned to Lincolnshire over the course of the next few days.  

G393 (white arrow) departed Pitsford Reservoir as G318 (yellow arrow) arrived in the area

 After leaving Pitsford, G393 passed through Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire, passing over areas it had favoured during winter 2019/20, but now seemingly determined to return to the Isle of Wight. On the night of 7th February G393 roosted in woodland just to the north of Newbury and, with a brisk north-easterly wind providing a helpful tailwind, set off again at around 09:30 the next morning. At 11:12 it was skirting the west side of Andover at an altitude of 298 metres and an hour later was over Stoney Cross in the New Forest. The Isle of Wight was now in sight and G393 crossed the Solent from Hurst Castle before making landfall just to the west of Yarmouth at 13:13. It had returned to the Isle of Wight exactly 17 months after first departing. 

G393 returned to the Isle of Wight between 4th January and 8th February

 Once back on the Isle of Wight, G393 immediately located the other released birds and spent time at various sites around the Island. Interestingly local photographer, Ainsley Bennett, captured the first indications of territorial behaviour when he observed G274, who has remained on the Isle of Wight almost exclusively since release, chasing the rival male. 

On 28th February, G393 crossed the Solent once again and skirted around Bournemouth to Poole Harbour. It remained in the local area until 6th March, favouring an area to the south of the harbour where it was been observed feeding on rabbits. Poole Harbour is within the likely settlement area of the translocated birds, and could certainly support breeding White-tailed Eagles in the future; so we hope this is a sign of things to come. G393 subsequently flew west to Chesil Beach on 6th March and then spent a day inland, before heading across Poole Harbour and then Bournemouth back to the Solent on 8th. Next day it headed across Southampton Water and then north-east past Petersfield. At 13:20 it was circling near Selborne, before turning and heading south into West Sussex. The change of direction may well have been prompted by the sight of G408 heading north-east from the Isle of Wight because the two birds met up in the South Downs later in the afternoon (see below).

G274 (left) chasing G393 after the latter had returned to the Isle of Wight (photo by Ainsley Bennett)
G393 was absent from the Isle of Wight for 17 months from 8th September 2019 – 8th February 2021
G393 is mobbed by a Buzzard over Titchfield (photo by Steve Payce)

G274 and G324 

In great contrast to G393, G274 has remained faithful to the Isle of Wight since release and it has been encouraging to see how this 2019 male has become increasingly adept at catching live prey during this period. G274, like other juveniles survived predominantly on carrion during its first winter, however from spring 2020 became adept at catching fish around the coasts of the Isle of Wight. In spring and summer 2020 Grey Mullet, which are abundant in shallow estuarine waters around the Island, became a favoured prey item, and the bird was also observed catching Black Bream in the Solent.  As autumn turned to winter we expected fish to constitute a smaller proportion of the diet, but G274 continued to catch fish throughout this period, particularly off the south coast of the Island at Blackgang. The satellite tracking data showed that between 1st November and 9th February G274 foraged off the south coast on 32% of days, flying up to a maximum of 4.5 km offshore. It was observed catching Bass on a number of occasions, including by two local crab fishermen from the boats. Bass are attracted to a shallow shelf off the coast at Blackgang by large numbers of smaller fish, and here they are relatively easy targets for hunting White-tailed Eagles. G324, another of the 2019 birds, was also observed catching fish in this locality throughout the winter.   

Satellite data showed that G274 fished off the IoW coast near Blackgang on 32% of days during the winter
G274 and a fishing boat off the Blackgang coast (photo by Andy Butler)

Since early February G274 has favoured another coastal site on the Isle Wight. Here it has been observed catching fish as well as Coot on a number of occasions and also an injured Canada Goose. Coot are a key prey item for White-tailed Eagles in the Netherlands and other parts of Europe and are likely to be important as a breeding population of White-tailed Eagles becomes established on the South Coast of England. Similarly, the goslings of feral geese are taken in substantial numbers in the Netherlands, but adult Greylag and Canadas are altogether more difficult due to their size. However, any sick or injured individuals may occasionally be taken as prey, as G274 demonstrated.

G324, meanwhile, has been observed catching Black-headed Gulls at another coastal site on a number of occasions, and is also regularly seen in the company of seals. In this case it seems to have learnt that seals often push fish close to the surface, and into White-tailed Eagle range. This clear switch from a dependence on carrion during winter 2019/20 to fish and other live caught-prey this winter is an extremely encouraging sign for the future, and illustrates the high prey availability for White-tailed Eagles in southern England throughout the year. 

G324 is regularly seen in the company of seals (photo by Steve Egerton-Read)


It is clear from previous research, and our initial findings, that White-tailed Eagles can be highly individual in their choice of prey. This is exemplified well by G318, who has become something of a lagomorph specialist since release. This 2019 female spent five months during spring and summer 2020 in the North York Moors, favouring areas with high Rabbit abundance. Then, in late September, when it headed south into Lincolnshire, G318 again gravitated towards areas where Rabbits and Brown Hares were numerous.

G318 remained in Lincolnshire throughout the winter, frequenting quiet areas of the Lincolnshire Wolds where it was frequently observed catching both Rabbits and Brown Hares. Although the bird remained relatively sedentary during this period and spent the majority of her time perched inconspicuously on the edge of quiet woodlands, G318 did wander more widely on occasions, and was seen in a number of different localities around the county, including Kirkby Moor and nearby Kirky Gravel Pits as well as Middlemarsh Farm, where it was photographed by Nige Lound. 

G318 at Middlemarsh Farm in Lincolnshire, with Greylag Geese watching on (photo by Nige Lound)

Apart one brief return flight south to Northamptonshire (as described above), G318 remained in Lincolnshire until 27th February when it made a purposeful move to the south, passing to the east of Boston at 13:20 and then across the north side of Peterborough at 15:20. It eventually settled in woodland on the Cambridgeshire-Northants border having flown 107 km (67 miles) from the Lincolnshire Wolds. G318 continued to head slowly south over subsequent days, and spent a night at Linford Lakes on the outskirts of Milton Keynes, on 2nd March.

After two days in southern Northamptonshire, north-easterly winds encouraged G318 further south and it flew 66 km (41) miles to south-east Oxfordshire that day, passing over Farmoor Reservoir just after 11:00 and eventually roosting close to the Wiltshire and Buckinghamshire borders. The next day G318 continued for a further 84 km (52 miles) south-west through Wiltshire, passing Amesbury and then Salisbury before crossing into eastern Dorset and roosting to the west of Verwood.

G318 has remained in the local area since, but it seems only a matter of time before she returns to the Isle of Wight after almost a year away.

G318 flew south-west from Lincolnshire to Dorset between 27th February and 6th March
G318 has flown 3787 km since leaving the Isle of Wight on 16th March 2020

Diet of 2019 birds

After more than a year-and-a-half of careful monitoring we are building up detailed knowledge of the diet of the 2019 birds since release. This is summarised in the table below.

Prey itemWhen takenComments
Marine fish, particularly Grey Mullet, European Bass and Black BreamYear-round Grey Mullet frequently caught in estuaries around coast of Isle of Wight; Black Bream and European Bass around IoW coast
Common CuttlefishSummerCaught by G274 in seagrass beds in the Solent during summer 2020
Lagomorphs – Rabbit and Brown HareYear-round Movements of 2019 birds strongly influenced by lagomorph abundance, with birds only favouring inland areas away from water where Rabbits and Brown Hares present in good numbers 
Black-headed GullsYear-round Key prey item throughout year with adults and fledged juveniles taken, but no evidence of birds predating colonies of breeding gulls (which are also avoided in Netherlands/Denmark)  
Waterbirds, particularly Mallard and CootYear-round, particularly winter G393 wintered along Oxon/Bucks border where large numbers of Mallard and also Wigeon present. Mallard feathers/remains found at regular roost site. G274 observed catching Coot on IoW 
Carrion including scavenged waterbirds and gamebirds, dead fish and washed-up marine mammals, also kleptoparasitism of other speciesWinterHigh prevalence of dead/injured gamebirds provided abundant carrion for first-winter birds. Less important for older birds. 
CorvidsYear-round Corvid feathers/remains frequently located at regular roost sites 
Wood PigeonYear-round Wood pigeon feathers/remains frequently located at regular roost sites. May have been caught live or picked-up dead

Sit and wait

The satellite tracking data has also given us a valuable insight into how the birds live in the landscape. The GPS transmitters log the location of each bird as regularly as once every two-three minutes during the summer months (when battery voltage of the solar-powered transmitters is highest) and also record whether the bird is moving or stationary at the time. A recent analysis of these data show that the birds are perched for more than 90% of diurnal time. This is summarised in the table below for the three 2019 with the highest temporal resolution data. These findings corroborate previous research on White-tailed Eagles that demonstrate that they prefer the ‘sit and wait’ method of searching for food. For example a German study showed that they spent 93.2% of diurnal time perched. It is this habit of remaining stationary for long periods, often in quiet localities, that means the birds can be remarkably unobtrusive in the landscape.

G393 (m)G274 (m)G318 (f)Mean
Number of days 487487488
Total daytime GPS fixes737996056525763
Total GPS fixes perched674355441024187
Percentage perched91.4%89.8%93.9%91.7%
Total GPS fixes flying 636461551576
Percentage flying 8.8%10.2%6.1%8.3%
The 2019 birds have spent more than 90% of diurnal time perched (photo of G274 by Ainsley Bennett)

2020 birds   

Whereas the 2019 birds have reached a stage in their development when they are more likely to remain on and around the South Coast, the 2020 contingent are now in the peak of the exploratory phase. Three of the remaining six birds from the 2020 release (G454 was sadly killed after flying into a powerline on the Isle of Wight in September), had already made exploratory flights away from the Isle of Wight during autumn 2020. G471 and G463 both flew west to Land’s End during October, and each bird subsequently wintered in the South-West – G471 on the Cornwall-Devon border, and G463 near Chard in the south of Somerset. 


During the winter G463 lived in a relatively large core area of 140 km², predominantly to the north and south-west of Chard. This area included Chard reservoir where it was seen on a number of occasions.

G463’s movements between 10th November and 15th February

In early February the young male began to range further and flew to the north Somerset coast just to the south of Burnham-on-Sea on 4th February. G463 then lingered to the south of the village of Mark in the Somerset Levels until the afternoon of 7th February when it returned to the Chard area. Then, on 10th March, G463 headed south-east to the Devon coast near Bridport. It remained there all day on 11th February, but then flew north on the afternoon of 12th and spent all day on 14th February in and around Copley Wood to the north of Somerton in central Somerset.

South-westerly winds on 15th and 16thFebruary  encouraged G463 to continue north-east and over the course of the next two days it flew 120 km (74 miles) across Somerset, and Wiltshire to West Berkshire. It lingered between Newbury and Reading for two days on 17th and 18th before making a brief visit to Theale Lagoon just to the south-west of Reading during the morning of 19th.  G463 then skirted around the west side of the Reading, before spending the rest of the day in the Thames valley just to the north of the city. 

G463 spent all day on 19th February on the outskirts of Reading
G463 (yellow) and G471 (white) followed a very similar route north-east in late February/early March

G463 moved further north on 20th and lingered in the Chilterns in south-east Oxfordshire for three days before making another concerted move to the north-east on 23rd, flying 86 km (53 miles) through Buckinghamshire and then Hertfordshire before roosting in woodland two miles east of Baldock.  Next day it flew a further 49 km (31 miles) further north-east into Cambridgeshire before covering another 47 km (29 miles) on 26th, skirting to the east of  Newmarket and then crossing into north-west Suffolk. It lingered to the south-west of Thetford for two days before heading further north into the Brecks in Norfolk on 28th.

G463 headed north-east through Hertfordshire and then Cambridgeshire between 23rd – 26th February

After a week in the Brecks, G463 flew a 105 km (65 miles) circuit to the North Norfolk coast on 7th March, flying over Blakeney, Salthouse and Kelling between 12:40 and 13:10 before heading back south-west.


Like its compatriot from 2020, G471 spent the winter in the South West, spending much of its time on the Cornwall-Devon border. Its core area encompassed approximately 22 km² between Bude and Holsworthy, but on occasions the bird did make longer exploratory flights into other parts of Cornwall and Devon.

G471’s core area on the Cornwall-Devon border

The most significant explorations occurred from 17th January, when G471 initially flew east to Toniton in Devon, at which point it was just seven miles to the west of G463. It then crossed the border into Somerset on 18th before heading further south, skirting the east side of Dartmoor National Park and reaching the south Devon coast near Dartmouth at 12:30 on 22nd January. It subsequently returned north and eventually returned to its favourite area on 1st February.    

G471 flew to the north Devon coast near Clovelly on 14th February and then, after a brief return to the Bude/Holsworth area on 16th, headed east. It roosted in Stoke Woods just north of Exeter on  22nd February, before flying 53 km (33 miles) north-east the next day to the Quantock Hills. It spent the day a mile north of Hawkridge Reservoir on 24th and then flew north to the coast the next morning, passing just to the south of Bridgwater Bay and then heading purposefully east. By 2pm G471 was over Salisbury Plain and that night it roosted in a small woodland near Tilshead after flying 97 km (60 miles) during the day. 

G471 circling with Red Kites over Chilton Foliot in Wiltshire (photo by Martin Drew)

We wondered if G471 would linger on Salisbury Plain, as other White-tailed Eagles have done in the past,  but instead the young male followed the lead of G463 and continued to head north-east over subsequent days. It roosted just to the south of Burbage in Wiltshire on 26th and was seen attempting to catch a Brown Hare the next morning. It headed off soon afterwards and flew a further 58 km (36 mils) to the Chilterns in south-east Oxfordshire, just as G463 had done. In fact that night G471 roosted 2 km south of where his compatriot had spent the night six days previously.   

G471 continued to follow the Chilterns ridge north-east over the next few days, passing directly over Tring at 13:46 on 1st March and crossing into Bedforshire later that afternoon. It subsequently roosted in a small wood between Dunstable and Leighton Buzzard that night before slowly making its way north through Bedfordshire over subsequent days, finding quiet woodlands to roost in each night. The similarity of the flights of G463 and G471 through the Chilterns is striking and demonstrates the importance of both wind direction and geographical features in shaping the exploratory flights of the young eagles (see above).  

G471 flew north through Bedfordshire and Cambridgeshire to Grafham Water between 1st – 5th March

On 5th March G471 crossed the border into Cambridgeshire and arrived at Graham Water shortly after 09:00. The young male was subsequently observed catching a trout later that day, and it has remained at the reservoir until the morning of 9th March, providing great views for local birders and members of the public. It was seen attempting to catch fish again on Saturday and then feeding on a Black-headed Gull on Sunday.

G471 arrived at Grafham Water in Cambridgeshire on 5th March and has remained there since (photo by Ian Dawson).


G461 was the first of the 2020 cohort to the leave the Isle of Wight, completing a two-week round trip to East Sussex in early October. The young male then remained on the Isle of Wight until 5th February when it crossed the Solent from the Needles and then spent two days in the Avon valley midway between Christchurch and Ringwood. It crossed Bournemouth and Poole Harbour on 7th February and roosted that night close to Abbotsury Swannery in west Dorset. It continued to head west the next day, passing Bridport at 09:00 and then the Exe estuary at 11:00. It then followed the coastline south-west and was close to Prawle Point at 12:00. It eventually settled in a wooded area near Mothercombe at the mouth of the River Erme having flown an impressive 138 km (86 miles) in just over five hours of flying.

G461 flew 220 km (137 miles) west along the South Coast on 7th and 8th February

G461 remained in Devon until 7th March, favouring an area of 25 km² centred around the Erme and Yealm estuaries. Encouragingly it was observed catching a fish on at least one occasion, indicting the young male is following the lead of G274 and G324 on the Isle of Wight by learning to exploit the rich food availability in South Coast estuaries.   

G461 spent a month around the Erme and Yealm estuaries in Devon
G461 perched at the Yealm estuary (photo by Katy Gibb)

After just under a month in Devon G461 was on the move again on 7th March, initially flying south-east to Prawle Point and then 50 km north to a small wood 7 km south-west of Exeter. Next morning the young male set off north again at first light, skirting around the west side of Exeter, before heading north-east into Somerset. It passed to the south of Taunton at 13:00 and then spent the afternoon at West Sedgemoor RSPB reserve having flown 68 km (42 miles). G405 remained at West Sedgemoor until 13:30 next day when it headed north-east. It was subsequently seen at Ham Wall and then to the west of Frome, before roosting within a mile of G405’s roost the previous night (see below).

G461’s flight through the South West, 7th – 9th March


G405 remained on the Isle of Wight throughout the winter, and then crossed the Solent for the first time on 10th February. The young female crossed the eastern New Forest, before turning west and roosting in woodland near Ashmore in east Dorset, having flown 88 km (54 miles) from the Isle of Wight. Next day G405 headed 26 km (16 miles) further north into Wiltshire and subsequently settled at Longleat Safari Park where it remained for the next two weeks, favouring an area of 6 km² and roosting in the park most nights.

On 26th February G405 set off wandering again and next day flew purposefully south-east, passing over Winchester at 13:45 and then to the north of Chichester at 15:30. It eventually settled to roost in woodland to the east of Arundel in West Sussex, having flown 128 km (80 miles). Next morning G405 continued east along the coast and at 11:25 was photographed over Lewes by Brian Cox. Just over an hour later it was circling 10 km to the north-east, but then turned and headed back west along the coast, passing just to the north of Brighton, Worthing and Bognor Regis. It then skirted north past Chichester Harbour before roosting in Singleton Forest in the South Downs after a day’s flight of 137 km (85 miles).

G405 was photographed over Lewes in East Sussex by Brian Cox

On the morning of 1st March G405 headed off north-west, passing to the north of Winchester at 12:45 and then across the southern part of Salisbury Plain, before returning to Longleat. G405 had flown another 112 km (69 miles), meaning its three day flight totalled 377 km (234 miles); another good example of one of the young eagles starting to learn the landscape of southern England. 

G405’s explorations along the South Coast, 28th February – 2nd March

G405’s explorations did not stop there because on 8th March it flew north, passing over the west side of Bath just after 13:00 before reaching the Severn estuary just after 14:30 when it was circling just to the north-east of Slimbridge WWT. It subsequently returned south again and eventually roosted in a wood in north-east Somerset having flown 134 km (84 miles). It then returned to Longleat the next morning.

G405 flew 134 km (84 miles) on 8th March and then returned to Longleat the next morning
G405 being tailed by Jackdaws at Longleat (photo by Phil Mumby)


G466, another female, also remained on the Isle of Wight throughout the winter, often in the company of other juveniles and the three 2019 birds. On one notable occasion it was photographed by Owen Cass while perched in a tree with G408 and G274.

Spot the eagle! G466 perched with G408 and G274 on the Isle of Wight (photo by Owen Cass)

On 1st March G466 crossed the Solent for the first time in the company of 2019 male, G274. The two birds roosted together in the New Forest near Furzey Lodge. While G274 returned to the Isle of Wight next morning, G466 continued north across the New Forest and then into the Test valley. It spent several days to the south of Stockbridge and then, on the morning of 6th March, headed east, passing to the north of Winchester at 09:30, and then south through the western South Downs. By 11:38 it was over Lee-on-Solent at an altitude of 518 metres and then crossed the Solent back to the Isle of Wight having flown 68 km (42 miles). It has since been seen back in the company of G274, G324 and G408.

G466 spent six days between 1st – 6th March travelling through Hampshire, before returning to the Isle of Wight


G408 was the last of the 2020 cohort to venture away from the Isle of Wight. In recent weeks this young male had been a frequent visitor to the wetland sites favoured by the 2019 birds, and Project Officer Steve Egerton-Read also saw it catch a Rabbit in an area often visited by G274.

G408 finally ventured across the Solent on 9th March, crossing from the Isle of Wight coast just north of Bembridge to Southsea, between 12:24 and 12:39. It then crossed Farlington Marshes before heading north-east into the South Downs where it met up with G393 who had spent the night on the north shore of the Solent before moving into the South Downs.

G408 headed across the Solent on 9th March

Other White-tailed Eagles

We are very grateful to everyone who has reported sightings of White-tailed Eagles over recent months, many of which relate to birds from the Isle of Wight. However, at least three-four of the birds seen recently are likely to have originated from Continental Europe, or Scotland. An immature White-tailed Eagle seen at the Blyth Estuary in Suffolk on 27th and 28th February was definitely not one from the Isle of Wight, and probably a wandering individual from the increasing population in the Netherlands. Similarly one seen over London on 6th March, and probably the same individual over Lewes in East Sussex the next day, is also likely to have been a wandering bird from the Continent. Another immature over Knaresborough in North Yorkshire on 2nd February, and one at Flamborough on 6th and then nearby Fraisthorpe on 8th and 9th March were also birds that originated from either Continental Europe, or Scotland.

While these wandering birds are likely to return to their natal areas, our hope is that as a breeding population becomes established on the South Coast, some will eventually remain to breed if they encounter unpaired birds from the Isle of Wight.

Can you help us?

Satellite tracking is a key element of the project, and as such, a core cost that we have to cover. Donations of any amount make a big difference, and so if you are able to make a contribution, please click the donate button below and select White-tailed Eagle project when prompted. Any donations, no matter how small, are very gratefully received. The Foundation relies on the generosity of our supporters to carry out our various projects. If you like what we can do, please click here to find out how your support can help us.

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

Waiting for news

In our last update we reported that the satellite-tagged juvenile female honey buzzard from Moray had reached the River Niger in Mali after an 11 day crossing of the Sahara. The last data transmission, at 10:20 on 11th October, showed that she had crossed the river and was perched on the south bank for 30 minutes.

The honey buzzard’s migration to Mali
She was perched on the south bank of the River Niger on the morning of 11th October

Unfortunately, we have received no further transmission from the satellite tag since, but there are reasons to remain optimistic. The satellite tag continually logs and stores data, and then transmits it at pre-determined intervals using the Global System for Mobile Communication (GSM) network. This means that in order to transmit data that has been collected, the bird must be in an area with GSM coverage (i.e. within range of a mobile phone mast) at the time of the scheduled data transmission. If it is not, then the tag continues to log and store data and attempts to transmit again at the next scheduled time. It was for this reason that we did not received any scheduled updates as the bird crossed the Sahara between northern Algeria and the River Niger in Mali. It was only once the bird arrived in an area of GSM coverage close to the River Niger, that we finally received details of its Sahara crossing.

After reaching the River Niger in Mali on 10th October, we expected the bird to continue south the next day. We received the scheduled transmission at 10:20 that morning, but not the next one at 17:20 that evening. This suggests that the bird continued south sometime after 10:20 and then roosted in an area with no GSM coverage. Looking at a map of the sparse GSM coverage in Mali (see below), and taking into consideration that the tag was performing normally and battery voltage was high, this certainly seems a plausible explanation.

GSM coverage (purple shading) is very patchy in Mali, and probably explains the lack of recent data (source

The question is, where is she now? Based on her south-westerly trajectory between 6th and 10th October, it is likely that after leaving the River Niger on 11th, she continued on a south-westerly heading towards the tropical forests of Guinea, Ivory Coast, Liberia or Burkina Faso which she could conceivably have reached within three-four days, based on the average daily distance she had covered while crossing the Sahara (250 km per day). One of two English juveniles we tracked in 2003 wintered in the coastal forests of Liberia, while Vespa, a Scottish juvenile male we tracked in 2009, initially migrated to Nigeria, before heading west to Liberia. It is quite possible that she has remained out of GSM coverage during this time, and is now in the tropical forests favoured by honey buzzards during the winter, still out of GSM range at the scheduled transmission times.

The honey buzzard (white arrow) appeared to be heading towards the tropical forests in West Africa where other satellite tagged juveniles from Scotland and England have wintered (yellow arrows)

There is a precedent for these kind of data gaps from this region. A Finnish satellite tagged Osprey, Seija, wintered near Lac de Buyo in the southern part of the Ivory Coast during 2014/15, but the Finnish researchers received no data transmissions after 5th October 2014 when the bird was in the south of Burkina Faso, en route to the Ivory Coast. It was not until she flew back into GSM range on her northward migration the following spring that they finally received the missing data, covering the remainder of her autumn migration, and the whole of the winter. It is quite conceivable therefore that, assuming the honey buzzard is still alive – which we think she may well be – that we will not receive any data for some months yet, particularly as she is likely to spend the winter in dense forest. Our hope is that, unlike an adult osprey such as Seija, the young honey buzzard is unlikely to be sedentary for the whole winter, and so may move into an area of GSM coverage at some point. It is also possible, of course, that she has remained out of GSM coverage in Mali.

We will, of course, provide an update as soon as we receive news from the transmitter.