Happy Christmas

Christmas is a good time to reflect on the past twelve months, and 2023 has proved to be a very significant year for our work.

Fledging success

The White-tailed Eagle project, which we run in partnership with Forestry England, reached a major milestone in July, with a chick fledging from a natural nest in southern England for the first time in 240 years. We fitted the youngster, G625, with a satellite tag and this has provided a fascinating insight into his movements since leaving the nest. The young male remained within 1km of the nest site for the first month after fledging, with his parents, G405 and G471 – both translocated to the Isle of Wight in 2020 – providing a steady supply of food, which field monitoring and analysis of prey remains indicated was predominantly fish, supplemented with some rabbits. He made his first longer flight away on 15th August, following G471 to a favoured area 10km to the south. These exploratory flights became more regular thereafter, and on 6th September G625 flew over 20km north-east and eventually roosted away from the nest for the first time.

G625 on an exploratory flight (photo by Mike Jerome)

We know that G471 catches bass off the South Coast and on 23rd September G625 followed his father to the coast, and then made another visit with him on 29th, before making a solo visit on 3rd October. Such experiences will be invaluable for the young male as he becomes independent. He remains in his natal territory most days but there are signs that he is becoming more self-sufficient. It was particularly encouraging that he was seen catching a fish for the first time on 11th December, by Ben Ayling. It will be fascinating to see at what point G625 finally decides to leave the area, or whether he will wait until he is pushed away by his parents once the new breeding cycle begins.

Establishing pairs

While G405 and G471 were the only pair to breed this year, two other territorial pairs of White-tailed Eagles are now well-established. G274 and G324, released in 2019, are resident on the Isle of Wight and the Solent, while G463 and G466, translocated in 2020, have paired up at Poole Harbour. This latter pair are regularly seen from the brilliant Birds of Poole Harbour boat trips which are now one of the very best ways of seeing the White-tailed Eagles in southern England. It has been wonderful to join some of these trips and to see the excitement that the birds generate. Birds of Poole Harbour are running regular trips this winter, so check out their website for more. We are hopeful that these two pairs of White-tailed Eagles will attempt to breed for the first time in 2024.

G466 (left) and G463 have paired-up at Poole Harbour (photo by Mark Wright)

Sad news

Unfortunately, it is not all good news from Dorset. In early September we were encouraged that two 2021 birds, female G801 and male G816, appeared to have paired in an area to the south-west of Poole Harbour. However during the afternoon of 26th September, the satellite data indicated that G816 had been hit by a train on the main London-Weymoth line. We contacted Dorset Police and, with assistance from Network Rail, they recovered the body of the bird. A subsequent post-mortem carried out by the Disease Risk and Health Surveillance team at Zoological Society of London (ZSL) confirmed that the injuries sustained were consistent with a train strike. It seems G816 had been feeding on a dead deer close to the tracks and was then hit by the train as he attempted to fly off. Sadly, this is a well-known cause of death of White-tailed Eagles in other parts of Europe, but it was especially disappointing to lose a bird that had begun to pair-up.  Thanks to Dorset Police, Network Rail and ZSL for their valuable assistance in dealing with this sad case.

Although G801 avoided the train strike, she has recently developed an overgrown bill. This has been recorded in White-tailed Eagles in Scotland in the past and can be caused by a rage of factors. One possibility is that she sustained an injury, which subsequently became infected. G801 has had several territorial disputes with the Poole Harbour female, G466, and it is possible that she damage her bill in one such incident. Although G801 appears thin, the satellite data indicates that she is behaving normally. We will continue to monitor her condition closely over the coming months.

G801 at RSPB Lodmoor on 17th December (photo by Helen Wood)

Ospreys breed again

We were delighted that Ospreys nested for a second year at Poole Harbour. Translocated male 022 and Rutland Water female CJ7 raised three chicks, which all fledged successfully in July (see video below, which shows 5H3 returning to the nest after his first flight). It was excellent that Birds of Poole Harbour arranged public viewings at the nest for the first time, and Osprey boat trips during August and September were once again a resounding success. We were also encouraged that a second translocated male, 374, released in 2021, returned for the first time and spent time at several artificial nests around the harbour. We very much hope that this young male will return earlier in 2024 and attract a mate.

In addition, two translocated females, 014(18) and 019(19), again bred successfully in North Wales, both rearing three chicks. Meanwhile two other younger females from the 2021 cohort, 372 and 379, were also seen in Wales, raising hopes that they may return to join the expanding Welsh population in 2024. These sex-based differences in natal dispersal, with males returning to breed close to their natal site, and females often joining other populations, is typical of Ospreys and shows how the Poole Harbour translocation can play a key role in linking different populations of Ospreys.

Thank you

Sincere thanks to everyone who has supported our work in 2023, through donations, by submitting sightings and photos of White-tailed Eagles or Ospreys, or simply through words of support. We wish you all a very happy Christmas and all the very best for the New Year.   

The eagle chick, G625, aged approximately 10 days.

Very many thanks to everyone who has made donations to the Foundation and the White-tailed Eagle project in the past few months. Your support is greatly appreciated. If you would like to donate to our work, then you can do so via the link below.

First white-tailed eagle in 240 years fledges in England 

In a landmark moment for conservationists, the first white-tailed eagle for over 240 years has fledged from a nest in the wild in England. The chick is the first successful breeding attempt of the white-tailed eagles released by Forestry England and the Roy Dennis Wildlife Foundation’s project to return this lost species to England.

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. Human persecution caused their extinction with the last pair breeding in southern England in 1780. In 2019, Forestry England and the Roy Dennis Wildlife Foundation began a reintroduction programme to restore these iconic birds to the English landscape.

Two of the birds released by the project in 2020 – female G405, originally translocated from the Outer Hebrides and male G471, from north-west Sutherland – reared the male chick earlier this summer. The location of the nest, on private land with no public access, is not being disclosed for the welfare of the birds and to prevent any disturbance to them or the landowner either this year or if the birds return to breed at the same location. 

The chick was ringed and fitted with a satellite tag by licensed ornithologists from the Roy Dennis Wildlife Foundation enabling the project team to track this historic bird’s daily progress through its life. 

Roy Dennis MBE, Founder of the Roy Dennis Wildlife Foundation, said: 

“This is a very special moment for everyone who has worked on, supported and followed this ground-breaking project. Restoring a breeding population in southern England, where the species was once widespread, has been our ultimate goal. Many thought it was impossible but we knew food for eagles – fresh and salt water fish, cuttlefish, rabbits, hares and wild birds – was plentiful. I visited the Isle of Wight as a young birdwatcher in the 1950s, saw the last breeding location at Culver Cliff and knew they should be restored. It is early days, but this is a very significant milestone and we are heartened by the enthusiastic support shown by so many people and that the sight of these huge eagles in the sky inspires hope for restoring nature. We still have a long way to go, but the feeling of seeing the first pair reach this stage is truly incredible.” 

The birds are one of three territorial pairs that have now become established in southern England and the first to breed. 

Steve Egerton-Read, White-Tailed Eagle Project Officer for Forestry England, said: 

“We are thrilled that this moment has happened and at such an early stage in the project. At only three years old, it is remarkable that the pair have successfully bred, with most white-tailed eagles not attempting to do so until they are at least four or five. This pairs’ ability to breed and fledge their chick at this early age is extremely encouraging.”

“It is really hard to put into words just what an incredible moment this is for the return of these iconic birds to England. It is evidence of just how well the eagles are starting to fit back into this landscape and how, with a little help, nature can begin to return and thrive. Although it has not been possible to set up a public viewing site at this location, we are hopeful that one of the other pairs that has become established in southern England will choose to nest in a location that we can share with the public in future years.”  

To date, 25 white-tailed eagles have been released by the reintroduction project with 16 still surviving. A further release of young white-tailed eagles is planned for later this summer from the project team’s base on the Isle of Wight. 

The reintroduction of white-tailed eagles is 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.

The White-tailed Eagle chick in the nest prior to fledging (RDWF)
The chick was fitted with a satellite tag prior to fledging (Forestry England)

A Who’s Who of White-tailed Eagles at Poole Harbour 

Over the last year Poole Harbour has become a hotspot for White-tailed Eagle activity. The vast natural harbour provides rich forging opportunities throughout the year with abundant supplies of fish, including Grey Mullet, as well as waterbirds, and many quiet areas to perch. We have been particularly encouraged that three-year-olds G463 and G466 have become established as a pair, and up to six other birds have been regular visitors over the past twelve months. Here is a brief overview of each of the birds, and also where best to see them, by Tim Mackrill.

G463 and G466

Male G463 was originally translocated to the Isle of Wight from Sutherland in North-West Scotland in 2020. After spending his first winter near Chard in Somerset, G463 crossed the English Channel in early April 2021 and spent seven months exploring Netherlands, Germany and Denmark, favouring many areas with expanding White-tailed Eagle populations. G463 made the return journey across the English Channel in November that year and then spent the majority of the winter in East Anglia, favouring parts of North and West Norfolk and also the Suffolk Coast. During his time in Norfolk, G463 lost the lower part of his right leg, as reported in our blog in January. Despite this, G463 appears to have adapted well, and again crossed the Channel in early April before summering in mainland Europe; returning to many of the sites he had first visited the previous year, and also making a short flight into southern Sweden. 

G463’s movements in Europe during 2021 (red) and 2022 (white)

Despite the fact that he would have encountered many White-tailed Eagles during his travels in mainland Europe, the draw of returning to the South Coast clearly proved very strong and G463 headed back across the English Channel on 22nd September last year.  He then spent time in favoured areas in East Anglia and Somerset, before finally returning to the Isle of Wight on 9th January, after more than two years away. He first visited Poole Harbour on Boxing Day, and has been present there almost continuously since late January, when he first encountered G466. 

Female G466, was also translocated to the Isle of Wight in 2020, from a nest near Uig on the Isle of Skye. After spending her first winter on the Isle of Wight, G466 flew north to Scotland the following spring, and then spent the rest of the year in Caithness in Sutherland. She eventually returned to the Isle of Wight in February 2022, but then flew north again on 5th April, and like G463, returned to many of the sites she had favoured the previous summer, including Cape Wrath, the most north-westerly point of mainland Britain. She flew south again in late September and after visiting various sites on the South Coast, she became a regular at Poole Harbour from 20th November, appearing to displace another female, G801, who has been resident over summer 2022 (see below). 

G466 spent two summers in northern Scotland
G466’s movements in northern Scotland during 2021 (white) and 2022 (yellow)

G466 was joined by G463 on 20th January, and the two birds have been together on an almost daily basis since. Their favoured area, which covers approximately 125km², is centred on the Wareham Channel at Poole Harbour, and stretches south to the coast at Kimmeridge, where the satellite data indicates they catch fish off-shore, and also Wareham Forest to the north. The birds have made regular courtship flights in recent months, flying in tandem across much of this area. It is clear that they are now a pair, and we are hopeful that they may try and breed as early as next spring. 

G466(right) and G463 (with a Carrion Crow for size comparison) have paired at Poole Harbour. This brilliant photo, by Mark Wright, was taken from a boat trip run by Birds of Poole Harbour.

G801

Female G801 was translocated to the Isle of Wight in 2021 from the Isle of Lewis in the Outer Hebrides. She spent much of her first winter on the Isle of Wight, but also visited Hampshire and Dorset. As the days began to lengthen, she made longer exploratory flights into Surrey and Sussex during February and then west to Devon and Cornwall during March.  G801 returned east to Poole Harbour on 19th March, and became a regular in the Wareham Channel during April. On 4th May she set off on another longer exploratory flight, heading east to Kent where she was seen at Sandwich Bay Bird Observatory. She then followed the East Anglian coast north before continuing through Lincolnshire and Yorkshire, reaching Saltburn-by-Sea on the Cleveland coast, on 9th May. After a few days in the nearby North York Moors, she headed south again, stopping at Middleton Lakes near Tamworth from 15th-23rd May before returning to Poole Harbour on 27thMay. 

G801 spent the rest of the summer at Poole, again favouring the Wareham Channel, where she was regularly seen from the Birds of Poole Harbour’s excellent boat trips. She also visited the coast at Kimmeridge. However once G466 became resident at Poole Harbour, as described above, she seems to displace the younger female, who moved to Cranborne Chase, another area that is favoured by the young eagles. Nevertheless, G801 continues to make regular visits to Poole Harbour, most recently on 21st May. 

G801 spent most of summer 2022 at Poole Harbour, but now seems to have been displaced by G466 (photo by Mark Wright)

G812 and G486

Male G812 was translocated from the Isle of Lewis in 2021.  He has remained in southern England since release, favouring an area that extends from Poole Harbour in the south to Cranborne Chase in the north. He has formed a close association with female G486 who was translocated from the Isle of Mull the same year. The female has been more nomadic, visiting East Anglia during July 2022, Colliford Lake on Bodmin Moor in Cornwall from 11th December – 26th January, and then various South Devon estuaries in late January and early February this year. She returned to her favoured areas in North Dorset on 9th February and she and G812 continue to visit Poole Harbour, often together. 

G812 has favoured Dorset since release in summer 2021 (photo by Jamie Randall)
G486 has been a regular in Dorset, but has also spent time in East Anglia, Cornwall, and Devon (photo by Jamie Randall)

G816

Another 2021 male, G816, who was translocated from the Isle of Lewis, has also remained in southern England since release. He is a regular visitor to Poole Harbour, and also spends time on the Purbeck coast at Kimmeridge, the Isle of Wight, in south Wiltshire and Cranborne Chase. During the early part of 2023 he began to associate with 2021 female G818, but the female, who was also translocated from the Isle of Lewis, has since flown north to the Cairngorms, where she spent much of summer 2022.  

G318 

Female G318 is one of three surviving birds from the first release in 2019. She remains unpaired and somewhat nomadic, but was a regular visitor to Poole Harbour in 2022 when wandering away from her favoured areas in Cranborne Chase and the Avon Valley. She has spent the past two summers in the Peak District and recently returned north to the same favoured area near Howden Reservoir on 24th May.  

Female G318 has spent most of the past year in Dorset, but has recently returned to the Peak District for the third successive summer (photo by Jamie Randall)

Where to view White-tailed Eagles at Poole Harbour?

White-tailed Eagles can be encountered just about anywhere in and around Poole Harbour but there are a few particularly good spots to try:

  • The new Ham Common Viewpoint offers panoramic views along the Wareham Channel and the areas often favoured by G463 and G466. More details here: https://bcpprojects.net/ham-common-lookout/
  • Arne RSPB reserve offers an excellent chance of seeing White-tailed Eagles, with the Hyde’s Heath trail and Coombe Heath viewpoint the best places to try. 
  • Birds of Poole Harbour run boat trips throughout the summer, and often get excellent views of White-tailed Eagles from on board. For more details check out the Birds of Poole harbour website: https://www.birdsofpooleharbourbookings.co.uk/.  

Thank you

Sincere thanks to everyone who has been in touch to report sightings or sent photos of eagles either from Poole Harbour or in their local area. This information is of real value and adds to our understanding of how the birds are living in the landscape. You can report any sightings using our online form. We have been thrilled at the excitement the birds have generated, and greatly appreciate the support the project has received.  

Very many thanks to everyone who has made donations to the Foundation and the White-tailed Eagle project in the past few months. Your support is greatly appreciated. If you would like to donate to our work, then you can do so via the link below.

The explorer returns

During the course of the first four years of the Isle of Wight White-tailed Eagle project, which we run in partnership with Forestry England, the young eagles have followed a fairly predictable pattern. They disperse widely during their early years, but then move back towards the Isle of Wight and the South Coast as they approach breeding age. This is demonstrated by the fact that the first two territorial pairs have become established on the Isle of Wight and in the Arun valley in West Sussex, despite the fact that three of the four birds involved spent time in Scotland during their second calendar year. 

The latest bird to return to the Isle of Wight after a prolonged period away is 2020 male, G463. He was the first Isle of Wight bird to cross the English Channel and spent seven months in Continental Europe between April and November of his second calendar year, favouring the Wadden Sea coasts of Netherlands, Germany and Denmark. When he returned he spent the majority of the winter in East Anglia, mainly in north and west Norfolk, but also visiting the Suffolk coast. Later he also re-visited a favoured area near Chard in south Somerset, where he had spent his first winter, but made no attempt to return to the Isle of Wight. 

On 3rd April last year he made a second crossing of the Channel, and returned to many of the locations he had visited the previous summer, and also made a short excursion into Sweden. It was notable that like many of the other young eagles, he was returning to favoured locations first encountered during his initial explorations. 

G463’s movements from 13th October 2020-31st December 2021 (red) and 1st January 2022-9th January 2023 (white)

One of the places G463 re-visited during his second visit to mainland Europe, was the Biesbosch, a large wetland in the Netherlands which supports breeding White-tailed Eagle and Osprey. Whilst G463 was there we received images taken by a local photographer, kindly sent to us by Dirk van Straalen who monitors White-tailed Eagles in the Netherlands. We were very concerned that the photos clearly showed the bird was missing his right leg below the knee. We initially suspected that this was a recent injury, but when we analysed the satellite data it was clear that G463 had been behaving apparently normally for several months; indicating it probably occurred earlier.

The tag’s in-built accelerometer, which provides data on the eagle’s movement, indicates that G463 probably sustained the injury in December 2021 when he was in North Norfolk. White-tailed Eagles favour the sit-and-wait strategy when searching for food, and consequently are are often static for prolonged periods. However, in this case, the data indicated G463 was more sedentary than usual, and so the Foundation’s Associate Ornithologist, Zoe Smith, a highly experienced raptor fieldworker, made a specific visit to try and locate him. The eagles can be very difficult to track down depending on their location, but with the permission of the landowner, Zoe was able to locate G463 perched inconspicuously, and not easily viewed, in a quiet area of woodland. A few days later we were encouraged that he became more mobile again.

In January G463 moved further south and was seen and photographed at various locations in Suffolk, including at RSPB Minsmere at the end of the month. Close inspection of photos taken at the time indicate that the right foot was missing, even though it again went unnoticed. This supports our hypothesis that G463’s period of inactivity the previous month was due to the injury. 

Having sought advice from the project’s vet and raptor expert, John Chitty, it seems that the injury could have been sustained in one of two ways. The first is through loss of blood due to entrapment or entanglement, and the second is through electric-shock, which is known to cause raptors to loose legs in the manner of G463 (see here for some examples).

G463 at Minsmere on 31st Januay 2022 (photo by Rachel Harvey)

Regardless of the exact cause, it appears that G463 has learnt to adapt to living with only one foot. He returned across the English Channel on 20th September 2022 and initially returned to favoured areas in West Norfolk, where he remained until the end of October.  He then made his way slowly south-west to Somerset and spent six weeks in south Somerset, before heading east to Poole Harbour on Boxing Day. Finally, on 9thJanuary he returned to the Isle of Wight for the first time since 13th October 2020. During his 27-month period away – the longest of any of the released eagles so far – he flew over 17,000km and visited seven different countries. 

On his first night back on the Isle of Wight, G463 roosted close to the release area, but like other returning eagles, he had the Island’s resident birds, G274 and G324 to contend with. The satellite data showed they roosted very close to each other that night, and then G463 remained in the local area for most of the next day. However, on the morning of 11th, the tracking data indicates that G463 was seen off by G274 and, after spending two further nights on the Isle of Wight, albeit in areas away from the resident male’s core territory, G463 headed back across the Solent during the afternoon of 13th. He flew north across the New Forest and spent several days near Amesbury in Wiltshire, before heading south-west and returning to Poole Harbour. 

G463 at Chard Junction Gravel Pits on 27th November 2022 (photo by Dave Helliar)

Poole Harbour has become something of an eagle hotspot over the past twelve months and on the morning of 21st January G463 was photographed by John Thorpe, Pete Scott having an aerial tussle younger male G812, who has been a regular visitor to Poole Harbour in recent months. He then spent the rest of the day with 2020 female G466, who returned to the South Coast in early October after spending last summer in northern Scotland, and has been another regular in the area. With both birds now in their fourth calendar year they are reaching the age where we might expect them to pair up and establish a territory, and so it be interesting to see what happens over the coming weeks. We will be paying particular attention to G463 to understand better how he has adapted to living with only one foot. Birds can be remarkably adaptable and there are examples of Bald Eales living with only one foot in North America (see here). The fact that G463 has survived for more than a year, is certainly encouraging. We will be sure to keep you updated over the coming months. 

G463 (below) tussling with younger male, G812 at Poole Harbour. The missing right foot is evident in this photo (photo by John Thorpe)

G463 (below) with G812 (photo by John Thorpe)
G463 at Poole Harbour on 21st January (photo by Pete Scott)

Happy New Year

New Year is a good opportunity to reflect on the last twelve months. Working in conservation inevitably involves highs and lows and 2022 was true to form in that regard. However, we think it is import to focus on the positives, and to consider what can be achieved with our proactive approach to the restoration of nature. 

It is very encouraging to report that two territorial pairs of White-tailed Eagles are now established. G274 and G324 were part of the first cohort of six young eagles released by us and Forestry England, our project partner, on the Isle of Wight in August 2019. They paired up very early, in autumn 2020, and have remained together since. They have become fiercely territorial of two coastal sites on the Isle of Wight and as they approach their fifth calendar year, the two birds look resplendent in near full adult plumage. Project Officer, Steve Egerton-Read, who is based on the Island, has been monitoring the two birds closely, particularly in relation to their diet. Steve’s important work has shown that the two birds readily catch both marine and freshwater fish throughout the year and are also proficient at predating any weak or injured Canada Geese, as well as a range of other bird species, particularly corvids and gulls.  They are also expert at stealing food from other species, including Grey Herons, and Marsh Harriers. We are hopeful that the two birds may show the first signs of breeding behaviour in the spring, and will be monitored closely. 

Elsewhere a second pair of eagles has also become established. G405 and G471, were both released in 2020 and, as we have come to expect, explored widely during their second calendar year. G471 summered in the Southern Uplands in the south of Scotland, while G405 spent time in Exmoor and, later, Bodmin Moor. Both returned to the Isle of Wight and surrounding areas last spring, and met each other in the Arun valley in West Sussex during March. They have been together since, and are a regular sight at Pulborough Brooks and Amberley Wildbrooks. During the cold spell before Christmas the two birds were photographed by Mike Jerome catching carp through a hole in the ice at Pulborough. Our diet studies have shown that fish becomes an increasingly important component of the diet as the eagles become older. 

G405 catching a carp through the ice at Pulborough Brooks (photo by Mike Jerome)
G471 coming in to land next to G405 (photo by Mike Jerome)
The two eagles caught four carp with seemingly very little effort, while Mike Jerome was watching (photo by Mike Jerome)

Although a year younger than the pair on the Isle of Wight, G405 and G471 have become territorial and are showing encouraging courtship behaviour. Indeed, on one occasion they were observed seeing off a compatriot from the 2020 release, female G466, who visited the Arun valley having been chased off from the Isle of Wight by G274 and G324.  Having recently returned from a summer in northern Scotland, the fact that this young female had encountered two eagle territories in southern England would have been a significant experience for her, and it is encouraging that she is now spending much of her time at Poole Harbour. She appears to have displaced a younger female G801, released in 2021, who had become a near permanent resident at Poole Harbour, and has recently been spending time with a 2021 male, G812. 

Poole Harbour has become something of an eagle hotspot over the course of the last year and it has been wonderful that so many people have been able to enjoy seeing the eagles from the fantastic Birds of Poole Harbour boat trips. If you haven’t been on one of these trips, then we thoroughly recommend booking onto one in 2023. You can find more details on the Birds of Poole Harbour website here. We are so encouraged by the enthusiastic responses we receive about the eagles. 

Male G812, photographed from a Birds of Poole Harbour boat trip (photo by Mark Wright)

It is not just White-tailed Eagles that Poole Harbour has become important for in recent years. This summer a pair of Ospreys bred successfully. Male 022, who we translocated to Poole Harbour from the famous B01 nest near Roy’s home in Moray, which has been occupied by successive generations of Ospreys since 1966, reared two chicks with female CJ7 who fledged from a nest near Rutland Water in 2015; the first breeding Ospreys on the South Coast of England for two centuries. It was tragic that one of the young was killed by a Goshawk a few days after fledging, but these are the hurdles in restoring nature – it’s not easy. The remaining juvenile 5H1 departed on her first migration in early September; a very significant milestone for the project we run in partnership with Birds of Poole Harbour. Hopefully, now wintering in West Africa, she will be the first of the new South Coast Osprey clan. The ancient local name ‘mullet hawks’ can be reclaimed.

A close-up view of 5H1 soon after fledging at Poole Harbour (from Birds of Poole Harbour webcam)

Projects to restore lost species like White-tailed Eagles and Ospreys are not a fast process, but events this year give us real optimism for the future. We are very grateful for all the support we have received from many people; from members of the public to farmers who have been excited to see White-tailed Eagles on their land. We have been extremely heartened by messages from people who have been thrilled to see these species back in southern England.

Recently Forestry England repeated the public questionnaire that we ran when we first proposed the project and this showed that the public’s attitude towards the reintroduction of White-tailed Eagles is overwhelmingly supportive, even more so than when our idea was first suggested five years ago (watch out for the full results soon). It was also valuable to know that people are really keen that more reintroductions of lost species are undertaken. In some ways it is clear that the conservation bodies, government and NGOs, are behind the curve and people want us to move ahead more quickly. This makes us even more determined than ever to continue and widen our work and to play our part in the restoration of nature at a time when it is urgently required. We are working on several other ideas for 2023.

A big thank you to everyone who has followed our projects during 2022, reported sightings, shared photos, made donations or sent messages of support. May we wish you all the very best for 2023.

 Roy, Tim, Steve and Zoe

Very many thanks to everyone who has made donations to the Foundation and the White-tailed Eagle project in the past few months. Your support is greatly appreciated. If you would like to donate to our work, then you can do so via the link below.

Returning home

The satellite tracking work that we have undertaken during the first three years of the Isle of Wight project, which we run in partnership with Forestry England, has provided a fascinating insight into the dispersal of young White-tailed Eagles. This has shown that many of the young birds explore widely in their early years before returning to the South Coast as they approach breeding age.  One of the most notable examples last year was G466, a female that was released on the Isle of Wight in 2020. She flew to northern Scotland during spring 2021 and then spent six months in Caithness and Sutherland where she favoured Loch Naver and also Cape Wrath, the most north-westerly point in mainland Britain. She subsequently spent time in the Cairngorms, Loch Rannoch and the Kintyre peninsula before heading south on 4th February. 

She arrived back on the Isle of Wight on 22nd February having flown south through western England over the course of two-and-a-half weeks. 

Once back on the South Coast G466 remained on the Isle of Wight and neighbouring areas until 5th April, when she headed north once again. She arrived back in Caithness on 17th April; just two days later than the previous year. She remained into September, returning to all of the areas she had favoured during 2021 over the course of the next five months. The map below shows the similarity in her movements over the course of the two summers. At times she was joined by two other Isle of Wight birds, 2021 females G542 and G547. 

G466’s movements in northern Scotland during 2021 (white) and 2022 (yellow)

Having spent five months in northern Scotland, G466 began heading south again on 22nd September, and this time with real purpose, arriving on the South Coast on 28th September and the Isle of Wight the next morning, having flown 1003km in seven days. 

G466 flew 1003km back to the Isle of Wight between 22nd-28th September
G466 in the early morning mist on the Isle of Wight after her return from Scotland (photo by Steve Egerton-Read)

Having arrived back on the Isle of Wight G466 intruded at the now well-established territory of G274 and G324 who are resident on the Isle of Wight and rarely let other birds settle for any length of time. Project Officer Steve Egerton-Read photographed G466 in the company of male G274 for a short period, before she was seen off by resident female G324. Such encounters are important for young eagles as they settle in potential breeding areas because the presence of other eagles on territory is a real draw. 

G466 (left) perched briefly with three year-old male, G274, before being seen off by the resident female, G324 (photo by Steve Egerton-Read)

It will be fascinating to see what G466 does now. Will she remain on the South Coast and search for a mate, or return north once again? We will keep you updated. 

G466’s movements since her initial dispersal away from the Isle of Wight in March 2021

Ospreys and White-tailed Eagles at Poole Harbour – a sign of hope 

Over the course of the first three years of the White-tailed Eagle project based on the Isle of Wight, which we run in partnership with Forestry England, we have become accustomed to the young birds living a highly nomadic lifestyle in their early years, dispersing as far as northern Scotland and in one case, continental Europe. However, as they become older, and approach breeding age, we expect them to return to the South Coast and establish territories within 50 km of the release site. The early signs are certainly encouraging. As reported in our last update, three-year-olds G274 and G324 are well-established as a pair on the Isle of Wight, while G405 and G471, both released in 2020, have been showing early courtship behaviour in West Sussex. Meanwhile five different birds have become regular visitors to Poole Harbour in Dorset, with one-year-old female, G801, an almost permanent resident since the spring. 

Poole Harbour, as the name implies, is a huge natural harbour, covering some 36km2. The northern shore is urban, but most of the southern and western areas, as well as the Arne peninsular, and five islands, including the well-known Brownsea Island, are much quieter. The harbour is extremely shallow, with an average depth of less than half a metre. These factors, coupled with abundant populations of fish such as Grey Mullet, mean that we expect it to become a favoured locality for White-tailed Eagles, and, potentially, a future breeding site. 

Roy and I have got to know Poole Harbour well over the past few years because it is the site of the Foundation’s ongoing Osprey translocation project, which we are running in partnership with local charity, Birds of Poole Harbour. This year has been a significant one for the project because a pair of Ospreys – male, 022, which we translocated from northern Scotland in 2019, and Rutland-fledged female CJ7 – have bred successfully for the first time, rearing two chicks. Although one was killed by a Goshawk after fledging it seems likely that the remaining youngster, 5H1, has now set off on her first migration. This is the first time young Ospreys have fledged from a nest on the South Coast of England for two centuries and so is a real milestone for the project. The video below shows 5H1 landing on the edge of the nest soon after fledging on 23rd July.

Poole Harbour’s location on the South Coast means it is also a prime location for Ospreys on migration, and numbers reach a peak during late August and early September as birds from further north move southwards. With this in mind, Birds of Poole Harbour have been running twice daily boat trips in search of Ospreys as well as a range of other species – White-tailed Eagles included – since 19th August. Knowing this would also be an excellent opportunity to observe the behaviour of G801 and any other eagles that were present, myself and White-tailed Eagle project officer, Steve Egerton-Read, have joined the Birds of Poole Harbour team on a number of trips over the past three weeks.

Monitoring the diet of the released eagles has been a key part of the project since the outset, and we have now amassed over 320 feeding records. However, such observations are hard to come by because White-tailed Eagles favour the sit-and-wait strategy for hunting; usually spending more than 90% of every day perched, quite often on the same favoured tree. Nevertheless, thanks to the work of Steve and dedicated volunteers, we have found that fish become increasingly important for the eagles as they become older, constituting up to 50% of the diet. This, we feel sure, is why G801 has remained at Poole Harbour for such an extended period, but monitoring her is not easy at such a large site. 

G801 photographed from a Birds of Poole Harbour boat trip on 1st September (photo by Mark Wright)

Our suspicions have been borne out during the boat trips, and we have twice seen G801 feeding on fish when the tide has been low or just rising. The Ospreys haven’t disappointed either with multiple birds seen on most trips, some catching Grey Mullet very close to the boat. We have, on occasion, also been treated to some close fly-bys by G801. On one memorable morning when I was on the boat, she flew almost directly overhead, providing amazing views and drawings gasps of excitement from those lucky enough to be on board. 

On another occasion Alison Copland filmed G801 flying close to the boat.

It is important to remember that Ospreys and White-tailed Eagles were once both widespread along the South Coast, before being eradicated by historical persecution. Whilst it is still early days for both projects, the fact that the two species can now be seen together once more at Poole Harbour is, I think, a sign of hope for the future. We are living in a time of great concern for the natural world but the return of these species shows that with a proactive approach to the restoration of nature, it is possible to make positive change. We are very grateful to the Birds of Poole Harbour team for organising the fantastic boat trips and for enabling 1600 people to enjoy the spectacle of these two species – sometimes interacting with each other – over the past three weeks. For me, the excitement of people on board when an Osprey caught a fish or a White-tailed Eagle flew past were always a highlight of the trips. 

A juvenile Osprey photographed from a boat trip on 1st September (photo by Mark Wright)

There are still spaces available on the final two Osprey cruises, which take place at Poole Harbour tomorrow. Birds of Poole Harbour also have a comprehensive programme of events taking place this autumn – check out their website here for more. You won’t be disappointed!  Steve and I will again be joining the boat trips when we can, particularly if the eagles continue to linger in the area.

We are also very interested to hear your views on the White-tailed Eagle project.  If you have a few minutes to spare please click on this link and complete our short survey.

White-tailed Eagle G816 and an Osprey over Lytchett Fields, Poole Harbour, on 30th August (photo by Mark Wright)

Tim Mackrill, 1st September 2022

White-tailed Eagle update – summer 2022

We are now in the fourth year of the project we run in partnership with Forestry England to reintroduce White-tailed Eagles to southern England, through the translocation of Scottish chicks to the Isle of Wight. Early signs have been encouraging with two pairs forming, and other young eagles learning to live successfully in the English landscape. 

Early pair bonding 

Two of the birds released in 2019, male G274 and female G324, are now well-established as a pair on the Isle of Wight, as project officer Steve Egerton-Read described in his latest Forestry England blog. Steve has dedicated a huge amount of time to monitoring the birds in the field and this has provided an extremely valuable insight into their daily foraging habits and diet. We have been particularly encouraged that they have been catching fish around the coasts of the Isle of Wight throughout the year, and that they readily catch cuttlefish in the seagrass beds of the Solent. This rich local food supply will be extremely valuable when the first pairs begin breeding. Elsewhere a second pair have become established in West Sussex. Male G471 and female G405, both released in 2020, have been favouring the Arun valley and surrounding areas, and the male also makes regular trips to the coast. 

We have also been extremely encouraged that one of the 2021 females, G801, has taken up almost permanent residence at Poole Harbour since her arrival there, in early March. Recently G801 has been joined by two different males: G816, who has been summering in Wiltshire, and G812 who spent much of the winter and spring in north Dorset. The proximity of Poole Harbour to the Isle of Wight, coupled with the rich food supply, including fish such as Grey Mullet and Bass, make this another potential early breeding site. Although most White-tailed Eagles do not breed until they are five years old, the satellite data demonstrates that pairs can form much earlier, and we are hopeful that one of these visiting males will settle at Poole Harbour with G801. 

G812 is the most recent White-tailed Eagle to visit Poole Harbour (photo by Jamie Randall)
G801 and G812 at Poole Harbour (photo by Paul Morton)

Returning to favoured sites 

Some of the younger birds dispersed widely in the spring and five individuals are currently in northern Scotland. 2021 females G818 and G487 are in the Cairngorms and two other females released last summer, have been spending time further north. G542 is currently in Caithness and G547 is living around Cape Wrath and other locations on the Sutherland coast. The fifth bird is 2020 female G466 who has returned to northern Scotland for a second summer. She spent much of 2021 in Caithness and Sutherland before flying south in February this year and then spending two months back on the Isle of Wight. She headed north again in mid-April and is now back in the Caithness having spent much of the past few weeks in and around Cape Wrath. The map below shows her 2021 (yellow) and 2022 movements (white). 

G466’s movements in northern Scotland during 2021 (yellow) and 2022 (white)

Another bird that has returned to an area that it visited last spring, is G463. This male released in 2020 crossed the English Channel in April 2021 and remained in mainland Europe until November, favouring the Wadden Sea coasts of the Netherlands, Germany and Denmark. He visited several locations in southern England during the winter, before spending the early part of the spring in East Anglia, returning to sites he first visited 12 months earlier. Then on 3rd April he crossed the English Channel in the same location as 2021, but three days earlier. He has since returned to many of the sites he visited in 2021, with one notable exception: a short excursion to southern Sweden between 28th April and 1st May. The map below shows how faithful G463 has been to sites he first visited last year (2021 = yellow, 2022 = white). He is currently heading south-west through Germany, and so may return to the areas she previously visited in the Netherlands, or perhaps return across the English Channel once again. 

G463’s movements in mainland Europe during 2021 (yellow) and 2022 (white)

Like the two 2020 birds, G318 has also returned to a previous haunt. The 2019 female wintered in Dorset, but then flew north to the Peak District on 16th May and has returned to the moors in the Dark Peak that she frequented for more than two months last summer. This bird has been a lagomorph specialist since release and it seems that Mountain Hares could be the reason she has returned to this particular area. 

The fact that three birds have returned to sites that they first encountered on their initial explorations, illustrates the superb navigational capacity of the young eagles, and the value of the initial wanderings and the associated knowledge they assimilate about the landscape.  

G318 has returned to the Peak District for a second successive summer (photo by Nick Corley)

2022 translocation cancelled 

During June we were intending to translocate the next cohort of chicks to the Isle of Wight. However, the worsening situation with Avian Influenza which has resulted in major mortality of breeding seabirds around eastern and northern coasts of the UK, and poses a considerable risk to White-tailed Eagles – which can contract the virus by eating infected carcasses – meant that we felt the most responsible approach was to not translocate any chicks this year, particularly as fieldwork indicates it is a poor breeding year for White-tailed Eagles. We have informed NatureScot and Natural England of this decision, and hope to extend the licence to account for the missed year. The original licence permits us to release a total of 60 White-tailed Eagles over the course of five years with the aim of establishing an initial population of six to eight breeding pairs on the Isle of Wight and surrounding areas of the South Coast. 

In the meantime, we will continue to closely monitor the birds released in previous years, particularly in relation to their foraging behaviour, daily movements and how they are living in the landscape. We have also constructed two artificial nests to encourage early breeding behaviour.  

Thank you

Sincere thanks to everyone who has been in touch to report sightings or sent photos of eagles in their local area. This information is of real value and adds to our understanding of how the birds are living in the landscape. You can report any sightings using our online form. We have been thrilled at the excitement the birds have generated in different parts of the country, and greatly appreciate the support the project has received.  

Very many thanks to everyone who has made donations to the Foundation and the White-tailed Eagle project in the past few months. Your support is greatly appreciated. If you would like to donate to our work, then you can do so via the link below.

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)

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

G405 

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 

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)
G461 

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
G463 

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

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
G471

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
G393 

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.
G318

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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