Eagle wanderlust

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


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

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

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

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

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

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


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


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

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

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

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

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

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


Eagle wanderings

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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


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

The young eagles have wandered widely since late March

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