Wild Ken Hill Estate in Norfolk pulls out of sea eagle restoration project

Well this is all a bit odd.

The Wild Ken Hill Estate has pulled out of hosting a white-tailed eagle restoration project in west Norfolk.

Earlier this year, the progressive rewilding estate was hailed by conservationists as news emerged that the estate had joined forces with the Roy Dennis Wildlife Foundation to release up to 60 white-tailed eagles, donated by Poland, over a ten year period to help restore the species to its former range in East Anglia.

Public support was in place (91% of respondents to a consultation were in favour of bringing the eagles back), even the neighbouring Sandringham Estate was reported to be ‘supportive’ (here), Natural England had agreed to licence the project (here) and a crowdfunder had raised over £9,000 to help pay for logistics (here).

Everything looked to be going ahead for the first eagles to be released in 2022 until a recent announcement on Wild Ken Hill Estate’s blog saying the project was ‘on hold’:

Eagle project on hold

We have reluctantly decided that we will not reintroduce White-tailed Eagles at Wild Ken Hill in 2022 as planned.

We continue to believe that the restoration of White-tailed Eagles to Eastern England is an important and inevitable conservation goal, and also that the original plans for a release beginning in 2022 could have been delivered very successfully in partnership with the Roy Dennis Wildlife Foundation.

We have, however, taken the difficult decision to focus on other aspects of our nationally-significant nature and regenerative farming project. In particular, we feel it is worth putting our full weight behind the pioneering innovations we are making as part of our regenerative farming approach. The greater biodiversity, carbon sequestration, and improved profitability demonstrated at Wild Ken Hill with this approach over the last 3 years have the potential to have a huge impact across the UK if adopted by others; we feel it is therefore imperative to focus on these. In addition to regenerative farming, Wild Ken Hill supports beavers and is a release site for Natural England’s curlew headstarting project.

We are sure that the restoration of the White-tailed Eagle to England will continue successfully on the Isle of Wight, and we hope that dispersing juvenile eagles continue to visit Wild Ken Hill and the Norfolk Coast, attracted by the area’s suitable habitat.

We wanted to specifically and publicly offer our apologies to the Roy Dennis Wildlife Foundation, who have been exceptional project partners to date and a pleasure to work with.

We also would like to thank and apologise to those that supported this project when participating in the consultation, particularly the 91% of the general public that offered their support and the many landmanagers and conservation organisations that did the same.

We will shortly be in touch with those that supported the Crowdfunding campaign to offer a full refund.


That’s all a bit odd, isn’t it?

Mark Avery has suggested that some birding, landowning and shooting interests may have been ‘leaning on some members of the family’ (see here) and there is certainly some evidence of that here.

Was that enough to make Wild Ken Hill Estate buckle? It’s pretty disappointing, if it was, especially as real and potential concerns were carefully considered in the project’s comprehensive feasibility report, published in April 2021:

What has been said, and/or what threats have been made since then, to force Wild Ken Hill Estate to reconsider its involvement?

The most ridiculous thing in all of this is that the eagles are already making their way back to Norfolk, including visiting the Wild Ken Hill Estate, as they disperse from the release project on the Isle of Wight.

How long until the first poisoning incident, do you reckon?

45 thoughts on “Wild Ken Hill Estate in Norfolk pulls out of sea eagle restoration project”

  1. Regenerative farming offered as a reason for not proceeding seems especially odd. It doesn’t have to be either one or the other. The two would go very well together.

    1. If birds are “already making their way back to Norfolk, including visiting the Wild Ken Hill Estate” I can see why it might make sense not to put energy and resources into a reintroduction project that attracts criticism (from the usual quarters). They could just put up a few artificial nest sites and let them populate the area naturally.

  2. Very disappointing, these birds should be part of a living landscape everywhere in the UK and there is little REAL reasons for them not to be.

  3. “Sandringham Estate was suppotive”. Perhaps the Royal family could put their money where their mouth is and put forward their estate as a possible release sight.

  4. The project was heading for trouble right from the word go.
    I listened to a lecture during the week given by an authority on Sea Eagles and it was obvious from that ,that see eagles take lambs,red deer calves and even badgers. Enough said.

    1. Now a WTE trying to tackle anything other than a very small badger cub I’d pay to see. Totally improbable on weight considerations alone, never mind the badgers ability to fight back. I think the WTE authority was a self appointed expert with little real knowledge, everybody else in north west Europe lives with them happily. Yes they take the odd sickly lamb in the West Highlands, in Norfolk no chance and of course East Anglia is alive with Red Deer, scaremongering tosh.

    2. That is the Luddite mentality of too many in the farming industry. Funny how unnecessarily slaughtering 100,000 pigs is acceptable to them but losing the odd lamb to a White-tailed Eagle isn’t.

  5. Eat badgers? A nocturnal animal! And even if they did you might think the less gifted members of society would be fully in favour.

    1. Wasn’t there a photo of a golden eagle nest with fox and badger in the larder? A little help for ground-nesting birds was my reaction.

  6. Wow that’s a blow considering the groundwork put in to date to get the project going esp by RDWF, but hopefully just a bump in the road. Looks a fabulous site but like you say WTEs already using it to some extent and ultimately the success of the project will depend more on the suitability (food, nest sites down the line, roost sites, mortality factors esp lack of/low levels of persecution?) of the greater EA area for WTEs rather than one release site. Not saying WKH wouldn’t have been a great release site, it probably would, but sure the project won’t fall because of this, there will be other alternative sites and it will be a moot point once birds turn up and start using WKH post-release anyway! A bit odd alright that it got s far down the line and this happened now. Maybe WKH got spooked by scare stories of predation on (headstarted) curlew, cranes etc? Hopefully the project will get back on track regardless

  7. Not that many years back Natural England (or possibly English Nature back then) looked at the possibility of a Suffolk WTE reintroduction. The proposal got an icy reception from local landowners and the project was shelved due to “inavailability of funding”. The likelihood that the Ken Hill Estate got “leaned on” regarding a Norfolk reintroduction seems pretty high.

  8. I sense the dead hand of the Royal Family at play again. WIth them it is ‘all talk, and no walk”. Shooting interests always come first, and no journalist dare challenge them on it.

  9. I did not ask for sarcastic comments regarding my comment above. I was simply stating the facts and that the project was heading for trouble.
    The lecture I saw showed a badger in a sea eagle nest,simple as that.

  10. What is wrong with what I said re sarcasm. I am pointing out why the project was heading for trouble. Valid comments in my opinion.
    The lecture in question was from a top Scottish Sea Eagle expert !

    1. How do you know that the Badger wasn’t taken as carrion? And why should the fact that these species feature in WTE diet cause the reintroduction to be stopped?

      1. P.S. I suggest that you ask the “top Scottish Sea Eagle expert” if he’s happy with his lecture material being used out of context, in an attempt to hinder conservation projects.

        1. Notice that the “top Scottish Sea Eagle expert” isn’t named? I had a similar thing on Twitter when someone claimed that a high-ranking member of an unnamed anti-shooting organisation claimed the Hunt Saboteurs Association video of the Buzzard in the trap was a fake. When asked who and from which organisation I was blocked.

  11. I have no intention of naming the Scottish Sea Eagle expert (lecture given to an eminent UK birding society)as I have not asked his permission to state the facts I stated,but the photographs were there to prove my point,and my point was that the project was deemed for trouble from the start,due to these issues.
    I live in North Wales and this idea of Sea Eagle and Golden Eagle introduction is in the pipeline for here. As much as I would love to see these species here in North Wales,I can tell you it will meet with a hell of a lot of opposition from the farming community.

    I have been on this blog site since its inception and I am sick and tired of having sarcastic comments made from people who only see one side. I am a UK birder and conservationist and I see things from both sides. Those making the comments need to look at the facts then look at the situation with those facts in mind instead of their blinkered outlook.

    Maybe the money that has been raised up to now could be put to better use looking after the species that we have got already here in the UK and maybe the species we are getting through natural causes,ie Egrets etc.

    1. I think you’ll find Brian that conservationists are considerably better at seeing things from both or three or four sides than virtually everybody else. I know I’ve had to sit through tortuous public consultation exercises they’ve run about woodland management or landscape initiatives, they’ve been polite in the face of people using the opportunity to demonstrate incredible ignorance, selfishness or just to be drama queens. The thanks they’ve got for this is absolutely zero, sweet FA, the default setting for many community groups is to automatically claim they’ve been ignored by conservation groups as a way of getting political leverage – the victim card. It’s a bit strange to argue we should be spending money on species that are still here, but struggling, while ignoring species in an even worse state because we’ve lost them completely – but could bring them back. I remember people complaining that we shouldn’t be spending money on beaver reintroduction when the water vole is in trouble. Well guess what water voles do well where beavers have made dams and lodges even in the presence of American mink – our ecosystems are effectively machines, but with missing components which is why they’re faltering. Clearly some still need to learn this point.

      1. Next you’ll claim our rivers are natural and canals and water companies don’t change watersheds or alter the way water moves in the uk.
        Ignorance comes from all of us, conservation groups should have a voice but it should be a debate. Experts are people who like to talk about their views , it does not make them right.
        As for beavers ,voles and mink. Various groups are trapping and killing the mink using sick methods in my view, in the name of conservation.
        Our rivers are used by many groups ,but no one seems to notice that the rivers of the uk don’t look drinkable , NGOs ,charities , regulators and quango’s are all working separately changing the uk, wherever it’s water companies sponsoring farmers to change slug pellets ,farm subsidies used by farmers to lower water tables or landowners paid to not poison native plants.
        The common denominator is no honest debate.

    2. I find it strange that Brian will not name the expert given that his views is in the public domain if offered at a lecture. The Shooting Industry and it’s allies have a long history — at least up here in Scotland — or issuing false statements which is one of the reasons, possible the main one, that posts making claims like the ones you posted are generally always asked for sources

    3. So, you can’t name your source because…

      “I have not asked his permission to state the facts I stated”

      Give over! Did he end his lecture to this “eminent UK birding society” by asking his audience not to repeat what he said, or mention his name?

      Now, I’ll ask once more…

      The farming industry has spent the last few decades whining about and killing Badgers. So why the hell should it oppose the reintroduction (yes, RE-introduction! WTEs would be present across the UK, by “natural causes”, but for historical persecution by ill-educated vested interests) of a species that – according to you – preys (and by your implication, has a negative population effect) upon them?

      Or, is this just about sheep (money)?

      Put up or shut up.

      1. P.S. As the range expansion of Great, Little, and Cattle Egrets is largely thought to have occurred as a result of anthropogenic climate change, how can this be “natural causes”?

        And, why should funds be diverted from a project which aims to restore the full functionality of degraded ecosystems, and spent on species that are increasing in the UK and doing very nicely thank you without any help?

  12. I do not understand why you find it strange I will not disclose any names. If the person I am talking about or anybody else listening to that lecture last Tuesday evening is reading this,then please back me up.

    Just to put it in perspective on my credentials, I have attended every Hen Harrier Day since its inception, I sat for two days in the High Court in London with Mark Avery hearing about Natural Englands brood meddling programme,and I was the first person in the park for Chris Packhams walk on No 10 a few years ago. Does this sound like somebody spreading false information ?
    The idea of spending that sort of money would be to spend it on something like the Langholm project which is going to protect moorland for Hen Harriers,Merlin,Curlew,Black Grouse,all in danger of going the same way as the WTE.
    After all this blog is about raptor persecution. We have enough on our plate without adding to the problem.

    1. This group has expanded from it’s inception — it was initially called Raptor Persecution Scotland initially if my memory serves me well. It has become a vital tool in the fight against various environmental and ecological outrages as habitat abuses contribute to the persecution of birds of prey. It would appear that your views wish to restrict effective campaigning organisations rather than praise and support them for the maginficent job they have done of bringing these abuses to the eyes of the public.
      Indeed, narrowing problematic areas down to exclude complimentary issues restricts the growth of a vitally needed resource – -as all politicians know. The less people they have aligned with a cause the less pressure can be applied to the organisation and Institutions that have the power, if not the desire, to alter the facts on the ground.
      The more people engaging with the kaleidoscope of soil, diet, range, pollution, pesticides, herbicides etc., the greater the chance their is of thye whole spectrum of problems being remedied.

  13. COOP. Hen Harrier,Black Grouse,Curlew,’doing very nicely thank you’. What planet are you on ?
    Exactly what I said in my first post,sick and tired of people who can only post negative comments,

    Who are you to tell me to shut up.

    Stick to social media,that is were you belong if you cannot discuss such an issue without being derogatory.

    1. And so, a curious discourse ends with MR BRIAN IDDON (is he under the impression that altering his name to capitals, and adding the title Mr, confers some gravitas to his claims?) misrepresenting my comments before taking his ball home.

      I can only guess that in his righteous rage he got himself into a bit of a muddle regarding the sequence of comments and replies.

      In comment 24 he stated…

      “Maybe the money that has been raised up to now could be put to better use looking after the species that we have got already here in the UK and maybe the species we are getting through natural causes,ie Egrets etc.”

      To which I replied in comment 28…

      “As the range expansion of Great, Little, and Cattle Egrets is largely thought to have occurred as a result of anthropogenic climate change, how can this be “natural causes”?

      And, why should funds be diverted from a project which aims to restore the full functionality of degraded ecosystems, and spent on species that are increasing in the UK and doing very nicely thank you without any help?”

      Perhaps Mr Iddon realised that egrets where a poor example, causing him to change this choice in comment 29? Either way, we’re none the wiser regarding the identity of his “Scottish Sea Eagle expert”, or the time/place/audience of his lecture.
      So, given that his inability to clarify his statements when requested to do so, has resulted in him failing to “put up”, he has, it seems, “shut up”.

      How unfortunate that someone who appears/claims to be on the side of our natural heritage should adopt the commenting style of its enemies!

      1. Just a final point if I may…

        I’ve re-read this entire thread, and not one comment has contained even the slightest hint of any “abuse” that MR BRIAN IDDON claims to have received.

        Draw your own conclusions.

  14. I have now unsubscribed from Raptor Persecution UK at it seems my original post (see above) has been taken out of context by some individuals and I have received abuse and derogatory remarks on what was intended as a perfectly valid observation.

    1. Nobody has been abusive towards you in the comment section, so stop lying. It’s deeply pathetic, especially when people can actually see all the replies to you.

      Your observation wasn’t ‘valid’, because if it was an eminent expect and they were speaking in the public domain, then they’d have absolutely no problem with scientific evidence being made available. A white tailed eagle would definitely not look to attack a badger due to the potential of fatal injuries. This was most likely carrion, but even if it wasn’t, why would the ‘farming community’ have a problem with a badger being killed when they’re constantly supportive of culling? None of your comments actually make any sense when given the slightest scrutiny. I’m also sick of the farming community constantly holding all the cards in regards to what species should be ‘allowed’ in our landscape, as if they are the only stakeholders and the public’s views don’t count. For too long they have dictated land management and been pandered to, even by ecologists. It’s time that the public were fully engaged with and informed about all the species missing from our landscape, of which the white tailed eagle is one.

  15. The only thing Brian said that rings all the right bells was that those wishing to reintroduce both native eagles to wales will have a hell of a fight over it with the farming lobby. One only has to look at the “rewilding” proposals for the Summit to sea project, where the farmers were being asked to farm in a little more environmentally friendly manner. That project is essentially dead and despite being of an entirely different colour gov’t in Wales seems over supportive of these farmers who hold a huge % of the land yet contribute a small proportion to the Welsh GDP in comparison. Much of Wales away from the coast is at least as impoverished as much of England by the sheep industry, reseeded fields into the uplands, few waders and a very limited suit of species present. We know Eagles can live here as one has until recently for years but we need to know if there is a prey base that will allow breeding. Given some farmers apparently still think Red Kites and Buzzards can and do take lambs it will indeed be an uphill struggle, as it obviously is in East Anglia.

  16. I am deeply saddened to hear that wild Ken Hill are pulling out of this initiative.
    I also now fear for the birds who happen to fly by, I expect that because they have pulled out they will have no care or consideration for what happens to them, and I believe that it would not be long before there are issues with poisoning, and shooting incidents.
    If however as stated in their press release they do want to see the birds return they will have to step up, and look after the birds which will return, like they have agreed the location is a perfect habitat for them, if this turn around is a result of bullying from shooting bodies, there will definitely be trouble ahead.
    As we have seen throughout the country where there is a shooting interest, the birds are persecuted, poisoned, and shot, it goes hand in hand I am sorry to say.
    The barbarian sport of killing wildlife for fun should now be stopped, it serves no purpose, except for stroking the egos of the rich folk who like to shoot birds.
    If the people didn’t shoot the grouse, pheasants etc, the landowners wouldn’t have to rear hundreds of birds just to be shot, and birds of prey which would normally keep numbers down in nature, would be seen regularly in all areas.
    Instead of a natural ballance between birds of prey, and the birds they prey upon we have a false representation, and knowing that persecution of the birds of prey is what has wiped the population out making them extinct in our country, you would expect the shooting fraternity to have woken up, and stopped it.
    However I understand that for these people money, and business comes before anything else, caring for our environment, and its natural inhabitants is not even considered.
    If I was a custodian of a parcel of land like these rich people, I would turn most of the land back to wildlife, and use a small portion to cover the costs, but this wouldn’t involve any guns, traps, or poison, mearly crops, or a nature based camp site, or something that will benefit the land, both financially, and ecologically.
    It’s time the government stepped up to protect wildlife, and I wish wild Ken Hill would reconsider its decision, after all I believe the eagles will visit, and return, and might even nest there, and this will ultimately be up to them to protect the birds, so at least if they join in at this stage they can get some help, and that help will be ongoing, but if it happens naturally there will be issues because of the gun toting oiks who love nothing more than to kill birds.
    Please reconsider wild Ken Hill.. For the sake of the eagles.

    1. Hi James b

      You say: ‘I expect that because they have pulled out they will have no care or consideration for what happens to them [the eagles], and I believe that it would not be long before there are issues with poisoning, and shooting incidents’.

      Just to be clear, there is no reason whatsoever to think that any visiting eagles to Wild Ken Hill will be illegally harmed or killed. Elsewhere in Norfolk, yes, very likely, but not on this estate.

  17. Some interesting comments on here regarding “experts”, and sadly a debate which at times has become very acrimonious.
    It is worth noting that often in law, both sides will sometimes employ “experts” to strengthen their case.
    Experts who will agree on some facts, but disagree on others.
    Is one wrong and the other right?
    How the expert presents their evidence can often have more sway with a jury, than the actual facts, which can often be difficult for a “non- expert” to truly grasp.
    When it comes to conservation and wildlife, I classify myself very much as a non- expert; but I will listen to all sides, and then try and draw logical conclusions.
    If there is one thing I remember from my university days, it is that a holistic approach to any subject is far more likely to be nearer the truth, than concepts developed in isolation.

    This view can also be put into the context of science. Science is continually evolving, The latest scientific theories are believed to be correct, until someone discovers something new and a new scientific theory displaces the old!

    I think one thing we probably can all agree on is that nature and the environment is an extremely complex subject, and the natural interactions which take place right across the Earth which have created this planet and sustain life on it, are probably something so infinite that as humans we probably aren’t capable of truly understanding these processes? There will always always something new to learn and discover!

    Does human activity and expansion into every corner of the globe, and into space mean that there is no longer any real wilderness left? -wilderness in which the hand of man has not had some influence on the natural processes which take place.
    When someone does something in one part of the planet, this probably has a consequence to another part of the planet- something that all the recent debates on climate change and the extinction crisis are now starting to expose more fully.

    I suspect that this will make rewilding in its truest sense very difficult.
    When I read about rewilding, my understanding is that we are in effect talking about creating miniscule parts of the landscape where nature will be allowed to flourish with the minimal human interference. In effect “wildlife parks”.
    But if my beliefs are correct, the life that exists in these tiny re-wilded areas will be effected by what has happened and is happening to the rest of the planet, and without some human intervention the very species we hope to see flourish may in fact not do very well.
    This will also have a consequence for any species that is re-introduced, and without a full understanding of what caused that species to decline, re introducing it could be problematic. (something that appears to be well understood). It is all about having a holistic approach.

    I think it is also necessary to understand that modern industrial agriculture, urban expansion and all the other human activities we engage in, have caused what is left of Britain’s wildlife to have to compete in those very small areas where human presence and interference is a minimum. (Does it not strike anyone else that wild creatures all seem perfectly capable of co existence, but the moment humans appear – everything flees!!). Would I be wrong to assume that this competition to survive in such a small area also creates imbalance, as this concentration of wildlife all competing to survive in a very unnatural small space will effectively mean the very natural process which should be at work simply aren’t!!
    But this is the reality of the “natural world” that human activities and it’s ever increasing population has created.
    Experts suggest the human population at the dawn of agriculture, about 8000 B.C., was around 5 million. Today it is estimated to be well over 7 billion. The natural world today is very different from what is was in the past, and the natural process which existed just 500 years ago before the industrial revolution will be very different from the natural process which exist today.
    The natural world is continually changing, and other than humans and their domesticated livestock, most other species have declined.
    But what is the natural world? Is it something from the past when other species flourished, and the human population was small? Or is it what exists today?

    I would suggest it is not just criminal persecution that will make the re introduction of birds like he white tailed eagle problematic, but the very fabric of human society and how humans through their ever increasing population and other endeavours have created a new “natural world”. A place that is very hard for the natural environment, as we like to call it, to survive.
    Hence we have an extinction crisis.
    Could toleration and adjustment of how humans go about their business bring back species that are currently struggling? Or does so little of the pre existing natural world exist, that this will increasingly difficult?
    This is a very debatable subject, and perhaps a very complex issue to fully understand.

    But if we are going to debate, then we should at least try and refrain from falling into what Hobbes would describe as the “nasty, brutish and short” state of mankind!!
    Whilst we might not all agree, and can be very passionate about what we believe. When there are criminals who are happy to set fire to Chris Packham’s property, use misogynistic language against Ruth or engage in the relentless persecution of raptors, then lets not allow our disagreements to cause division. Division which simply strengthens the other side. A side which only sees nature as something to be exploited or eradicated if it interferes with their own selfish goals.

    1. Well put, John. However, only one commenter here flew into a hissy fit when his statements were questioned and clarification was requested.

  18. COOP
    I have come on to see if you are still mouthing off at me. Low and behold you are still there !

    Look on Mark Averys blog,were the are similar comments to mine re Wild Ken Hill. Nobody has replied to them with the crap you are dishing out.

    1. It’s just Coop. I see no need to capitalise my username. And, not one comment on the corresponding thread on Mark Avery’s blog suggests anything remotely similar to your claim (comment 6) that…

      “The project was heading for trouble right from the word go.
      I listened to a lecture during the week given by an authority on Sea Eagles and it was obvious from that ,that see eagles take lambs,red deer calves and even badgers. Enough said.”


      You’ve been asked several times to clarify your statements, and provide supporting evidence, but have failed to do either. You’ve also misrepresented one of my comments, and have not shown the simple decency of retracting when your…shall we say…”erroneous” claims have been corrected. Furthermore, you’ve also falsely claimed that you’ve “have received abuse” from commenters here.
      If you consider your comments above criticism, by all means just say so. But don’t play the victim; it’s simply embarrasing. I’ve no personal beef with you, MR IDDON. I don’t know you, whoever you are. I, like others here, have simply questioned your assertions. You could, of course, have simply explained exactly what you were getting at. Sadly, you chose to spit your dummy out instead.

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