Press release from the charity Birds of Poole Harbour:
First Osprey breeding attempt in southern Britain for nearly 200 years
A pair of Ospreys has laid an egg at a secret nest site in the Poole Harbour area, making it the first nesting attempt in southern Britain in nearly 200 years. The striking bird of prey was once widespread across Western Europe, but was routinely persecuted until it became extinct in the early 1800s. The nesting attempt is the result of an Osprey reintroduction project which began in 2017, carried out by the charities Birds of Poole Harbour and Roy Dennis Wildlife Foundation in an effort to restore a population across its historical range.
The pair, known as CJ7 and 022, first met last spring having made their migration back to Poole Harbour from their wintering grounds in West Africa. The female, CJ7, first visited Poole Harbour in 2017 during the first year of the reintroduction project, but has shown interest in nesting here every year since, visiting purpose-built nesting platforms installed to attract Ospreys to breed. The male, 022, was released as part of the reintroduction programme during 2019, before making his first migration and spending two years maturing in his wintering grounds. He then returned for the first time on the 18th May 2021 which is when he first met CJ7, although he was too young to breed at the time. The couple spent the summer of 2021 pair bonding and establishing nesting territories, indicating that they were keen on breeding here in the future. Both left Poole Harbour in early September 2021 and those involved in the project kept everything crossed for their safe return this spring.
Paul Morton from the Birds of Poole Harbour charity explained:
“When 022 and CJ7 left on migration last autumn, we then had an anxious time waiting 7 months to see if they had survived the journey. Flying from Britain to West Africa and back again is incredibly dangerous, with the birds facing many challenges along the way including the Sahara Desert, adverse weather conditions and illegal hunting. Luckily they both returned safely earlier this month, with CJ7 arriving on April 5th and 022 a few days later on April 10th. Having spent the whole of last summer together their instincts to breed this summer kicked in straight away and the pair settled on a nest, which is exactly what we were hoping to see.”
[Video grab of 022 (left) and CJ7 (right) meeting on April 10th having arrived back from West Africa].
The diet of Ospreys consists solely of fish, which is one of the reasons Poole Harbour was selected for the reintroduction project. Ospreys that breed in Scotland and Northern England pass through the harbour on migration each spring and autumn, feeding on species like Grey Mullet and Flounder, before continuing on their journey. With the harbour’s large shallow channels and bays, Ospreys find hunting in here incredibly easy. 022 can now regularly be seen hunting in the harbour. Should the breeding attempt be successful, he will be responsible for providing fish for the whole family throughout the rest of the season.
It’s hoped that CJ7 could lay two more eggs over the next week, which will then see a 35-40 day incubation period begin. If all goes to plan, the team hopes for a hatching date of around late May. Paul Morton concluded:
“To know there’s now an Osprey egg in a Poole Harbour nest is just amazing. This is the culmination of seven years hard work. Projects like this are always going to take time, but it’s such a great feeling to know that the birds have reached this important milestone, and to see CJ7 incubating her first egg is stunning. There’s still a lot for them both to learn as new parents, and breeding success is certainly not guaranteed. However, everything we’re seeing at the moment is looking really positive, and hopefully by late May we’ll begin to see them feeding their newly hatched fledglings.”
Anticipating this historic moment, Birds of Poole Harbour installed a livestream camera on a favoured nest platform over the winter to be able to capture these moments. The charity didn’t, however, anticipate that the camera view would be slightly altered, thanks to several mating attempts from the Ospreys over the last two weeks on top of the camera. The livestream camera can be watched on the Birds of Poole Harbour website and YouTube channel, which means that the public can now tune in and watch the story unfold from their own homes.
You can watch the nest webcam live here: