Press release from the charity Birds of Poole Harbour (2nd June 2022)
Osprey chick hatches at Poole Harbour – the first in southern Britain for 200 years
A pair of wild Ospreys have hatched young at a secret nest site in Poole Harbour, which is the first to hatch in southern Britain for 200 years. The successful hatching is a result of an Osprey reintroduction programme that’s being carried out by Dorset based charity Birds of Poole Harbour and conservation organisation the Roy Dennis Wildlife Foundation.
The reintroduction which began in 2017 is aimed at restoring a population of Osprey to Southern Britain after it was historically eradicated across much of Western Europe. The large, fish eating bird of prey is a summer migrant that returns to the UK each spring having over-wintered in West Africa.
The adult pair of Poole Osprey known as female CJ7 and male 022 first met in Poole Harbour in May 2021 and instantly made a connection. CJ7 had already established a nest the previous year, but had no mate to try and breed with, meaning she spent the whole of 2020 on her own. Once met in 2021 their partnership grew in strength with continuous nest building and pair bonding over the summer, but breeding was never likely as the male was too young. With no breeding in 2021 the pair both left on migration in September that year.
The Osprey project team, as well as members of the public were on tenterhooks in the early spring of this year, eagerly awaiting the safe return of both CJ7 and 022 and after a long and agonising wait, the pair arrived back in early April and got straight down to business.
Paul Morton from the Birds of Poole Harbour charity explained:
“Words don’t even began to describe what this means to us, and of course Osprey conservation in Western Europe. We started our licence application in 2015, and the actual reintroduction in 2017, and the prospect of actually having wild hatched chicks in a nest always felt so far away. But here we are, with an official birthday of June 1st 2022, and we now have the first wild Osprey chick for Southern Britain in 200 years, right here in Poole Harbour“.
The Osprey pair had originally shown interest in a different nest in the harbour during 2020 and 2021, so when they decided to change sites to somewhere else in the harbour this spring it took the project team completely by surprise. Luckily, they had the foresight to put a makeshift webcam on the new nest a few weeks previously just in case, so all the action and this historic moment could be watched live. The pair have been thriving since their arrival back this spring, favouring species such as Grey Mullet and Flounder to feed on.
It’s thought that the pair laid three eggs in the nest during April, meaning the other two should hopefully hatch over the Bank Holiday Jubilee weekend. It’s predicted that once all three chicks have hatched safely, male 022 will become sole provider of fish until the chicks fledge after about 50 days. The chicks will stay low in the nest for the first few weeks, but by mid-June should be visible on the webcam as they grow and build in strength. Once fledged the chicks will stay for several more weeks, flying around and imprinting on the local area, learning that Poole Harbour is home, before instinct then kicks in and they’ll leave on migration. After two years, pending their safe migration down to West Africa and back the youngsters should then return to Dorset and begin thinking about starting families of their own, therefore seeing the beginnings of a new colony in Southern Britain.
Paul Morton concluded:
“The restoration of lost species and biodiversity takes time, and don’t forget, if humans hadn’t got rid of Ospreys in the first place, we wouldn’t have even needed to do a reintroduction. Now these birds are back, and successfully breeding, we hope that they can continue to build in strength as a population here on the south coast and be enjoyed by generations to come. It’s been a huge team effort getting to this point, and everyone within the project is ecstatic and the public response has been just superb. It feels great to actually have some positive news when it comes to raptor conservation here in Dorset”.