Harbour News

Published: April 13, 2022 | Updated: April 14, 2022

Osprey and white-tailed eagle projects could bring education and eco-tourism opportunities

The osprey pair, female CJ7 and male 022, on their nest in Poole Harbour. Picture: Birds of Poole Harbour.
By Andrew Diprose, editor

The arrival of a pair of ospreys and several white-tailed eagles in Dorset – and specifically Poole Harbour – has opened up environmental education and eco-tourism opportunities.

Ospreys, which haven’t bred in Southern Britain for nearly 200 years, are on the brink of returning thanks to a reintroduction programme which began in Poole Harbour in 2017.

The programme, carried out by the charity Birds of Poole Harbour and the Roy Dennis Wildlife Foundation, received a boost at the weekend  when a male and female osprey arrived back safely on their migration from West Africa.

They’ve settled on a nest platform at a secret location in the area.

A live webcam has been set up and can be viewed by clicking here.

The pair, known as CJ7 and 022, first met last summer, although the male was too young to breed.

However, they’ve now both returned early enough meaning there’s a good chance the pair will attempt to breed this summer, a historic moment for Dorset and southern Britain.

White-tailed eagles, which haven’t bred in England for over 250 years, began regularly appearing in Poole Harbour in September last year with a young male called G461 who began exploring and making the harbour his home.

The eagles, which have an 8ft wingspan, originated from the Isle of Wight reintroduction programme that’s being hosted by The Roy Dennis Wildlife Foundation and Forestry England.

During the latter months of 2021, a male white-tailed eagle, known as G461, spent his days touring the harbour.

He was seen regularly at sites including RSPB Arne, Brownsea Island and from public bird boat tours.

As reported on Dorset Biz News, pupils from Longfleet Church of England Primary School in Poole had a special encounter while taking part in the School Bird Boat project, an initiative run by the Birds of Poole Harbour.

They saw the massive lumbering giant over the Brownsea Lagoon, providing a nature experience many will never forget.

The white-tailed eagle pictured flying over Middlebere in Poole Harbour. Picture: Kate Plater.

As a result of the reintroductions of both white-tailed eagles and ospreys in southern Britain, it’s predicted that both species will establish breeding populations over the coming years.

The re-establishment of the species across their native range could bring significant economic benefits.

A study called the ‘The Economic Impact of White-Tailed Eagles on the Isle of Mull’, published by RSPB Scotland, revealed that tourism inspired by the birds of prey accounted for between £4.9 million and £8 million of spend every year on Mull.

The money supported between 98 and 160 full time jobs on the island, and between £2.1 million and £3.5 million of local income annually.

It’s hoped that Dorset will benefit in a similar way, with evidence already emerging that the eagles are beginning to have a positive impact in the area.

Visits to nature reserves and bird boat bookings have increased with the sightings of the white-tailed eagles, including two regularly visiting females known as G801 and G318.

There are now plans through different initiatives to use the presence of the eagles and ospreys as a platform to engage local schools in educating students about the process of nature recovery, reintroductions and restoration.

The live webcams installed on osprey nests mean that schools and members of the public can, hopefully, see history being made before their eyes.

Paul Morton, pictured left, of Birds of Poole Harbour, said: “It’s been a fascinating last six months.

“Never in our wildest dreams did we ever think we’d regularly be seeing white-tailed eagles in Poole Harbour.

“But here we are and, thanks to the hard work and persistence of multiple teams, that dream has become a reality.

“Also, to now have a pair of osprey back in the harbour looking to set up territory is a perfect scenario.”

The Birds of Poole Harbour is now boosting the number of osprey boat tours.

When the reintroduction project started in 2017 it hosted just three boat tours.

This coming August and early September it will be hosting 30 while the team has also now begun twice-weekly tours to cater for the demand in interest.

The charity is working closely with Dorset Police to make sure the nests of the ospreys receive the best possible protection.

Tim Mackrill, from the Roy Dennis Wildlife Foundation, said: “The fact that other white-tailed eagles are now visiting the harbour on a regular basis is an extremely encouraging sign for the future and shows what a superb place Poole Harbour is for these amazing birds.”

“I hope that many more people, of all ages, will be able to enjoy the thrill of seeing them here and in other locations along the South Coast for many years to come”