A pair of ospreys have made the first breeding attempt in southern England for almost 200 years.
Conservationists are delighted that a pair of the birds at Poole Harbour, Dorset, have produced an egg, which they are guarding at a nest in a secret location. Thanks to nest cameras, viewers can watch the female osprey incubate her egg on a livestream.
The birds of prey were once common across western Europe, but due to persecution by humans as well as habitat loss, they became locally extinct in the early 1800s. Their nests were historically plundered for their eggs, and the birds were shot for taxidermy. Today, they are still regularly shot for sport in southern Europe.
Since 2017, experts at the Roy Dennis Foundation and Birds of Poole Harbor have been working to reintroduce them to southern England, by relocating adult birds from Scotland. There is a breeding population at Rutland Water in the Midlands, after a translocation program that began in 1996, and after decades of conservation efforts there are now hundreds of ospreys in Scotland.
Paul Morton from Birds of Poole Harbor said: “To know there’s now an osprey egg in a Poole Harbor 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.”
It is hoped that the pair will produce two more eggs over the next week, and then a 35-40 day incubation period begins with the possibility of osprey chicks hatching by late May.
Poole Harbor was chosen for the project because it has an abundance of fish for the birds to feed on. Ospreys from other parts of the UK have been known to pass through the harbor on their way to and from Europe on their migratory route, and they stop to hunt for gray mullet and flounder in the harbour’s large shallow channels and bays.
This pair flew to west Africa last autumn, and the Birds of Poole Harbor team faced a seven-month wait to see if they would return. The birds’ passage to Africa is fraught with danger, including adverse weather conditions and illegal hunting. They both arrived at the beginning of this month and have settled to breed.