Watch: First osprey eggs laid in Dorset for 200 years
- Credit: Birds of Poole Harbour
Signs are promising that we could soon see the first osprey to breed successfully in southern Britain in 200 years right here in Dorset. Paul Morton from Birds of Poole Harbour tells us about the journey to get to this point, and why this is such a milestone event for UK conservation
Seven years ago, we began the process of applying for a licence which aimed to reintroduce ospreys to Poole Harbour, and therefore restore a lost population of these amazing birds of prey to southern Britain after an absence of nearly 200 years. In 2017 we were granted the licence, and so we began our journey. The reintroduction process is both long and difficult, and, as you know, I have written about the highs and lows of this project several times over the last few years in this column. Surely, we are due some exciting and positive news to share with you? Well, this spring we experienced a sequence of events that have transformed our fortunes, and hopefully the status of ospreys in the UK and in Dorset.
Our female osprey CJ7 has reliably returned from her West African wintering grounds around April 1st over the last three years. So, when there was no sign of her by April 4th this year, we began to worry. However, CJ7 turned up fashionably late at 17.30 on April 5th, deciding to land on and choose a new nest platform, different from the one she had favoured in previous years.
The next big question was when, and if, her partner from last summer, osprey 022, would arrive safely. This particular male is one of the birds we raised and released here in Poole Harbour as part of the translocation project back in 2019. He returned to the UK for the first-time last summer, and paired up with CJ7 almost immediately. He was too young to breed last year, but they had a good time bonding and getting to know each other. However, we knew that we would have to wait until this year to see if he’d come back, and this time he would be mature enough to successfully breed.
Sure enough, at 09.18 on April 10th 022 was spotted out in the Wareham Channel where he soon joined CJ7 at her new preferred nest site. They instantly fell into a routine of courting, nest building, fish swapping and mating…lots of mating. The question on everyone’s lips who was following this love affair on the live nest-cam feed was whether we would finally see the first wild osprey eggs, successfully fertilised, and laid in southern Britain for nearly two centuries?
Well, the answer was yes! At 14.58 on April 23rd CJ7 laid her first egg. A monumental moment for the project and the team. Not only that, this was then followed by a second on April 26th and then a third on April 29th. This staggered laying of three eggs with three-day gaps is typical of ospreys that are well established, so we were thrilled that CJ7 and 022 managed to do this at their first attempt!
We’re not quite ready to crack open the bubbly yet, there’s still a long way to go as the pair have never laid or incubated eggs before. Nor have they raised young. It’s a huge learning curve for them and us. But, as things stand, it’s all looking promising. Here at Birds of Poole Harbour HQ we’re all on tenterhooks, the eggs are due to hatch in late May. You can watch the progress of this pair of ospreys on the live feed from the nest camera via our website or click on the fee below.
I look forward to updating you with further news next month.