A pair of Western Ospreys has laid an egg at a secret site in the Poole Harbour area of Dorset, making it the first nesting attempt in southern England in almost 200 years.
The striking bird of prey was once widespread across Western Europe, but was routinely persecuted until becoming widely extirpated 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 historic 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 18 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 of Birds of Poole Harbour said: “When 022 and CJ7 left on migration last autumn, we then had an anxious time waiting seven 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 5 April and 022 a few days later on 10 April. 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.”
Western Osprey’s diet 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 such as Grey Mullet and Flounder, before continuing on their journey. With the harbour’s large shallow channels and bays, ospreys find hunting incredibly easy and 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.
A pair is incubating at Poole Harbour in Dorset.