First osprey egg laid in southern England for 200 years

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.

Best Bird Watching in England

By Sian Williams

If lockdown has made you more appreciative of the birds in your neighbourhood, why not further your interest with a visit to a bird reserve during your staycation?

Birdwatching doesn’t need to be an expensive hobby – you don’t need to buy a huge telescope like you see some twitchers carrying, just as you don’t need to sit for hours munching on sandwiches, praying for that one elusive bird to show up!

If lockdown has made you more appreciative of the birds in your neighbourhood, why not further your interest with a visit to a bird reserve during your staycation?

Birdwatching doesn’t need to be an expensive hobby – you don’t need to buy a huge telescope like you see some twitchers carrying, just as you don’t need to sit for hours munching on sandwiches, praying for that one elusive bird to show up!

A good pair of binoculars (many reserves offer them for sale, or check out second-hand pairs on sites such as eBay), a bird book or app so you can identify what’s in front of you, and a little bit of patience will reward you with an absorbing day out.

Although spring and summer are great for spotting birds during the breeding season, autumn and winter also offer a great deal of variety as many species prepare to migrate.

Bird-watching is truly a year-round activity the whole family can enjoy.

Here are our top nine bird-watching sites in England.

Farne Islands

Farne Islands
Farne Islands. Credit: DomWPhoto

A 20-minute boat trip will take you to the dramatic Farne Islands off the Northumberland coast.

Once home to saints and monks, today the tiny archipelago supports breeding colonies of several species of seabird. At the height of the season (May to June), you could see around 70,000 Puffins!

The islands are also a haven for Eider Ducks, Razorbills, Little Terns, Arctic Terns, and Sandwich Terns. Look out for seals basking on the rocks or swimming, too.

Find it: Boat trips to the Farne islands run from Seahouses. Check out SerenityBilly Shiel’s or Golden Gate. The National Trust cares for the islands; non-members must pay a landing fee in addition to the cost of the boat trip.

Find out more here.

Bempton Cliffs

Known locally as Seabird City, the towering white cliffs at Bempton, near Bridlington, in East Yorkshire, attract up to half a million seabirds every year.

Between March and October, they come to nest and raise their young, making this place a must-see for any bird-watcher.

The cries (and smells!) are unforgettable as thousands of birds swoop around you.

Look out for the Gannets with their startling blue eyes and large grey bills. True romantics, Gannets mate for life – and often the male will offer the female little gifts of flowers.

Bempton is the only mainland seabird colony in England, so you’re guaranteed to see ‘the big eight’ of species that visit our shores: Gannet, Guillemot, Puffin, Razorbill, Kittiwake, Fulmar, Shag and Herring Gull.

Find it: RSPB Bempton Cliffs, Cliff Lane, Bridlington, YO15 1JF

Find out more here.

Coombes Valley

A Redstart
A Redstart. Credit: SussexBirder

A lovely oak woodland in a steep-sided valley, this Staffordshire spot provides an ideal habitat for migratory birds such as the Pied Flycatcher, Redstart and Wood Warbler to nest.

A trail leads you around the site – look out for Dippers and Willow Tits in summer, and in winter, hundreds of Redwings and Fieldfare descend to feed on the berries.

A steep climb will take you to open moorland and pasture, where you may see Woodcock and Sparrowhawks.

Find it: RSPB Coombes & Churnet Valley Nature Reserve, Bradnop, Leek, ST13 7EU

Find out more here.

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30 UK campsites to book now for summer 2021

We’ve rounded up the best camping and glamping getaways … assuming the Great British Summer gets the green light, that is

Before you book, check individual campsite Covid refund and rescheduling policies

WALES

Three Cliffs Bay, Penmaen, Gower

The dramatic clifftop location is a huge selling point for this family-run campsite on the south side of the Gower peninsula. It is right on the Wales Coast Path, and a short stroll from the spectacular Three Cliffs Bay. Guests can choose between sea-view or (cheaper) countryside-view pitches, for tents, caravans or campervans. There are also sea-view bell tents and inland yurts (both sleeping five). The shower block is particularly impressive, with power showers, LED lighting and underfloor heating … Even the dog-washing points have warm water. The shop is also well stocked, with local bread, meat, beer and wine; and guests can order hampers, and rent picnic tables and firepits. The campsite was started in 1948 on North Hill Farm, which dates back five generations, and is still run by the Beynon family.
• Camping £29.50 a night for a family of up to 5, glamping £454 for three nights, threecliffsbay.com

Top of the Woods, Pembrokeshire

Friendly pigs at Top of the Woods Eco Camping & Glamping Pembrokeshire

“Eco luxury” is the vibe at this site on a 27-acre farm. Campers can pitch their tents in the four-acre wildflower meadow, while glampers can choose from safari lodges, nature domes or pioneer camps; there is also one pitch for a campervan. The farm courtyard is the social hub, with a huge Dutch barn, campfire and wet-room showers. Breakfast is served in the barn at weekends, as is a stew supper on Fridays and barbecues on Saturdays. There are pop-up food stalls during the summer holidays and a fishmonger comes every Wednesday. Campers can help feed the site’s three kunekune pigs, walk to the secret waterfall in the woods for a swim, and take yoga classes in the barn. The owners also run glamping activity weekend breaks several times a year, from “wild gin” foraging to canoe treks and paddleboarding safaris.
• Camping £16/£8 a night adult/child, campervans £20/10, dogs free, five-metre bell tents for hire at £30 a night, glamping from £100 a night for 4, topofthewoods.co.uk

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England told to prepare for worst weeks of pandemic

England’s chief medical officer has said the next few weeks will be the worst of the pandemic as he urged everyone to minimise meeting people.

Prof Chris Whitty said the public should not wait for any government “tinkering” with rules but should “double down” now on avoiding any unnecessary contacts.

Pleading with the public he said: “Even within them [the rules], we should be doing our level best to minimise the amount of unnecessary contact with people who are not in our household. I can’t emphasise that enough.”

Speaking to BBC Breakfast, he said the NHS was facing its “most dangerous” point. | Continue at THE GUARDIAN