Ospreys to breed on South Coast in 2021?


Eight Osprey chicks from Scotland have safely arrived in Poole Harbour as part of a five-year translocation project, aimed at re-establishing this species on its former breeding grounds on the south coast of England.

The project which is being run by Birds of Poole Harbour, The Roy Dennis Wildlife Foundation and local wildlife technology company Wildlife Windows, was given the go-ahead this spring and it is hoped that over the next 4-5 years Ospreys will adopt Poole Harbour as their new home and recolonise the south coast. Osprey pass through Poole Harbour every year on migration, attracted by the abundance of fish such as Mullet and flatfish. In late August, the harbour can host up to six Ospreys as birds fatten up before their long migration down to west Africa.

Paul Morton from Birds of Poole Harbour said, ‘We’re so pleased to see the chicks finally arrive in Poole Harbour. It’s been a long few months waiting for this moment, so to see them in the pens has made the whole project very real now. The public support we’ve received has been over-whelming and the offer of help from Storm restaurant has been key to making this part of the process run smoothly and efficiently

Pete Miles, owner of Storm restaurant and local fisherman added,  ‘It’s a real privilege to be involved in the project and to help the Osprey team out. Anything that helps promote and educate local environmental stories is always good news. We’ve already got all the facilities to prep fresh fish so it made sense to offer help, plus I’m really looking forward to seeing these birds out flying around the harbour in years to come whilst I’m out on my fishing boat.

Roy Dennis said, ‘We are delighted that this exciting and important project is underway. Establishing a population of Ospreys on the south coast will restore the species to an area where it was once common and also help to link expanding populations in central England, Wales and northern France. We are moving the birds to the best possible location given the abundance of fish found in Poole Harbour and the plethora of potential nest sites in the surrounding area. I’m particularly excited about this project because I was born in the New Forest.‘.

Once the chicks look ready and strong enough to fly, the Osprey monitoring team will open the pens, allowing the chicks to take to the wing for the first time and explore their new area. It is expected that the young Ospreys will remain in the harbour for a further 3-5 weeks after release before they begin their long migration to West Africa. The released Osprey will then remain in Africa during the summer and winter of 2018 and won’t think about flying north to the UK until late spring 2019. It is hoped that the first breeding will take place around 2021.

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  1. Douglas Mcfarlane says:

    Have to ask because you know others will Mark. But what is the difference between this relocation (or brood meddling) and the proposed Hen Harrier brood meddling. I'm honestly struggling to see the difference.

    • Mark says:

      Douglas - I'll get back to you later when I have a little more time, if that's OK.

    • Mark says:

      Douglas - apologies for the delay, I've been on the phone for ages.

      No details have been published about the brood meddling initiative so we are guessing a bit. But it involves taking birds from moorland where they will do fine if nobody kills them (and killing them is a crime), rearing them in captivity and then releasing them back into the areas from which they were taken (where they are likely to be killed). It doesn't address the overwhelming issue in Hen Harrier conservation - that is wildlife crime. What it does address is the loss of Red Grouse to Hen Harriers so it works for grouse moor owners but not for Hen Harriers. This type of manipulation might be illegal because the areas where it might happen should have many more Hen Harriers living in them.

      The Osprey project is a straight forward reintroduction project (assuming that Ospreys once nested in the area - which must have been a long time ago). The chicks come from healthy and expanding Osprey populations (I assume - I'm sure they do). The impact on the host population will be very small but the increase in range and numbers of ospreys in the UK will be considerable. we know (see comment from Sandra Padfield below) that Ospreys are quite philopatric - they tend to nest close to where they were born, and so although Ospreys would probably get to southern England eventually without any help, this project (and the Rutland Osprey project) will speed things up considerably.

      Ospreys will benefit from this project. It is difficult to see how Hen Harriers benefit from being boxed up and then later released into areas in which they are routinely killed.

    • Dennis Ames says:

      It is completely different.
      Almost without exception every person local supports this and there is almost no chance of these birds being persecuted assuming they start a breeding population in Poole Harbour and they will not compete with other Raptors.
      Whereas brood meddling with Hen Harriers would have two bad consequences(1 they would when moved elsewhere have competed with other Raptors(2 they would almost certainly have gone back to grouse moors and got shot.
      This translocation should have happened years ago as it is the perfect place to spread the movement of Osprey.

  2. Mike Collard says:

    I find it amazing that we can spend money on a bird which is not struggling but we cannot protect Montys and Hen Harrier nests

  3. Helen Crabtree says:

    I am certain that I am simply ignorant about this, but why is it assumed that these birds will return to breed at Poole Harbour? Just because they have been released there?

    • Mark says:

      Helen - it's a bit more than an assumption, but yes. It's based on lots of research on birds in general but also Ospreys in particular. This is a bit of an overgeneralisation, but most bird species (in most species the males to an even greater extent than females) return to close to where they were 'born'. These Osprey will think they were born in Poole Harbour. There is lots of experience of this type of thing so it's a good bet! For example, the Ospreys released at rutland Water came back there and to the locality to nest after going off to Africa.

      In the Red Kite reintroduction programme, I remember (I hope correctly) that birds released north of Inverness on the Black Isle travelled widely in their 'youth', visiting northern England, Northern Ireland and Orkney, but they came back to within a few kilometres of the release site to nest themselves.

      We knew a bit about this type of thing before the age of radio and satellite transmitters - but we know an awful lot more now.

      And, by the way, Hen Harriers are a bit less philopatric (faithful to the birth area) than Buzzards. See Chapter 1 of Inglorious and passages about mashed potato and soup.

  4. Sandra Padfield says:

    This vanity project is even less justified than introducing hen harriers to southern England. By all means supply a few nesting platforms in Poole Harbour to tempt the many passage ospreys that move through annually to stay and breed but, to my mind, money spent beyond that could be better used.

    • Mark says:

      Sandra - I understand that view but it's a difficult one. You notice that the RSPB is not involved - that may be because they agree with you or it might be that they weren't asked (I don't know).

      But then some would say that all conservation money could be better spent on human issues, and some would say that money spent on the NHS could be better spent on social care, and some would say that money spent on social care would be better spent in tax cuts so that we are all better off...and so it goes on.

      As far as I can tell, this is local money being spent on doing good for the local environment - and I wouldn't knock it.

      When you, or I, are stinking rich and deciding how to spend our money on nature conservation I expect we will be criticised for our enthusiasms too.

      As far as Hen Harrier reintroduction is concerned, I think the considerable amount of money spent could be much better spent in different ways on hen Harrier conservation - that would be my main gripe about it. If you were choosing to spend money on Osprey cosnervtion then this is a pretty high-ranking way of spending the moeny I would think.

      • Paul Fisher says:

        May I add a little to that. The Osprey project for Poole Harbour, if as successful as Rutland, will bring in the tourists.
        Now however you feel about that, the fact is that in turn raises awareness. And guess what, if people get interested in Ospreys, Peregrines, White tailed eagles etc, they may well become interested in the plight of our Hen Harriers and want to see them too.

        • Francis Blackwell says:

          Poole is beset by enough traffic congestion and the accompanying pollution. The last thing it needs is more tourists.

      • Sandra Padfield says:

        Sorry, Mark, I remain unconvinced of the conservation value of this project and I am very relieved that mainstream agencies are not involved. However, I fully appreciate that mine is probably a minority view.

        • Mark says:

          Sandra - it's a view, and I see where you are coming from. It's good to have a view. I'm not sure thatbit would be a minority view. You stick with what you believe.

  5. Keith Dancey says:

    Well, I think it is an excellent project.

  6. Dennis Ames says:

    How can anyone be against this,it simply is almost certain that these chicks will return and breed.That is how Rutland Ospreys started.
    The cost is minimal and we do not care whether it increases tourism or not the important thing is there is a very good chance of expanding Osprey territory's by almost two hundred miles and hoping that it helps the french population in time.
    Lots of effort has been put in by several people to get them to breed as lots of Ospreys visit Poole harbour for at least fifteen years without any success and it is very likely they would stay and breed without this help.
    Do those against it call themselves Conservationists?????.Are they against the Sea Eagle introduction back to Scotland as well.

  7. Douglas Mcfarlane says:

    I must stress I'm not against the scheme, sadly I have seen how Mark's detractors round on him on the smallest of points.
    Personally I love the Osprey and have for the last three summers have had the Rutland off spring visit my local reservoir and this year saw a pair set up a nest, bizarrely next door to a big game shoot and guess who's keeping a watch on the nests, gamekeepers. And hats off they're doing a great job, the world is full of irony I guess

  8. AlanTwo says:

    I've always believed that wildlife conservation should never be just about helping threatened species to cling onto existence, but should include enriching the diversity and abundance of our wildlife in as many ways we can.
    I'm particularly keen on bringing large and charismatic species into places where people can easily see and enjoy them. Wildlife nerds (like myself) can get very excited over tiny plants and insects and may travel long distances to remote areas to see them. But such things are totally irrelevant to the vast majority of the general public, and public interest and support is vital in the longer term.
    I know that resources are always limited and we need to prioritise, but if as Dennis says there is strong local support, then I agree that this is an excellent project and I wish it every success.

  9. Dennis Ames says:

    It is of course as perfect a place for this as is possible and lots of people put tremendous effort into encouraging them to breed and it was said that there were something like seven false nests at Arne RSPB some even had white paint splattered around the platform to make them think of a nest site and where of course is where most people will go to see them if this is successful.
    This probably almost certainly would allay the fears of more people crowding into Poole as while Arne RSPB is part of Poole harbour I think most visitors would miss Poole town.
    My guess is you could not get a much cheaper scheme as I would guess Paul Morton will look after them as a benefit of his job and I am thinking by what is said that a fisherman probably donating fish free.These thoughts are however putting two and two together but whatever it does seem very small expense with almost certain large benefits for Ospreys and people in charge are well respected people with proven ability.


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