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A Who’s Who of White-tailed Eagles at Poole Harbour

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Over the last year Poole Harbour has become a hotspot for White-tailed Eagle activity. The vast natural harbour provides rich forging opportunities throughout the year with abundant supplies of fish, including Grey Mullet, as well as waterbirds, and many quiet areas to perch. We have been particularly encouraged that three-year-olds G463 and G466 have become established as a pair, and up to six other birds have been regular visitors over the past twelve months. Here is a brief overview of each of the birds, and also where best to see them, by Tim Mackrill.

G463 and G466

Male G463 was originally translocated to the Isle of Wight from Sutherland in North-West Scotland in 2020. After spending his first winter near Chard in Somerset, G463 crossed the English Channel in early April 2021 and spent seven months exploring Netherlands, Germany and Denmark, favouring many areas with expanding White-tailed Eagle populations. G463 made the return journey across the English Channel in November that year and then spent the majority of the winter in East Anglia, favouring parts of North and West Norfolk and also the Suffolk Coast. During his time in Norfolk, G463 lost the lower part of his right leg, as reported in our blog in January. Despite this, G463 appears to have adapted well, and again crossed the Channel in early April before summering in mainland Europe; returning to many of the sites he had first visited the previous year, and also making a short flight into southern Sweden.

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G463’s movements in Europe during 2021 (red) and 2022 (white)

Despite the fact that he would have encountered many White-tailed Eagles during his travels in mainland Europe, the draw of returning to the South Coast clearly proved very strong and G463 headed back across the English Channel on 22nd September last year. He then spent time in favoured areas in East Anglia and Somerset, before finally returning to the Isle of Wight on 9th January, after more than two years away. He first visited Poole Harbour on Boxing Day, and has been present there almost continuously since late January, when he first encountered G466.

Female G466, was also translocated to the Isle of Wight in 2020, from a nest near Uig on the Isle of Skye. After spending her first winter on the Isle of Wight, G466 flew north to Scotland the following spring, and then spent the rest of the year in Caithness in Sutherland. She eventually returned to the Isle of Wight in February 2022, but then flew north again on 5th April, and like G463, returned to many of the sites she had favoured the previous summer, including Cape Wrath, the most north-westerly point of mainland Britain. She flew south again in late September and after visiting various sites on the South Coast, she became a regular at Poole Harbour from 20th November, appearing to displace another female, G801, who has been resident over summer 2022 (see below).

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G466 spent two summers in northern Scotland
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G466’s movements in northern Scotland during 2021 (white) and 2022 (yellow)

G466 was joined by G463 on 20th January, and the two birds have been together on an almost daily basis since. Their favoured area, which covers approximately 125km², is centred on the Wareham Channel at Poole Harbour, and stretches south to the coast at Kimmeridge, where the satellite data indicates they catch fish off-shore, and also Wareham Forest to the north. The birds have made regular courtship flights in recent months, flying in tandem across much of this area. It is clear that they are now a pair, and we are hopeful that they may try and breed as early as next spring.

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G466(right) and G463 (with a Carrion Crow for size comparison) have paired at Poole Harbour. This brilliant photo, by Mark Wright, was taken from a boat trip run by Birds of Poole Harbour.

G801

Female G801 was translocated to the Isle of Wight in 2021 from the Isle of Lewis in the Outer Hebrides. She spent much of her first winter on the Isle of Wight, but also visited Hampshire and Dorset. As the days began to lengthen, she made longer exploratory flights into Surrey and Sussex during February and then west to Devon and Cornwall during March. G801 returned east to Poole Harbour on 19th March, and became a regular in the Wareham Channel during April. On 4th May she set off on another longer exploratory flight, heading east to Kent where she was seen at Sandwich Bay Bird Observatory. She then followed the East Anglian coast north before continuing through Lincolnshire and Yorkshire, reaching Saltburn-by-Sea on the Cleveland coast, on 9th May. After a few days in the nearby North York Moors, she headed south again, stopping at Middleton Lakes near Tamworth from 15th-23rd May before returning to Poole Harbour on 27thMay.

G801 spent the rest of the summer at Poole, again favouring the Wareham Channel, where she was regularly seen from the Birds of Poole Harbour’s excellent boat trips. She also visited the coast at Kimmeridge. However once G466 became resident at Poole Harbour, as described above, she seems to displace the younger female, who moved to Cranborne Chase, another area that is favoured by the young eagles. Nevertheless, G801 continues to make regular visits to Poole Harbour, most recently on 21st May.

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G801 spent most of summer 2022 at Poole Harbour, but now seems to have been displaced by G466 (photo by Mark Wright)

G812 and G486

Male G812 was translocated from the Isle of Lewis in 2021. He has remained in southern England since release, favouring an area that extends from Poole Harbour in the south to Cranborne Chase in the north. He has formed a close association with female G486 who was translocated from the Isle of Mull the same year. The female has been more nomadic, visiting East Anglia during July 2022, Colliford Lake on Bodmin Moor in Cornwall from 11th December – 26th January, and then various South Devon estuaries in late January and early February this year. She returned to her favoured areas in North Dorset on 9th February and she and G812 continue to visit Poole Harbour, often together.

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G812 has favoured Dorset since release in summer 2021 (photo by Jamie Randall)
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G486 has been a regular in Dorset, but has also spent time in East Anglia, Cornwall, and Devon (photo by Jamie Randall)

G816

Another 2021 male, G816, who was translocated from the Isle of Lewis, has also remained in southern England since release. He is a regular visitor to Poole Harbour, and also spends time on the Purbeck coast at Kimmeridge, the Isle of Wight, in south Wiltshire and Cranborne Chase. During the early part of 2023 he began to associate with 2021 female G818, but the female, who was also translocated from the Isle of Lewis, has since flown north to the Cairngorms, where she spent much of summer 2022.

G318

Female G318 is one of three surviving birds from the first release in 2019. She remains unpaired and somewhat nomadic, but was a regular visitor to Poole Harbour in 2022 when wandering away from her favoured areas in Cranborne Chase and the Avon Valley. She has spent the past two summers in the Peak District and recently returned north to the same favoured area near Howden Reservoir on 24th May.

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Female G318 has spent most of the past year in Dorset, but has recently returned to the Peak District for the third successive summer (photo by Jamie Randall)

Where to view White-tailed Eagles at Poole Harbour?

White-tailed Eagles can be encountered just about anywhere in and around Poole Harbour but there are a few particularly good spots to try:

  • The new Ham Common Viewpoint offers panoramic views along the Wareham Channel and the areas often favoured by G463 and G466. More details here: https://bcpprojects.net/ham-common-lookout/
  • Arne RSPB reserve offers an excellent chance of seeing White-tailed Eagles, with the Hyde’s Heath trail and Coombe Heath viewpoint the best places to try.
  • Birds of Poole Harbour run boat trips throughout the summer, and often get excellent views of White-tailed Eagles from on board. For more details check out the Birds of Poole harbour website: https://www.birdsofpooleharbourbookings.co.uk/.
Fantastic that Poole Harbour’s now-resident White-tailed Eagle G801 flew directly over our @harbourbirds boat this morning. Fair to say everyone was very excited, including @jsparker_ and @LivCooper23! pic.twitter.com/q1lB0Cw4gz

— Tim Mackrill (@timmackrill) August 20, 2022

Thank you

Sincere thanks to everyone who has been in touch to report sightings or sent photos of eagles either from Poole Harbour or in their local area. This information is of real value and adds to our understanding of how the birds are living in the landscape. You can report any sightings using our online form. We have been thrilled at the excitement the birds have generated, and greatly appreciate the support the project has received.

Very many thanks to everyone who has made donations to the Foundation and the White-tailed Eagle project in the past few months. Your support is greatly appreciated. If you would like to donate to our work, then you can do so via the link below.

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