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Happy Christmas

Hoca

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Christmas is a good time to reflect on the past twelve months, and 2023 has proved to be a very significant year for our work.

Fledging success

The White-tailed Eagle project, which we run in partnership with Forestry England, reached a major milestone in July, with a chick fledging from a natural nest in southern England for the first time in 240 years. We fitted the youngster, G625, with a satellite tag and this has provided a fascinating insight into his movements since leaving the nest. The young male remained within 1km of the nest site for the first month after fledging, with his parents, G405 and G471 – both translocated to the Isle of Wight in 2020 – providing a steady supply of food, which field monitoring and analysis of prey remains indicated was predominantly fish, supplemented with some rabbits. He made his first longer flight away on 15th August, following G471 to a favoured area 10km to the south. These exploratory flights became more regular thereafter, and on 6th September G625 flew over 20km north-east and eventually roosted away from the nest for the first time.

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G625 on an exploratory flight (photo by Mike Jerome)

We know that G471 catches bass off the South Coast and on 23rd September G625 followed his father to the coast, and then made another visit with him on 29th, before making a solo visit on 3rd October. Such experiences will be invaluable for the young male as he becomes independent. He remains in his natal territory most days but there are signs that he is becoming more self-sufficient. It was particularly encouraging that he was seen catching a fish for the first time on 11th December, by Ben Ayling. It will be fascinating to see at what point G625 finally decides to leave the area, or whether he will wait until he is pushed away by his parents once the new breeding cycle begins.

Establishing pairs

While G405 and G471 were the only pair to breed this year, two other territorial pairs of White-tailed Eagles are now well-established. G274 and G324, released in 2019, are resident on the Isle of Wight and the Solent, while G463 and G466, translocated in 2020, have paired up at Poole Harbour. This latter pair are regularly seen from the brilliant Birds of Poole Harbour boat trips which are now one of the very best ways of seeing the White-tailed Eagles in southern England. It has been wonderful to join some of these trips and to see the excitement that the birds generate. Birds of Poole Harbour are running regular trips this winter, so check out their website for more. We are hopeful that these two pairs of White-tailed Eagles will attempt to breed for the first time in 2024.

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G466 (left) and G463 have paired-up at Poole Harbour (photo by Mark Wright)

Sad news

Unfortunately, it is not all good news from Dorset. In early September we were encouraged that two 2021 birds, female G801 and male G816, appeared to have paired in an area to the south-west of Poole Harbour. However during the afternoon of 26th September, the satellite data indicated that G816 had been hit by a train on the main London-Weymoth line. We contacted Dorset Police and, with assistance from Network Rail, they recovered the body of the bird. A subsequent post-mortem carried out by the Disease Risk and Health Surveillance team at Zoological Society of London (ZSL) confirmed that the injuries sustained were consistent with a train strike. It seems G816 had been feeding on a dead deer close to the tracks and was then hit by the train as he attempted to fly off. Sadly, this is a well-known cause of death of White-tailed Eagles in other parts of Europe, but it was especially disappointing to lose a bird that had begun to pair-up. Thanks to Dorset Police, Network Rail and ZSL for their valuable assistance in dealing with this sad case.

Although G801 avoided the train strike, she has recently developed an overgrown bill. This has been recorded in White-tailed Eagles in Scotland in the past and can be caused by a rage of factors. One possibility is that she sustained an injury, which subsequently became infected. G801 has had several territorial disputes with the Poole Harbour female, G466, and it is possible that she damage her bill in one such incident. Although G801 appears thin, the satellite data indicates that she is behaving normally. We will continue to monitor her condition closely over the coming months.

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G801 at RSPB Lodmoor on 17th December (photo by Helen Wood)

Ospreys breed again

We were delighted that Ospreys nested for a second year at Poole Harbour. Translocated male 022 and Rutland Water female CJ7 raised three chicks, which all fledged successfully in July (see video below, which shows 5H3 returning to the nest after his first flight). It was excellent that Birds of Poole Harbour arranged public viewings at the nest for the first time, and Osprey boat trips during August and September were once again a resounding success. We were also encouraged that a second translocated male, 374, released in 2021, returned for the first time and spent time at several artificial nests around the harbour. We very much hope that this young male will return earlier in 2024 and attract a mate.


In addition, two translocated females, 014(18) and 019(19), again bred successfully in North Wales, both rearing three chicks. Meanwhile two other younger females from the 2021 cohort, 372 and 379, were also seen in Wales, raising hopes that they may return to join the expanding Welsh population in 2024. These sex-based differences in natal dispersal, with males returning to breed close to their natal site, and females often joining other populations, is typical of Ospreys and shows how the Poole Harbour translocation can play a key role in linking different populations of Ospreys.

Thank you

Sincere thanks to everyone who has supported our work in 2023, through donations, by submitting sightings and photos of White-tailed Eagles or Ospreys, or simply through words of support. We wish you all a very happy Christmas and all the very best for the New Year.

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The eagle chick, G625, aged approximately 10 days.

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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The post Happy Christmas appeared first on Roy Dennis Wildlife Foundation.
 
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