Osprey Project20/08/2020

August Osprey Update

We are entering the peak period for Osprey activity in Poole Harbour as we approach late August, and have recently seen a spike in numbers.

During August, we start to see Ospreys come through Poole Harbour as they prepare to leave the UK for their wintering grounds, with some using the area as a long stop-over location before continuing with their migration.  In the past week, there have been reports from other sites in the UK of birds leaving their nests, for example Telyn, the breeding female from Dyfi Osprey Project. Earlier this week (18th August), we had at least 6 Ospreys in the harbour, with most seen hunting in the Middlebere and Wareham Channel.

Throughout the season, there are key time periods where we can expect to see more of particular Osprey “demographics” i.e. Ospreys of a certain age or sex. For the majority of the midsummer, activity has been limited to mostly that of CJ7, aside from a few additional visits, most likely from young adults. These young birds will be non-breeding and instead are prospecting and seeking out areas with suitable nesting sites and partners. In August, we see more of these young birds, as well as breeding females later on, who have left their nests to start on migration. Females will usually leave on migration before the juveniles and male, leaving her partner to continue to provision for their chicks. All of the 5 individuals seen in the Middlebere Channel this week were indeed adult females, and as we come into later August and on into Autumn, there will be higher passage of juveniles and males. It will be interesting to see whether we have any long-staying juveniles in Poole Harbour this year, as we did in the autumn of 2019.

One of the females over Middlebere – Alison Copland

The best way to identify and monitor the individuals is through their underwing patterning, which is unique to every bird. Females are more heavily marked, and juveniles are more streaked and have a yellowy tinge to their underwing. All individuals have their own pattern, which means, if we can get a good enough photo, we can have an understanding of how many birds are about.

Stick delivery at Middlebere

On Tuesday, we were fortunate to have both an Osprey Cruise in the Wareham Channel and several watchers of the Middlebere Channel, which meant that we received photos of at least 5 females (thanks Alison!). None of these birds appeared to be ringed, so it’s likely that CJ7 was elsewhere at the channel, potentially one of the birds seen from the cruise or over Lytchett Bay at the time. Interestingly, earlier this week we also received photos of an unringed female bringing in nesting material to the nesting platform in the Middlebere Channel, which suggests an affinity for the area.

One of the females that is currently in the harbour is thought to be a returner known as “Beaky”. As the name goes, she is a individual with a particularly large beak who first visited the harbour in 2019,  and so we have photos of her underwing to compare to the birds this year. Beaky was seen in the harbour again this spring before disappearing for the summer, but it seems that she returned again in the last few weeks, just as she did last year. As she is unringed, we don’t have much information about Beaky, other than her preference for spending time in the Middlebere Channel when she is in the harbour. We can hope that she is a young bird that may settle locally, but only time will tell.

Female believed to be “Beaky” – Simon Kidner

CJ7 continues to be active in the harbour, making occasional visits to other nests but staying near the livestream nest for the most part. Last year, we believe CJ7 left the harbour around the 28th August, so we will keep monitoring her so we can record when she leaves this year. She certainly has had a big impact this year, giving us a brilliant focus during lockdown and providing entertainment for many people across the UK. Will she meet a new male in 2021? The drama continues…

We’ll be continuing our monitoring over the coming months, including during our Osprey Watches at Ham Common on weekends in August, and we are looking forward to seeing how many Ospreys come through the harbour this year.

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