Osprey Project20/06/2019

Poole Harbour Osprey Project – 2019 Yesterday, Today, Tomorrow

Wow, what a 2019 it’s been so far for Osprey in Poole Harbour, and it’s not even autumn yet; traditionally the busiest time for Osprey passing through on their way south.

We’re now also entering the third year of our Poole Harbour translocation project, so we thought as a prequel to this year’s project we’d do a full overview of what’s been so far, what’s what now, and what’s to happen later in the season.

For 2019 it all began on March 21st when the harbour’s first Osprey of the season arrived into the harbour. Over the following few days it was seen again briefly between Middlebere and the Wareham Channel before disappearing on March 24th. A few days later another Osprey was seen staging in the harbour for only a matter in minutes, arriving in from high south before settling down on Arne for a few minutes and then taking off high north again…just amazing to watch.

This winter we also deployed several new SMS motion sensitive cameras on some of the new nesting platforms that were erected around the harbour, and as each day passed in late March our excitement grew in the hope that an Osprey would land on one soon. As time went by Starlings, Jackdaws, Blackbird and even a Wheatear all triggered our camera, but then on April 1st we received a photo that would put a huge smile across our faces. It was the safe return of CJ7, the now 4-year old female originally from Rutland that semi-adopted our released chicks back in 2017 as she was passing through on migration. CJ7 also spent the whole of the late Spring and all summer in Poole Harbour during 2018, before again, adopting our released chicks last August. There’s no doubt that the driving force behind her now regular returns to Poole Harbour are the encounters she had with our released Osprey chicks each year, making her think this is a productive site and there could be other suitable males in the area. Her safe return this spring was a good sign, because it was also the year we could possibly see one or two of our own 2017 birds arrive back for the first time.

CJ7 Returning to Poole Harbour on April 1st

As April progressed CJ7 spent most days on several of the nesting platforms dotted around the harbour, regularly triggering our camera traps, which allowed us to see what she was up to on the nests. Then, in mid-April, we couldn’t believe what we were seeing. CJ7 spent each morning (6am-9am) bringing huge clumps of moss and large sticks to the Middlebere nest, indicating that she had a real drive to breed this summer. This was a hugely encouraging sign, but as it’s usually the males that establish the territories and there are currently no males that call Poole Harbour home then it was unlikely she was going to get lucky this spring. Day after day she would nest build and then spend time looking patiently out to sea, hoping, waiting for a male to arrive on her doorstep, which sadly….he never did. Despite the lack of males, CJ7 still had plenty of company during late April and early May with arrivals of several other females on our nest platforms including blue-ringed PA1, originally ringed near Loch Lomond. Also blue-ring AX8 originally from near Inverness, and an absolute beast of a bird that didn’t have a ring on but we nicknamed her ‘Beaky’ because of her huge bill, that spent a week on the Middlebere nest devouring huge Mullet and Bass twice a day, every day! Separate to Ospreys we saw on our nest platforms, there were also plenty of others that were logged on their migrations north with other birds seen in Lytchett Bay, Wareham Forest, Holton Lee and around the Wareham Channel. With so many sightings during March, April and May it would be safe to say this was one of the best ‘Osprey Springs’ we’ve ever experienced in Poole Harbour.

‘Beaky’ stayed on the Middlebere nest for a week in May

As May rolled into June, and CJ7’s breeding urge depleted, she rarely visited nesting platforms and was only ever seen occasionally flying around the Arne peninsular. All other breeding birds across the UK were now back on breeding grounds so Osprey activity (as expected) dropped off completely. June lazily lumbered on, but we were still on high alert for any reports of ‘new’ Osprey being encountered around the harbour, because we were now in prime time for a two-year old to arrive. Then, on June 12th at 11am, just as we’d finished presenting a talk to our volunteer team about our work as a charity, I received an update from one of our motion sensitive cameras which showed TWO Osprey on one of our nest platforms. A quick dash to the location and a scan of the sky found an Osprey circling high over the Wareham Channel, which we then tried to track down for the whole day. Several times we were close to being able to read the ring number but agonisingly we were just too far away each time. As time passed, we thought we’d never get the number, however a bit of luck and an ease in the rain allowed us to finally get a good look at the leg which allowed us to see the letters ‘LS…?”. Regardless of the number which we couldn’t quite see, the fact we could see LS was all that mattered, as this was one of our boys from the 2017 release. AMAZING!

Since his arrival on June 12th, LS7 has really made himself at home, re-familiarising himself with the local area, and visiting several of our nest platforms. What’s even more interesting is that he seems to have taken a shine to CJ7 who hasn’t left his side since he arrived. The new happy couple have been seen together at numerous sites around the harbour including several of the nest platforms for long periods of time. Although it’s too late for breeding this year, and the fact he’s probably ‘not quite ready’, this interaction really bodes well for next year, just so long as they both have safe migrations this autumn and next spring.

Summer and Autumn 2019

We’re now currently entering the third year of five on our translocation project and at the time of writing we’re busy prepping for the next batch of Osprey chicks to arrive from Scotland in mid-July. With last year’s hardship where some of our chicks died due to a nutrient deficiency brought on by the heat wave, we’ve implemented a whole range of changes to mitigate against the same from happening again, ranging from finding a new release site, employing a larger team, varying the food supply, re-designing the pens, re-analysing our food prep and cleaning procedures. The safe arrival of LS7 and CJ7 has provided the boost the project needed, and the mindset for this summer’s translocation is a really positive one. With this in mind, as a team we need to remain focused on the job in hand so have decided that the translocation work this summer will be carried out by a small dedicated team that will focus on nothing else other than care of the young birds. This means that updates during the raise and release phase will be limited so the team can just focus purely on caring for the birds. Once all of the birds are released and we’re happy each is flying well and safely we’ll then begin providing more updates. With the way things are going, there will be so much going on with other Osprey activity around the harbour that you’ll no doubt be able to quench your Osprey thirst this summer and autumn in the meantime.

Each year we always thank everyone for their support and each year you show us kindness and encouragement in return. The developments this summer with LS7’s return really now make it possible for breeding to take place somewhere in Southern Britain next spring which is the whole objective of the project. When we started three years ago that dream always seemed so far away, but now feels like it could just be around the corner.

From all of us here at BoPH we look forward to an exciting summer and autumn ahead and will update you with progress at suitable times during the course of the project this year.

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