Osprey Project17/07/2020

Poole Harbour Osprey Project 2020 Postponed

After an optimistic run-up to this season and a lot of hard work to ensure we can operate safely within Coronavirus restrictions, we’re sorry to have to say that the Osprey Translocation Project has had to be postponed for this year, due to a lack of osprey chicks available for translocation from Scotland.

Due to the pandemic and the resulting lockdown, our partners at the Roy Dennis Wildlife Foundation have been unable to monitor any of the osprey nests in Scotland this spring. This has meant that until recently we have had no estimates of either the breeding success rate or the hatching dates at the majority of nests (with the exception of those featuring live stream cameras). Knowing the age of chicks at a range of nests is a vital part of the translocation process, as it determines both the timing of collection and selection process. We will only take chicks over a certain age who we are certain have met all of their major developmental milestones, and who will therefore be more robust to the translocation process and will only be held in the release pens for a minimal period of time.

We foresaw this as a potential complication to the project, but fortunately had additional methods available which we already employ (and could rely on this year) to infer the age of chicks: namely, taking measurements of individual weight and wing length, and once again checking that they lie above certain thresholds. With these methods in place as safeguards, we felt confident that we would be able to continue safely with collections, despite the complications arising from Covid-19.

So, with the easing of lockdown travel restrictions in Scotland from 3rd July, Roy Dennis set out to begin monitoring the nests in his local population to determine the number and ages of available chicks. It quickly became clear, however, that this has been one of the worst seasons for ospreys in Roy’s part of Scotland for nearly 50 years. A large proportion of nests, including some of which have been established since the 1960’s, appear to have either lost breeding individuals or failed to successfully raise any chicks. Those that have have done so with very small brood sizes and with chicks that are deemed far too young and weak to be viable for translocation. And, at nests that have miraculously beaten the odds and managed to raise healthy chicks, they are now on the verge of fledging, and therefore too old to translocate.

Roy believes that the reasons for this saddening outcome are twofold. Firstly, the migration conditions this spring were exceptionally poor. Throughout March and April strong easterly winds persisted throughout North-Africa and Western Europe, providing a relentless barrier to migratory progress, and in many cases pushing birds out over the Atlantic ocean where they sadly may not have survived. Indeed, we believe this may have been the fate of our resident Poole Harbour male LS7. He, amongst many others, did not return as anticipated this spring, and most of those who did were heavily delayed, causing a highly staggered and late start to the breeding season. Secondly, the weather in Scotland this spring seems to have also played its part in reducing breeding success this year. It has been consistently wet throughout much of the of the season, including at crucial stages of chick development. This has potentially led to the loss of many chicks, particularly younger individuals at nests which laid later due to delays in migration or pairing between new mates. We are all keeping everything crossed that this does not have a lasting impact, and that the population will make a speedy recovery in the coming years.

Of all the things that we thought might prevent the translocation project from going ahead this year, a lack of available chicks was not one of them! But that’s the reality of working with wild species, as any conservationist will tell you. We are obviously disappointed to not be proceeding with the project this year, but place ultimate priority upon the success of the overall population and the welfare of individual birds. We hope to be able to proceed with the final two years of the project in 2021 & 2022, translocating two more cohorts of outstanding birds (up to 27 in total), and giving us the very best chance of meeting our goal of establishing a healthy breeding population here on the South Coast.


Poole Harbour Osprey Cruises Update

Despite this set back, we’re certainly not going to let it spoil our summer. August is the key month for Osprey migration in Poole Harbour, and we’re keen to still enjoy this experience with members of the public by offering a reduced timetable of Osprey Cruises in mid-August. Due to the much reduced boat capacity on each trip we’re sadly only able to offer 7 of the 13 advertised trips with sailings now taking place on August 17th, 18th, 19th, 20th, 21st, 22nd and 23rd. Boat spaces have been reduced greatly to comply with social distancing guidelines meaning spaces are limited. We’re currently offering spaces to customers who’s trips have been cancelled, but will open up bookings again on our website on Monday afternoon (July 20th). To book from Monday please visit –


If you’re currently booked on to one of our Osprey cruises that was scheduled for August 25th, 26th, 27th, 28th, 29th and 30th, our team will be in touch with you about swapping dates or refunds. If you have any questions regarding your trip please don’t hesitate to contact us on bookings@birdsofpooleharbour.co.uk

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