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Poole Harbour Osprey chicks take flight

Eight Osprey chicks have taken their first flights in Poole Harbour after being raised and released at a confidential location within the area. The chicks which were collected from healthy sustainable populations in Scotland and are part of a five-year translocation project have been held in large holding pens over-looking Poole Harbour and have been cared for by a team of volunteers over the last three weeks. The fully-grown chicks will spend the next 4-6 weeks within Poole Harbour, familiarising and imprinting themselves on the local area before migrating down to West Africa.  The project which is being run by local charity ‘Birds of Poole Harbour’, Scottish charity ‘The Roy Dennis Wildlife Foundation’ and local wildlife technology company ‘Wildlife Windows’ was given the go-ahead this spring and its hoped that over the next 4-5 years Ospreys will adopt Poole Harbour as their new home and re-colonise the south coast.

Osprey were once widespread across the whole of western Europe but became extinct in the UK by the mid-1800’s mainly due to human interference and as a result struggled to recover across this region. The five-year project will see Osprey chicks being brought down to Poole Harbour each July until 2021. Male Ospreys normally return to their natal areas to breed, and it is hoped that this year’s translocated birds will return for the first time in 2019.

Osprey, which feed exclusively on fish, pass through Poole Harbour every year on migration, attracted by the abundance Mullet. In late August the harbour can host up to 6 Osprey at any one time as they fatten up before their long migration down to West Africa.

Since the chicks arrival in mid July the volunteer care team have been feeding the birds 3 times a day on chunks of fish. The success of the project wholly relies on the birds having zero contact with humans so plates of fish were deposited through small letterbox style flaps at the back of the pens. Now that the birds have been released fresh fish will be placed on artificial nests close to the release pens until all of the young Ospreys migrate south. The Osprey team has received welcome offers of support from local companies with Poole based fish suppliers ‘Sea Fresh’ kindly donating fresh fish to help feed the chicks and well know Poole restaurant ’Storm’ offering storing and prepping facilities.

Paul Morton from the ‘Birds of Poole Harbour’ charity stated…

“To see our first eight Osprey chicks now flying free is just incredible. We began working on the application for this project almost two years ago now, and it seemed like a lifetime away before we got to this stage. We hope this will engage and encourage people to get out and enjoy watching these incredible birds of prey before they head of south for the winter. The offers of help and fresh fish from Storm and Sea Fresh have been vitally important to the project and will help to ensure that the young Ospreys are in the best possible condition when they depart on migration.”

The volunteer team are now monitoring and tracking the birds movements around the harbour using tiny lightweight radio tracking devices mounted on each of the chicks’ tails. The monitoring of the birds after release is a hugely important time and the team would welcome any sightings of Ospreys over the coming weeks and specifically ones with blue leg rings on their right leg showing the letters LS and then a number. Its expected that throughout August, as the chicks get a bit more adventurous, they’ll begin exploring the whole of Poole Harbour with areas such as Arne, Middlebere and the Wareham Channel being good places to see Osprey activity.

World-renowned Osprey expert Roy Dennis from the Roy Dennis Wildlife Foundation said: “We are delighted to see the young Ospreys now flying around Poole Harbour. The next few weeks are an incredibly important period as the birds grow in confidence on the wing and prepare for their first migration to West Africa. This is another step towards restoring a population of Ospreys on the south coast of England.”

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