Eagle-Eyed School Children…

Experience Incredible Wildlife Spectacle

A group of children from Longfleet Church of England School in Poole were recently treated to a life changing wildlife spectacle whilst out on a school trip, when their group saw a White-tailed Eagle flying over Brownsea Island, a species that hasn’t been permanent in Southern Britain for nearly three centuries.

The children were taking part in the School Bird Boat Project which is carried out annually by local charity Birds of Poole Harbour and which are funded by Poole-based company LUSH, when the ginormous eagle flew out over the Brownsea Lagoon past the school group. The eagle, known as G461 is a two-year old male and was released onto the Isle of Wight in 2020 as part of a pioneering reintroduction program hosted by the Roy Dennis Wildlife Foundation and Forestry England in a bid to try and restore a population of these huge birds of prey.

White-tailed Eagles, which have adopted the nickname ‘flying barn doors’ because of their broad eight-foot wingspan, haven’t been present as a breeding species in England for almost three hundred years despite previously being wide-spread. The cause of their demise was down to human persecution and they sadly never recovered. However, it’s hoped that with new the reintroduction program underway which began in 2019, there’s now every chance these majestic birds will soon become a regular sight over Dorset sky’s over the coming years as the project progresses and the eagles start to breed. Evidence from the project has highlighted the released eagles are feeding on things like wild rabbits, mullet, squid, waterfowl such as wild ducks and geese and quite a lot of  carrion too.

Sea Eagles don’t reach sexual maturity until four or five years old so it’s unknown whether G461 is currently favouring Poole Harbour because of the abundance of food, or whether he’s potentially seeking out a future breeding territory. Regardless, his presence has certainly got people excited about the future with more sightings of his presence logged over the weekend around the Arne area.

Paul Morton from the Birds of Poole Harbour charity explained:

There’s no words to express how significant that experience was for the children. They may not know it now, but they’ve witnessed history being made and the beginnings of something really special. Only a few years ago, the thought of seeing a White-tailed Eagle over Poole Harbour was just a pipe dream, let alone the chance of experiencing it with a whole boat full of school children. But here we are in 2021 and that pipe dream has now become a reality with everyone from school children, locals and visitors to the area soon able to witness and experience this remarkable recovery.

Longfleet School site manager Robin Heawood added:

The children and us as staff were so lucky to see the UK’s largest bird of prey on our trip. This is something I’m sure they’ll never forget. Sea eagles have not been seen locally for hundreds of years.  We were extremely fortunate to have witnessed it.

Whilst year 6 pupil Nikolai Poate stated:

I think it’s amazing that there’s a sea eagle in Poole Harbour and that we saw it. I never knew there was such a big eagle in the UK.

Tim Mackrill from the Roy Dennis Wildlife Foundation concluded:

We’re really excited to hear that the school group had such a wonderful experience. The primary aim of the project is to re-establish a breeding population of White-tailed Eagles in southern England, but we also think that these amazing birds have the potential to inspire people about nature in a way that few others can. If the sight of the eagle encourages some of the children on the boat to take more of an interest in conservation, then that is fantastic.

For Editors

Photo credits   White-tailed Eagle on ground (Brownsea Lagoon) – Stuart Pentland White-tailed Eagle flying over Middlebere – Kate Plater Contact  Paul Morton – 01202 641003

About Birds of Poole Harbour

We are a charity completely dedicated to boosting the profile of bird conversation, observation and education in and around Poole Harbour. From local schools, passionate residents and intrigued tourists, Birds of Poole Harbour offers a unique learning opportunity to a large audience.

Poole harbour is a designated RAMSAR site and has SPA (Special Protection Area) designation. This means it hosts nationally and internationally important numbers of a whole host of bird species, making it one of the most ecologically important areas in Britain, not to mention being bordered by some of the most pristine examples of Lowland Heathland in the country.  Therefore, the study of birds and the monitoring of their numbers and behaviour is vital to the ongoing conservation efforts that take place. Through our work we love to provide opportunities to enhance peoples understanding of this incredible area, whilst inviting you to experience it with us. From investment in multiple habitat creation and people engagement projects, our popular School Bird Boat Project, a busy and varied public events schedule and of course our flagship Poole Harbour Osprey reintroduction program, we’re driven to provide that connection to birds and nature that we so all need and deserve.

With so many birds to see and so many places to look for them, Birds of Poole Harbour is here to help guide you around some of the well-known and not so well known sites of this large harbour. With regular events, specially commissioned surveys, live webcams and day by day updates, we aim to make Poole Harbour a focus for people from across the country. Whether you’re an avid beginner or experienced naturalist, there’s something for everyone.

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