Category Archives: Birds of prey of Britain

Oldest osprey returns to Scotland

The oldest osprey of the UK – and probably the world – has returned to her eyrie in the Scottish highlands.   When she left for West Africa at the end of last summer, no one expected her to return.  At 26 she’s lived 3 times longer than most female ospreys. In her life she’s laid 58 eggs and hatched 48 chicks, a massive individual contribution to the survival of ospreys in Scotland, where there are still only about 200 breeding pairs.  The questions now are if her mate will return and if she is still fertile. Events can be followed on the webcam of the Loch of the Lowes reserve.

The world’s oldest osprey

The female osprey has lived to three times the average lifespan of her breed and produced 46 chicks

The world’s oldest known osprey has just returned for the 20th time to Scotland after completing the 3,000-mile flight from Africa to her summer breeding territory at Loch of the Lowes in Perthshire. Britainnature wishes her a very 25th happy birthday. The bird has already lived three time longer than the average osprey. Her secret? Lots of fresh fish and foreign travel. More in The Independent (Photo by Kevin Hacker)

Mull’s sea eagles thriving

White-tailed eagles on the Isle of Mull are thriving with 20 pairs now nesting on the Scottish island. The Mull Eagle Watch Partnership said 10 chicks had fledged from seven nests during last year’s breeding season. It also said 6,000 people a year were visiting the island to see the birds also known as sea eagles, which had boosted the local economy by £2m. The birds of prey originally colonised Mull in 1983 and produced the first successful fledglings in 1985 after being reintroduced to the nearby Isle of Rum 10 years earlier, BBC

Across Scotland a total of 46 pairs of white tailed eagles managed to successfully rear 36 chicks.

Peregrine falcon filmed hunting at night

It has long been known that peregrines hunt at night, but film evidence has been lacking. Now, webcameras installed at the Derby Cathedral Peregrine Project have captured them doing it in the dark.

Aided by city lights, at 10.45pm on a freezing winters night, an adult peregrine brings a freshly caught Woodcock back to its feeding place on the tower of Derby Cathedral. We see the bird struggling in the firm grip of the peregrine’s talons. But one swift bite to the neck of its prey swiftly dispatches it. But then the peregrine takes off into the night again, settling first on a projecting lead gutter, then flying off to take yet another prey item. Peregrines are known to cache food items for later consumption, and cold weather may well prompt them to stock up even more. At this time of year we see species like woodcock, golden plover, snipe, redwing and lapwing as favourite prey items, and evidence of prey items help us monitor what species are moving through our towns.

Peregrine Falcons first nested on Derby Cathedral in 2006. Four chicks fledged in mid-June 2009, but one died in a flying accident and another injured its wing and must remain in care. More here from the project.

Eagle owls and boars, not wanted in the UK

Controversially, DEFRA have blacklisted eagle owls and boars as non-native species, leaving them unprotected and classed as unwelcome invaders.  Arguments have been put forward for both species to be accepted: boars were part of the Britain’s fauna until their extinction in the middle ages, and there are suggestions that Eagle owls also lived here in the past, although this involves going much further back in time, when Britain was still part of the European land mass.

Hen harriers on the brink

Hen harriers (photo BBC here) have had a disastrous breeding season, and are now on the point of becoming extinct in England, where only a dozen pairs survive, mainly in the northern uplands. Only six nests were successful in total for the whole of England from 12 attempts, with just 15 chicks being raised. The poor breeding season has been blamed on the cold weather last winter which killed off many of their small animal prey. Hen harriers were always going to be vulnerable to a year like this. Their numbers had been reduced to extrememly low figures in recent decades in part due to severe persecution by the gamekeepers of grouse moors, though this year there is little direct evidence of this affecting their failure to breed. Some 800 hen harriers survive in Scotland. Continue reading Hen harriers on the brink

Parahawking in Wales

Paragliders will use birds of prey to guide them to the best thermals.  They often report that the birds are not afraid of them and will even approach out of curiosity.  Parahawking takes this one step further.  You’re taken on a tandem paraglider and specially trained birds of prey will accompany you on your flight, rewarded by offerings of food.  This unforgettable experience is available in Wales, organised by the Axis paragliding school

Birds sharing nest boxes

The RSPB have put out a reminder that now is a good moment to clean out nest boxes and put up new ones, since birds begin searching for likely sites well in advance of spring. And a sure sign that more nest boxes are needed in the area is when different species are found sharing the same space. This occurs particularly with barn owl boxes, since holes in trees or old buildings suitable for larger birds are becoming harder to find. The photograph shows barn owl and kestrel chicks being raised together. Great and blue tits are also known to share. RSPB

Great year for white-tailed eagles

With more than 200 individual sea or white-tailed eagles in Scotland, experts believe there are now more white-tailed eagles in Scotland than at any time in the past 150 years. The country’s breeding population of sea eagles has attained two key records this year – with the highest number of breeding pairs and more young successfully fledged that at any time in the reintroduction programme’s history.

Figures from the 2009 survey show there are now 46 territorial breeding pairs, an increase of two pairs since 2008 – with one new pair setting up a territory on Lewis and one in Lochaber. It has also been the most successful year in terms of chicks produced, with 24 successful broods fledging a total of 36 chicks.


Sea eagles in Suffolk

Sea eagles in Britain are associated with the wild sea cliffs of Scotland, where they are being successfully re-introduced. What about the lowland wetlands of Suffolk? The vast wingspan of this magnificent bird of prey was also part of this landscape until the raptors were hunted to extinction in the 19th century. Conservationists are now laying plans to re-introduce the Sea eagle to East Anglia, but with great caution. British Nature and the RSPB are carefully gauging public opinion. The presence of Sea eagles, or White-tailed eagles as they are also known, would be a boost for tourism, but farming and shooting interests will need a lot of persuasion.  RSPB Photograph by Niall Benvie

Osprey migration watch

In preparation for this year’s migration, two of the osprey chicks from the Loch Garten nest in the Scottish Highlands are now equipped with satellite tags.  The data will enable their movements to be tracked when they begin their perilous journey south to Africa in August.

For more information about osprey tracking, visit the RSPB
Meanwhile, observe their last weeks in Scotland on the RSPB webcam

Red kites steal knickers

In London during Shakespeare’s time, Red Kites snatched food from people’s hands and plucked “lesser linen” left out to dry on hedges.  This was the hey day of the scavenging bird of prey, protected by Royal Decree for helping to clean the city’s stinking streets.  Since then the fortunes of the Red Kite have waned to the brink of extinction but they’re on the rise again, thanks to a hugely successful conservation effort.  And it’s been observed that their underwear-stealing habit is unchanged.  Not only knickers, but crisp packets, gloves and handkerchiefs have been found decorating their nests.  Full story: RSPB