So, spring 2020 was a very different spring
for all of us, but a very special one certainly for me and my family.
We were expecting an exciting spring for our Osprey Project,
but we hadn't really anticipated what was going to happen in terms of the
whole country being in a lockdown and not having any direct
connection to nature. We set up the fundraiser last winter to provide a
portal to see what's happening with our Osprey
Project this spring, with the thought of hoping to engage people with nature but
little did we know at the time that it was going to become such a focal point
for so many people at such a stressful and worrying time.
It was stunning and CJ7 really brought a warmth into our house and it brought me
and my family closer together. We watched it every morning we watched her
connection to the harbour and to the nest evolve and grow, we saw her
bringing sticks, we saw her laying her eggs, and it was a magical
moment for all of us to be able to experience this as a nation and as a
community, to witness history being made.
One of the hidden treasures in the area is the work that's being done by Birds
of Poole Harbour to reintroduce Ospreys and get them
breeding in the area again, and the Osprey webcam project has proved
to be a particularly inspirational part of that.
It's given me some real insights into how Ospreys behave, given some genuine
new perspectives on this impressive bird of prey.
The problem with it is it's entirely
addictive. Once you've seen that glorious full colour live footage of an Osprey
flying in maybe with a stick or a fish in its claws and seeing how it
lays the branch into the nest, how it makes itself comfortable, how it eats its
prey, you'll want to watch it again.
Watching the web-camera this spring and seeing CJ7
embarking on the very beginnings of what we hope is going to be a
long and fruitful journey for her, and sharing in the collective
anticipation of that experience with thousands of
other people was quite frankly nothing short of a
sheer privilege. And that's not just because she provided
us with a reason to get up in the morning,
excited for the day ahead and hopeful for what the future might
hold in what, for many, was a very dark time,
but she also provided us with some unique, brand new
scientific insights into the breeding behaviour of her species.
During lockdown, the live Q and A's were such a great way to start my day,
answering questions from people who are seeing Ospreys for the first time on a
live stream, compared to people who've been watching them for years
was really fascinating, because you've got this group of people coming together
who really care about Osprey's returning to the south coast of England.
You know, back in the 1950s when Ospreys were first returning to Scotland,
we saw people come together to protect the nest then, led by George Waterston of
the RSPB. This "Operation Osprey" came together to
protect them as a returning species, and that needs to continue today because
raptor persecution is still a problem.
During lockdown, when, you know,
we couldn't get out to our birding patches to engage with those
birds that we normally love seeing, especially the springtime and they're
all breeding, webcams really came to the fore, because
they allowed people from inside their houses
to engage with pretty spectacular birds in an intimate way.
You know, with those cameras looking into their nests, and they were a real hit on
the Self-Isolating Bird Club broadcast that we
did, weren't they? We showed a lot of them, but I don't think there was any story
that gripped the nation quite so much as CJ7.
There haven't been breeding Ospreys in the south of the UK
for hundreds of years, so it's a project that's been going on for a couple years
now, and we were hoping, hoping, hoping that a
male would turn up we were watching intently, weren't we, day after day.
She was building the nest, she was displaying mating behaviours and
unfortunately, it wasn't to be. A male didn't show up.
But, she connected us to one another, she
connected us to her, and provided so many benefits to our
mental health during lockdown. And also it's not such bad news because
she's displaying all that fantastic behaviour, that when a male does turn up,
potentially next year, or the year after that, then
chances are, there's going to be breeding Ospreys.
It's going to happen. And also, the other thing is, that even when she gave up the
nest and moved away, other birds showed up. We had Nightjar
churring on an Osprey's nest, Tawny Owl turned up as well.
These web-cameras are an absolute, you
know, lifeline in some instances, and provide
enormous insight into behaviours that otherwise we could never
see. They are absolutely fantastic, and next year, I can tell you,
one thing's for sure: the whole nation's eyes are going to be glued on that
camera, on CJ7's nest. It's going to happen, I can feel it.
So, what we all experienced together this spring and summer is the beginnings of
recolonisation of Osprey on the South Coast.
It's been a long process, and it is going to be a long process, these things don't
happen overnight. But it's been amazing to be able to
share that whole experience with you. We've had
just under a million views through our different social media channels and our
website, of people wanting to engage and witness
this historic event and it's been stunning to be able to share that.
We're in a strange period at the moment, where we're losing species, we are losing
habitats, and we are now having to work even
harder than ever before to help reinstate, rejuvenate and
regenerate all these different landscapes,
and also by reintroductions. We're in an amazing place here on the south coast
we've got us doing Osprey reintroduction, we've got our partners on the Isle of
Wight doing the White-tailed Sea Eagles, there are beaver reintroduction plans
for Dorset, you've got the White Storks up at Knepp. It's an exciting
period, we're part of that process, so we hope that you're already
looking forward to next spring, we're sad to see CJ7 and our
friends disappear, but it's going to be an exciting 2021
and we cannot wait.