Tickets to see the first breeding ospreys in southern England for 200 years on the secret nesting platform built for them in Purbeck, have completely sold out within four hours of going online.
The artificial nesting platform became a viral sensation during lockdown in 2020 when a live streaming nest camera was set up at the secret location for viewers to follow attempts to reintroduce ospreys to the south of England.
Osprey CJ7 in flight over the River Frome near Wareham
Nesting platform at Careys Secret Garden
A female osprey known as CJ7 found her way to the platform and started a long process of looking for a mate, eventually pairing up with a male known as 022 in 2021 – and the following year, they became the first ospreys to breed and raise chicks in Dorset for more than 200 years.
With the return of both ospreys in spring 2023, Birds of Poole Harbour have decided to share the location of the nesting platform, which is within the protected grounds of Careys Secret Garden, near Wareham.
Together, they will be running Carey Osprey Tours starting on Saturday 13th May 2023 and then three times daily every Thursday, Friday and Saturday throughout the season.
But with only six places available for each session and massive levels of excitement for the unique opportunity to see ospreys on the nest, all tickets for May were sold within hours of being announced on Thursday 11th May 2023.
It is hoped that more dates will be announced for summer, but demand is expected to remain huge and tickets are not likely to remain available for long.
The two osprey chicks hatched in 2022 are fitted with identification rings
Right to bring people back into the story
Birds of Poole Harbour manager Liv Cooper said:
“We have been hoping to involve the public more ever since we started the osprey project back in 2017 with the aim of reintroducing breeding ospreys back to the south of England for the first time in two centuries.
“Because they were lost due to human persecution it seemed really appropriate to bring people back into the story to involve them in the recovery of these birds in Dorset.
“We had the first successful breeding season last year and we managed to keep the nest location a secret to protect the birds, but now we have put several things in place to allow us to take small numbers of people on site in a controlled manner.
“We are hoping we will be able to encourage people to continue to protect the nest and share the responsibility for these birds’ recovery.”
The osprey couple CJ7 and 022 have arrived back at Wareham for 2023
Guided tour with an osprey expert
As ospreys are a protected species and any interference with their nests is illegal, people will be kept at least 250 metres from the nest to reduce any risk of disturbance.
The Carey osprey experience, at £15 for adults, will include an in-depth guided tour up to a new nest viewing platform, while learning more about the birds with an expert from Birds of Poole Harbour, as well as having access to Careys Secret Garden for the day.
The ospreys are currently incubating three eggs on the nest which are expected to hatch at the end of May 2023. Last season, two of three eggs which were laid went on to hatch and two female chicks were successfully reared.
One of them, named 5H1, left the site at the end of summer and is expected to have migrated to West Africa for the winter. She was ringed and Birds of Poole Harbour will be keeping a lookout for her in 2024 to see if she returns to Purbeck as a mature bird.
Juvenile osprey 5H2 on the nesting platform before the goshawk attack
Osprey chick was attacked by goshawk
The other chick, 5H2, was unfortunately attacked by a goshawk, later dying of her injuries, and Liv Cooper said:
“The goshawk is also a recovering bird of prey species that has been heavily persecuted in the past, so having a goshawk nearby is wonderful, but the fact that it took one of the only osprey chicks on the South Coast is not ideal.
“It was sad, but also fascinating to see that kind of interaction restored; we definitely don’t want to demonise the goshawk. In the future there will be more osprey nests and they will be resilient to that kind of interaction.
“It was lovely to see how fast the tour tickets sold, ospreys have a big following and people become very emotionally attached to them, so we expected the tours to be popular.
“But people have become especially invested in the Purbeck ospreys due to the webcams which have been running since 2020 and which were a huge success during lockdown – there is something very special about seeing these birds of prey in a nest.”
Sightings of an osprey in flight over Purbeck are becoming more frequent
Hunting on the edges of Purbeck
“Seeing the special attachment that people have formed to the pair and their story has been one of the most rewarding elements of the whole project, alongside witnessing this incredible bird of prey soaring over Poole Harbour and hunting on the edges of Purbeck.
“Like so many of our lost species, they belong in this landscape and that they are wanted here, as is evident by the number of people who now visit the area specifically to see and learn about the ospreys.”
The nest will still be protected each day, with a dedicated team monitoring the nest and surrounding area, and additional protection provided by security units at key locations.
Dorset Police’s rural crime team and the National Wildlife crime unit are also involved to ensure there is no disturbance or trespassing risks to the private site.
Careys Secret Garden, where allium are just about to deliver a splash of colour
“This is a positive sign for us all”
Careys Secret Garden spokesperson Emma Shaw said:
“The secret’s out! We are thrilled to be able to offer this fantastic opportunity at Careys Secret Garden and it’s a privilege to be a part of Birds of Poole Harbour’s fantastic work in reestablishing successful breeding for these magnificent birds.
“Our aim at Careys Secret Garden is to provide a sanctuary to both people and nature, and to demonstrate that we can all play a part in restoring our natural world for future generations.
“We are delighted the pair have chosen the site to breed and raise their young, we take that as a positive sign for us all.
“Visits to see the ospreys will include access to the stunning restored walled gardens at Careys Secret Garden, where all are welcome to enjoy and explore the space before and after the tours.”
- More tickets for future dates will be released when available through the Careys Secret Garden website
- Stay up to date with all sightings from the Birds of Poole Harbour