Staff at a Purbeck nature reserve have waved off their most famous family on a trip to Africa fraught with danger – but hope to welcome them back in 2024 to share the journey with even more visitors.
Careys Secret Garden near Wareham has run Purbeck’s most sensitive tourist attraction through summer 2023, working with Birds of Poole Harbour to take small groups of visitors to view a nesting platform where a rare pair of ospreys raised a family.
Osprey mum CJ17 feeds her three chicks with fish caught in Poole Harbour
500 bird lovers visited the nest
Watched by millions as the BBC featured their story on Springwatch 2023 from RSPB Arne, the birds raised three healthy chicks which have all survived against the odds to make an autumn migration to West Africa along with their parents.
Since the location of the nest was revealed at the beginning of May 2023, more than 500 bird lovers and nature enthusiasts have visited the Purbeck location to see the only nesting pair of ospreys in the south of England.
Tours of small groups of people have been led by expert guides to sensitively view the rare pair throughout their breeding cycle as the birds have laid and hatched three eggs and successfully raised three fledglings.
Because of the need to minimise disruption around the nesting platform, and because of the huge interest in Dorset’s first breeding pair of ospreys in two centuries, tickets sold out almost as soon as they were released.
One of the two female osprey chicks hatched in 2022, which may return to Purbeck to nest in the future
Chick hatched in 2022 may return
But hopes are high that they will return to the nesting platform in Purbeck for their third season in spring 2024 and if that happens the team will be ready and waiting to take more visitors on a viewing journey to increase understanding of the magnificent birds.
The experiment at Careys, a restored Victorian walled garden where the public are encouraged to connect to nature, has been hailed as a huge success.
There is a chance that the story will take a new twist in 2024 with other ospreys coming to Purbeck to nest – possibly even the single surviving osprey chick hatched at Wareham in 2022, named 5H1.
Osprey chicks spend a couple of years in their wintering country 3,000 miles from Dorset, typically Senegal and Gambia, until they reach maturity at around two or three years of age, at which point they will return to the UK for the breeding season.
One of the new chicks learns to cope with the rainy August weather
“Raising their chicks against all odds”
Simon Constantine, founder of Careys Secret Garden, said;
“This season has been nothing short of extraordinary. We are humbled and grateful to have had the privilege of sharing this remarkable journey with our visitors.
“Witnessing the ospreys’ determination in raising their chicks against all odds has been a testament to the power of nature and to be part of such a positive story shows us that it is not all doom and gloom environmentally.
“Despite facing numerous challenges, including bad weather, natural predators and the threat of bird flu, the osprey parents showed remarkable dedication and resilience in raising their brood for a second year.
“We have been monitoring their progress closely with the help of livestream access to the nest featured on Springwatch, and it is with great pleasure that we announce the successful fledging of three healthy osprey chicks who are on migration to West Africa as we speak.”
Adult ospreys 022 and CJ17 are hopefully expected to return to the Wareham nest in 2024
“We remain committed to our mission”
Simon Constantine added:
“We are now eagerly awaiting the 2024 season, with hopes of welcoming back the nesting pair in April.
“We remain committed to our mission of facilitating a deeper connection between people and the natural world and hope to offer talks and events in partnership with Birds of Poole Harbour in the coming months.
“To provide a sanctuary to both people and nature is the core purpose of the gardens and to have such a rare and sensitive example of rewilding in action is a true privilege.
“This gives us hope that there can be a rich and bountiful natural world for future generations, and we are delighted the pair have chosen here to breed and raise their young.”
Osprey 022 was last to leave, thought to be showing other migrating birds that the nest is his property
“Incredibly special to show people the ospreys”
The adult ospreys, named CJ7 and 022, had nested at the site in 2022, during which time three eggs were laid, although only two hatched and one of the chicks – 5H2 – was attacked by a goshawk a month after hatching and died three days later.
The site of the nesting platform at that time kept secret, but as more and more people became aware that it was set up in the grounds of Careys Secret Garden, a decision was made in spring 2023 to go public with the location and allow restricted access to it.
Brittany Maxted from Birds of Poole Harbour said:
“So many people have followed the fortunes of this pair over the last few years via our live web cameras, so it has been incredibly special to finally be able to show them the osprey family in the flesh!
“As more and more people inevitably discovered where the pair were nesting, we were incredibly grateful for their cooperation in keeping the location to themselves.
“It gave the pair space to settle and have a successful first season, and also allowed us to build a plan to provide a secure guided viewing opportunity at the site with the bird’s best interest in mind.”
While the nest is empty it does get occasional visitors – here a raven uses it to hide two Bourbon biscuits
Public reaction has been phenomenal
Brittany Maxted added:
“Like so many of our lost species they belong in this landscape, and what’s more, they are wanted here, as is evident by the number of people who now visit who come specifically to see and learn about the ospreys.
“This eagerness to see the birds, though, must also be carefully balanced against their sensitivity to human disturbance, particularly around their nest site.
“The public reaction has been phenomenal and we’re so grateful to everyone, especially our partners at Careys Secret Garden, for not only welcoming the ospreys, but also helping to protect southern Britain’s only nesting pair and ensure their success!
“The chicks raised here this year will go on to form the vital foundations of the local population and help continue to restore the species to its historical range.”
First sight of the clutch of three eggs was shown on webcam in May 2023
By early June 2023, all three eggs had successfully hatched, as seen on Springwatch
By mid June the chicks are beginning to grow their first feathers and getting through plenty of fish