Monday 20 September 2021

Released White-tailed Eagle on Patch!

Those that have used auto focus for a distant circling raptor on the P900 (and likely other camera-types) will know exactly what I am talking about below, but if you don't...

Through the camera LCD screen, as you scan through the emptiness of a blue or grey sky looking for a bird you have already spied, you'll see a fuzzy black dot.  Sometimes the autofocus will notice this blur too, and focus on it like a peach - you can't help by self-congratulate yourself on your pin sharp camera skills! On other occasions however it doesn't, although give the camera it's due it will always try, it can take a while thinking about it, but then decides to leave it as a dark fuzzy dot.  Seems to be pot luck to me, but there must be some rhyme or reason to it.

So, picture the scene.  I am sat at my desk at 11:22 yesterday and the gulls on the lower estuary gradually lifted up, but no calling.  Although it was gradual and silent, it was all of them so it was enough to get my attention.  And I spotted a Buzzard-type raptor flying north up the valley, and after a quick look with the bins (never far away!) I thought it looked a little long-tailed, so thoughts of Honey Buzzard entered my mind.  Knowing it was about to disappear from my current view, and that it was flying directly north and away from me, I knew if I had any chance of ID'ing it I had to change viewing location and ditch my binoculars to pick up my trusty P900.

I ran into the next office, opened a window and fired off a successful shot.  By the time the camera went click however I had lost the Buzzard from the screen, so looked with my eyes to relocate it.  I did, refound it in the camera screen and bingo another shot and this one a little more side on as it had turned to the west.  Yet again though it disappeared off screen, so I moved the camera a little, found what I thought was the same fuzzy dot on the screen and the camera did its laboured attempting to focus-thing.  It succeeded, but it wasn't the same bird. This is what the blur on my camera screen focussed into...

I have never pressed a shutter button quicker! A White-tailed Eagle and in focus

I took another ten or so photos of it, then switched to binoculars to watch this impressive beast gain height over Axmouth, dragging seemingly every local Common Buzzard and corvid up with it!  I put the news out but with that sadly lost it from view.

So distinctive

An actual Eagle on patch!  What a result.

There is a little back story too, as Gavin Haig saw one, which turned out to be the same bird, over his Bridport garden late afternoon yesterday.  Then I was alerted to one flying west over the sea off West Bay about an hour and a half before my sighting, although considering our previous luck with these reintroduced monsters, I wasn't expecting to actually see it! We know that four have previously flown over our patch, but no one has actually seen any of them - the satellite tracking data has given them away after the event!

I guessed it was probably a first-year bird due to how dark it looked, and this was confirmed when Tim Mackrill, of the Isle of Wight reintroduction scheme, kindly got in touch on Twitter with a map showing G547's movements on 18th and 19th Sept. Gav's and mine sightings are highlighted, plus I've added directional arrows.  It was released on Isle of Wight with 11 other young on 2nd September 2021.

Basically clockwise

If it weren't for G547's random little foray south over Axmouth, I probably wouldn't have seen it.  Neither would I if that Buzzard sp. hadn't flew up the Estuary grabbing my attention. 

And by the way, it was just a Common Buzzard.


  1. I'm struggling to think of a jammier way to find a White-tailed Eagle! Great story! 😄