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Seen around Poole Harbour during migration times, especially autumn.

Photograph by: 
Ian Ballam

Poole harbour is undoubtedly prime habitat for ospreys with a large expanse of not over deep water with lots of fish, mainly mullet, and plenty of suitable perches and potential nest sites to be had along the southern and western flanks of the harbour and there is no doubt that ospreys like the look of it and yet none have taken the plunge and tried to raise young in the locality. That may be about to change, however, with the top brains in the field working on an introduction system of releasing young fledglings into the harbour in the hope that they will consider it 'home' and return to nest here in a year or so's time. Another site for ospreys in England would certainly be welcome and we can only wait in anticipation and hope that the scheme is successful.

As it stands ospreys can be seen on spring migration in Dorset from about week 12 (early April) through until the end of May during which time they may be seen anywhere along the coast as they arrive and carry on north towards the established nesting grounds in Wales, Rutland Water, northern England and in Scotland. They tend not to dwell here for too long as they have other things on their mind! On the return south they are more inclined to stick around and can be seen from late August and particularly in September but they are usually all gone by week 42 at the end of October. In between these migratory periods then there is now every chance of seeing one in summer around Poole harbour.

The distribution map shows how widely spread sightings are from around the county but, as mentioned above, many of these are casual migratory records, the vast majority of sightings are from Poole Harbour.

If you are setting out with the intention of seeing an osprey as your main objective then head for the RSPB reserve at Arne in September and take the raptor trail to the hide by the nesting platform. Take your lunch and be prepared to wait but there is every chance you will be rewarded with the best osprey action in the south of England!



Osprey: gone fishing

Common Name Osprey
Scientific Name Pandion haliaetus
Species Group Birds Raptors
Status Local
Interest Level
  • 04 - April
  • 05 - May
  • 06 - June
  • 07 - July
  • 08 - August
  • 09 - September
  • 10 - October
Look for

A large bird carrying a fish

Identification Notes
  • Once seen only on migration but now some birds spend the summer around Poole Harbour and they are subject to a programme to encourage them to breed here
  • They have a unique ability to pluck fish from the water which they carry back to a favourite perch to eat
  • During migration times they can be seen almost anywhere along the Dorset coast
Primary Habitat
Preferred Environment
Look for
Additional Identification Notes
Similar Species

The records for this species have been organised into reports, charts, maps and photos. Click a pic below to see the detail:

Notebook Sites List Distribution Map Some Charts Some Photographs Recent Records Guidance Notes

To see related species click here: 

Birds Raptors