Minsmere: White-tailed eagle spotted over Suffolk at RSPB reserve

The white-tailed eagle spotted over Suffolk

The white-tailed eagle spotted over Suffolk - Credit: citizenside.com

THERE was a rare visitor to Suffolk at the weekend when the UK’s largest bird of prey toured the county.

The white-tailed eagle – which has a wingspan of up to eight feet – was first seen over Burgh Castle before being tracked by birdwatchers as it soared south along the coast – over the RSPB’s Minsmere nature reserve, over Leiston and south to the Orford, Gedgrave, Boyton and Butley areas. Before entering Suffolk airspace the bird had been seen in north Norfolk.

Photographer John Richardson, of Woodbridge, was in Boyton when he saw the bird.

“It was directly above us,” he said. “What a sight – it was very high, but even at that height it looked enormous. They nickname them the ‘flying barn door’, and now I can see why. It was not long before the news had spread and loads of local birders turned up.”

The white-tailed eagle was lost to Britain as a breeding species during the early 20th Century due to illegal persecution. It currently has red conservation status in the UK. The species has been successfully reintroduced in the west of Scotland and a reintroduction scheme is under way in eastern Scotland. However, plans to bring the species back to England proved controversial and were shelved several years ago.

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It was not known if the bird seen on Saturday originated from the Scottish reintroduction programmes or if it had wandered to East Anglia from northern or eastern Europe, as others of its species have done in recent years.

The tracking of the bird illustrated how mobile phones and social networking have changed the face of birding – up-to-the-minute updates of the eagle’s movements allowed many birdwatchers to enjoy the spectacular sight of the eagle in the skies.

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