Birdwatch: white-tailed eagle causes stir in my quiet Somerset village

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There are some birds I would never expect to see in my Somerset village. Magnificent frigatebird. Superb bird-of-paradise. Wandering albatross. And white-tailed eagle.

Except that, for a couple of days this winter, a juvenile white-tailed eagle – Britain’s biggest bird of prey – did turn up here in our quiet country parish.

OK, it wasn’t a truly wild bird. It had drifted over to Somerset from the Isle of Wight, where it had been released last summer as part of an exciting project to reintroduce these mighty raptors into southern England.

Nevertheless, it had flown all the way here on its winter wanderings; and for me, that was good enough. Many of my neighbours noticed the bird too, with the village website buzzing excitedly with the news.

The eagle mostly perched in a tree less than a mile from my home, staying surprisingly inconspicuous, given its 2.5 metre wingspan. From time to time it would drop down to the ground, perhaps feeding on a dead sheep or rabbit. Then, on a bright Sunday morning, it left, heading slowly back south and east, towards its new home.

The whole event, for me, summed up the joyous unpredictability of birding – wherever you live, you never know what to expect.

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