A RARE bird of prey has laid its fourth egg 'surprising' researchers pioneering a breeding programme in Poole.

The pair of Ospreys started breeding in Dorset in 2022 as part of the Poole Harbour Osprey Reintroduction Project, which began in 2017 and was led by charity Birds of Poole Harbour and the Roy Dennis Wildlife Foundation.

Female bird CJ7 and male 022 are the only breeding pair of ospreys on England's south coast and the first pair in more than 100 years.

Researchers say female ospreys 'typically' lay three eggs, so they were 'taken by surprise' to find the fourth.

Liv Elwood, charity manager at Birds of Poole Harbour, said: "The offspring reared on this nest will play an incredibly important role in building the foundation of the recovering population of Osprey on the South Coast.

"Before the reintroduction project, Ospreys had been missing from our landscape as a breeding bird for 180 years because of historical persecution.

"The fact that they have laid four eggs this year is even more exciting as we are watching the first steps of recovery on the south coast, and the more young that are successfully raised on this nest adds to the number that could return to Dorset to breed themselves in future years."

This is the third year the pair has bred at Carey's Secret Garden near Wareham; they raised three young successfully last year.

The pair will incubate the eggs for around 37 days, and hatching is expected to occur in the latter part of May.

Bournemouth Echo: Male Osprey 022 with the four eggsMale Osprey 022 with the four eggs (Image: Birds of Poole Harbour)

Last year, people who enjoy livestreaming the webcam online were able to watch the nest from a different perspective as Birds of Poole Harbour and Careys Secret Garden formed a partnership to enable the public to visit the site and view the nest through guided tours.

Earlier this month, they announced these events were returning again for 2024 and are now bookable online.

Simon Constantine, Careys Secret Garden founder, said: "Careys Secret Garden is delighted to see CJ7 and 022 back on the nest this year. It's a real privilege to share our space with them and watch the events of the season unfurl."