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White tailed sea eagle spotted in New Forest
White tailed sea eagle
The White tailed sea eagle has been seen around Hordle and Downton near Lymington

A rare bird of prey has been stirring interest among Hampshire's bird-watching enthusiasts.

A white tailed sea eagle, thought to be from Scandinavia, has been spotted around the New Forest since the start of January.

Local birdwatcher Simon Ingram said the bird had been "very mobile", covering a five mile stretch of the south of the forest.

The bird is normally only seen around the north west coast of Scotland.

'Birders' and 'twitchers'

Birders
Hampshire's 'birders' have been scanning the skies for the sea eagle

The New Forest's "birders" have had their binoculars trained to the skies, keen for a glimpse of the bird with a wingspan of around 9 ft (2.7m).

The white tailed sea eagle was hunted to extinction in Britain in the 19th century.

Although re-introduced in Scotland through breeding programmes, it is still included on the Red list of UK birds because of the long-term threat to the population.

It is thought the eagle could stay in the New Forest until March or April, hunting and scavenging for food.

"So unpredictable"

Among the devoted birdwatchers looking out for the eagle is Ashley Howe, a self-confessed "Twitcher" who has spotted 430 separate bird species.

He is willing and able to head anywhere when his pager goes off with news of a potential rare bird sighting.

His most epic journey was to "a rocky outcrop in the Outer Hebrides looking for a black-browed albatross - but I missed it."

Ashley Howe
Ashley Howe has spotted 430 separate bird species

He explained the appeal of birdwatching. "It's the chase, it's so unpredictable - the odds are stacked against you," he said.

BBC South's Inside Out followed the birders over two days as they patiently waited in freezing temperatures to try and spot the white tailed sea eagle.

They were rewarded with a brief view of the eagle in flight.

Follow the bird watch on BBC One's Inside Out on BBC iPlayer.




SEE ALSO
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Four new nature reserves created
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