After nearly being wiped out from illegal killing, the return of the white-tailed eagle to England has made the bird one of the most coveted sights for birdwatchers throughout the country. Yet to catch sight of the majestic eagle is still exceedingly rare.
That’s why it was such a happy surprise when British birdwatcher Paul Ash spotted the rare white-tailed eagle flying overhead one day. His companion at the time, Martyn Rooney, managed to snap a few photos to memorialize the amazing encounter.
The photos, captured on Oct. 15, are reportedly the evidence that the species has visited Cornwall since going extinct in the UK, according to Daily Mail.
“Out for a few hours today on the cornish coast,” Ash later wrote on Facebook. “It was a very uneventful morning until this stunning white tailed sea eagle did a fly past.”
The stunning photos quickly circulated in birdwatching circles, where people expressed awe and appreciation for the uncommon moment he’d captured.
“Really lucky to be in the right place, at the right time!” wrote one commenter.
Indeed, Ash was quite lucky.
The white-tailed eagle is one of the largest birds of prey in the UK, and due to being nearly hunted to extinction, it is now illegal to kill the brown-feathered bird. They went almost completely extinct over a century ago, and the RSPB reports that the present population is descended from reintroduced birds.
Typically, the eagles are only seen near Scotland and the Isle of Wight. But their return to England earlier this year made the latest sighting possible.
After Ash’s photos began to circulate, the Roy Dennis Foundation posted on Twitter, congratulating Ash on his “superb photos.”
The Foundation also reported that the eagle can be seen flying over Cornwall on satellite imagery. They believe this is one of the juveniles released on the Isle of Wight earlier this year.
“The latest satellite data shows this was G463, one of the 2020 juveniles from the Isle of Wight,” the post said. “It subsequently flew west to Land’s End before turning back around and heading east. This is the bird’s first exploratory flight away from the Isle of Wight.”
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