AN eagle that was the star of the BBC’s Springwatch programme after she fell out of her nest as a chick has wowed the region’s birdwatchers after appearing in the skies over County Durham.

Known as Sona, the white-tailed eagle had to be returned to her nest by forestry workers in Dumfries and Galloway after she was unceremoniously dumped out of it by an intruding bird on the island of Mull.

She fell 30ft to the ground in the incident in June last year and would not have survived without their intervention.

Earlier this year she was spotted in South West Scotland, an area where white-tailed eagles have not bred for 150 years.

However, recently she has flown south, appearing near Stanhope in Weardale at the end of March.

Birder, Martyn Sidwell said Sona, which means lucky in Gaelic, was spotted flying over Eastgate.

“In truth, we had gone to the area more in hope than expectation. The weather was not good, with heavy rain in the morning and very strong winds,” he said.

“The bird had been seen twice prior to Saturday, the two sightings being about five miles apart, so we focussed our efforts in the area in between.”

Mr Sidwell said there were maybe 20 birders out looking, remaining in contact with each other via mobile phone.

“Based on a call saying the bird had just flown over the B6278 near Bollihope, we all headed to that area. As we were driving the bird appeared momentarily above the ridge before dropping to the ground,” he said.

“After a few minutes the bird took to the air carrying what appeared to be a rabbit. White-tailed eagles are massive and fantastic birds to see at any time, but to see one in your local county was special and in truth we were all pretty excited.”

Fellow enthusiast Rob Stonehouse also managed to get some pictures of the bird.

“I heard about the first sighting on March 27 and spent the rest of the day searching the moors above Stanhope without luck,” he said. “Another four-and-a-half hours sitting in the car on the moor the next morning was broken by a call to say the eagle had been re-sighted near Bollihope.

“A dash onto the moor was luckily perfectly-timed as the eagle drifted just overhead. The high wind made getting a photograph difficult, but it was just amazing seeing such a stunning bird, so close and in County Durham.”

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