HUNDREDS of excited birdwatchers have been tuning into a live webcam ever since the plucky two-year-old male returned to Poole Harbour from overwintering in Africa.

He made a beeline for a man-made nest inhabited by a more mature female who has been waiting two years for a male to breed with.

Although experts believe the plucky male is not at the age of sexual maturity, the early signs of him successfully breeding with the female

look good.

The pair have been observed by YouTube watchers getting amorous and simulating mating rituals.

If they do breed then it will be the first time in 200 years an osprey has hatched in southern Britain.

The majestic bird of prey is extinct in many parts of western Europe due to human persecution and egg collecting.

There are sustainable populations of them in northern Scotland.

Ornithologists in Poole realised several years ago those birds stop off in the harbour to feed while they migrate south to Africa to over-winter.

So in 2017 they set up some raised platform nests and released 33 chicks taken from nests in Scotland in the hope they would make Poole their UK home.

One regular visitor has been the female osprey known by her identification leg tag as CJ7.

She returned to Poole Harbour in the spring of 2019 and 2020 in the hope of finding a male partner but had no such luck.

CJ7 returned again last month and early on Tuesday morning she was joined by the young male known as O22.

Paul Morton, of the charity Birds of Poole Harbour, said: "The signs do look good. O22's arrival has given the project a big boost and we're all now on tenterhooks to see what happens next.

"CJ7 had already built a nest and is ready to breed so O22 has lucked in.

"It is very unusual for two-year-old ospreys to breed.

"However what we have witnessed since his arrival is that he's pretty keen and certainly isn't shy.

"They have made several attempts to mate, all on live webcam with hundreds of people watching. Some of the attempts were unsuccessful with no contact.

"O22 is immature in other ways as well. Physically he can do it but he is pretty clueless in other ways because it is all new to him.

"For example, when the female calls and calls the male is meant to fly off and catch a fish and bring it to her. The other night he didn't do that and remained in the nest.

"But since his arrival both CJ7 and 022 have continued to build their bond and can be seen regularly on the webcam either eating freshly caught grey mullet straight out of the harbour or prepping the nest."

The month of May is the ideal breeding time for female ospreys.

If the mating process is successful CJ7 will lay between eight to 10 eggs which she will then incubate for 37 days before the chicks arrive.

Ospreys - Pandion haliaetus in Latin - are also known as sea hawks and most of their diet is fish.

They have a wingspan of up to 6ft and are about the same size as a falcon although they look more like a gull when in flight.

Mr Morton said: "The osprey is a very impressive, large bird of prey and they used to be very common across the whole of western Europe until they were wiped out 200 years ago because of persecution and disease.

"A population was re-established in Scotland in the 1950s and now breeding programmes have seen pairs introduced elsewhere in England and Wales, but until now not in southern England.

"We started the programme to re-introduce them to southern England in 2017 and fingers crossed we will have ospreys once again breeding here."