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Yellow HA's GSM transmitter showed he was flying at an altitude of 2672 metres - that's more than 900 metres over the mountains below him

The WOW Race Is On!

Tonight’s World Osprey Week update comes from Morocco, where our two Scottish Ospreys are powering north through the Atlas Mountains.

The previous batch of data kindly sent to us by Roy Dennis showed that by the evening of 25th March, Yellow HA had reached the foothills of the Atlas Mountains. The vast mountains present an obvious barrier to migrating birds, but Yellow HA had little difficulty negotiating them. His GSM satellite transmitter records location, flight speed and altitude once every minute, and this data provides an incredible insight into his flight through the mountains. The data shows that, rather than flying through passes in the mountains, Yellow HA flew directly over the top of them. At 12:09 yesterday, he was flying north at an altitude of 2672 metres – more than 900 metres higher than the mountains below.

Yellow HA's GSM transmitter showed that soon after midday on 25/3 he was flying at an altitude of 2672 metres - more than 900 metres over the mountains below him.

Yellow HA’s GSM transmitter showed that soon after midday on 25/3 he was flying at an altitude of 2672 metres – more than 900 metres over the mountains below him.

Yellow HA was clear of the mountains soon afterwards, and he continued onwards towards Marrakesh having flown 125 kilometres since leaving his roost site that morning.

Blue XD, meanwhile, had roosted that morning some 200km south of his compatriot in the northern reaches of the Sahara. He left his roost site on the desert floor soon after 9am and then maintained a remarkably consistent north-easterly heading. By 3pm he was passing 30km to the east of Yellow HA’s roost in the foothills of the Atlas Mountains. The race is well and truly on!

Yellow HA and Blue XD are just over 200km apart as they fly north through Morocco.

Yellow HA and Blue XD are just over 200km apart as they fly north through Morocco.

To check out the latest flight paths and locations of Yellow HA and Blue XD, check out our interactive WOW map.

We are very grateful to Roy Dennis for allowing us to include the two Scottish birds in WOW. To read more about Roy’s work in Scotland, check out his website by clicking here.

To register your school for World Osprey Week click here. Registering gives you access to a range of teaching resources for both primary and secondary schools – helping to bring the world of Ospreys alive for your students!

Stormy Skies

Stormy Skies

John spotted her first, the Manton Bay female, gliding along the top of the water towards her nest, a 2lb trout clutched in her talons. A few minutes later, after apparently being mobbed by gulls, she appeared on the camera where she tucked in – the fish still kicking. It’s been getting darker and darker outside all afternoon, with showers of sleet and hail passing over the Reservoir regularly; the high, inky clouds drifted over Burley-on-the-Hill House on the other side of the water, casting gloomy, ominous shadows across the reserve. Whilst we watched, a distant rumble of thunder sent the birds scattering from the feeders, and our female Kestrel swooped back toward her nest box, where she settled down comfortably, surveying the dreary scene.

Suddenly, just as the fish had stopped kicking and flapping, the female’s behaviour changed: her body stiffened and she kept glancing up nervously, defensively, and began to spreadeagle herself across her prize. She flapped her wings once or twice, and then took to the skies. We suspected crows or gulls had been the source of her discomfort, but the truth was far more exciting. We watched the female climb higher and higher above Lax Hill, when suddenly, Sarah spotted another Osprey on the nest. A moment of confusion, and then we saw the ring: 5N has briefly returned to Manton Bay, whether to recapture her former stomping ground or just to grab an easy meal we’re not sure, but after a few moments she joined the female in the sky.

Against the blackening clouds, with the thunder continuing to rumble and the hail falling thick and fast, the female climbed higher and higher, with her half-fish still clutched in her talons. 5N was obviously worrying her, as she joined her briefly above Lax Hill, before taking shelter in the trees. But the Manton Bay female was not for giving up: she began to display dramatically, trying to distract 5N away from the nest and draw her attention. She put on a beautiful performance, especially contrasted with the stormy skies, the fish hanging limp, wings undulating elegantly.

Eventually, 5N seemed to bore of the charade, and disappeared from view, swooping low over the woods and out of sight. No doubt she’ll be back sooner or later. The Manton Bay female has since returned to the nest and her meal, satisfied with her efforts and in receipt of her reward.

Bell's amazing night-time flight over the Caribbean Sea

Another amazing WOW flight!

Today’s World Osprey Week Osprey update comes from America where Belle – like Donovan yesterday – has made an amazing night-time flight across the sea.

The previous update, sent by Rob Bierregaard had shown that on 22nd March Belle was on the south side of the Andes in north-west Venezuela. We now know that she passed through the vast mountains that afternoon and continued north towards the Gulf Of Venezuela. By 4pm she was just 10 miles (16km) from the coast. She then turned and headed due west, flying for another two before settling to roost on the shores of Lake Maracaibo.

Belle began migrating again soon after 8am next morning.  She flew in a wide arc around the Gulf of Venezuela and by 4pm had crossed into the northern-most part of Colombia. She had already flown 139 miles (224km) but was showing no signs of letting-up. She headed powerfully out to sea.

By 6am next morning she had already flown 284 miles (458km) from the Colombian coast and was more than half way to Haiti, flying north just 7 metres away the waves. Finally, just after 3pm, she made landfall after a remarkable non-stop flight of 474 miles (762km) across the Caribbean Sea.  Not content with that, she continued eastwards through Haiti, flying until after midnight before finally settling to rest in a forested river valley 1 mile inland from the coast at Charter. She had flown an incredible 700 miles (11290km) in 36 hours since leaving the shores of Lake Maracaibo at 8am on 23rd.

Bell's amazing night-time flight over the Caribbean Sea

Bell’s amazing night-time flight over the Caribbean Sea

Next day she resumed her migration at 11am and three hours later was another 26 miles (42km) further east. It will be fascinating to see where she is when the next batch of data comes through.

Belle is now just 260 miles (420km) south of the Turks and Caicos Islands, where students at Providenciales Primary School are learning about Ospreys as part of World Osprey Week. Here’s a photo of them earlier in the week. I wonder how close Belle will get to them as she heads north? Keep your binoculars close at hand guys!

Children from Provo Primary School in the Turks and Caicos Islands are learning about Ospreys this week.

Children from Provo Primary School in the Turks and Caicos Islands are learning about Ospreys this week.

The final of our WOW American Ospreys is North Fork Bob, who has spent the winter beside the Rio Ventuari in Venezuela. The latest satellite data shows that he too has now set off on his migration back to Long Island, New York. Bob left his wintering site just before 10am and by 5pm next day he had flown over 250 miles (405km) north and was roosting near the Rio Apure in northern Venezuela.

Check back for another update on the WOW Ospreys tomorrow. Don’t forget that you can check out the latest locations of all eight WOW Ospreys on our interactive map.

We’d love to hear how your school has got involved in World Osprey Week. Why not send us a photo, video, or even an example of some of your students’ work? You can either update it onto your school’s page, or email it by clicking here. We’ll then post it on the website!

Manton Bay female struggling to move a big stick

Getting ready for the season

It’s been quite a cloudy, rainy day today, with a cold north-easterly blowing across the bay. Chilly, yes, but still a beautiful place to be. The Manton Bay female has been busy doing a bit of nest building and reconstruction, getting it ready for the season ahead. She had a bit of trouble with a rather large stick, but managed to get it where she wanted it in the end! Here are a few clips and photos of her on the nest today.

Manton Bay female struggling to move a big stick

Manton Bay female struggling to move a big stick

Yellow HA's flight across the Sahara, 21-24 March

WOW! A Happy Return and Amazing Flights

World Osprey Week got off to a great start yesterday with the return of 30(05) to Rutland Water. The latest satellite data shows that she flew direct from northern France during the morning, covering an incredible 285km in just over five hours – an average of more that 50km/hour. And she’s not the only WOW Osprey who has been on the move in the past two days – we also have some amazing flights across the Sahara and a night-time sea crossing to update you on!

The previous batch of data had shown that 30 had roosted on the banks of the River Seine in Normandy on Saturday evening. Next morning she took full advantage by fishing in the river and nearby lakes. If she caught a fish then she didn’t hang around to eat it for too long, because at 11am she had flown 44km north-east and was perched in the middle of a large field in eastern Normandy. The forecast for Sunday was for strong northerly winds and occasional rain, and that probably explains wher unexpected break. She must have resumed her migration soon after because an hour later she was another 33km further north, approaching the English Channel. However, rather than heading towards the coast, she then turned to the north-east and flew another 65km parallel with the coastline. It is likely that the weather then took another turn for the worst because at 3pm she was perched just north of a series of lakes close to the village of Marenla in western Nord-Pas-de-Calais. Either that, or the sight of the lakes was just too appealing a prospect for her to resist! An hour later she was perched between two of the lakes, and that’s where she stayed for the rest of the evening, after a day’s flight of 144km.

30 roosted beside a series of lakes in northern France on Sunday evening.

30 roosted beside a series of lakes in northern France on Sunday evening.

Next morning the weather had changed. The wind had turned to a south-easterly and the sky was clear. Sensing her opportunity to get back to Rutland, 30 set-off before 8am and by 9am she was crossing the English Channel at an altitude of 300 metres. It took her an hour to make the 50km crossing from Boulogne-sur-Mer to Folkestone.

At 10am she was powering north over the Kent countryside, passing to the east of Ashford and on towards the Thames estuary. By 11am she was flying at an altitude of more that 1100 metres, passing over Canvey Island and into Essex. She flew past Stansted airport at midday and then over Grafham Water at around 12:30. She was almost home.

At 1:15pm her nest finally came into view. She folded her wings and dropped down onto the nest that she had left on 29th August last year. John Wright was waiting nearby to capture the wonderful moment when she arrived home.

IMG_8005---30(05)-arriving---24-3-14

30 arriving at her nest at 1:15pm on 24th March - just under 6 months after she had left on her autumn migration.

30 arriving at her nest at 1:15pm on 24th March – just under 6 months after she had left on her autumn migration. The aerial on her satellite transmitter is clearly visible.

30's last two days of migration back to Rutland Water

30’s last two days of migration back to Rutland Water

Much further south, two other WOW Ospreys have also been making good progress north across the Sahara Desert. Yellow HA and Blue XD are both heading for nests in north-east Scotland and, when Roy Dennis received the latest batch of data from their satellite transmitters, they were just over 200km apart in Morocco. The race is on to see who will be home first. Roy takes up the story…

The previous batch of data had shown that Yellow HA was heading north across the Sahara on 21st March. We now know that he roosted that night north of the Fderîck mine in Mauritania. He continued to make steady progress over the next two days, flying over 600km north-east from Mauritania into Western Sahara and then into Morocco. By 5pm yesterday evening he had flown another 290 km and was heading purposefully north-north-east at an altitude of 3869 metres (the start of the Atlas mountains below him were 1700 metres).

Yellow HA's flight across the Sahara, 21-24 March

Yellow HA’s flight across the Sahara, 21-24 March

Like Yellow HA, Blue XD also made a westerly track across Senegal and Mauritania, passing east of the Mauritanian capital Nouakchott on 19th Match and then east of the the famous coastal wetlands of Banc d’Arguin next day. He continued to make steady progress across the remote desert and by 6:25pm on 22nd March he was north of the Fderîck mine. He maintained a north-north-east track through northern Mauritania and by 7:09pm on 24th March he was roosting in the Moroccan desert after a day’s flight of 382km. He was now just 212 km behind Yellow HA. Will he catch up before the birds reach Europe? Watch this space!

Blue XD's flight across the Sahara 21-24 March

Blue XD’s flight across the Sahara 21-24 March

The two Scottish birds had to contend with one of the most inhospitable parts of the planet as they flew across the Sahara, but they are not the only WOW Ospreys to have made long flights in recent days. Over the other side of the Atlantic Donovan has now reached the United States, but he didn’t do it the easy way, as Iain MacLeod reports…

Donovan made a crazy flight through a whole day and night from Havana to the Florida pan handle covering more than 490 miles (788km). Who knows why he didn’t take the Ospreys normal land route through Florida. He hung out in downtown Havana for a day and a half fishing along a small river. He headed out at 10am on the 22nd and headed due north out into the Straits of Florida. He flew throughout the day and took a marked jog to the west at 6pm. For the next two hours he continued west (!) but had corrected back to a more northerly track by 10pm (in the dark). He obviously kept going throughout the night and by his next point at 10am on the 23rd, he had made landfall near Port St. Joe on Cape San Blas in western Florida. He rested there for a couple hours and fished along a narrow drainage ditch, then resumed his northbound push, ending the day on a small pond 10 miles south of Chattahoochee. The next morning he flew up to the Chattahoochee River, then continued north into Georgia. He ended the day on a small pond just east of Cuthbert in Randolph County in Georgia a little more than a 1,000 miles from home in Tilton.

Donovan's amazing flight across the Gulf of Mexico to Georgia.

Donovan’s amazing flight across the Gulf of Mexico to Georgia.

So there you have it, that is the latest on the amazing WOW Ospreys. Check back for another update tomorrow, and don’t forget you can also follow the birds’ progress on our interactive map.

To find out more about how your school can get involved in World Osprey Week, click here.