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30 skirted around the western end of the Atlas Mountains

30 races across the Sahara

Our satellite-tagged Osprey, 30(05) continues to make staggering progress on her autumn migration. The latest data shows that at 9pm last night she was roosting in the remote desert of Western Sahara just eight days after leaving Rutland.

The previous data from the 30’s satellite transmitter had shown that on the night of 4th September she had roosted north-east of Rabat in northern Morocco. Next morning she resumed her migration at first light, passing Rabat at 8am local time (7am GMT) and then maintaining a perfect south-westerly course for the next seven hours at altitudes of between 250 metres and 1000 metres. By 3pm she had already flown 320km and at that point she made a distinct turn to the south. Two hours later the vast Atlas Mountains would have been prominent on the horizon and, like her autumn migration in 2013, she turned to the south-west in order to skirt across the western foothills of the mountains; thereby avoiding the high peaks further east.

30 skirted around the western end of the Atlas Mountains

30 skirted around the western end of the Atlas Mountains

An Osprey's eye view of the Atlas. This Google Earth image shows why 30 flew around the mountains, rather than over them

An Osprey’s eye view of the Atlas. This Google Earth image shows why 30 flew around the mountains, rather than over them

She may have missed the high mountains, but nevertheless at 7pm 30 was migrating at an altitude of more than 3000 metres and an hour later – with darkness falling – she was still going: heading due south at 33kph at an altitude of 1820 metres. Finally, at around 8:30pm she settled to roost for the night in a cultivated area just south of the mountains having flown a total of 536 kilometres during the day; her longest day’s flight thus far.

30 flew 536km on 5th September

30 flew 536km on 5th September

Next morning 30 resumed her migration later than the previous day; by 10am she was only 18km south-west of her overnight roost suggesting that she may have found somewhere to fish before resuming her migration. At midday she was just 11km from the coast, but at that point she turned to a more southerly heading, passing to the east of Tiznit and then past Guelmin. As she headed south the terrain would have become increasingly arid with spectacular rock formations and ridges. By 5pm she was passing just a few kilometres to the east of the area where another of our satellite-tagged birds, 09(98) sadly came to grief in 2012. The film below, made by Moroccan wildlife film-maker Lahoucine Faouzi, gives you an idea of just how inhospitable this area is.

At 6pm 30 passed over a spectacular ridge that you can see in Lahoucine’s film. Satellite-tracking studies have shown that many Osprey use this ridge to aid their navigation, and sure enough, 30 made a distinct turn to the south-west as she passed over this ridge; exactly as she had done on her autumn migration last year.

As in 2013 (red line), 30 made a distinct turn to the south-west when she flew over a spectacular ridge in the Sahara

As in 2013 (red line), 30 made a distinct turn to the south-west when she flew over a spectacular ridge in the Sahara

30 continued migrating for another two hours, before settling to roost in an area of sparse vegetation at 8pm having flown 352 kilometres during the course of the day. It is fascinating to see how her route almost exactly mirrored that of her flight on 4th September 2013. Both her morning and evening roosts were within 15km of her previous journey.

30's flight on 6th September was almost exactly the same as her journey on 4th September in 2013

30’s flight on 6th September was almost exactly the same as her journey on 4th September in 2013

Yesterday morning 30 was migrating again at first light. Conditions must have been good for migration because during the course of the day she maintained an almost-perfect south-westerly heading at altitudes ranging from 360 metres to 1210 metres. In just over 10 hours of migrating 30 flew 561 kilomtres; an average speed of more than 50kph. She eventually settled to roost on the desert floor just after 5pm in an extremely remote part of Western Sahara.

30's roost site last night could hardly have been more remote

30’s roost site last night could hardly have been more remote

30 flew 561km across the Sahara on 7th September

30 flew 561km across the Sahara on 7th September

This all means that just eight days after leaving Rutland Water 30 has flown a remarkable 3665km. If she maintains similar speeds, she could arrive at her wintering site on the Senegal coast as early as Wednesday…watch this space! Last year she did the migration in 11 days; and she’s certainly on course to at least match that again this year.

Don’t forget that you can also view 30?s migration on your own version of Google Earth. To find out how, click here.

33 eating his fish

And then there was one

Yesterday, both Ospreys were in the Bay all day, and they were both there this morning at 08:25. However, when volunteer Anna arrived at Waderscrape Hide at 09:00, there were no Ospreys present. Our first thought was, of course, have they gone? Twenty minutes later though, 33(11) flew into the Bay with an enormous trout, and landed on the leaning perch with it. He hasn’t left yet then! There was still no sign of Maya, however.

At 09:40, 33(11) brought the fish to the nest, and sat with it on the edge. We hovered around the record button in case Maya was on her way, but she wasn’t. After a few minutes, 33 continued to eat the fish himself.

33 with his fish

33 with his fish

Fish guts

Fish guts

Fish guts

Yummy

 

At about 10:20, 33’s behaviour indicated that an intruding Osprey was bothering him, and another Osprey was sighted above the nest. It wasn’t Maya, as he would not have reacted like that to her. We think this Osprey was probably 51(11), as we know he is still in the area. The intruder flew off over the hide, and 33 resumed the very important business of eating.

Intruder about

Intruder about

 

So we know she was here earlier this morning, but it is looking likely that Maya has left, and 33 is now alone in Manton Bay. Will he be the last Osprey in Rutland? Probably. He won’t leave while there is still a chance another Osprey could nab his nest (namely 51).

Today has been a beautiful day, dry and bright with a north-westerly breeze. A good day to begin a 3,000 mile journey, I would say. Maya has stayed around slightly longer this year than last – in 2013 she migrated on 2nd September. However, the latest she has ever left was the 12th September, so it is not unprecedented for her to still be here this late.

There is a very slight possibility that Maya has not actually gone, and has just been elsewhere all day. As unlikely as that is, we cannot categorically confirm her departure. We will wait and see what the morning brings, whether it be two Ospreys in the Bay, just one, or none at all.

 

They’re still here!

They’re still here! If you’re planning a visit to Rutland Water this weekend, then there is every chance that you will see an Osprey. Both Maya and 33(11) were at the nest all day, and they were still there this evening. We shouldn’t really be surprised; Maya has been one of the last Ospreys to depart from Rutland Water over the past few years and it would seem that 33(11) is following her lead. He probably wants to make sure that rival male 51(11) – who is still also present – doesn’t get a look-in with his new mate. He’s certainly continuing to do everything as he should; here’s a video of 33 delivering a fine trout to the nest yesterday afternoon.

33 and Maya

33 and Maya

The Lyndon Visitor Centre is open all weekend – so we hope to see you then!

Unlike most birds of prey, 30 crossed the Mediterranean well to the east of Gibraltar

30 reaches Africa

Migration never ceases to amaze me. The latest batch of data from 30’s satellite transmitter shows that just five days after leaving Rutland, she roosted close to Rabat in northern Morocco last night.

The last batch of data had shown that at 7am on Tuesday morning, 30 was flying south through northern Spain. By 10am she had flown another 120 kilometres and was powering her way through the mountains of La Rioja. At midday she passed just to the west of Soria at an altitude of 1780 metres. Ospreys often reach very high altitudes as they migrate across Spain and over the course of the next six hours, 30 did the same. By 6pm she had flown another 256km at altitudes of up to 3260 metres – that’s well over 10,000 feet. She was now some 115km south-west of Madrid, but showing no signs of letting-up. She made a distinct turn to the south-east and then flew another 35 kilometres before settling for the night in an agricultural area five kilometres west of Villarrobledo in Catile-LaMancha province. She had flown 517km; meaning that she had flown a staggering 1500km in just three days of migration.

We have not yet received the full batch of GPS fixes for the next morning, but she clearly made a slower start than previous days because at 1pm local time (12:00GMT) she was just 87km south-east of her overnight position. Over the course of the afternoon she made her way through the eastern part of the Sierra Morena mountains before settling for the night among olive groves in Andalucia.Her day’s flight of 256km was half that of previous days, but significantly, she was now within striking distance of Africa.

30 flew almost the length of Spain in just two days

30 flew almost the length of Spain in just two days

30 probably caught a fish in Embalse de Malpasillo yesterday morning before flying to Morocco

30 probably caught a fish in Embalse de Malpasillo yesterday morning before flying to Morocco

30 left her roost site soon after first light and flew 25km south-west to Embalse de Malpasillo. She almost certainly caught a fish there because for the next two hours she was perched four kilometres south-west of the reservoir, presumably eating her breakfast. By 10am she was migrating again and two-and-a-half hours later she reached the Spanish coast at Marbella. Unlike most raptors who head further south-west to make the short 14km flight across the Strait of Gibraltar to Morocco, 30 simply headed straight out to sea. By 2pm she had flown 67 kilometres across the Mediterranean and was now flying just 10 metres above the waves at 19kph. An hour later she reached Morocco, making landfall near Tetouan after flying over 100km across the open sea.

Having reached Africa, 30 showed no signs of letting up. Over the course of the next five hours she flew another 187 kilometres south-west and then south-south-west through northern Morocco at altitudes of between 200 and 1000 metres. She eventually settled for the night in a cultivated area 50km north-east of Rabat, after a day’s flight of 413km.

After just five days, she has covered a remarkable 2216km and has already left Europe behind. The imposing Atlas Mountains and the vast wilds of the Sahara are next. Don’t forget that you can also view 30?s migration on your own version of Google Earth. To find out how, click here.

Unlike most birds of prey, 30 crossed the Mediterranean well to the east of Gibraltar

Unlike most birds of prey, 30 crossed the Mediterranean well to the east of Gibraltar

33(11) surveying his kingdom

In your own time

Well, Maya and 33(11) are still here… I wouldn’t like to guess when they will leave! I had a walk down to the hides this morning, and both Maya and 33 were sitting in the Bay when I arrived. Earlier, we’d had a report from Lyn, our volunteer monitoring the Ospreys, that 33 had caught a massive fish, brought it to the T-perch, and was just about to tuck in when he dropped it into the water! He tried but failed to retrieve it. He did manage to get it back later, but he gave up on it for a while and took off to go on a fishing trip over Heron Bay, apparently thinking that might be easier than getting his previous fish back. At the same time, I also saw another Osprey fishing in the distance, so we know that there are at least three Ospreys still with us.

33(11)’s fishing foray was unsuccessful, and he returned to his perch. However, later on Lyn phoned to say 33 had another go at getting his earlier fish back, and this time succeeded! He subsequently spent at least an hour eating part of it, whilst Maya waited impatiently on the nest for her share. Several times her behaviour indicated 33 was on his way, and I raced to the record button… but she must have been over-eager, because each time he didn’t arrive, and she settled back down. Eventually, 33 did arrive at the nest with the rest of the fish, but he did it so fast I nearly didn’t have time to record it! Nevertheless, there is a short video below of Maya taking the fish from 33.

Maya shouting for the fish today

Maya shouting for the fish today

Maya with the fish

Maya got the fish eventually

 

I didn’t see Water Voles while I was there (typically) but Lyn reported seeing four this morning – two adults and two youngsters. The Spotted Crake has not been seen since last Friday. Little Egrets, Grey Herons, Lapwings, Common Terns and a Red Kite were also seen from Waderscrape today, and a number of ducks were dabbling in front of Shallow Water hide.

Here are a few screen-shots of the Ospreys taken over the last couple of days:

33(11) mantling at an intruder

33(11) mantling at an intruder

33 guarding the nest

33 guarding the nest

Maya waiting more patiently for a fish

Maya waiting more patiently for a fish

33(11) surveying his kingdom

33(11) surveying his kingdom