I have just downloaded the last ten days worth of data for our satellite-tagged Osprey, 30(05), and it shows that she remains settled on the Senegalese coast, midway between Dakar and St Louis. Aside from one flight of 1.5 miles inland she has favoured her regular perches on the beach and just inland.
It is remarkable that technology allows us to have such a detailed insight into 30’s life in Sengeal. She is more than 3000 miles away and yet we know where she is catching fish, and even which trees she sits on each day. The reality though, is that all we have are dots on a map. It is no substitute for seeing her for real; and that’s exactly what four members of the Rutland team did a few weeks ago.
Three weeks ago the satellite data showed that 30 was behaving much like normal. It was Monday morning and, after roosting just inland, she flew down to one of her favourite beach perches at around 10am. Soon afterwards she caught a fish a few hundred metres out to sea. Then, after finishing her meal, she flew back to the coastal trees that have been home since September. Little did she know that at that very moment John Wright, Paul Stammers, Cat Barlow and Junkung Jadama, were driving their four wheel drive down the beach to try and find her!
Earlier that morning the team had arrived at Tiougoune. This small fishing village is situated some three-and-a-half miles north of 30’s winter home on Lompoul beach, and after enlisting the help of a local man, they set off down the beach in their 4×4. I had sent them the latest satellite data for 30, and using their hand-held GPS to guide them, they soon arrived at the right spot on the beach. All they had to do now, was find her!
A quick scan of the beach showed that she wasn’t sitting on the one of the prominent perches in the sand; and so there were two options. Either she was fishing out to sea, or perched in the coastal woodland. As they went to investigate an Osprey passed overhead, flying inland. The view was brief but John and the team could see an aerial on the bird’s back. It had to be 30!
They quickly found a track that took them through the coastal trees to the edge of an open area used by local people for growing vegetables. Several prominent trees provided perfect Osprey perches and the team eventually located not one, but two Ospreys, perched less than 100 metres apart. One was a female…this had to be her.
Sure enough a yellow ring on the female’s right leg, confirmed that it was 30. The second bird – 30’s winter neighbour – had a green ring on it’s left leg; meaning that it was Scottish. Cue celebrations all round, albeit fairly muted for fear of flushing the two Ospreys! Cat recorded the video below.
Here’s a video diary recorded by Paul that afternoon.
Next morning the team returned to the beach shortly after 9am. Soon afterwards 30 appeared out of the trees and, as she had done the day before, alighted on one of the uprights in the beach, totally unperturbed by passing donkey carts and the assembled Osprey watchers.
Half an hour later she flew out to sea.
The satellite data suggests that it never takes 30 long to catch a meal, and sure enough, she was back on the beach with her breakfast within ten minutes.
30 was far more tolerant of passing carts than the other Ospreys on the beach, but as she tucked into her fish she was eventually flushed by one that came too close. After initially flying out to sea, she turned and headed inland, now joined by two other Ospreys. The three birds circled overhead, calling to each other just as we see in Rutland. This, of course, is something that the satellite data can never tell us. We can track 30’s movements in amazing detail every day, but we don’t know how many other Ospreys she is coming into contact with. Thanks to John, Paul, Cat and JJ we now know a lot more.
After circling overhead, the three birds slowly drifted inland and out of sight. Having seen 30 perched on the beach, catch a fish and then interact with other Ospreys, the team had experienced a typical Senegalese morning for our Rutland Osprey. The image below shows the satellite data that we received while they were there. Only now they are far more than dots on a map!
Knowing that 30 would probably spend the rest of her afternoon perched in the coastal woodland, the team left her behind and went in search of other colour-ringed Ospreys. By the end of the day they had covered some 30km of coast and logged 100 individual Ospreys perched on the sand (including ten colour ringed birds from Scotland and Germany). This goes to show just how important this part of the Senegalese coast is for wintering Ospreys. It is also encouraging that, although much of the land just inland from the beach is cultivated, the wintering Ospreys seem to be relatively unaffected by local people.
30 usually returns to Rutland during the last week in March and so we expect her to stay at Lompoul for another two-three weeks. We’ll be sure to let you know as soon as she begins heading north. She’ll be one of half a douzen satellite-tagged Ospreys that we will be following on their northward migration as part of World Osprey Week. Click here to find out more.
All videos by Cat Barlow and photos by John Wright.