In the last update on 30’s migration, I suggested that when we received the next batch of data she’d be setting out across the Sahara. Sure enough, the latest GPS positions show that last night she roosted just north of the disputed Morocco-Western Sahara border, with the vast expanses of desert lying ahead.
We knew that at midday on 3rd September, 30 was passing to the north of Marrakesh. The imposing Atlas Mountains would have been appearing on the horizon, and this clearly prompted a shift in 30’s course. At 1pm, with the mountains looming large in the distance, she made a distinct turn to the South-west; thereby avoiding flying directly through the mountains. She maintained this heading for the next four hours at altitudes of more than 2000 metres. By 5pm she was past the highest of the peaks and she turned almost due south, a course she maintained for two more hours of flying. Finally, at 7pm she settled to roost in an agricultural area to the south of the mountains after a day’s flight of 293km. Here’s a Google Earth video of her day’s flight which demonstrates just why she changed direction as she did. If you like the song in the video, you can find out more about it here.
Next morning, 30 made a slow start. At 7am she had moved 5km south of her roost site and at 9am she was perched again, another 6km to the south. There are no obvious signs of water on Google Earth and it’s more likely that these small movements were as a result of people beginning their day’s work on the agricultural land. By 10am, though, she was migrating again, heading South at an altitude of 370 metres. She made steady progress for the rest of the day, maintaining a South-westerly heading at altitudes of 750-1000 metres. By 5pm she had covered 252km and at that point made another distinct turn in response to a geographical landmark. As our previous satellite-tracking studies have shown, many migrating Ospreys follow the vast ridge which runs South-west along the northern edge of the Sahara; and at 5pm that’s exactly what 30 did. She followed the ridge for two hours, before settling to roost on the desert floor at 7pm after a day’s flight of 324km.
30’s isn’t the only Rutland Osprey to have followed the ridge. Both 09 and AW followed the same ridge on their migrations in 2011. Its also very close to the place where 09 sadly died on his autumn migration last year. at 5pm 30 was just 41km from the spot where Farid Lacroix found 09’s remains last September. Let’s hope 30 has better luck as she crosses the Sahara.
Like all Ospreys that are migrating across the desert, 30 had to roost on the desert floor. Google Earth helps gives us an insight into the kind of landscapes that she is experiencing.
With the majority of the Sahara ahead of her, 30 will have to go at least three more days without fish. For an experienced adult Osprey this is something she is well-used to, but it will be a difficult few days of migration nonetheless.