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By Tim on January 15, 2016
My GPS told me that we were in exactly the right spot. As our wooden fishing boat slowly made its way through the calm waters of the Sine-Saloum delta an Osprey came into view. It was perched inconspicuously in the mangroves beside the channel that we had seen it fly up yesterday; it had to be the same bird. Knowing it to be very wary, we inched our way towards the Osprey. I had my telescope with me, but it would be impossible to read the blue ring on the bird’s right leg from the boat. Instead the only way we would be able to identify it would be if John Wright could get a photo of the ring. However, just as were getting within the range of John’s 400mm lens, the bird flew off. We expected it to head off into the mangroves, but by some twist of fate, it turned and circled in front of us. Through my binoculars the blue ring was clearly visible and knowing John’s skills with a camera I knew that he would get the photos we needed. As Kayleigh explained in her excellent blog a few days ago, he did just that and we were able to identify the bird as 32(11). Cue all round elation and, for a moment, a boat that almost capsized!
While John, Paul and Kayleigh continue to enjoy an Osprey frenzy at the Somone Lagoon in Senegal, myself and the ten volunteers who joined us for ten days in Gambia and Senegal, flew back to the UK yesterday evening. When I look back on the trip, identifying the highlight isn’t difficult. After five years of trying, finding a Rutland Osprey on its wintering grounds was a magical moment. Here was an Osprey that we had watched hatch in the Manton Bay nest in 2011, return to Rutland two years later and then breed for the first time last summer. Finding it on its wintering grounds in one of the most spectacular places in Senegal was the final piece in the jigsaw. The fact that the bird is the grandson of the famous Mr Rutland, the mate of our satellite-tagged bird, 30(05), and the father of the 100th Rutland Osprey chick, makes finding him even more special.
Having said our goodbyes to Kayleigh, John and Paul on Tuesday morning, myself, JJ and the volunteers made the long journey back to Tendaba in The Gambia in the capable hands of our excellent driver, Alagie. Tendaba is a wonderful place to enjoy Africa at its best, and shortly after crossing the River Gambia at Farefenni we were treated to stunning views of a pair of Bateleur Eagles perched together in a roadside tree. It certainly made the 10.5 hour journey a little more bearable!
With just two days left of our trip, we were keen to visit two of the schools involved in the Osprey Flyways Project. The first was Wurokang Lower Basic School, a tiny rural school situated just a few kilometres from Tendaba Camp. JJ visited the school for the first time a few weeks ago and so we dropped off some copies of Ozzie’s Migration for the students (and teachers) to read. They were particularly excited to meet the book’s author, Ken Davies. Then yesterday morning, on our way to the airport, we stopped off to see our friends at Tanji Lower Basic School. We were greeted by teachers and members of the Osprey club, and shown the new computer lab which was funded by a generous grant from Melton Mowbray Rotary Club. We learnt that the computers have a made a great deal of difference at the school; not only allowing students to participate in Skype calls as part of World Osprey Week, but also giving them basic IT skills that simply wouldn’t have been possible before. Before we left Jackie Murray presented the students with some copies of Be An Osprey Expert and also showed the teachers how to access the teaching resources that are available for all WOW schools to use for free.
A few hours later, as we flew home we were treated to a spectacular sunset over the Sahara. It made me think of the amazing journeys that the Ospreys make every year, but also about the friendships and links that have been forged between people thousands of miles apart as a result of those migrations. As he sat in the mangroves at the Sine-Saloum delta, 32(11) was just doing what comes naturally, but for those of us lucky enough to the boat to see him, it was a sight that summed up how special the project has become.
By Tim on December 22, 2015
When a juvenile Osprey leaves Rutland Water on its first migration, many threats await. Long crossings of the Bay of Biscay and the vast and unforgiving Sahara are two natural hazards that must be overcome, but fishing nets and hunters are very real dangers too. Over the years satellite tracking and ringing studies have shown that both environmental and anthropogenic factors have resulted in the death of young Ospreys on migration. Getting to the fish-rich waters of West Africa is a long and demanding journey, but arriving there safely is only part of the story. Recent research shows that surviving for 18 months in West Africa can be just as challenging.
Since 2001 more than 30% of young Ospreys that have fledged from nests in the Rutland Water area have made it back to the UK, but what happens to the 60-70% of birds who fail to make it home? In most cases we simply don’t know. However, there is always a glimmer of hope that we will discover the fate of lost birds, because all of the juveniles in the Rutland population are ringed. The first recovery of a Rutland-ringed bird was made by a farmer in Guinea in 1998. He found the bird, which had been released at Rutland Water the previous year, dying in the corner of a field. Later that evening, as he was preparing the bird for the pot he noticed the rings on its legs, and in his words, ‘knew it to be on a mission’. He eventually managed to get news of his find to the British Embassy who passed the details on to the BTO.
More recently, satellite tracking studies have shown that many young Ospreys die during their first year in West Africa. Many young birds are chased away from the best wintering sites by experienced adult birds defending their patch, and as such, often get pushed into poorer quality areas where they are more likely to come to grief. The problem is exacerbated by the fact that wintering Ospreys are often very approachable. Not only do they perch in prominent places, but they will often tolerate a close approach. This is perfectly exemplified by the most recent ring recovery of a Rutland bird.
A few weeks ago, we received notification that 4J(13), a female that fledged from the Site B nest in 2013, has been hunted and killed over 5000km away in the Ivory Coast. The BTO recovery had contact details of the person who had submitted the report and so I sent an e-mail to try and find out more.
Over the weekend I received a reply from Koffi Roger Yeboue. He explained that the bird was killed by a hunter in an area of forest beside the ABI lagoon in the Adiaké region of south-east Ivory Coast. The hunter who killed the bird gave the following explanation:
“Not far from my field, in the forest area, there is a big tree. During the month of December 2014 I noticed that this bird comes at the end of the day to sleep in that tree. Always the same tree. So in the last weekend of December 2014, I decided to kill it. This day, I waited it for a long time. It was around 18:30 UT when it came. I killed it. Then I noticed he was wearing two rings: a metal ring and a plastic ring. I was scared because I had never seen a bird with rings!!! I got the rings but I could not eat this bird. People have told me that other birds wearing rings were killed in the area. It seems that these birds go fishing in the lagoon all the day and come to sleep in the forest .I am so confused. If I had seen the rings, I would never killed this bird. It is necessary to find another ring system visible by hunters.”
By December 2014, 4J would have been in West Africa for over a year, but the hunter’s description suggests that it may have only just started using this particular roosting site. The fact that it returned there each night is exactly what we have learned to expect of wintering Ospreys; but in this case, it sealed the bird’s fate. Like the farmer in Guinea, when the hunter noticed the rings, he realised the significance of the bird; and it was then that he enlisted the help of Koffi to try and track down where it was from.
The death of 4J mirrors that of AW, the satellite-tagged bird that we lost in the Ivory Coast in February 2012. Although we were never able to prove it, we suspected at the time that the bird had been killed by a hunter. Improved satellite imagery of this area now shows that the bird’s last location was a small village.
The killing of 4J is a fate that probably befalls many wintering Ospreys in West Africa. In some areas the hunters are merely very poor people trying to survive, but in other areas this is not the case. The sentiments of the hunter; that he would not have killed the bird if he had known where it was from echo what local people have told me in Gambia and Senegal. If local people understood the remarkable journeys that migratory birds make, they would not kill them. That is why the education work we are undertaking in West Africa is so important. The Osprey Flyways Project aims to encourage communities to value and, thus, protect, migratory birds. A second email that I received from Koffi sums this up perfectly:
“I am very happy to read you again. It is a pleasure for me to note that through a death ringed bird, a bridge is thrown between continents and between people. 4J is dead, but 4J is still in our hearts. Since this story, my vision on birds has changed. These animals are messengers travelling from one country to another without visa, flight ticket or passport .What a fabulous destiny.
My next challenge will be to convince people to stop killing birds in the region and find the rings of dead birds.”
We wish Koffi well in his important mission and send our sincere thanks for taking the time to contact the BTO and then to reply to my e-mails. Another friendship created by the journey of an Osprey.
By Tim on September 10, 2015
She’s made it, well, almost! The latest batch of satellite data shows that at 11am this morning, 30 was in northern Senegal, just 60km from her wintering site on the coast.
As Kayleigh reported earlier in the week, the previous batch of data had shown that 30 roosted in the wilds of Western Sahara on Sunday evening. Next morning she made a slow start to her day’s flight; by 10am she was just 10km south of her overnight roost and an hour later, she had only flown another 9km. At that point, however, she changed to a more south-westely heading, and made consistent progress for the rest of the day; flying 230km over the course of the next seven hours. As she headed south-west 30 would have been using thermals created by the searing heat , to aid her migration; soaring to gain height on the thermals and then gliding onwards. By using the airflows in this way, 30 and other migrating Ospreys are able to save valuable energy during their crossing of the desert. By 6pm 30 settled to roost for the night in the Province of Oed Ed-Dehab Lagouira in the south of Western Sahara.
By 7am the next morning – her fourth in the desert – 30 had moved 1.8km south from her overnight roost. She set-off again at around 9:30am and headed purposefully south-west, passing into Mauritanian airspace between 1pm and 2pm. By the time she settled to roost at 5:30pm, she had flown a total of 365km across the desert.
Next morning 30 set-off just after 9am, initially heading south-south-east. At 11am she changed course to a south-south-westerly heading, and made steady progress across the desert during the afternoon. By early evening she was approaching the Senegal border and must have sensed she was close to home, because she continued flying until 7pm; settling to roost shortly after she had crossed the iconic Senegal River, after a day’s flight of 408km. For the first time in five nights she settled to roost in a cultivated area, having successfully crossed the vast and desolate Sahara once again.
So, just 10 days after leaving Rutland, 30 is almost certain to arrive at her wintering site today. Even for an experienced adult Osprey, this is an incredibly fast migration.
This morning’s data shows that she was still at her overnight roosting spot at 7am, but by 9am she was heading south-west over Lac du Guiers; appearing to pass up the opportunity of breakfast, in favour of an early return to the coast. By 11am she was to the east of St Louis, and heading straight for her winter home. By now (4pm) she is almost certain to have made it, but check back tomorrow to be sure!
Click here to follow 30’s journey on our special map (2015’s autumn migration is the blue line).
Alternatively, click here to follow 30 using Google Earth.
By Tim on September 4, 2015
It’s been a strange day at Lyndon today. As you’ll probably have guessed if you have been watching the webcam, Manton Bay is now devoid of Ospreys. As Kayleigh reported earlier in the week, S3 headed south on Wednesday morning and was quickly followed by 33 that lunchtime. With all of her family heading south, Maya followed suit yesterday morning. She headed east from Manton Bay shortly after 10am and hasn’t been seen since. It all means that there is a rather empty feel to Rutland Water; Manton Bay is full of life with waders such as Ruff and Greenshank patrolling the shoreline and flocks of Gadwall and Teal building-up, but it just isn’t the same without the Osprey family. Having watched their every move for the past five months, it seems strange that we don’t know where they are now. There is every chance, though, that all of the family will have now crossed the English Channel into France. We wish them well on their incredible journey. We should also say a huge thank you to Kayleigh for her wonderful blogs this summer.
We may not know where the Manton Bay family are, but there is one Rutland Osprey that we can follow throughout the autumn and winter. The latest data from her satellite transmitter shows that by 5pm on Wednesday evening, 30(05) had reached Andalucia in southern Spain.
With the first full batch of migration data now in, we know that 30 left her nest shortly after 9am on Monday morning (31st August). Remarkably this was exactly the same as autumn 2014; almost to the minute. The weather on Monday was poor for migration (rain and low cloud) but it did not stop this experienced navigator setting out on her tenth autumn migration. During the course of the morning 30 made steady progress south, and by 1pm she was already south of Bath. An easterly wind resulted in her drifting further to the west than autumn 2014, but by the time she set-off across the English Channel from Portland Bill she had begun to compensate for this westerly drift. At 3pm she was half way across the channel, 85 kilomteres west of the corresponding position (at exactly the same time) on her 2014 journey. She skirted to the east of the Channel Islands and reached the Normandy coast at 5pm; three hours after passing Portland Bill. She continued flying until 8pm when she was perched close to a lake in the town of Craon in Pays de la Loire. She had flown just under 600km from Rutland Water and, although we do not know exactly where she roosted, she was now just 25km west of her 2014 flight path.
30 must have flown further south on the night of 31st August because by 7am next morning she was 170km further south-west, just to the north of La Rochelle. The weather must have been good for migration because she maintained the same south-westerly heading over Ile de Re and then out across the Bay of Biscay. Ospreys are powerful flyers and a flight across the open sea is not the barrier it is to other species – such as Honey Buzzards – which are far more reliant on thermals to aid their journey. By 2pm 30 had completed a 350km flight across the bay of Biscay at altitudes ranging between 200 and 500 metres. Excitingly, she made landfall over the Urdaibai Estuary, where Roy Dennis has translocated Scottish Ospreys for the past three summers. Our friends at the Urdaibai Bird Center have also been closely involved in the Osprey Flyways Project and World Osprey Week, so it was exciting that 30 paid them a (brief) visit!
Unai Egia, the music teacher at Urretxindorra school, situated a few kilomoetres from Urdaibai, wrote a wonderful song about Osprey migration two years ago. Click here to watch the music video (and read the lyrics) of the song, performed by students at Montorre and Urretxindorra schools. The song seems very apt given 30’s flight this year.
Urdaibai would have been an excellent place for 30 to rest for a few hours, but she was clearly determined to continue her migration. During the course of the afternoon and early evening she flew another 311km before eventually settling to roost in a forested area 45km south of Valladolid. During the course of her day’s flight she had covered a staggering 831km.
By first light next morning 30 had moved into open field just over 1km from her roost site, and may even have caught a fish in nearby Lavajo Rabiosa. By 9am, though, she was already 20km south and, like the previous day, clearly determined to press on. By 2pm she had covered 148 kilometres at altitudes of up to 2700 metres. Conditions must have been good for migration because she flew another 149 kilomteres in the next three hours; reaching northern Andalucia at 5pm, with the Sierra Morena mountains prominent on the horizon. This meant that, less than 60 hours after leaving her nest site, 30 had flown an amazing 1728km.
30’s transmitter is on a three day cycle, so we should receive the next batch of data over the weekend. If the first three days of migration are anything to go by, she should be flying south through Morocco by now. Watch out for an update in the next few days.
By Tim on August 12, 2015
A new book is flying from the book shelves at Egleton and Lyndon this week! Be an Osprey Expert, a new activity book specifically written for children, contains information, activities, and puzzles for children between 6 and 12 years of age; everything they need to become an Osprey expert. Children can use the book when visiting the Ospreys at Rutland Water Nature Reserve or can complete the activities by using this website. When the book is completed readers are awarded an Osprey Expert Certificate.
Written by two of the project’s education team, Jackie Murray and Pete Murray, the book features photographs and artwork by the project’s Field Officer John Wright and photographs by Pete Murray. The children featured as Osprey experts are from Edith Weston primary school in Rutland.
The book is now on sale at the Egleton and Lyndon Visitor Centres, priced at £5. Production of the book was sponsored by The Martin Lawrence Memorial Trust and optics manufacturer Swarovski Optik. All proceeds from the sale of the book will go towards the work of the Rutland Osprey Project.
The book will be officially launched during a special event at this year’s Birdfair at 3:30pm on Sunday 23rd August in the Author’s Forum. Children from Brooke Priory School will be on hand to sing a special song about the Rutland Ospreys.
Be an Osprey Expert joins two other titles written by the Osprey Project team. Ozzie’s Migration by Ken Davies is a story book for Primary school children and follows the migration of an Osprey from Rutland to Africa. The Rutland Water Ospreys by Tim Mackrill is the definitive story of the Rutland Osprey Project documenting the translocation of Ospreys to Rutland and the dedicated experts and volunteers who have made this project such a success.
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