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We’ll be posting regular updates about satellite tracking projects here on the website. You can also track former projects using Google Earth. Check out our step-by-step instructions to find out how. Alternatively, click here to view the Osprey migration route with Google Maps. Google Maps also shows overhead high resolution satellite images, which is handy for finding places along the route.
By Tim on November 19, 2013
We had our first frost in Rutland today. Its a far cry from the beach in Senegal where our satellite-tagged Osprey, 30(05) is wintering. Her latest batch of GPS data shows that she remains very settled on the coast, frequenting the same perches each day and making short flights out to sea to catch fish. In fact her longest flight over the past ten days, was just one mile.
As the migration of 30 demonstrates, it is important that conservation of migratory species is not only focused on the breeding grounds. And it’s for that reason that we set-up the Osprey Flyways Project in 2011. One of the key aims of this exciting project is to provide wildlife education for schools in key-over wintering areas. For the past two years we have been running a pilot education project in five Gambian schools which, we hope, will provide a sustainable model that will enable us to replicate the work in other parts of Africa in the future. None of this would be possible without your support: to date the project has been funded entirely by sponsored activities – from marathons to cycle rides – and a book sale at the Lyndon Visitor Centre and so we are extremely grateful to everyone who has either sponsored us or bought books. The money means that in the past month alone, more than 100 students have been on field trips in The Gambia. This can only be good for conservation; who knows it may just be inspiring the next generation of African conservationists. Here’s a new video explaining what it’s all about.
By Tim on October 19, 2013
As we are now coming to expect, 30 has remained very settled on the Senegal coast over the past ten days. Her latest batch of data shows that aside from one or two fishing trips out to sea each day, she has spent the majority of her time either perched on the beach or just inland on her favourite perches. It is fascinating to see just how little she needs to move each day; and she will probably remain equally sedentary until she departs north in March.
As an established adult, 30′s behaviour contrasts greatly with juvenile birds, who wander widely when they first arrive in Africa. To see what I mean, check out the website of the Urdaibai Bird Centre where you can follow the progress of four Ospreys that were translocated from Scotland to the Basque Country earlier this year. The four birds are all in Africa, searching for a winter home. To see more, check out the website here.
By Tim on October 8, 2013
Since arriving in Senegal almost a month ago, 30 has remained faithful to a short section of coastline, midway between Saint Louis and Dakar. It’s just 2km south of where 09(98) used to winter, and like 09, 30 has made only short local flights since arriving. In fact her latest ten days’ of data shows that the furthest she has ventured from her favourite perches is just over one-and-a-half miles! This is easy to understand. The sea provides a rich food supply, and Google Earth suggests that the area is relatively undisturbed; the ideal combination for a wintering Osprey.
As we have come to expect from our satellite tracking studies, most adult Ospreys are extremely sedentary in the winter, and that is certainly the case with 30. She is fishing in the sea once or twice every day, and then perching either on the beach or in a scrubby area less than 100 metres inland. Although the Google Earth imagery for this part of the coast is not of the best definition, I wouldn’t bet against her favourite perches being isolated tress in amongst the scrub.
We’ll continue to report on 30′s progress over the course of the winter. Let’s hope it remains as peaceful as her first month in Senegal.
By Tim on September 16, 2013
As we expected, 30′s latest batch of GPS data shows that she has settled on the Senegal coast, just 2km south of where 09(98) used to winter. Since arriving a week ago, 30 has made only short local flights and spent the majority of her time perched either on the beach or just inland. The sea here clearly provides very rich pickings because the data shows that she has had to fly no more than a kilometre on each fishing trip.
Don’t forget to check out our interactive Google Map page to see just how sedentary she has been over the past seven days. Life for a wintering adult Osprey is very easy!
By Tim on September 13, 2013
When 30′s last batch of data arrived, we were speculating how far south she would continue to fly. Would she winter in Northern Senegal or would she head further south towards The Gambia or Guinea? Well, it now looks as though we’ve got an answer. At 3pm on Monday afternoon 30 stopped on the Senegal coast midway between Dakar and St Louis in Northern Senegal. More than 48 hours later, at 9pm on Wednesday evening, she was still there; suggesting she has arrived at her winter home. If her location on the Senegal coast sounds familiar, that’s because, remarkably, it is just 2km south of where our previous satellite-tagged Osprey, 09(98) used to winter!
The previous data had shown on Sunday night, 30 roosted just north of the Senegal River. By 8am next morning she had moved 2km south from her overnight spot and was perched beside the river, almost certainly eating breakfast. She was probably disturbed by local fisherman soon afterwards, because an hour later she was perched 8km to the south-east. Then, at 10am she had moved again: a further 1km to the south-east.
She must have resumed her migration sometime after 10:30am because, at 11am, the next GPS position showed that she was 9km to the South-east, flying south at 21kph at an altitude of 500 metres. She continued on this course for another hour, before changing to a more south-westerly heading at midday. She must have know she was now close to her winter home, and three hours later she arrived on the coast after a day’s flight of just under 100km.
Having arrived on the coast, 30 has made only short local flights of up to 5km. This behaviour is typical of an adult Osprey on the wintering grounds. They spend most of their day perched in a favoured location and then make short flights to fish once or twice a day. In 30′s case her favourite perches seem to be located in an area of scattered trees, less than 100 metres from the beach. From here it is just a short flight out to sea, where a wealth of fish will make hunting very easy for an adult Osprey.
If 30 does remain in this area for the winter, her favourite perches are just 2km south of the ones favoured by 09 during the winter of 2011/12. This means that she and 09 would have been neighbours for seven winters. When you consider that 09 wintered almost 1500km away from the one other Rutland Osprey that we have tracked using a GPS transmitter, this is a truly remarkable co-incidence. As the map below shows, 30′s daily flights (red dots and yellow lines) are already over-lapping with the flights (in orange) of 09 during the winter of 2011/12. If only he was still alive!
Assuming that she has arrived at her winter home, 30′s migration is the fastest we have recorded. She flew over 4600km in just 12 days, four days quicker than 09′s 16-day migration in autumn 2011. When you compare their migration routes, 30′s flight was more direct through Europe, but once they arrived in Africa, they were remarkably similar, particularly through Morocco. The data demonstrates what incredible navigators adult Ospreys really are.
The next batch of data should arrive from 30′s transmitter over the weekend, so check back for an update on Monday. In the meantime, don’t forget you can upload all her migration data onto your own copy of Google Earth. Click here to find out how. Or check out our interactive Google maps page.
By Tim on September 9, 2013
She’s made it! The last batch of GPS data showed that last night 30 roosted on the banks of the Senegal River, having completed her crossing of the Sahara. Although, strictly speaking, she is still just in Mauritania, she will have enjoyed a Senegalese sunrise this morning.
The previous data had shown that, after flying 900km in two days, 30 had reached the deserts of Western Mauritania. She still had at least one more day’s flying to complete the desert crossing, but was making excellent progress.
On Saturday morning 30 began migrating at 9am. Three hours later, at midday, she had already covered 123 kilometres and was continuing on the same the distinctly South-westerly heading that she had maintained the previous afternoon. The direction of her flight suggested she was heading for the Mauritanian coast and her afternoon flight confirmed that. By 7pm she was just 4km from the Mauritanian coast, a few kilometres north of the capital, Nouakchott. Interestingly, the GPS data showed that she was flying due east at 7pm, so there is every chance that, having fished in the sea, she was now flying inland with her first meal for several days. An hour later she was perched 4km further east, and that is where she settled for the night after a day’s flight of at least 314km. After three days and 1200km, the majority of the desert was behind her.
Next day she resumed her migration shortly after 9am, initially flying South-east to avoid Nouakchott and then following the coastline south. She made steady progress for the rest of the day at an altitude of around 700 metres. By 5pm she had flown just over 200km and was passing just to the West of the vast Djoudj National Park. This huge wetland is home to many Ospreys each winter as well as hundreds of thousands of wildfowl. Myself, John Wright and Paul Stammers enjoyed a very memorable visit there in 2011. To read about our trip, which included finding an English Osprey, click here.
By 7pm 30 was clearly looking for somewhere to roost for the evening and an hour later she was perched just over a kilometre from the banks of the Senegal River after a day’s flight of 262km. The river forms the border between Senegal and Mauritania and, like, Djoudj, supports a good population of wintering Ospreys. On a boat trip along the river in 2011, Paul John and I saw at least 25 different individual Ospreys along a 17 mile section of the river. Here’s a video we recorded that day.
Having reached Senegal it will be very interesting to see what 30 does now. She could well spend her winter in Northern Senegal, but the speed of her migration – she has only been migrating for 11 days - suggests she is probably going to head further south. The next batch of data will be fascinating. Don’t forget to check her latest Google Map, by clicking here.
By Tim on September 7, 2013
For any Osprey migrating from the UK to West Africa, the Sahara is undoubtedly the most demanding phase of the journey. For three to four days the birds must battle across one of the most barren, inhospitable places on planet earth without any food. The rewards once they get to West Africa are great, but actually getting there is not easy. As we expected 30 is now in the midst of her crossing of the vast desert. The latest data shows that last night she roosted in the northern part of Mauritania, having flown almost 900 kilometres in two days. The desert is so huge that this means she still has at least one more day’s flying before she reaches water again.
Having roosted just north of the Morocco-Western Sahara border on Wednesday night, 30 resumed her migration again shortly after 8am on Thursday. By 9am she had already covered 30km and was maintaining a South-westerly course at an altitude of 380 metres. She continued on almost exactly the same course for the next four hours, perhaps aided by some of the spectacular land forms she was passing over. By 2pm she had flown 270 kilometres from her roost site at an altitude of between 600 and 800 metres.
Over the course of the next hour she gained over 500 metres in altitude; by 3pm she was flying South-West at an altitude of 1220 metres. She maintained this altitude for the next two hours, but by 6pm she was much lower. She was clearly looking for somewhere to roost for the night because at 7pm she was perched on the desert floor after a day’s flight of 470 kilometres. She spent the night resting on the spectacular sands of Western Sahara.
Next morning 30 had a slow start to her migration. She moved 9km South-west from her roost site between 7am and 8am, and then rested for more than an hour, before finally setting off at about 9:30am. She covered 125 kilometres South-west over the next three-and-a-half hours at altitudes of between 300 and 600 metres. At 1pm she turned further South-west and maintained that heading for four hours, covering 185 kilometres in the process. An hour later, at 6pm, she was at her highest altitude of her desert crossing – 1920 metres – and still showing no signs of letting up. She finally settled to roost at around 7:15pm having flown a total of 410 kilometres since leaving her roost site.
30 is now 470 kilometres from Senegal, meaning that when we receive the next batch of data she should have completed her crossing of the Sahara. Let’s hope so. To see her latest position on our interactive Google Map page, click here.
By Tim on September 5, 2013
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.
By Tim on September 3, 2013
Yesterday we were wondering whether 30 would linger in the south of Spain, or continue south to Africa. That question has now been answered because at midday today we know she was flying past Marrakesh!
After arriving in Cadiz on Sunday afternoon, 30 remained there for the rest of the evening. Having flown well over 1500km in just three-and-a-half days since leaving Rutland Water she was certainly due a rest. Cadiz harbour offers rich pickings for migrating Ospreys and, having caught a meal 30 settled down for the evening near El Marquesado.
At 7am next morning she was perched 11km further south, perhaps eating breakfast. An hour later though, she was off. Whilst most birds of prey actively avoid long sea-crossings during migration, Ospreys are much more powerful. It was no surprise, therefore, that rather than heading South-east to make the short crossing to Africa across the Strait of Gibraltar, 30 flew due south from Cadiz, direct across the Atlantic. At 8am she was 6.5km off the Spanish coast flying just 10m above the waves and an hour later she was 40km further south, with the Moroccan coast firmly in her sights. She made landfall just after 10am after a flight across the sea of approximately 110km. This is much further than the 14km crossing at Gibraltar, but using the more direct route across the open sea not only saved 30 time, but also kilometres. If she had stuck to the land-based route as species such as Honey Buzzards and Short-toed Eagles would have done, she would have had to have flown 80 kilometres further.
Having made landfall, 30 continued South-west, using the coastline as her guide. She passed Rabat at 2pm, flying powerfully South-west at 49km/h at an altitude of 490 metres and then continued to make steady progress South-west for the rest of the afternoon. By 6pm she had covered another 150km and was still showing no signs of letting up, despite the fact that her day’s flight already totalled 420km.
We don’t know exactly where 30 roosted but at 10am this morning she was 65km south of her position yesterday evening, migrating SSW at an altitude of 1000 metres. Two hours later she had made a distinct turn to the South-west and was passing to the north of Marrakesh. This change in direction was almost certainly due to the fact that the Atlas Mountains would now be appearing on the horizon. This vast mountain chain, which rises to more than 4000 metres in places, presents an obvious barrier to migrating birds. Our other satellite tagged Ospreys have actively avoided flying through the highest peaks and it looks as though 30 is going to do the same.
Once the Atlas Mountains are behind her, 30 will face the most arduous part of her journey. The vast and unforgiving Sahara. When the next batch of data comes in – either later tomorrow or on Friday – she will probably be crossing the desert. We wish her well.
By Tim on September 2, 2013
One of the key things we have learnt from our satellite tracking studies in recent years is that adult Ospreys are able to refine their migration route over successive journeys. By using prominent geographical features such as mountains, rivers and coastlines, they make the most direct flight possible without taking unnecessary risks. They are superb navigators and there is no clearer example of this than 30(05)’s first four days of migration this year.
When 30 wasn’t at her nest site on Thursday evening, we thought she had departed on migration, but it wasn’t until this morning – when we were able to download the latest full batch of satellite data – that we could confirm just that. And what a start she has made – non-GPS signals showed that by yesterday evening she had reached Cadiz in the south of Spain.
30 first bred at a nest close to Rutland Water in 2009 and has continued to do so each year since. Sadly this year her mate, 08(01), failed to return and she has spent much of the summer alone. Having failed to rear a family for the first time in five summers, we wondered how long 30 would linger at her nest site this autumn. She clearly felt the time was right to depart on Thursday morning because by midday she was flying south over Wellingborough, some 36km south of Rutland Water at an altitude of 600m. Over the course of the next four hours she made steady progress south at an average altitude of 750m, passing over Milton Keynes and then to the west of London.
By 4:30pm she had the south coast in her sights, and with conditions good for migration, she continued onwards, passing over Worthing and then out to sea. Her 168mk crossing of the English Channel took almost exactly 3 hours, and she made landfall just to the South-west of the busy shipping port of Le Havre, at 8pm. An hour later as darkness fell she was perched another 48km to the South-west, close to a farm in a typically rural part of Normandy. Under normal circumstances 30 would have roosted there for the night, but evidently still feeling strong, she continued south. We do not know exactly how long she was flying for during the night, but by 2:30am GMT she had covered another 119km and by 6am was another 41km further on, perched in an arable field 16km North of the Loire river. She may well have caught a breakfast fish because two hours later, at 8am, she was perched beside a small farm lake. She certainly deserved a meal because she had covered more than 540km since leaving Rutland Water. An incredible first day of migration.
If 30 did have some breakfast she didn’t eat for long because by 9am she had crossed the Loire and was flying powerfully south. Over the course of the next four hours she flew 145 kilometres and by midday was at an altitude of 1500m just to the east of La Rochelle. The French coast would now have been clearly in her sights and for the rest of the day she followed it south, passing to the west of Bordeaux and then onwards towards the Spanish border at an average altitude of around 500m. This is 30′s eight autumn migration and she will have learnt over the course of her seven previous journeys that following the coastline aids her navigation. And she’s not the only one, when John Wright and I spent time on the French coast in September 2009 and 2010 we saw numerous Ospreys heading south.
Having followed the coast south, 30 eventually arrived in Spanish airspace just before 7pm. She passed over Donosita San-Sebastian and then continued flying for another hour before settling in a wooded valley in the Basque Country. In 12 hours of flying she had covered a remarkable 547km.
30′s Basque Country roost site was just 50km from the Urdaibai Estuary where we have two schools who are participating in our Osprey Flyways Project. With the help of their music teacher they have composed and recorded a great song about Osprey migration. It describes an Ospreys journey from the UK to Africa, via the Basque Country so it seems fitting to include it here.
Next morning 30 set off at first light. At 6am she was flying South-west at 54km/h at an altitude of 450km and she maintained this heading for the rest of the morning and into the early afternoon. By 2pm she was approaching Madrid at an altitude of 2620m – by far the highest altitude of her migration thus far. Interestingly, this corresponds with the journeys of our other GPS satellite-tagged birds – 09(98) and AW(06) – both of whom migrated at similar altitudes over central Spain. After passing Madrid she continued South-west and settled for the night close to the village of Santa Eufemia in the very northern part of Andalucia after day’s flight of 546km.
In her first three days of migration 30 had covered 540km, 547km and 546km respectively. Such consistent flying demonstrates what an incredible navigator she has become.
At 6am next morning (Sunday) 30 had flown another 14km further south and was close to the shores of Embalse de la Colado, a large reservoir, typical of Andalucia. There is every chance that she visited the reservoir to go fishing, but by 9am she was on the wing again, heading South-west at an altitude of 790 metres. She clearly knew exactly where she was going because, whilst we are yet to receive any further GPS positions for yesterday, accurate non-GPS locations showed that she had reached Cadiz by 4:20pm; a flight of some 240km. The fact that this is less than half the distance of her previous three days’ flying suggests that she will either stop-over at Cadiz for a few days, or perhaps even spend the winter there. Numerous Ospreys spend the winter fishing in Cadiz harbour and when I visited with Lloyd Park and Paul Stammers from Rutland Water in 2008 we saw at least five different Ospreys simultaneously. Who knows, maybe one of them was 30?
It will be very interesting to see where 30 is when the next batch of GPS data comes in. Will she still be at Cadiz, or will she be in Morocco? We’ll update you as soon as we know.