Satellite Tracking

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.

Satellite call

We had planned to go to Lompoul to the Camp du Desert on Saturday morning (16th). However, there was a slight hiccup in the plans, related to a vehicle issue, that meant we did not leave until Sunday evening! Thus, we had to stay an extra night at Les Manguiers de Guereo, and spend a bit more time at the river mouth watching Ospreys (not a bad thing)! We eventually arrived at the Camp du Desert in the dark at about 9pm, where we had dinner and settled into our respective tents. It’s a super place to experience the wilder, rural side of Africa. There is no electricity in the camp, and the toilets and showers are all outdoors!

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Tent in the Camp du Desert

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Outdoor bathroom!

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Paul returns from the mess tent

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On Monday morning we rose early and headed off to find 30(05)! As we drove steadily up the beach towards 30’s wintering area, we suddenly spotted an Osprey on the sand to our left. John exclaimed, “There she is, that’s her!” and immediately raised his camera. I excitedly lifted my binoculars to my eyes and looked at 30 in close-up, I could see the satellite-transmitter’s aerial on her back! It was a great moment.

30(05)

First view of 30(05)!

 

We parked the car and got out, heading up towards the trees to get a good look at 30, who had returned to her perch and sat there quite happily. We stood there for quite a while, watching 30 and hoping she might go fishing.

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30 on one of her perches

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30 with an adult male chasing a juvenile behind

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We didn’t see her fish, but later we saw her flying around carrying of a needle-fish!

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30 carrying needle-fish

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30 eating needle-fish

30 eating needle-fish

 

We stood in the shade of the trees and looked around at the area. It’s a perfect area for Ospreys to winter, a lovely long beach (if you ignore all the litter), the sea in close proximity for fishing purposes, and acres of woodland behind. It’s no wonder this coastline is packed with Ospreys!

After spending some time with 30, we headed north up the beach to look for more colour-ringed birds, of which we found many! As the birds are less likely to spook and fly off at a vehicle than at people on foot, we drove along the shore with John and his camera hanging out of the window! We saw around 100 Ospreys, some of which were ringed. Most of the ringed Ospreys were from Germany, and some from Scotland. It isn’t easy to capture the ring numbers, especially from a moving vehicle, but John is a whiz with the camera! It was a great day – to see so many Ospreys all in one place, some catching fish, some perched, some flying.

Adult chasing a juvenile

Adult chasing a juvenile

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Being able to see colour rings and find out where some of the Ospreys are from, was brilliant, not to mention seeing 30(05), an Osprey whom I have seen in England at Rutland Water! It was also interesting to see some of the locals using the beach!

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We did have a few car issues during the day – despite letting some air out of the tyres it kept stuck in the deep sand! The tide did not help much, as it was so high it forced us to drive further inland in the softer sand.

Digging out the vehicle!

Digging out the vehicle!

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As we arrived at the desert camp a day late, we stayed an extra day and night, and spent Tuesday there too. Tuesday morning was much the same as Monday, with some of the same birds, some different ones. We avoided high tide on Tuesday though, and headed back to the camp for a walk through the desert in the afternoon. It was brilliant walking through the desert! It was so vast and unspoilt, apart from a few footprints!

The desert!

The desert!

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We were surprised, as we stood on the highest sand dune, to hear an Osprey calling. John picked it out in the trees behind us, perching, and then he spotted another one sitting on the sand eating! We couldn’t believe it – that woodland must have been at least 5km from the sea, which means there must be a lot of Ospreys in the area.

On Wednesday we had to leave the desert camp to head back down to Gambia, a journey which took us 9.5 hours! We stayed one night in Tendaba camp, then moved onto Tanji on Thursday. News from Tanji will follow at the weekend!

All of the above photographs were taken by Field Officer John Wright. 

Still settled in Senegal

As I mentioned yesterday, the weather this autumn has, for the most part, been lovely! Now that the clocks have gone back, the nights are noticeably and inevitably drawing in. Winter is coming, and the temperatures will soon begin to drop. Whilst we wrap up warm in our thick coats, scarves and gloves, we can think of our satellite-tagged Osprey, 30(05), who has no such weather-related issues! She does not have to counter the cold, and continues to laze about in Senegal, soaking up the sun on the beach. Oddly, according to the data, she did take a 36 mile round-trip into the desert and back on 12th October, for no apparent reason.

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30’s trip on 12th October

 

Since then, however, 30 has remained in her usual spot and has not ventured anywhere else but out to sea to fish!

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30 remains in her favourite spot

 

This is exactly the behaviour we would expect from a wintering Osprey. 30 is clearly in her element, and will remain in the same spot in Senegal, until her instinct to come home dictates that she must leave her winter haven. We are very privileged to be able to track the location and movements of 30(05), and look forward with anticipation to following her return journey next spring! For now, though, we can be happy in the knowledge that she is doing just fine and enjoying her relaxing winter months.

The team were on the beach just after 9am on Tuesday

30(05)’s beach, photo by John Wright

Breakfast on the beach

Breakfast on the beach, photo by John Wright

 

Taking it easy

Almost a month ago, our satellite-tagged Osprey, 30(05), arrived at her wintering site in West Africa. She made the journey in record time this autumn, arriving in Senegal on 10th September, just 11 days after leaving Rutland Water! Click here for more details of her journey.

Ospreys always return to the same site every winter, and have their own wintering territory. We know from previous years that 30 over-winters on the Senegalese coast, near Diourmel, mid-way between Dakar and St Louis. Since arriving there this year, she has spent most of her time in the same spot, only venturing out to sea to fish. She doesn’t need to travel far – her longest fishing foray was one mile!

30 spends most of her time in the same spot on the coast

30 spends most of her time in the same spot on the coast

 

Ospreys have a fairly easy life during the winter months, having no responsibilities, just the need to eat once a day. 30 has five more months of relaxation to enjoy before she returns to Rutland next spring. During that time, it is unlikely she will move much more than she already has!

30(05) perched on the coastal woodland

30(05) perched in the coastal woodland, photo by John Wright

 

A personal best

We finally have some more data from 30(05)’s satellite-transmitter, detailing the final part of her migration! On Thursday, Tim reported that she was almost there – she only had 112km (70 miles) left to go. We are happy to report that she made it safely to her wintering grounds on the evening of 10th September. She travelled a total of 162km (101 miles) on her final day of migrating. The next morning (11th September), 30’s position indicated she was sitting on her favourite perch!

30's favourite perch, a few metres inland from the coast

30’s favourite perch, a few metres inland from the coast

 

Then an hour later, she had flown 16km (10 miles) out to sea to go fishing!

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30 settled quickly on her wintering site

 

This autumn, 30 has indeed set a record. Her 2015 autumn migration took her a total of 264 hours – 3 hours quicker than last year (and the year before)!

She spent 137 of her 264 hours actually flying, which works out as almost 52% of her time! She migrated a total of 4412km (2928 miles), averaging 401km (266 miles) per day.

This table shows the distance 30 travelled each day of her 2015 migration south, and the total hours spent flying.

Day Distance (km) Distance (miles) Time migrating Total hours
1 (31st Aug) 600 372 09:00 – 20:00 11
2 (1st Sept) 831 516 06:00 – 20:00 14
3 (2nd Sept) 389 241 07:00 – 20:00 13
4 (3rd Sept) 411 255 07:00 – 20:00 13
5 (4th Sept) 572 355 06:00 – 21:00 15
6 (5th Sept) 418 260 07:00 – 20:00 13
7 (6th Sept)  305 189 09:00 – 19:00 10
8 (7th Sept) 249 155 09:00 – 19:00 10
9 (8th Sept) 367 228 08:00 – 21:00 13
10 (9th Sept) 413 256 08:00 – 19:00 11
11 (10th Sept) 162 101 07:00 – 21:00 14
Total 4412 2928   137

 

We have mentioned before how we’re amazed by the ability of Ospreys to find their way to their wintering grounds, then remember the way they went and follow a similar route every year. Here is a map which serves to perfectly demonstrate this – it shows the route 30 took on each of her three autumn migrations. It’s remarkable how similar they are!

A comparison of 30's three autumn migrations - look how similar they are!

A comparison of 30’s three autumn migrations – look how similar they are!

 

Here is a table showing the total distance (in kilometres) 30 travelled on each of the three autumn migrations we have tracked her on. This season, she took a slightly shorter, and therefore faster, route.

Day Distance (km) 2013 Distance (km) 2014 Distance (km) 2015
1 568 521 600
2 547 508 831
3 464 516 297
4 257 259 411
5 471 413 572
6 293 536 418
7 330 354  305
8 475 561 249
9 408 351 367
10 328 165 413
11 257 449 162
12 85 53
Total 4483 4686 4412

Ospreys are incredible, and continue to amaze and astound us. We look forward to seeing what 30 gets up to over her winter months, and to following her spring migration home again next March!

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.

 

Almost home

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.

30 has flown 1028km across the Sahara in the past three days

30 has flown 1022km across the Sahara in the past three days

Last night 30 roosted south of the Senegal River, just north of the vast Lac de Guiers

Last night 30 roosted south of the Senegal River, just north of the vast Lac de Guiers

The Senegal River would have been a welcome sight for 30 after her five-day crossing of the Sahara (photo by John Wright)

The Senegal River would have been a welcome sight for 30 after her five-day crossing of the Sahara (photo by John Wright)

An adult female Osprey perched beside the Senegal River - just the kind of spot that 30 is likely to have roosted in last night  (photo by John Wright)

An adult female Osprey perched beside the Senegal River – just the kind of spot that 30 is likely to have roosted in last night (photo by John Wright)

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.