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Browse: Home / 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.
By Tim on October 9, 2012
As you may remember if you have been following the story, wildlife film-maker Lahoucine Faouzi offered to travel to the south of Morocco to film the area on the edge of the Sahara where 09(98) died during his autumn migration. Thanks to the efforts of Farid Lacroix, we already know that 09 was almost certainly predated by an Eagle Owl as he prepared to cross the Sahara, but Lahoucine’s footage sheds further light on what a remote, inhospitable place 09 had reached. If conditions were poor when he arrived in the area on 11th September, he would have known not to fly any further. Ironically though, it was probably this decision that led to his demise – we think he was predated by an Eagle Owl as he roosted on a high ridge that night.
We are very grateful to Lahoucine for travelling to the area and sending us the film. It’s amazing to think that the vast majority of the Ospreys from the UK will have flown over terrain like this over the past few weeks. The high ridge that is visible in the distance after 2 mins 15 secs is one of the geographical features that our satellite tracking studies have shown Ospreys follow as they fly south across the Sahara. It’s really great to have some footage of this. Very many thanks to Lahoucine and his colleagues for their help.
By Tim on September 23, 2012
Last week when I put out an appeal on the website and e-mailed some contacts in Morocco, it was more in hope than expectation that someone in Morocco may be able to go and find out what had happened to 09(98) on the edge of the Sahara. We were receiving transmissions from a remote ridge of the northern edge of the desert, well away from main roads and in some of the most inhospitable terrain Africa – or perhaps, more accurately, the world has to offer. Surely, 09′s fate would remain a mystery?
Well, not when you have Farid Lacroix to help you. Farid is an ex search and rescue helicopter pilot, originally from France but now living in Agadir, in the south of Morocco. Farid’s career has taken him all over the world, and most significantly of all from our point of view, into the desert. When he saw our appeal for help on moroccanbirds.blogspot.com (kindly posted there by Mohamed Amezian of the University of Abdelmalek Essaadi) he immediately got in touch and offered to drive the 250km from Agadir to the spot where we had been receiving transmissions from 09′s satellite tag since 3pm on September 11th. The Sahara is not the sort of place you can take lightly – conditions can suddenly deteriorate in a matter of minutes – but Farid’s experience meant he was well-qualified to deal with the worst the desert could throw at him.
So, on Thursday morning last week, he left Agadir and drove south. Leaving the main roads behind he headed onto dirt tracks and into the desert. Using his Garmin GPS as a guide he eventually reached the foot of the mountain where the satellite data showed 09′s tag was lying.
In Farid’s own words, ‘climbing this mountain was very hard and maybe dangerous’. That was an understatement, but unperturbed he set off up the mountain with a 15kg rucksack containing 3 litres of water, some food, a survival blanket, a satellite phone in case of an emergency and his camera equipment. The photo below shows his route up the mountain, which involved more than 1000 feet of climbing on loose shale. This would be difficult enough on its own, but the searing desert temperatures made the climb even more demanding.
The accuracy of 09′s GPS transmitter and the fact all the fixes were from exactly the same position, meant that once Farid had scaled the steep scree slope, it did not take him long to find the transmitter. We had been hoping that the transmitter had fallen off and that 09 had continued his journey towards Senegal, but sadly Farid immediately found evidence that proved otherwise – a pile of feathers and bones and 09′s two leg rings, along with the transmitter.
So, sadly we now knew 09′s fate, but what was it that killed him? A look at data from his transmitter’s activity meter suggests he was alive until the early hours of 12th September and, therefore, it seems likely the he was predated by either an Eagle Owl or a mammal,perhaps a Jackal, during the night or very early next morning. This theory is given more credence by the fact that Farid found 09′s remains a few feet from the branch where he would have been roosting; tell tale white excrement suggesting he had been perched there for some time. Perhaps conditions in the desert were poor for migrating on the afternoon of 11th September, forcing 09 to cut-short his day’s flight? Sadly it seems that it was this decision to roost on the ridge that resulted in his demise; an owl or mammal pouncing on him in the night and then eating him where Farid found the remains. It certainly seems very unlikely that he died of natural causes. Having flown more than 250 miles on each day of his seven-day flight to southern Morocco, he was clearly in good condition.
Of course we will never know exactly what happened, but whatever the case, it goes to show that even for an experienced Osprey, like 09, migration is a very hazardous time. The desert terrain means that migrating Ospreys have to roost on or very close to the ground, making predation a very real threat.
We are incredibly grateful to Farid for going to such amazing lengths to find out what had happened. It is remarkable that someone we have never met offered to drive 500km and scale a 1000 foot mountain in the Sahara to help us solve the mystery. As I said in the previous post, migrating birds have a unique ability to link people and communities across the world, and this is a perfect example of this. We are currently setting-up a project that will link schools along the Osprey migration flyway and I hope that this will encourage young people in Europe, Africa and perhaps further a field to follow Farid’s example and to take an interest in the conservation of migratory birds. As 09′s sad demise shows, Ospreys and other migratory species face many natural hazards on their 3000 mile journey to Africa, and I feel it is vital that we do all we can to encourage international collaboration and partnerships to ensure that those threats do not include human ones.
If you are interested in becoming involved in our schools project, then please email me firstname.lastname@example.org for more informaton. Or, if you would like to support our work, you can donate here.
Thank you again, Farid.
By Tim on September 21, 2012
I was hoping I would have good news to report today, but sadly not. Late last night I received a text message from Farid Lacroix saying that he had found found 09′s body on the ridge in southern Morocco and retrieved the satellite transmitter. Mobile signal in the area is very limited and so we will have to wait until Farid returns to Agadir later today for the full story (including the cause of death).
This is really sad news, but it confirms what we had expected. It also demonstrates that even an experienced Osprey like 09 – who has migrated the equivalent of three times round the world in his lifetime – is not immune to the dangers of the 3000 mile flight to West Africa. Migration is an incredibly demanding time for the birds, whether juveniles or adults, and our satellite-tracking studies are proving that.
The project is very grateful to Farid for his efforts in getting to what is clearly a very remote, inhospitable place. In his text message Farid said, ‘it was very hard to climb this mountain’ and you only have to look at the aerial photo below, to appreciate that. It will be very interesting to see his photos once he is back in Agadir. As I said in the last update, the response we have had to our appeal for help has been remarkable – a second search team, led by wildlife film-maker Faouzi Lahoucine was due to set out today. Having prepared for the trip, they are still going to go in order to film the area for us. There are few things that have the potential to link communities across the world, like bird migration; and the efforts of people we have never met before, demonstrate that.
The recent advances in satellite-tracking have made it possible to follow the migrations of Ospreys and other migratory birds in unprecedented detail and in the past year thousands of people, from all over the world, have followed 09 on his remarkable journeys between Rutland and Senegal. Over the years he has become a real favourite at Rutland Water. Having been translocated to the reservoir in 1998, he returned two years later and then spent the next twelve summers attempting to attract a mate. So when he finally reared two chicks for the first time this summer, it was cause for real celebration. Let’s just hope that at least one of those chicks survives the rigours of migration and and makes it back to Rutland in a couple of years’ time.
Farid will be sending more detailed news and some photos once he is back in Agadir and so we’ll be sure to post them on the site as soon as we receive them - hopefully over the weekend.
By Tim on September 19, 2012
As expected we are still receving transmissions from 09′s radio in exactly the same location in the south of Morocco. This confirms that he has either died, or the transmitter has fallen off.
We have received an incredible response to our appeal for help. As luck would have it Frederic Lacroix, who lives in Agadir, was planning to travel to the south of Morocco tomorrow on a photographic trip and he has offered to go and look for 09. If he fails, then another team, led by wildlife film-maker Lahoucine Faouzi, have kindly agreed to travel to the area on Friday and look for 09 on Saturday. So either way, we should know what has happened by the end of the weekend. This really is a fantastic outcome and we are very grateful to Frederic and Lahoucine and his team for their help.
As we wait for news, myself and the team at Rutland have been discussing what may have happened. The most likely scenario, we think, is that poor weather – or perhaps sandstorms – forced 09 to land on the ridge on 11th September. As an experienced migrator, he would have known not to set out across the Sahara if conditions were poor for flying. Sadly, once there, he may have been predated by an Eagle Owl or even a Bonelli’s Eagle. Both species are capable of taking a bird as large as an Osprey and both occur in this southern part of Morocco. The alternative, of course, is that the transmitter fell off while 09 was perched there. Hopefully either Frederic or Lahoucine will be able to provide an answer. And let’s hope it is the latter.
Amazingly, whilst looking at the various land forms on Google Earth, we realised that we flew over the exact spot that we are receiving transmissions from, in January 2011 en route to West Arica. The photo below was taken by John Wright from the plane that day and I have marked on 09′s position. This shows what a remote, inhospitable place it is, so good luck to Frederic and Lahoucine in their search for 09. We’ll report any news as soon as we have it.
By Tim on September 16, 2012
Having reached the northern edge of the Sahara on Tuesday, we expected 09 to be well into his crossing of the desert by now. Instead, we have some bitterly disappointing news to report.
All of the GPS fixes we have received from 09′s satellite transmitter in the latest batch of data (from 12-15 Sept) are from exactly the same place. Furthermore, the activity meter on the transmitter is showing that it isn’t moving either. In other words, 09 – or his transmitter – hasn’t moved since 3pm on 11th September.
So what has happened? Well, there are two options. The first, which obviously we hope isn’t the case, is that 09 has died. Although the transmitters are designed to fall off once the cotton holding the teflon harness in place has rotted, we wouldn’t expect that to have happened within two years – especially as Roy Dennis has tracked some birds for five years or more. Clearly, if the transmitter is still in place, then 09 must have died. But if that is the case, then the cause of death is a real mystery. As you’ll know if you have been following his migration, 09 has been making excellent progress south. It took him just seven days to reach southern Morocco – an average of over 250 miles per day. This suggests that he was in good condition and it seems unlikely that he would suddenly have died of natural causes. Likewise, the remote nature of the site, makes human intervention improbable too. When AW died in the Ivory Coast last winter, it was clear from the satellite data that humans were almost certainly to blame. However, 09′s position is two-and-a-half miles from the nearest habitation – a small village called Taskala – and on the top of a steep ridge some 1000 feet above the village.
So if 09 hasn’t come to grief, then what has happened? The only other explanation is that the transmitter has fallen off. When 06(01) returned to breed at Rutland Water in 2003, she had lost the satellite transmitter that had been fitted to her as a juvenile just two years previously. So, although the transmitters are designed to stay on for around five years, there is a prescedent for them falling off sooner than this. We certainly hope that this is the case with 09.
Of course, the only way we will be able to solve the mystery in the short-term is to try and get someone to go and look for the transmitter. The fact that it is still providing good-quality data means that if someone can get to the area, then retrieving it is a possibility. The problem we are faced with is that this is a very remote area – and close to the disputed border with Western Sahara. However, I will be emailing some contacts in Morocco this afternoon to try and get the ball rolling.
Whatever the case, this is all desperately disappointing, especially as 09 was in the middle of such a superb migration. All we can hope is that the transmitter has dropped off and that we will be able to retrieve it. So, if you know anyone who may be able to help, please get in touch with me by email – email@example.com. I’ll post more news as soon as we have any.
By Tim on September 14, 2012
We should receive the next batch of data from 09′s transmitter over the weekend, so keep an eye on the website for the next update – most probably on Sunday. It will be really interesting to see how far he has flown. If he has maintained the pace he set during the first week of his migration, then he should be well into his crossing of the Sahara. Watch this space!
In the meantime, a special mention to Liz McCarthy. Liz is running the Great North Run on Sunday in order to raise money for our satellite-tracking work. As 09′s data demonstrates, the GPS satellite transmitters give a truly unique insight into the birds’ epic journeys to West Africa as well us providing us with a wealth of valuable information on their movements in and around Rutland. Each transmitter costs £2500 with an additional fee of £600 per year for the on-going data collection costs. So if you have enjoyed following 09′s journey so far and would like to support our work, then please consider sponsoring Liz for the Great North Run. You can do so via her online fund-raising page. Thanks in advance and GOOD LUCK to Liz for Sunday.
By Tim on September 13, 2012
For Ospreys migrating south from the UK, the most obvious hazard on their 3000 mile flight to the wintering grounds is the vast and wild expanses of the Sahara. In his lifetime 09 has made 25 crossing of one of the most inhospitable parts of the planet and his latest satellite data shows that yesterday morning he was in the southern part of Morocco, preparing to cross once again.
09′s flight south so far has been notable for its speed – he has averaged more than 50 miles a day further than last autumn – and he continued to make excellent progress once he reached Morocco on Sunday evening.
Having left Europe behind at around 3:30pm on Sunday afternoon and crossed the Strait of Gibraltar into North Africa, 09 showed no signs of letting up. By 6pm he had already flown 50km further south and he continued migrating until after dark. Non-GPS locations showed that he was still migrating at 9:20pm and he finally settled to roost 30km east of Rabat having flown 552 kilometres since leaving his roost site in the Sierra Morena mountains that morning. With sunset in Rabat just after 7:30pm, 09 must have flown more than 100km in total darkness. As he demonstrated as he flew south through Europe, it seemed that he wanted to make the most of excellent migration conditions.
Having roosted in an area of open agricultural land, 09 began flying south again at first light. Its possible he made a short diversion to fish at Lac Barrage on the outskirts of Rabat, but two hours later he was another 31km south, heading purposefully south-west at 49kph. Once again he was evidently keen to press on with his journey and over the course of the next five hours he covered 236km at an altitude of more than 1000 metres.
As he flew over Marrakesh, the Atlas Mountains would have loomed large on the horizon. These vast mountains, rising to more than 4000 metres in places, present an obvious barrier to migrating birds and, like last year, 09 shifted his course to a more westerly heading in order to avoid the highest peaks. Google Earth offers us an insight into the kind of views he would have been seeing.
At 4pm 09 was flying along the northern edge of the mountains at 67kph. At present we’re receiving data fixes from his transmitter every two hours and they indicate that he flew around the highest peaks before changing towards a more southerly course towards Agadir. The red line on the Google Earth images are direct lines between data points, but in reality 09 would almost certainly have flown further to avoid the highest mountains.
By 6pm 09 was flying south-west along at an altitude of 1892m along a mountain pass towards Barrage Abdelmoumen. Although we do not his exact flight path, he would almost certainly have had the view shown below as he flew past the spectacular mountains.
The sun would now have been getting low in the sky, but once clear of the mountains 09 flew another 100km before roosting just south of the large reservoir Barrage Youssef ef Ibn Tachfin after a day’s flight of 556km.
It is fascinating to see how similar 09′s journey this year is to his flight last September. The image below shows his two autumn flights through Morocco. Last year 09 made the flight round the Atlas on 11th September – the same day as this year, given that 2012 is a leap year. Incredible!
Next morning 09 was still at his roost site at 9am, suggesting he had made the short flight to Barrage Youssef ef Ibn Tachfin to go fishing – he would have arrived too late to catch a meal the previous evening. He can’t have left long after 9am though because two hours later he had flown 57km south-west and was heading powerfully on at 47kph at an altitude of 1350m. He now had the Sahara in his sights. By 1pm 09 had covered another 73km and was still heading south-west at an altitude of just under 1000m. Two hours later though, he had stopped and was perched on the top of a spectacular ridge, with the vast expanse of the Sahara lying ahead. He was either tired after the exersions of the previous week’s flying or the weather was too poor to continue any further, because two hours later he was still in the same spot. He evetually settled there for the night, having flown just 155km – much less than the previous few days. The land forms here are truly mighty impressive – and can easily be seen from the air. The photo below, which shows almost the exact spot where 09 was resting, was taken by John Wright when we flew to West Africa last year.
Next morning (yesterday) the Argos satellites were unable to pick any GPS fixes from 09′s transmitter, but several non-GPS points – accurate to within a few hundred metres – suggested he had moved down into the valley to roost and that he was still there at 10:30am. The terrain there explains the lack of GPS fixes and suggests, that, perhaps, 09 is taking the chance to rest before setting out across the Sahara. A look at Google Earth indicates there may well be water in the valleys – 09′s last chance of a meal for a few days. We expect the next batch of data to arrive on Saturday. It will be fascinating to see where he is then.
By Michelle on September 10, 2012
This time last year we all got very excited because eight and a half days after leaving Rutland, 09 had reached Northern Morocco. But this year he’s knocked the socks off his previous time and has made it to the same place in only five days! Not only that, he actually arrived in North Africa on exactly the same day as last year! Migration really is incredible. The Google Earth image below shows 09′s progress up to 7pm yesterday evening.
After leaving his roost site in the high hills just outside the Picos de Europa National Park on Friday morning, 09 went due south at a leisurely 18 mph, flying at 2000 feet. Two hours later he had reached a height of 5900 feet and by 3pm that afternoon he had already covered nearly 100 miles. It was still a few hours before he decided to rest for the night in a cultivated area near the small village of Fuentes de Año.
09 had a slow start on Saturday morning but by 1pm he had risen to an incredible 6000 feet as he flew 60 miles west of Madrid. He continued flying south until he reached the Sierra Morena Mountains in Southern Spain where he roosted a few miles away from a large lake.
Sunday 9th September: After roosting only 150 miles away from the Strait of Gibralter, today must be the day when 09 waves goodbye to Europe. By 11am he was cruising at a comfortable 32 mph and at 1800 feet he would have had great views of Cordova, a city in Andalusia, as he passed by on his way south. Up to this point, 09′s route this year has been very different to his route last year as you can see in the picture below.
Aiming for the shortest route across the Strait of Gibralter meant that just 40 miles south of Cordova at 1pm yesterday afternoon, 09 crossed the route he took last year…on 9th September.
Sure enough, by 5pm on Sunday evening 09 had flown over Palmones and he left the shores of Spain at Algerciras and was halfway across the straight of Gibralter on his way to Morocco. Flying at a height of just over 1800 feet visibility must have been good and this is what 09′s view of the crossing would have looked like…
This Southern most point in Europe is a fantastic place to watch migrating birds at this time of year and millions can be seen crossing the short stretch of water as they head north towards their breeding grounds. John Wright visited this area several years ago and many Ospreys could be seen flying through. Below are some of his photographs looking over the Strait of Gibralter to the coast of North Africa.
After a successful crossing, our last position shows 09 in Northern Morocco still making his way south. It’s now been five days since 09 left Rutland and he has covered an incredible 1,256 miles, averaging 252 miles a day. He’s nearly half-way!
By Michelle on September 9, 2012
In the 48 hours since his last position at 7pm on Thursday, 09(98) has flown another incredible 340 miles! We’re still waiting for some of the data to come through but we know that at 7pm last night he had reached the Sierra Morena Mountains in Southern Spain and was only 160 miles from the Strait of Gibraltar. A full update will follow as soon as the next batch of data comes through but it’s exciting to think that if 09 continued at yesterday’s pace, he could have reached Morocco this evening!
By Michelle on September 8, 2012
It’s now been five days since 9F, her mother and 5R left the Manton Bay nest and headed south. If the start of 09′s migration is anything to go by they could already be in southern Spain or North Africa! If, like us, you’re missing the Manton Bay family here’s a video of this year’s highlights to enjoy. There’s also plenty to look forward to over the next few days as we wait for the next batch of 09′s data to come through. Be sure to keep an eye on the website tomorrow evening to see where he’s got to!