Blogs

The Inaugural Osprey Ball

It has been another great season for the project and this year we celebrated in style at our inaugural Osprey Ball. The ball, which was held at the superb Barnsdale Lodge Hotel, was an opportunity for project supporters, volunteers and staff  to reflect on an excellent summer and to raise valuable funds for the project.

We were particularly delighted to welcome IEPUK to the ball. IEPUK – who are based in Uppingham –  are a not-for-profit education and training organisation who have been working around the world for over 20 years. Their core business is to create opportunities for young people to gain skills and experience within the land-based sector. This fits in very well with the Rutland Osprey Project’s work in West Africa and we were delighted to receive a donation of £808 at the ball from IEPUK Director, George Peach. This valuable donation will help us to develop our work with schools in The Gambia and enable students to participate in a survey of wintering Ospreys that we’re organising in conjunction with the Gambian Department for Parks and Wildlife Management this winter. This is the first time that such a survey has ever been undertaken in The Gambia and it will provide valuable experience for the students in the company of professional bird guides and ornithologists, including author of the Birds of the Gambia, Clive Barlow and Osprey Flyways Project Co-ordinator, Junkung Jadama. Click on the video below to find out more about our work in The Gambia.

Junkung Jadama with Gambian students on a fieldtrip organised by the project

Junkung Jadama with Gambian students on a fieldtrip organised by the project

IEPUK Director George Peach (left) presents Tim Mackrill with a donation of £808 towards the project's work in The Gambia

IEPUK Director George Peach (left) presents Tim Mackrill with a donation of £808 towards the project’s work in The Gambia

In addition to the generous donation from IEPUK, ticket sales and a raffle on the night generated a further £750. It was a wonderful evening and one that we will definitely repeat next year. Watch this space!

We are extremely grateful to everyone who donated prizes for the raffle, namely Oakham Wines, In Focus, the Horse & Jockey, Paul Stammers, Trish Ruddle, Dr Rob Lambert, Barnsdale Lodge, Eyebrook Wild Bird Foods and Mike Simmons. Thanks also to Corporate Architecture for sponsoring a table.

Osprey Ball

Osprey Ball 2

Soaring so high and so free

On Sunday 31st August 2014, our satellite-tagged Osprey, 30(05), set off on her long migration south to her wintering grounds in West Africa. Just over eleven days later, she arrived! It took her exactly the same amount of hours as last year (267), and the route she took was almost exactly the same!

A comparison of 30's three tracked migrations. Green = autumn 2013, yellow = spring 2014, red = autumn 2014

A comparison of 30′s three tracked migrations. Green = autumn 2013, yellow = spring 2014, red = autumn 2014

 

In the photograph above you can see the three lines indicating 30’s three tracked journeys to and from Rutland and Senegal. The red line is this year’s migration – autumn 2014. The green line is her autumn migration of last year, 2013. The yellow line is her spring migration back to Rutland in March 2014. Below is a table that shows the total distance 30 travelled on all three of her tracked migrations. They are remarkably similar!

  Autumn 2013 (green line) Spring 2014 (yellow line) Autumn 2014 (red line)
Total distance travelled (km) 4624 4895 4686
Total distance travelled (miles) 2873 3041 2911

 

It is incredible how Ospreys know where they are going, and how they stick to a similar route each year. We imagine that they must use significant land marks and remember them to guide them on their way. In reality, we’ll never really know how they do it, it will remain something that we cannot possibly ever fully comprehend. But that doesn’t matter, we don’t need to know everything, what matters is that we can appreciate the intricacies and complex abilities of nature, and feel awed and inspired by them!

30’s autumn migration this year is without doubt an awe-inspiring thing. During her eleven-and-a-bit days of migrating, she travelled a total of 4686km (2911 miles), averaging 424km a day (264 miles), at an average speed of 36kph (22mph). Out of her 267 total hours of migration, she spent 130 hours actually flying, which is just under 50% of her time, and averages at 12.8 hours per day of flying.

The photograph below shows 30′s complete, and incredibly direct, migration to Senegal this autumn.

30's complete autumn migration 2014

30′s complete autumn migration 2014

 

The table below shows how far 30 travelled each day and at what times, and total hours each day.

Day Distance (km) Distance (miles) Time migrating Total hours
1 521 324 08:00 – 19:00 11
2 508 315 05:00 – 19:00 14
3 516 320 05:00 – 18:00 13
4 259 161 08:00 – 19:00 11
5 413 256 05:00 – 19:00 (1hr resting) 13
6 536 333 06:00 – 20:00 14
7 354 220 08:00 – 19:00 11
8 561 349 07:00 – 17:00 10
9 351 218 09:00 – 20:00 11
10 165 103 09:00 – 18:00 9
11 449 279 09:00 – 20:00 11
12 53 33 06:00 – 11:00 (but 2 hours migrating) 2

 

Migration is truly mind-blowing, and not fully understanding how it is done just serves to make it even more admirable. Just look at what this 1.9kg bird has accomplished this autumn, in just over a week and a half. It doesn’t get much more amazing than that.

Breakfast on the beach

30(05) on the beach last year

 

30 reaches her winter home

She’s done it! The latest satellite data from 30(05)’s transmitter shows that she reached her winter home on the Senegal coast at 11am yesterday morning after an amazing 11-day migration from Rutland.

The previous batch of data had shown that 30 roosted in the remote desert of Western Sahara on Sunday evening. Next morning she must have left her overnight roost site at around 9:30am because by 10am she was 18km further south, heading south-west at 41kph at an altitude of 660 metres. She continued to make fairly steady progress over the next four hours and by 2pm she had flown 158 kilometres on a south-south-westerly heading at altitudes of between 500 and 1300 metres. During the heat of the afternoon she took advantage of thermals created by the searing desert, crossing into Mauritania just after 4pm and continuing south-south-east at high altitude. By 6pm, she had covered another 133km and was migrating at an altitude of 2300 metres. An hour later she was a further 31km south-east and now even higher: 2440 metres above the remote and desolate desert. She continued flying for another hour before settling to roost on the desert floor in northern Mauritania after a day’s flight of 350 km.

30 flew just over 350 km through Western Sahara and Mauritania on Monday

30 flew just over 350 km through Western Sahara and Mauritania on Monday

A Google Earth view of 30's GPS fixes between 7am and 9am show just how remote and desolate the Sahara is in this part of Mauritania

A Google Earth view of 30′s GPS fixes between 7am and 9am show just how remote and desolate the Sahara is in this part of Mauritania

By first light on Tuesday morning 30 had moved 2km south from her position the previous evening and, like on Monday she resumed her migration at around 9:30am. For the first time in ten days of migration, though, it seemed that conditions were not in her favour. During the course of the day she only flew another 164 kilometres before settling to roost in the desert of central Mauritania.

For a third morning in succession, 30 resumed her migration at around 9:30am on Wednesday. By 11am she had flown 47 kilometres and was flying south at 34kph at an altitude of 350 metres. Conditions for migration must have been much better than on Tuesday because over the course of the next four hours she covered a further 146km at altitudes of over 1000 metres. 30 must have now sensed that she was getting closer to her winter home; she had made a distinct turn to the south-west and was nearing the Senegal border. At 17:30 she passed over Richard Toll and into Senegal, crossing the Senegal River; almost certainly the first water she had seen for at least four days. After flying over the huge Lac de Guiers she pressed on towards the coast. She passed to the east of St Louis as dusk was falling at 7pm and continued flying for almost an hour after dark before reaching the coast and settling to roost for the night. She was now just 40km north of Lompoul beach after a day’s flight of 450km.

30 flew almost three times as far on Wednesday as she had done the previous day

30 flew almost three times as far on Wednesday as she had done the previous day

By 9am next morning 30 was perched 23km south of her overnight roost site, probably eating her first fish for five days. She didn’t linger there for long, though. Two hours later she was perched in one of her favourite trees just inland from Lompoul beach. Just over 11 days after leaving Rutland, she was back at the site where she has spent every winter since her first autumn migration in September 2005. She had arrived two days later than last year, but having departed from Rutland 48 hours later than the previous year, her migration has taken exactly the same length of time. And when I say exactly, I mean exactly. If you give or take a few minutes, her journey last autumn took a total of 267 hours.This year it was…yes, you guessed it, 267 hours. Remarkable!

Each winter 30 spends much of her time in a clearing a few metres inland from the coast. She was back there yesterday morning.

Each winter 30 spends much of her time in a clearing a few metres inland from the coast. She was back there yesterday morning.

Having arrived at her winter home 30 will spend the next six months in leisurely fashion; catching one or two fish each day and then spending the rest of her time on her favourite perches on the beach or just inland. We know exactly what the beach looks like because last year project team members Paul Stammers and John Wright visited it. To read about their trip, click here.

30 on one of her favourite perches last winter

30 on one of her favourite perches last winter

We’ll be sure to keep you updated with 30′s movements over the coming months and watch out for a summary of her migration early next week. In the meantime, take a minute to marvel at this most incredible of migrations. Over the course of her 11-day journey 30 flew 4681km (2908 miles). She certainly deserves a rest!

Don’t forget that you can also view 30′s migration on your own version of Google Earth. To find out how, click here.

The never ending story

You will all be aware of the drama that occurred in Manton Bay this spring. At the time, it certainly felt like it was never ending!

It all began when Maya’s partner of the past four years, 5R(04), did not return. She was alone for a while without a mate, then she paired up with 28(10). She laid eggs, which was brilliant, he got the hang of incubation fairly quickly, he was fishing regularly, and everything was going well. Then 33(11) turned up and caused chaos. He spent days harassing the nest and chasing 28, until he eventually chased 28 off altogether. Then Maya was left alone to defend the nest and incubate the eggs. She couldn’t do both, so the eggs were left uncovered for prolonged periods. A few days later, 28 returned, there was an aerial battle between the two males, and they both disappeared. The next day it was 28 who was in the Bay, and for the next five days there was no sign of 33, and normal activities resumed. But then 33 came back again, and was relentless in his advances. 28 was chased away again, and eventually Maya stopped fighting 33 and allowed him onto the nest, where he scraped the eggs from the cup. The rest is history, as they say.

We wrote updates every day describing what was happening as it happened. We have now created a video (see below) that tells the whole story - a few weeks of action condensed into five minutes of footage. Some of you may have already seen this movie, as it was shown on a loop at our Birdfair stand. It is a great way of watching the story play out and remembering what happened.

As we have said previously, whilst it wasn’t good news for Manton Bay this year, it has probably worked out for the best in the long run. 33 is a strong, capable male Osprey, and he has had a good practice run this season. Therefore, should he and Maya safely return next year, we will (hopefully) have a successful nest here in 2015. The 2014 season may have ended, but the story of Manton Bay is far from over.

 

Farewell is a lonely sound

This morning dawned bright and fresh – a typical autumn day. I could see my breath in the cool morning air as I walked to my car, which was covered in condensation. The vision that greeted me as I drove over the top of Lyndon Hill was a sight to be savoured. The water was perfectly still, and the trees on Lax Hill, which are just beginning to turn various shades of brown and gold, were reflected in the mirror-like surface of the reservoir. The weak morning sun set off the scene by illuminating the striking colours of the trees, and making the surface of the water sparkle.

The sun’s strength increased throughout the morning, and it turned into a lovely warm day. Another perfect day for setting off on migration. Apparently 33(11) thought so too. He was seen this morning at 08:20, but he has not been seen since. It would therefore appear that he has left us too!

Yesterday, after 51(11) intruded briefly at Manton Bay, he flew off over the hide. The direction of his departure was due south. Therefore, it would seem likely that that was him leaving. This means that 33 was the only Osprey left in Rutland yesterday, and today he has made the decision to leave, as there is no longer a threat to his nest.

Maya has definitely gone, as we thought. We know then, that she left us sometime between 08:30 and 09:00 yesterday morning. We know that Ospreys’ migratory abilities are phenomenal, and based on the data we have received from 30(05)’s satellite transmitter, showing the speed of her progress, it is entirely possible that Maya could already be in France!

So here we are, Osprey-less, at the end of another season. It is weird to think that all the Ospreys have gone, it feels rather desolate. Looking at that live camera, expecting an Osprey to land on it any minute, then remembering that they won’t. Not until next year, that is! The Lyndon Visitor Centre will remain open until Sunday 14th September, and then it will close its doors for the final time this year. The Centre will re-open next spring, on Monday 16th March 2015.

So, will we look back fondly on 33’s time here in Manton Bay this year? To begin with, he didn’t do much to win our affections, what with chasing off 28(10) and erasing any hopes of his eggs hatching, and indeed any eggs hatching in Manton Bay at all. The fallout that followed 33’s arrival was both inevitable and heart-breaking. Suffice to say, he hasn’t been everyone’s favourite Osprey. However, he has won most of us over with his devotion to Maya and the nest over the last few months. His practice run this year should make him an excellent partner for Maya next season.

Next year, 33 must ensure he gets back in time to stop any other Ospreys moving in on his territory in the early spring. This year he arrived back on 13th April, so he will have to do better than that! He had no real pressing reason to arrive back early this year, but now he has a mate and a nest, and a duty to fulfil. So let’s hope he gets here in time!

Maya and 33(11) looking about for intruders

Here’s to next season, when, hopefully, there will be chicks in this nest once again

 

30 races across the Sahara

Our satellite-tagged Osprey, 30(05) continues to make staggering progress on her autumn migration. The latest data shows that at 9pm last night she was roosting in the remote desert of Western Sahara just eight days after leaving Rutland.

The previous data from the 30′s satellite transmitter had shown that on the night of 4th September she had roosted north-east of Rabat in northern Morocco. Next morning she resumed her migration at first light, passing Rabat at 8am local time (7am GMT) and then maintaining a perfect south-westerly course for the next seven hours at altitudes of between 250 metres and 1000 metres. By 3pm she had already flown 320km and at that point she made a distinct turn to the south. Two hours later the vast Atlas Mountains would have been prominent on the horizon and, like her autumn migration in 2013, she turned to the south-west in order to skirt across the western foothills of the mountains; thereby avoiding the high peaks further east.

30 skirted around the western end of the Atlas Mountains

30 skirted around the western end of the Atlas Mountains

An Osprey's eye view of the Atlas. This Google Earth image shows why 30 flew around the mountains, rather than over them

An Osprey’s eye view of the Atlas. This Google Earth image shows why 30 flew around the mountains, rather than over them

She may have missed the high mountains, but nevertheless at 7pm 30 was migrating at an altitude of more than 3000 metres and an hour later – with darkness falling – she was still going: heading due south at 33kph at an altitude of 1820 metres. Finally, at around 8:30pm she settled to roost for the night in a cultivated area just south of the mountains having flown a total of 536 kilometres during the day; her longest day’s flight thus far.

30 flew 536km on 5th September

30 flew 536km on 5th September

Next morning 30 resumed her migration later than the previous day; by 10am she was only 18km south-west of her overnight roost suggesting that she may have found somewhere to fish before resuming her migration. At midday she was just 11km from the coast, but at that point she turned to a more southerly heading, passing to the east of Tiznit and then past Guelmin. As she headed south the terrain would have become increasingly arid with spectacular rock formations and ridges. By 5pm she was passing just a few kilometres to the east of the area where another of our satellite-tagged birds, 09(98) sadly came to grief in 2012. The film below, made by Moroccan wildlife film-maker Lahoucine Faouzi, gives you an idea of just how inhospitable this area is.

At 6pm 30 passed over a spectacular ridge that you can see in Lahoucine’s film. Satellite-tracking studies have shown that many Osprey use this ridge to aid their navigation, and sure enough, 30 made a distinct turn to the south-west as she passed over this ridge; exactly as she had done on her autumn migration last year.

As in 2013 (red line), 30 made a distinct turn to the south-west when she flew over a spectacular ridge in the Sahara

As in 2013 (red line), 30 made a distinct turn to the south-west when she flew over a spectacular ridge in the Sahara

30 continued migrating for another two hours, before settling to roost in an area of sparse vegetation at 8pm having flown 352 kilometres during the course of the day. It is fascinating to see how her route almost exactly mirrored that of her flight on 4th September 2013. Both her morning and evening roosts were within 15km of her previous journey.

30's flight on 6th September was almost exactly the same as her journey on 4th September in 2013

30′s flight on 6th September was almost exactly the same as her journey on 4th September in 2013

Yesterday morning 30 was migrating again at first light. Conditions must have been good for migration because during the course of the day she maintained an almost-perfect south-westerly heading at altitudes ranging from 360 metres to 1210 metres. In just over 10 hours of migrating 30 flew 561 kilomtres; an average speed of more than 50kph. She eventually settled to roost on the desert floor just after 5pm in an extremely remote part of Western Sahara.

30's roost site last night could hardly have been more remote

30′s roost site last night could hardly have been more remote

30 flew 561km across the Sahara on 7th September

30 flew 561km across the Sahara on 7th September

This all means that just eight days after leaving Rutland Water 30 has flown a remarkable 3665km. If she maintains similar speeds, she could arrive at her wintering site on the Senegal coast as early as Wednesday…watch this space! Last year she did the migration in 11 days; and she’s certainly on course to at least match that again this year.

Don’t forget that you can also view 30′s migration on your own version of Google Earth. To find out how, click here.

And then there was one

Yesterday, both Ospreys were in the Bay all day, and they were both there this morning at 08:25. However, when volunteer Anna arrived at Waderscrape Hide at 09:00, there were no Ospreys present. Our first thought was, of course, have they gone? Twenty minutes later though, 33(11) flew into the Bay with an enormous trout, and landed on the leaning perch with it. He hasn’t left yet then! There was still no sign of Maya, however.

At 09:40, 33(11) brought the fish to the nest, and sat with it on the edge. We hovered around the record button in case Maya was on her way, but she wasn’t. After a few minutes, 33 continued to eat the fish himself.

33 with his fish

33 with his fish

Fish guts

Fish guts

Fish guts

Yummy

 

At about 10:20, 33’s behaviour indicated that an intruding Osprey was bothering him, and another Osprey was sighted above the nest. It wasn’t Maya, as he would not have reacted like that to her. We think this Osprey was probably 51(11), as we know he is still in the area. The intruder flew off over the hide, and 33 resumed the very important business of eating.

Intruder about

Intruder about

 

So we know she was here earlier this morning, but it is looking likely that Maya has left, and 33 is now alone in Manton Bay. Will he be the last Osprey in Rutland? Probably. He won’t leave while there is still a chance another Osprey could nab his nest (namely 51).

Today has been a beautiful day, dry and bright with a north-westerly breeze. A good day to begin a 3,000 mile journey, I would say. Maya has stayed around slightly longer this year than last – in 2013 she migrated on 2nd September. However, the latest she has ever left was the 12th September, so it is not unprecedented for her to still be here this late.

There is a very slight possibility that Maya has not actually gone, and has just been elsewhere all day. As unlikely as that is, we cannot categorically confirm her departure. We will wait and see what the morning brings, whether it be two Ospreys in the Bay, just one, or none at all.

 

They’re still here!

They’re still here! If you’re planning a visit to Rutland Water this weekend, then there is every chance that you will see an Osprey. Both Maya and 33(11) were at the nest all day, and they were still there this evening. We shouldn’t really be surprised; Maya has been one of the last Ospreys to depart from Rutland Water over the past few years and it would seem that 33(11) is following her lead. He probably wants to make sure that rival male 51(11) – who is still also present – doesn’t get a look-in with his new mate. He’s certainly continuing to do everything as he should; here’s a video of 33 delivering a fine trout to the nest yesterday afternoon.

33 and Maya

33 and Maya

The Lyndon Visitor Centre is open all weekend – so we hope to see you then!

30 reaches Africa

Migration never ceases to amaze me. The latest batch of data from 30′s satellite transmitter shows that just five days after leaving Rutland, she roosted close to Rabat in northern Morocco last night.

The last batch of data had shown that at 7am on Tuesday morning, 30 was flying south through northern Spain. By 10am she had flown another 120 kilometres and was powering her way through the mountains of La Rioja. At midday she passed just to the west of Soria at an altitude of 1780 metres. Ospreys often reach very high altitudes as they migrate across Spain and over the course of the next six hours, 30 did the same. By 6pm she had flown another 256km at altitudes of up to 3260 metres – that’s well over 10,000 feet. She was now some 115km south-west of Madrid, but showing no signs of letting-up. She made a distinct turn to the south-east and then flew another 35 kilometres before settling for the night in an agricultural area five kilometres west of Villarrobledo in Catile-LaMancha province. She had flown 517km; meaning that she had flown a staggering 1500km in just three days of migration.

We have not yet received the full batch of GPS fixes for the next morning, but she clearly made a slower start than previous days because at 1pm local time (12:00GMT) she was just 87km south-east of her overnight position. Over the course of the afternoon she made her way through the eastern part of the Sierra Morena mountains before settling for the night among olive groves in Andalucia.Her day’s flight of 256km was half that of previous days, but significantly, she was now within striking distance of Africa.

30 flew almost the length of Spain in just two days

30 flew almost the length of Spain in just two days

30 probably caught a fish in Embalse de Malpasillo yesterday morning before flying to Morocco

30 probably caught a fish in Embalse de Malpasillo yesterday morning before flying to Morocco

30 left her roost site soon after first light and flew 25km south-west to Embalse de Malpasillo. She almost certainly caught a fish there because for the next two hours she was perched four kilometres south-west of the reservoir, presumably eating her breakfast. By 10am she was migrating again and two-and-a-half hours later she reached the Spanish coast at Marbella. Unlike most raptors who head further south-west to make the short 14km flight across the Strait of Gibraltar to Morocco, 30 simply headed straight out to sea. By 2pm she had flown 67 kilometres across the Mediterranean and was now flying just 10 metres above the waves at 19kph. An hour later she reached Morocco, making landfall near Tetouan after flying over 100km across the open sea.

Having reached Africa, 30 showed no signs of letting up. Over the course of the next five hours she flew another 187 kilometres south-west and then south-south-west through northern Morocco at altitudes of between 200 and 1000 metres. She eventually settled for the night in a cultivated area 50km north-east of Rabat, after a day’s flight of 413km.

After just five days, she has covered a remarkable 2216km and has already left Europe behind. The imposing Atlas Mountains and the vast wilds of the Sahara are next. Don’t forget that you can also view 30′s migration on your own version of Google Earth. To find out how, click here.

Unlike most birds of prey, 30 crossed the Mediterranean well to the east of Gibraltar

Unlike most birds of prey, 30 crossed the Mediterranean well to the east of Gibraltar

In your own time

Well, Maya and 33(11) are still here… I wouldn’t like to guess when they will leave! I had a walk down to the hides this morning, and both Maya and 33 were sitting in the Bay when I arrived. Earlier, we’d had a report from Lyn, our volunteer monitoring the Ospreys, that 33 had caught a massive fish, brought it to the T-perch, and was just about to tuck in when he dropped it into the water! He tried but failed to retrieve it. He did manage to get it back later, but he gave up on it for a while and took off to go on a fishing trip over Heron Bay, apparently thinking that might be easier than getting his previous fish back. At the same time, I also saw another Osprey fishing in the distance, so we know that there are at least three Ospreys still with us.

33(11)’s fishing foray was unsuccessful, and he returned to his perch. However, later on Lyn phoned to say 33 had another go at getting his earlier fish back, and this time succeeded! He subsequently spent at least an hour eating part of it, whilst Maya waited impatiently on the nest for her share. Several times her behaviour indicated 33 was on his way, and I raced to the record button… but she must have been over-eager, because each time he didn’t arrive, and she settled back down. Eventually, 33 did arrive at the nest with the rest of the fish, but he did it so fast I nearly didn’t have time to record it! Nevertheless, there is a short video below of Maya taking the fish from 33.

Maya shouting for the fish today

Maya shouting for the fish today

Maya with the fish

Maya got the fish eventually

 

I didn’t see Water Voles while I was there (typically) but Lyn reported seeing four this morning – two adults and two youngsters. The Spotted Crake has not been seen since last Friday. Little Egrets, Grey Herons, Lapwings, Common Terns and a Red Kite were also seen from Waderscrape today, and a number of ducks were dabbling in front of Shallow Water hide.

Here are a few screen-shots of the Ospreys taken over the last couple of days:

33(11) mantling at an intruder

33(11) mantling at an intruder

33 guarding the nest

33 guarding the nest

Maya waiting more patiently for a fish

Maya waiting more patiently for a fish

33(11) surveying his kingdom

33(11) surveying his kingdom