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We had a wonderful time on our osprey project trip to West Africa, as usual! The wildlife was fantastic, the company was excellent and we stayed in some lovely places. As we all know, during our stay in the Gambia there was some potential for unrest due to the refusal of the current president to step down and make way for the new one, following the elections in early December. This situation worried some people, however, there really was no need for anyone to be worried about us, as the situation was not as the media made out. Everything went smoothly and completely as normal, we did not encounter any unusual activities or problems anywhere. The only thing that changed for us was that the time of our scheduled flight home on Thursday 19th was brought forward by 45 minutes. So the trip went completely to plan!

We would like to thank our excellent team of volunteers for making this trip such good fun! We had some great outings and saw some wonderful wildlife, as detailed in my earlier two blogs. Here are some photographs of the trip, taken by the team.

When in Gambia... (K.Brookes)

When in Gambia… (K.Brookes)

Sometimes the fun is too much... (S.Box)

Sometimes the fun is too much… (S.Box)

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This doesn’t need a caption (S.Box)

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Chris enjoying the hammock (S.Box)

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Two lovely ladies

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Sunrise at Missirah (L.Howells)

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Sarah enjoying the hammock at Footsteps (L.Howells)

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Time for a brew! (L.Howells)

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Enjoying our last evening at Footsteps Eco-lodge (L.Howells)

 

 

Gambian adventures

On Saturday we left the Sine Saloum, and indeed Senegal, behind us, and headed south. We crossed the border back into Gambia, then we crossed the river and made our way to the next stop – Tendaba Camp. We have visited Tendaba on every trip, and it provides a great taste of rural Africa. The camp is located right on the edge of the Gambia River, and we made the most of this by going on a boat trip across the river and into the mangroves and creeks on the other side. It was a wonderful, peaceful cruise through the overhanging branches, and we saw such a lot of wildlife on the banks of the narrow creeks and channels, and in the trees either side. There were kingfishers, herons, waders and birds of prey, pelicans, crabs and a crocodile!

Blue breasted kingfisher (K.Brookes)

Blue breasted kingfisher (K.Brookes)

Crocodile (K.Brookes)

Crocodile (K.Brookes)

(S.Box)

Boat! (S.Box)

 

We only had two nights in the Tendaba area, but we made the most of it and visited two different scrub and grassland sites for the purposes of birdwatching, one of which had a lovely shallow lake, and was an old airfield, apparently. We had some superb views of several excellent species, including indigo bird, dark-chanting goshawk, crested eagle and broad-bellied roller. We also visited a great spot for seeing standard-winged nightjars, and as the light faded we were treated to views of them flitting past the road. We also saw a Verreaux’s eagle owl which was a brilliant treat!

Terminal two! (S.Box)

Terminal two! (S.Box)

Serious birders (S.Box)

Serious birders (S.Box)

 

When Monday came round it was time to leave Tendaba and head to our next destination, Footsteps Eco-lodge, which is further west towards the coast. None of the team has ever been here before, but it is certainly worth it! The service and food are both excellent and the grounds lovely. On the first day at Footsteps we visited Tanji Marsh, in the hopes of seeing 5F(12) from Rutland Water. We were out of luck, as there were only two or three ospreys around the area. However, we will be popping back before we leave, so we could still be in with a chance of seeing her.

Tanji marsh (K.Brookes)

Tanji marsh (K.Brookes)

Tanji (S.Box)

Tanji (S.Box)

 

We had a great trip one morning to Kartong bird reserve, where the wetlands gave us great views of white-faced whistling ducks, painted snipe, black-winged stilts, spur-winged goose and ospreys!

Western grey plantain eaters (S.Box)

Western grey plantain eaters (S.Box)

 

Later, we went for lunch at a place called Stala, where we had a delicious buffet before going out on a boat trip on the Allahein river. We saw so many ospreys I lost count! Plus sacred ibis, blue breasted kingfisher, African fish eagle, Wahlberg’s eagle and many more.

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On the boat (K.Brookes)

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Pelicans (K.Brookes)

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River cruise (K.Brookes)

Osprey (S.Box)

Osprey (S.Box)

 

 

 

 

 

Hello Africa!

We’re here!

It was a very long and exhausting day on Monday, but we made it to Senegal! The flight was on time and we collected our bags and made our way to the ferry crossing at the Gambia river. Our trusty bus driver, Alagie, had already crossed with the bus, and we were to make our way across as foot passengers. Unfortunately we just missed the ferry as we arrived and had to wait for an hour for the next one! Eventually we boarded the boat and settled in for a 40 minute trip. We were very excited to see dolphins on the way, which made our tiredness seem to disappear! We had some great views of the dolphins as the came closer and closer to the boat.

Ferry crossing! (S.Proud)

Ferry crossing! (S.Proud)

 

Exhausted, hungry and excited, we eventually made it to the Keur Saloum, a lovely hotel on the Sine Saloum delta with a pool and terrace. We spent the first five days of the trip there. Our first morning was taken up mostly with wandering the extensive, wooded grounds of the hotel, taking in the many birds, butterflies and monkeys that we saw.

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Veranda (K.Brookes)

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Green vervet monkey (K.Brookes)

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Woodland birding (K.Brookes)

 

On several occasions we went out on a little wooden boat looking for ospreys in the Sine Saloum delta, including potentially 32(11) who we found winters here. One day we spent all day in that little wooden boat. We went all the way to the Ile des Oiseaux, where we had a great view on approach of at least six ospreys all together on the shore, eating fish. We had a short walk along the shore to see the birds better, and then headed back to the boat and onto our next stop, which was lunch! We moored up on a lovely sandy beach and ate a picnic lunch on the shelter of a thatched canopy. We visited the island twice and sailed all the way around it, seeing dozens of ospreys sitting on perches, eating fish and flying in and out. We hoped that we would see male osprey 32(11) who we found in this area last year. He’s quite a nervous bird, which bodes well for his survival, but means he flies off as soon as boats draw near. However, we did manage to get a view of him and his blue ring one day!

 

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Lunch (K.Brookes)

In the boat! (C.Ditchburn)

In the boat! (J.Wright)

On the beach (S.Box)

On the beach (S.Box)

Beach (S.Proud)

Beach (S.Proud)

Juvenile male osprey amongst pink backed pelicans (J.Wright)

Juvenile male osprey amongst pink backed pelicans (J.Wright)

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Thanks to Chris Ditchburn we have these great maps showing where we travelled on our three different boat trips!

Boat trip one

Boat trip one – 16.9 miles

Boat trip two - 38.9 miles

Boat trip two – 38.9 miles

Boat trip three

Boat trip three – 31.1 miles

 

On another day we visited a woodland site, where we had a great walk up a sandy track looking out for all the birds in the trees and shrubs, of which there were many! Highlights include yellow weavers, a bearded barbet, Abyssinian roller, yellow-fronted tinkerbird and red-cheeked cordon bleu.

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(K.Brookes)

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Abyssinian roller (K.Brookes)

 

On two separate afternoons we headed out to a nearby lake, which was great for both birds and insects! There were several species of dragonfly, some butterflies, plus a giant kingfisher, pearl-spotted owlets, fire finches, dark-chanting goshawk and several ospreys fishing!

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Another great sighting was when we were back at the hotel grounds and were treated to a superb view of a skink! It was sitting quite happily in the undergrowth, not worried at all about the cameras that were pointed at it!

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Skink (K.Brookes)

 

We’ve had a great time in Senegal and tomorrow we are off to the Gambia again! Look out for the next update next week!

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Lunch! (S.Proud)

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Sunset (K.Brookes)

Moonlight on the river (S.Box)

Moonlight on the river (S.Box)

Jetting off in January

Happy new year everyone! Thank you all for your support in 2016, and we hope that you continue to follow the Rutland Osprey Project in 2017.

In terms of the osprey project, the first thing that the new year brings is our annual trip to West Africa! The osprey team will be escaping the cold of the British winter and flying to Gambia on Monday 9th January for a ten day trip.

We will not be travelling far enough north to see 30(05) this time, however, we hope to see both 5F and 32, two Rutland ospreys we were lucky enough to see last January. In particular, finding 32’s wintering spot was a brilliant and unexpected thrill, as we had no idea at the time that he would be there! Click here for more information about the day we found him.

Our trip will take in some of the best sites for ospreys in Gambia and Senegal, and we are hoping to see plenty of other ospreys in addition to the Rutland birds we know about. Ospreys from several different countries were spotted last year, and John will be on hand with his telescope to read as many ring numbers as he can in order to learn more about osprey wintering distributions.

We will also be visiting several schools that are involved in the Osprey Flyways Project, and distributing Ken Davies’ excellent children’s books!

We’ll be keeping the website updated with news of our trip and photographs whilst we are there. Keep an eye on the website for the latest news!

5F

5F

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Another Sighting!

Another sighting!

We have some more wonderful news – another Rutland osprey chick from this season has been sighted! Osprey 2AB is a male chick who fledged this year from a nest in the Rutland area. He was spotted at the Somone Lagoon – an area in Senegal that the Rutland osprey team visited last season!

Unfortunately we don’t have a photograph of the bird himself, but here is his location on a map.

2ab-map

So far that’s two Rutland osprey chicks from the 2016 season who have been spotted elsewhere, 2AB in Senegal and 2AA in Portugal. 2AA is still in the same area in Portugal, on the Rio Tajo, or River Tagus, near Lisbon, which is clearly a good place to be. Here is a recent photograph of him, taken by Armando Marques.

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Contrary to what the ring numbers may imply, these two juveniles were not from the same nest, but from two different nests in the Rutland Water area. For some reason the rings were not used in chronological order this year! 2AA is the son of 28(10), the lovable male osprey who attempted to breed with Maya in Manton Bay in 2014, and was chased away by 33(11). 28 has been breeding now for two years, and has raised a total of three chicks. 2AB is one of 5N(04)’s chicks, a well-known female osprey who first bred in Manton Bay in 2007. She is one of the legendary 03(97)’s many daughters, and has raised a total of 18 chicks in her ten years of breeding.

It’s brilliant to get reports of Rutland ospreys on their migration or wintering grounds, and we rely on sightings such as this to know where our birds are, as we cannot put GPS transmitters on all of them. Knowing that two juveniles from this year are safely settled for the winter is great news, and we hope these two will return in a couple of years!

Currently, Field Officer John Wright is out in Senegal doing surveys into the population of ospreys in the area. He has already seen some Rutland ospreys, such as 06(09) whose wintering location we were informed of last winter by Rafa Benjumea. Click here for more information.

John will be sending updates of his travels as and when he is able to do so, and we will be sure to keep the website updated with the information he sends!

Watch this space!

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06(09) last winter