WOW! A Happy Return and Amazing Flights

World Osprey Week got off to a great start yesterday with the return of 30(05) to Rutland Water. The latest satellite data shows that she flew direct from northern France during the morning, covering an incredible 285km in just over five hours – an average of more that 50km/hour. And she’s not the only WOW Osprey who has been on the move in the past two days – we also have some amazing flights across the Sahara and a night-time sea crossing to update you on!

The previous batch of data had shown that 30 had roosted on the banks of the River Seine in Normandy on Saturday evening. Next morning she took full advantage by fishing in the river and nearby lakes. If she caught a fish then she didn’t hang around to eat it for too long, because at 11am she had flown 44km north-east and was perched in the middle of a large field in eastern Normandy. The forecast for Sunday was for strong northerly winds and occasional rain, and that probably explains wher unexpected break. She must have resumed her migration soon after because an hour later she was another 33km further north, approaching the English Channel. However, rather than heading towards the coast, she then turned to the north-east and flew another 65km parallel with the coastline. It is likely that the weather then took another turn for the worst because at 3pm she was perched just north of a series of lakes close to the village of Marenla in western Nord-Pas-de-Calais. Either that, or the sight of the lakes was just too appealing a prospect for her to resist! An hour later she was perched between two of the lakes, and that’s where she stayed for the rest of the evening, after a day’s flight of 144km.

30 roosted beside a series of lakes in northern France on Sunday evening.

30 roosted beside a series of lakes in northern France on Sunday evening.

Next morning the weather had changed. The wind had turned to a south-easterly and the sky was clear. Sensing her opportunity to get back to Rutland, 30 set-off before 8am and by 9am she was crossing the English Channel at an altitude of 300 metres. It took her an hour to make the 50km crossing from Boulogne-sur-Mer to Folkestone.

At 10am she was powering north over the Kent countryside, passing to the east of Ashford and on towards the Thames estuary. By 11am she was flying at an altitude of more that 1100 metres, passing over Canvey Island and into Essex. She flew past Stansted airport at midday and then over Grafham Water at around 12:30. She was almost home.

At 1:15pm her nest finally came into view. She folded her wings and dropped down onto the nest that she had left on 29th August last year. John Wright was waiting nearby to capture the wonderful moment when she arrived home.

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30 arriving at her nest at 1:15pm on 24th March - just under 6 months after she had left on her autumn migration.

30 arriving at her nest at 1:15pm on 24th March – just under 6 months after she had left on her autumn migration. The aerial on her satellite transmitter is clearly visible.

30's last two days of migration back to Rutland Water

30’s last two days of migration back to Rutland Water

Much further south, two other WOW Ospreys have also been making good progress north across the Sahara Desert. Yellow HA and Blue XD are both heading for nests in north-east Scotland and, when Roy Dennis received the latest batch of data from their satellite transmitters, they were just over 200km apart in Morocco. The race is on to see who will be home first. Roy takes up the story…

The previous batch of data had shown that Yellow HA was heading north across the Sahara on 21st March. We now know that he roosted that night north of the Fderîck mine in Mauritania. He continued to make steady progress over the next two days, flying over 600km north-east from Mauritania into Western Sahara and then into Morocco. By 5pm yesterday evening he had flown another 290 km and was heading purposefully north-north-east at an altitude of 3869 metres (the start of the Atlas mountains below him were 1700 metres).

Yellow HA's flight across the Sahara, 21-24 March

Yellow HA’s flight across the Sahara, 21-24 March

Like Yellow HA, Blue XD also made a westerly track across Senegal and Mauritania, passing east of the Mauritanian capital Nouakchott on 19th Match and then east of the the famous coastal wetlands of Banc d’Arguin next day. He continued to make steady progress across the remote desert and by 6:25pm on 22nd March he was north of the Fderîck mine. He maintained a north-north-east track through northern Mauritania and by 7:09pm on 24th March he was roosting in the Moroccan desert after a day’s flight of 382km. He was now just 212 km behind Yellow HA. Will he catch up before the birds reach Europe? Watch this space!

Blue XD's flight across the Sahara 21-24 March

Blue XD’s flight across the Sahara 21-24 March

The two Scottish birds had to contend with one of the most inhospitable parts of the planet as they flew across the Sahara, but they are not the only WOW Ospreys to have made long flights in recent days. Over the other side of the Atlantic Donovan has now reached the United States, but he didn’t do it the easy way, as Iain MacLeod reports…

Donovan made a crazy flight through a whole day and night from Havana to the Florida pan handle covering more than 490 miles (788km). Who knows why he didn’t take the Ospreys normal land route through Florida. He hung out in downtown Havana for a day and a half fishing along a small river. He headed out at 10am on the 22nd and headed due north out into the Straits of Florida. He flew throughout the day and took a marked jog to the west at 6pm. For the next two hours he continued west (!) but had corrected back to a more northerly track by 10pm (in the dark). He obviously kept going throughout the night and by his next point at 10am on the 23rd, he had made landfall near Port St. Joe on Cape San Blas in western Florida. He rested there for a couple hours and fished along a narrow drainage ditch, then resumed his northbound push, ending the day on a small pond 10 miles south of Chattahoochee. The next morning he flew up to the Chattahoochee River, then continued north into Georgia. He ended the day on a small pond just east of Cuthbert in Randolph County in Georgia a little more than a 1,000 miles from home in Tilton.

Donovan's amazing flight across the Gulf of Mexico to Georgia.

Donovan’s amazing flight across the Gulf of Mexico to Georgia.

So there you have it, that is the latest on the amazing WOW Ospreys. Check back for another update tomorrow, and don’t forget you can also follow the birds’ progress on our interactive map.

To find out more about how your school can get involved in World Osprey Week, click here.

3 responses to “WOW! A Happy Return and Amazing Flights”

  1. Pam Farmer

    Wonderful photos of 30 coming home. Brilliant. And what an amazing journey. Lets hope she soon has a partner and can have some chicks!

  2. Brigg Infants

    we ar very pleased that number 30 has come back to her nest. We are inprest that she is back. it was a very long way to go. we hope she lays some eggs this year.

  3. Ann

    Thanks, Tim, for all the details of 30(05)’s, Yellow HA’s, Blue XD’s and Donovan’s journeys and to John for the photos of 30(05). Fantastic to see 30(05) safe at Rutland! Regarding Donovan’s trip across the Gulf, perhaps there was a strong north-easterly wind blowing him off course? He may have been trying to get to Florida but failing because of the wind–just a thought.