WOW Ospreys heading for home

Today is the first day of  World Osprey Week  (WOW for short). WOW is a really exciting opportunity for schools around the world to follow Ospreys on their spring migration and to make links with other schools on the migratory flyway. It is all totally free: signing up gives you access to a range of lesson plans and ideas to help you get the most from the week. So don’t delay, sign your school up now!

This year we’re following nine satellite-tagged Ospreys from Europe and America on their spring migration and four of them have now set off on their journey home. We’re hoping the other birds – four from Finland and one from America – will set-off on their long journey this week. You can check out the latest locations of all the birds on our interactive map which also shows the locations of participating schools.

Of the four birds which are currently on the move, our own satellite-tagged Osprey from Rutland Water – 30(05) – is closest to home. The latest data shows that last night she roosted in central Spain, 122km west of Madrid.

The previous batch of data had shown that 30 was in northern Morocco on Friday morning. We now know that she left her roost site at 9am and headed north-west. By 1pm she had flown 114km and was just south of the coast at Tangier. She headed powerfully out to sea and maintained a northerly heading for 55km across until she reached the Spanish coast south of Cadiz.

30's crossing from Morocco to Spain involved a flight of 55km and took just over an hour

30’s crossing from Morocco to Spain involved a flight of 55km and took just over an hour

Once in European airspace 30 continued to make good progress. She passed just to the east of Cadiz at 3pm and then continued north towards Seville. She finally settled to roost at 7pm 25km north-east of the city. Her roost site was a good one – a dead tree in the middle of a small lake – after a day’s flight of 330km.

30 roosted in a dead tree in the middle of a small lake

30 roosted in a dead tree in the middle of a small lake

Yesterday morning 30 began migrating again shortly after 7am, initially heading north-east. At 9am she made a distinct change of direction and flew to Embalse del Pintado. She must have caught a fish because at 10am she was perched beside the large reservoir, presumably eating her breakfast.

30 was perched beside Embalse del Pintado at 10am, presumably eating a fish

30 was perched beside Embalse del Pintado at 10am, presumably eating a fish

Ospreys will sometimes migrate whilst carrying a partly-eaten fish and that may well be what 30 did next because at 11am she 18km north-east, flying purposefully northwards at 32kph. She continued on the same north-north-east heading for the rest of the day, flying at relatively low altitudes (generally less that 500m above ground level) as she passed through Extremadura. She eventually settled to roost for the night in an area of forest in the southern part of the Castile and Leon region after a day’s flight of 327km – almost exactly the same as the previous day. If she continued to make such good progress she should reach southern France by this evening.

30 has made good progress during the last two days

30 has made good progress during the last two days

Much further south, a Scottish satellite-tagged Osprey, Blue XD, set-off from his wintering site in Senegal on Wednesday and will now be heading across the Sahara. Roy Dennis, who tagged Blue XD, takes up the story…

Blue XD left his Casamanache wintering site in Senegal at 1040am on 18th March and on Friday flew across northern Senegal into Mauritania. His tracks in the afternoon crossing the Senegal/Mauritania border were superb. With the new GSM transmitters we get information every minute in full sunshine and the photo below is a shot of his track from GoogleEarth, looking along the earth so that you can see the altitude of each point as well. It shows really well the thermal climb and glide migration of an Osprey over the land. In this picture his lowest point after crossing the border (yellow line) was 224 metres above sea level (the land there is about 70 metres above sea level) while his highest point of his climb was 2172 metres (7125 feet) before the long glide north. It’s absolutely fascinating that we can now see how they make the migration over the Sahara.

Blue XD's migration track shows how he used thermals as he crossed Senegal and Mauritania

Blue XD’s migration track shows how he used thermals as he crossed Senegal and Mauritania

Over the other side of the Atlantic another of the WOW Ospreys is also making good progress. Iain MacLeod from the Squam Lakes Natural Science Center has sent the latest update…

Just like last year, Donovan tried to avoid Florida (!). He spent a couple days on the outskirts of Havana, but moved further west another 100km on the afternoon of the 19th. He stopped off on a lovely little river just south-west of the town of Honda where he spent the night. He was still there at 10am on 20th, but by 11am was 30km to the north over open water, 480m up and cruising at 27kph. There must be something at the immigration and customs offices in southern Florida he doesn’t like as he did exactly what he did last spring and went directly from western Cuba to the pan-handle. His last GPS point of this upload showed him making steady progress through the night. His most recent non-GPS, Doppler points from 8am on the 21st shows that he completed to near 500 mile (790km) over water crossing and was safely back in the U.S. He is two days ahead of last year. You can see that his flight timing was very similar – leaving Cuba between 10 and 11am and making steady progress through the night. Last year it took him just 12 days to get from the Gulf coast to his nest. Take your time Donovan . . . it’s snowing again in New Hampshire!

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Belle, meanwhile, is also making good progress. Having reached the northern tip of Colombia on 18th March she set-out across the Caribbean Sea at 3pm. The flight across the open ocean is a long and demanding one and she finally reached Haiti 22 hours later after a 700km non-stop flight. You would think a rest would be in order, but by the afternoon of 20th March she had already made the short hop across to Cuba. Thanks to Rob Bierregaard for the latest update on Belle.

It took Belle 22 hours to cross the Caribbean Sea to Haiti

It took Belle 22 hours to cross the Caribbean Sea to Haiti

The four remaining WOW Ospreys – four from Finland and one from America – are still at their wintering sites, but we expect each of them to begin their northward journeys in the next few days. To find out more about each of the birds and where they’ve spent the winter you can meet the WOW Ospreys here.

You can follow the progress of all of the WOW Ospreys on our interactive map.

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2 responses to “WOW Ospreys heading for home”

  1. Davie Morris

    Which reserve does Blue XD come from

    1. Kayleigh Brookes

      Hello Davie, all information about Blue XD can be found by following this link: http://www.ospreys.org.uk/meet-the-wow-ospreys/