WOW update – Heikki makes it home at last

Two months ago our satellite-tagged Osprey from Rutland Water, 30(05), completed her spring migration. She had flown just under 5000km from the Senegal coast in less than two weeks. Aptly, she arrived home on the first day of World Osprey Week:  24th March. A few days later, the last of the nine Ospreys that we followed for WOW, began his spring journey. Heikki is a male Osprey who breeds in Lapland in northern Finland; making him one of the most northerly breeding Ospreys anywhere in the world. Having wintered on the coast of Mozambique he set-off north again on 28th March. 50 days and 10,420 km later, it is great to report that he has now made it home!

Our last WOW update showed that Heikki was stopping over in northern Egypt, beside the Suez Canal. After a five-day stop-over he set off again on 27th April, and crossed the Mediterranean to Cyprus. Like Malta, many millions of migratory birds are illegally killed in Cyrus each year  but fortunately, Heikki avoided the hunters and continued north into Turkey. He flew north through western Turkey, skirting around the northern edge of Istanbul and then west along the Black Sea coast to Bulgaria; crossing into Bulgaria airspace early on 30th April.

Heikki's crossed the Mediterranean from Egypt to Turkey via Cyprus and then continued north

Heikki’s crossed the Mediterranean from Egypt to Turkey via Cyprus and then continued north

Over the course of the next week he continued north, passing through Romania, Ukraine, Belarus and Lithuania and on the evening of 7th May he roosted by the River Daugava in Latvia.  Two days later he crossed the Gulf of Finland between Estonia and Finland. Although back in his native country, he still had almost 1000km of flying ahead of him and it wasn’t until 16th May that he finally arrived back in his breeding area.

Heikki flew through eastern Europe, before arriving home in Lapland on 16th May

Heikki flew through eastern Europe, before arriving home in Lapland on 16th May

Hekki flew 10,420 km in 50 days from Mozambique to northern Finland

Hekki flew 10,420 km in 50 days from Mozambique to northern Finland

Professor Pertti Saurola has summarised Heikki’s remarkable journey for us:

In spring 2014, the migration of Heikki the Osprey from the coast of Mozambique to his nesting range at the border between Muonio and Kittilä took a total of 50 days, i.e. 9 more days than his migration to his winter range in autumn 2013. According to the satellite, he travelled 10,420 km this spring, and 10,392 km last autumn, so very nearly the same distance. The distance from the nesting range to the wintering range along the great circle of the Earth, i.e. the shortest way, is 9,524 kilometres, so about 8.5% of Heikki’s migrations are ‘extra’ flying.

In total, Heikki’s spring 2014 migration progressed an average of 208 kilometres per day. If we leave out the tent days of rest – three at the Blue Nile, five at Suez, one in Ukraine, and one in Tervo – his average speed during actual travelling days was 261 kilometres per day. Last autumn, his average speed during travelling days was 416 km per day, i.e. considerably faster.

Usually, Ospreys are much faster during their spring migration than their autumn migration. For the moment, at least, it will remain a mystery why Heikki was so much slower during his spring migration. It seems especially strange that Heikki should ‘drag his feet’ once he was in Finland.

We are very grateful to Professor Pertti Saurola, the Osprey Foundation and and the Finnish Museum of Natural History for allowing us to include Heikki in World Osprey Week. To read more about Heikki’s spring migration, click here.

To see the migrations of all the WOW Ospreys, check out the interactive map.

Having been such a resounding success, World Osprey Week is now  an integral part of the Osprey Flyways Project – an exciting initiative that we set-up in 2011 in order to link schools along the Osprey migratory flyways and to provide wildlife education in key wintering areas. You can read more about the Osprey Flyways Project here.  Last month I was invited to give a talk on the project at the Donana Bird Fair. While I was there is was really great to meet up with teachers from two of the schools who particpated in WOW: Juan Baquero Perez from Colegio Publico Rural Campiña de Tarifa and Iker Sobrevilla from Montorre and Urretxindorra Schools. Special thanks to Iker who drove the length of Spain, from the Basque Country to come to the talk!

Signing up to WOW and the Osprey Flyways Project gives your school free access to teaching resources for primary and secondary schools and links with schools in nine different countries. Registration is very simple and completely free. You can sign-up here

Tim Appleton (left) and myself with Iker Sobrevilla (far right) and Juan Baquero Perez - two of the teachers involved in WOW

Tim Appleton (left) and myself with Iker Sobrevilla (far right) and Juan Baquero Perez – two of the teachers involved in WOW

One response to “WOW update – Heikki makes it home at last”

  1. Rebecca Denny

    What an amazing migration. I have been following Heikki’s progress and am very glad he made it home ok. I hope the extra time taken wasn’t due to him not being 100%.