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Watching and waiting

There was still no sign of the Manton Bay Ospreys today, but we had a bit of excitement in the Centre when another Osprey landed on the nest! This time it was 25(10), another female who returned last week and is, like 5N(04), waiting for her mate to return. We managed to get a recording of her flying onto the nest (see below). Look out for her at the top of the screen just as the video begins!

At the moment we still only have five birds back in Rutland, the Site B pair and three other females. This time last season we had nine birds back on this date. This proves that the bad weather over the continent has slowed down more than just 30(05), and the Manton Bay pair are not the only birds yet to arrive.

Last season we were lucky as a lot of birds returned early, Maya being a case in point. This year the Ospreys are teaching us that patience is indeed a virtue, and we cannot expect our birds to always return on the same date each year. There are many factors that may affect the speed of an Osprey’s return, and the problems 30 has had demonstrate the effect of the weather on migrating birds.

Thus, we must wait patiently for the Manton Bay Ospreys to return to us, and, in the meantime, take delight from the fleeting visits of other Ospreys who have beaten the weather and already returned!

25(10) on the Manton Bay nest

25(10) on the Manton Bay nest



The winner revealed

It has finally happened – the first Osprey has landed on the Manton Bay nest! We all expected that the first Osprey on the nest this season would be Maya, the resident female. Last season this was indeed the case – she arrived on her nest on 17th March. This season has been different, however. It was not Maya who landed on the nest – she is still not back. There is no need to be concerned just yet, as we know the weather on the Ospreys’ migration pathway has been inclement to say the least.

So who was it who landed on the nest yesterday? Tim revealed the answer in his update – it was 5N(04). 5N is a breeding female who has been back in Rutland for about a week, and is still waiting for her partner to return and join her at her nest site. She also visited the Manton Bay nest last season, along with several other breeding females looking around at other nests.

5N was the first Rutland-fledged Osprey to breed, and it was the Manton Bay nest on which she bred for that first year – 2007. She moved to another site after the failure of her nest in 2008.

5N(04) on the Manton Bay nest

5N(04) on the Manton Bay nest


So there we have it – the first Osprey to arrive in Manton Bay in 2015 occurred at 12:51 on 27th March. This makes the winner of our competition Mr Terry Davies, who guessed the closest time at 14:25. Congratulations Terry! Terry is the winner of two vouchers for an Osprey cruise on the Rutland Belle.

We are all full of hope that Maya will soon return to the Bay, and be joined by 33(11). Keep your eyes on the camera, folks, mine will certainly not be leaving it any time soon!


30 has made slow but steady progress through France in the past two days

30 gets closer to home

If you were watching the webcam earlier then, for the first time this season, you may have glimpsed an Osprey. The bird in question was 5N(04) who alighted on the nest briefly before being chased off by an Egyptian Goose. 5N has a nest of her own but, with her mate still not back, she was obviously having a look around. It did however cause a brief surge of excitement in the Lyndon Visitor Centre!

A look at the weather maps in Europe shows that we shouldn’t be too worried that Maya still isn’t back at the Manton Bay nest. France and Spain have been very wet over the past few days and it will certainly have held many Ospreys – and other summer migrants – up as they head north. One of the birds that we know has been delayed – she is now several days later than last year – is 30(05). The latest satellite data shows that at 14:00 this afternoon she was flying north through the western part of France, 100km north-east of La Rochelle.

Although we are still waiting for some data to come through, we now know that she crossed the border from Spain into France on Wednesday afternoon. That evening she roosted beside a small lake, 13km east of the town of Dax, after a day’s flight of 221km from the La Rioja region of Spain. As in previous migrations she passed well to the east of our friends at the Urdaibai Bird Center in the Basque Country.

Over the course of the past two days 30 has made slow but steady progress along the west coast of France; roosting to the north of Bordeaux on Thursday evening and then continuing north past La Rochelle today. Quite when she makes it back to the UK depends on the weather over the next few days. The forecast looks very unsettled and so it may be that she will not arrive back in Rutland until Monday or Tuesday next week. We should get another update from her transmitter over the weekend – so watch this space!

30 has made slow but steady progress through France in the past two days

30 has made slow but steady progress through France in the past two days

Much further south, another Osprey from the UK is also heading north. Roy Dennis has just received the latest data from Blue XD’s transmitter and it shows that the Scottish Osprey has made it across the Sahara. The track below is from 16:13 to 17:42 this afternoon when he covered 65 km north-north-east. The data for the last 5 days will be slowly downloaded through the system (Blue XD has a GSM transmitter) and this will show his route over the Sahara Desert. He now has the Atlas Mountains in his sights. Thanks to Roy for the update.

The latest data shows Blue XD is migrating north through Morocco

The latest data shows Blue XD is migrating north through Morocco

This year we’re following four Finnish Ospreys as part of World Osprey Week, but to date, only one has begun its spring migration. Pertti Saurola has sent an update on the latest locations of the four birds.

Our monitoring of Ilpo’s autumn migration ended on 13 October according to the entry written on the 15th, when Ilpo was “only 28 km from the tri-state boundary between Senegal, Guinea-Bissau, and Guinea.” After that, Ilpo continued his migration outside the coverage of the mobile network, and left us totally in the dark until the 26 February, 2015. After a wait of four and a half months, we received news of Ilpo, including fixes from the last three days, but a huge information gap between 13 October and 24 February. However, the following data packets contained back-dated information for a few days at a time, besides the new information, so the information gap was gradually filled. It was not until 15 March, 2015, that we found out how Ilpo had continued his migration from the 14 October, 2014.

Ilpo flew straight southwest on the 14th and spent his night at the banks of the river Geba, that flows through Guinea-Bissau. During the next day, Ilpo made it into Guinea and spent the night at the maze-like delta of River Kogon, whence he continued some 130 kilometres along the coastline on the 16th, and stopped for the next night at the delta of another river running into the Atlantic. Ilpo ended his autumn migration at the delta of River Konkouré, some 75 km from the capital of Guinea, Conakry.

During the winter, Ilpo’s fishing expeditions have taken him some 25 km inland along the Konkouré, as well as a few kilometres out to sea. When this is being written (24 March), Ilpo is still at his winter range.

The data on Helena’s autumn migration ended on 9 October, 2014, in Ghana, near the border to Togo. It is obvious that Helena has moved out of range of the mobile network. After a long wait, we received an email about Helena on 24 March, 2015, telling us that Helena had spent the night between 23 and 24 March in southern Algiers, in the middle of Sahara! In other words, Helena had set out on her spring migration from her wintering range that was outside the mobile network, and had flown far into Sahara, keeping out of range all the time! Based on our experience with Ilpo’s transmitter, we may expect that the fixes on Helena’s autumn migration, winter range, and spring migration will arrive gradually. For Ilpo, this process took 17 days. The following email (25 March) specified that Helena had already entered Tunisia and was only a hundred kilometres from the Mediterranean coast.

On 24 March, Tero was still at his wintering range in Kenya. We have not received any fixes on Seija and Birgit since last autumn. Many thanks to Pertti for the update.

Over the other side of the Atlantic, Donovan – one of the American birds we’re following as part of World Osprey Week – has resumed his migration after a short break in Georgia. Iain MacLeod has sent the latest data which shows that yesterday morning he was flying purposefully north-east towards South Carolina.

You can view the latest positions of all of the World Osprey Week birds on our interactive map.


The beach at Marth's Vineyard

Washashore – Ospreys in Martha’s Vineyard

As part of World Osprey Week we’re pleased to have been sent a guest blog from American children’s author Suzanne Goldsmith. Suzanne was inspired to write a book about ospreys after seeing them at Martha’s Vineyard in Massachusetts. She takes up the story…

When I set out to write WASHASHORE, my first novel for kids, I put the ospreys right at the center of my story. I had seen their tall nesting platforms all over the island of Martha’s Vineyard, a beautiful spot off the coast of Massachusetts where I go in the summers to be near the ocean, and I knew that the ospreys had once been endangered in North America. Their survival story is why I chose to build a book around them.

The beach at Marth's Vineyard

The beach at Marth’s Vineyard

But as I researched and wrote, I discovered so many other reasons to be drawn to these majestic birds. Their epic annual migration journey; their incredible skill at fishing; their loyalty to mate and nest. As my story developed, I watched my characters discover their own concerns reflected in the lives and habits of the ospreys; my fictional people, I found, were taking comfort, gaining perspective and learning lessons about their own lives through watching and trying to protect these incredible birds.

I imagine that many of you participating in World Osprey Week are having similar experiences; it’s hard not to, when you are watching ospreys.

I set my story in 1976, just a few years after the U.S. banned DDT, the toxic pesticide that was threatening our ospreys along with many other raptors. Used for mosquito control, DDT grew quite concentrated in the flesh of insect-eating fish—and since fish are all the ospreys eat, the birds were extremely vulnerable to this poison. It destroyed their ability to reproduce. By the time we humans got our act together and banned the pesticide in the U.S., the ospreys of North America were an endangered species.

On Martha’s Vineyard, where they had once been abundant, there were only two nesting pairs left at that time. What’s more, development in this popular vacation spot had caused the removal of many natural nesting spots, such as tall, dead pines. Instead, the birds sometimes built nests in dangerous spots, such as the tops of electrical poles.

WASHASHORE, my fictional story, begins when 14-year-old Clem Harper, who has come to the island with her mother for a year while her father works a temporary job in another state, finds a dead osprey on the beach. The bird has ID tags on its legs. Perhaps it drowned while trying to bring in a too-big fish.

Clem is drawn to the beautiful bird and the tragedy of its loss. She takes the bands (or rings, as many of you call them).

The bands lead Clem to Bo, a naturalist who is helping the birds repopulate by building safe nesting platforms, and to Daniel, the boy who tagged the bird she found and named him Quitsa. Clem joins Daniel and Bo as they check and repair nest poles and raise a new one, and she learns learns about the birds.

The character of Bo is based on a real-life naturalist, Gus Ben David. The Martha’s Vineyard newspaper once called him “osprey daddy” because of the more than 130 nesting poles he has raised on the Vineyard and his dedication to rescuing, rehabilitating and nurturing ospreys for over four decades. You can read a newspaper article about how he rescued a family of osprey chicks in 2011 here.

In my fictional story, Clem and Daniel wait through the winter for the return of the migrant ospreys. They are desperately hoping that Noepe, the mate of the fallen osprey, Quitsa, will return, take a new mate, and begin a new family. When a builder announces plans to put a house right beneath Noepe’s nest, with loud, disruptive construction planned for the summer breeding months, Clem and Daniel try to thwart the developer’s plans.

But each also has a personal reason to care deeply about the survival and rebirth of this family of ospreys. Daniel is an orphan whose parents were lost in a long-ago fishing accident. Clem suspects that her father’s absence, supposedly for a year, might be the beginning of a longer separation—and a change in her family. She is waiting for her father to return, just as she is waiting for the ospreys to come back.

When you get on the ferry from Woods Hole to Martha's Vineyard, one of the first things you see is an osprey nest on top of a navigational tower.

When you get on the ferry from Woods Hole to Martha’s Vineyard, one of the first things you see is an osprey nest on top of a navigational tower.

Rob Bierregaard holding Tucker, a Martha's Vineyard osprey

Rob Bierregaard holding Tucker, a Martha’s Vineyard osprey

What’s more, Clem is a “washashore.” At least, that’s what the kids at her new school are calling her. On Martha’s Vineyard, that means she comes from somewhere else. She’s an outsider. And she feels that status keenly. Which could be part of why she relates so strongly to the ospreys, birds with two homes, who are always either departing or returning.

Do you feel a kinship with the ospreys? Maybe you have a yen to travel and see the world as they do. Or perhaps you admire their ability to zero in on  a fish beneath the waves and dive straight for it, with brilliant success. Or maybe you’ve watched a nestcam and are amazed at their faithful devotion to incubating their eggs. Or maybe, like Clem, you feel like a newcomer, looking for a way to belong.

To find out what happens to Clem, Daniel, Bo and Noepe, you’ll have to read the book. But I will tell you that there has been a happy ending for the Martha’s Vineyard ospreys. Rob Bierregaard, a Research Associate of the Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University, has been working with Gus and studying the Martha’s Vineyard ospreys since 1969. There are now over 60 successful osprey nests on Martha’s Vineyard, with over 100 chicks fledged each year. Rob tracks a few of them with satellite transmitters. In fact, one of his Martha’s Vineyard birds, Belle, is a WOW osprey!

At the time I am writing, just before WOW, Belle and the other tagged ospreys are on their way back to the island from their winter homes in Venezuela and Brazil. You can check out Belle’s current location on the interactive WOW map. Thanks for letting me contribute to the WOW blog. I’ll be watching the website all week for news of your activities! And if any WOW students choose to read WASHASHORE as part of their studies, please get in touch through my website and let me know how it goes.

Suzanne Goldsmith is a writer who lives in Columbus, Ohio, where ospreys also nest. Her novel, WASHASHORE, for readers aged 10-14, is the winner of the 2014 Green Earth Book Award for a young adult novel that promotes environmental stewardship. You can see the book trailer here. It is available through online retailers in both print and e-book editions, and free classroom discussion guides are available at the publisher’s website.  You can watch the book trailer here, and learn more at

Washashore book jacket


Belle's flight from Cuba to Florida took just over six hours

WOW update – Belle and Helena on the move

We’re still waiting for the next Osprey arrival at Rutland Water, but in the meantime it is exciting to see several of the World Osprey Week Ospreys getting closer to home.

Belle  – one of the American birds – has just made it to Florida. The latest satellite data shows that she completed a 270km sea crossing from Cuba in just over six hours yesterday afternoon.

Belle's flight from Cuba to Florida took just over six hours

Belle’s flight from Cuba to Florida took just over six hours

Meanwhile, over the other side of the Atlantic, another of the WOW Ospreys has just completed a crossing of a different kind. The latest satellite data downloaded by Pertti Saurola shows that Helena – one of the Finnish birds that we are following – is in Tunisia having successfully crossed the Sahara. Helena is fitted with a GSM satellite transmitter that sends data via the mobile phone network. Unfortunately Helena wintered in a mobile phone ‘black spot’ and so Pertti is still waiting for the data that was collected over the winter months to come through. It is exciting that she is on her way home though – she is the first of the Finnish birds to set-off.

We should have more news on the other WOW birds tomorrow. Will 30 have beaten the bad weather and reached France? Will Donovan still be in Georgia? Check back tomorrow for an update.

In the meantime, you can check the latest locations that we have for all the WOW birds on our interactive map. You’ll see that four of them still haven’t set-off on their spring migration. It will be interesting to see when they finally get going!

The latest data shows that Helena has crossed the Sahara and is now in Tunisia

The latest data shows that Helena has crossed the Sahara and is now in Tunisia