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Africa here we come!

Christmas is coming, which means so is the new year. We must wave goodbye to 2015, and get ready for a new start in 2016. The new year brings with it excitement and adventure for the Rutland Osprey Project, as we are heading to West Africa on 4th January!

The Osprey Flyways Project, which Tim mentioned in his blog yesterday, was established in 2011 following a trip to West Africa. An education project was set up in The Gambia in the same year. Almost every year since then, the Osprey team have taken a trip to The Gambia and Senegal, where most European Ospreys spend the winter, to implement the education programme, visit schools and observe Ospreys in their wintering habitat, looking specifically for colour-ringed birds. The team are always hopeful that they will spot a Rutland bird, and several have been seen by others, including 5F(12), 1K(13) and 2K(13). In 2014, members of the Osprey team were lucky enough to have the opportunity to visit the exact spot in which 30(05) winters, achievable thanks to her satellite-transmitter. In January 2016, we hope to be able to do the very same thing again!

As always, a team of Osprey volunteers will be joining staff on the trip. There will be 14 of us altogether, taking a 10-day trip that will include both The Gambia and Senegal. After the first 10 days, myself, Paul Stammers and John Wright will be staying for a further two weeks, to travel a bit further and take in some different sites not achievable with a 10-day limit.

The 10-day itinerary includes:

* Two days in Tendaba, a small fishing village on the banks of the River Gambia.

* A visit to the Sine-Saloum delta in Senegal.

* A boat trip from Missirah to Ile de Oiseaux.

* Two days at the Somone Lagoon – possibly the best place in the world to view fishing Ospreys.

* Back to Gambia to visit schools involved in the Flyways Project.

John, Paul and I will be staying for another few days at the Somone Lagoon, then heading further north to 30’s wintering site. We will also re-visit Tendaba, and spend a few days at the Tanji bird reserve, where 5F(12) was spotted in both 2014 and 2015.

This will be my first trip to Africa, and I am looking forward to it with great anticipation! I will be writing a diary of our adventures as we go, so keep an eye on the website to find out what we have been up to in Africa each day!

African school (2) African school (3)

African schoolAn Osprey fishing off the Gambian coast

We would like to wish a very Merry Christmas to everyone who has supported the Osprey Project over the past year, whether it be following us on the website, monetary donations or volunteering your time to help us, we appreciate it all – thank you!

Santa Osprey




The ABI lagoon is situated in the south-east of the Ivory Coast, over 5000km from Rutland Water

Sad news but friendships created

When a juvenile Osprey leaves Rutland Water on its first migration, many threats await. Long crossings of the Bay of Biscay and the vast and unforgiving Sahara are two natural hazards that must be overcome, but fishing nets and hunters are very real dangers too. Over the years satellite tracking and ringing studies have shown that both environmental and anthropogenic factors have resulted in the death of young Ospreys on migration. Getting to the fish-rich waters of West Africa is a long and demanding journey, but arriving there safely is only part of the story. Recent research shows that surviving for 18 months in West Africa can be just as challenging.

Since 2001 more than 30% of young Ospreys that have fledged from nests in the Rutland Water area have made it back to the UK, but what happens to the 60-70% of birds who fail to make it home? In most cases we simply don’t know. However, there is always a glimmer of hope that we will discover the fate of lost birds, because all of the juveniles in the Rutland population are ringed.  The first recovery of a Rutland-ringed bird was made by a farmer in Guinea in 1998. He found the bird, which had been released at Rutland Water the previous year, dying in the corner of a field. Later that evening, as he was preparing the bird for the pot he noticed the rings on its legs, and in his words, ‘knew it to be on a mission’. He eventually managed to get news of his find to the British Embassy who passed the details on to the BTO.

More recently, satellite tracking studies have shown that many young Ospreys die during their first year in West Africa. Many young birds are chased away from the best wintering sites by experienced adult birds defending their patch, and as such, often get pushed into poorer quality areas where they are more likely to come to grief. The problem is exacerbated by the fact that wintering Ospreys are often very approachable. Not only do they perch in prominent places, but they will often tolerate a close approach. This is perfectly exemplified by the most recent ring recovery of a Rutland bird.

A few weeks ago, we received notification that 4J(13), a female that fledged from the Site B nest in 2013, has been hunted and killed over 5000km away in the Ivory Coast.  The BTO recovery had contact details of the person who had submitted the report and so I sent an e-mail to try and find out more.

4J shortly after she was ringed in July 2013

4J shortly after she was ringed in July 2013

Over the weekend I received a reply from Koffi  Roger Yeboue. He explained that the bird was killed by a hunter in an area of forest beside the ABI lagoon in the Adiaké region of south-east Ivory Coast. The hunter who killed the bird gave the following explanation:

“Not far from my field, in the forest area, there is a big tree. During the month of December 2014 I noticed that this bird comes at the end of the day to sleep in that tree. Always the same tree. So in the last weekend of December 2014, I decided to kill it. This day, I waited it for a long time. It was around 18:30 UT when it came. I killed it. Then I noticed he was wearing two rings: a metal ring and a plastic ring. I was scared because I had never seen a bird with rings!!! I got the rings but I could not eat this bird. People have told me that other birds wearing rings were killed in the area. It seems that these birds go fishing in the lagoon all the day and come to sleep in the forest .I am so confused. If I had seen the rings, I would never killed this bird. It is necessary to find another ring system visible by hunters.”

4J would have been fishing in the ABI lagoon

4J would have been fishing in the ABI lagoon

ABI lagoon

The ABI lagoon is situated in south-east Ivory Coast

The ABI lagoon is situated in south-east Ivory Coast

4J's rings

4J’s rings

By December 2014, 4J would have been in West Africa for over a year, but the hunter’s description suggests that it may have only just started using this particular roosting site. The fact that it returned there each night is exactly what we have learned to expect of wintering Ospreys; but in this case, it sealed the bird’s fate. Like the farmer in Guinea, when the hunter noticed the rings, he realised the significance of the bird; and it was then that he enlisted the help of Koffi to try and track down where it was from.

The death of 4J mirrors that of AW, the satellite-tagged bird that we lost in the Ivory Coast in February 2012. Although we were never able to prove it, we suspected at the time that the bird had been killed by a hunter. Improved satellite imagery of this area now shows that the bird’s last location was a small village.

The killing of 4J is a fate that probably befalls many wintering Ospreys in West Africa. In some areas the hunters are merely very poor people trying to survive, but in other areas this is not the case. The sentiments of the hunter; that he would not have killed the bird if he had known where it was from echo what local people have told me in Gambia and Senegal. If local people understood the remarkable journeys that migratory birds make, they would not kill them.  That is why the education work we are undertaking in West Africa is so important. The Osprey Flyways Project aims to encourage communities to value and, thus, protect, migratory birds. A second email that I received from Koffi sums this up perfectly:

“I am very happy to read you again. It is a pleasure for me to note that through a death ringed bird, a bridge is thrown between continents and between people.  4J is dead, but 4J is still in our hearts. Since this story, my vision on birds has changed. These animals are messengers travelling from one country to another without visa, flight ticket or passport .What a fabulous destiny.

My next challenge will be to convince people to stop killing birds in the region and find the rings of dead birds.”

We wish Koffi well in his important mission and send our sincere thanks for taking the time to contact the BTO and then to reply to my e-mails.  Another friendship created by the journey of an Osprey.

We have been working with Tanji Lower Basic school as part of the Osprey Flyways Project - and the message is already spreading to the local community. Here is the local football team - Osprey FC

We have been working with Tanji Lower Basic school as part of the Osprey Flyways Project – and the message is already spreading to the local community. Here is the local football team – Osprey FC

The IEPUK team at the Santa Fun Run (you might recognise a guest member of the team, second left)

Santa runs for Ospreys

On Sunday, the 9th annual Santa Fun Run was held at Burghley Park in Stamford. This charitable event, organised by Stamford Burghley Rotary Club, is a brilliant way of raising money for a great cause and having fun at the same time! Teams of any size can enter and raise money as a group, then all they have to do is complete a three mile run dressed as Santa!

We would like to extend our sincerest thanks to George Peach, director of IEPUK, who, along with several colleagues, took part in the Santa Fun Run on Sunday to raise money for the Rutland Osprey Project!

The IEPUK team at the Santa Fun Run (you might recognise a guest member of the team, second left)iepuk-logo

IEPUK have been staunch supporters of the Osprey Project over many years, and have been instrumental in helping the project raise funds for our wildlife education programme in West Africa.

It’s not too late to sponsor the IEPUK Santa Fun Run team of 2015 – simply click here to donate!


Osprey Education News!

The Rutland Ospreys may be a few thousand miles away at this time of year, but for the first time members of the Osprey Education Team have stayed at their posts this autumn and winter, and we continue to spread the Rutland Osprey Message at schools and colleges all over the area. Ken, Jackie and Pete have launched several new and exciting initiatives this autumn already, and there are lots more to come in 2016.

A few Ospreys were still around when our great friend from The Gambia, JJ (or to give him his full name Jungkung Jadama) came over for Birdfair. We took the opportunity to introduce him to two of our local primary schools, and he had a great time talking to the staff and pupils at Edith Weston and Whissendine. Just after that, at the beginning of October, we joined in with BOW (Bye-bye Ospreys Week) with a Skype call at Edith Weston School, linking with Osprey friends in Spain, the USA, and of course The Gambia. The Edith Weston children had all made up sentences beginning with the letters O – S – P – R – E – Y , and they read them live to the other countries.

JJ at Edith Weston School

JJ at Edith Weston School


We have devised a new presentation featuring our old friend Ozzie, and will be trialling it in our visits to six local schools in December. Ozzie is the only Osprey in the world to have his own Christmas Special, and it will be on for a limited period only! Another new presentation is ‘The 100th Chick’, the story in words and pictures of that very special event which took place at one of the nests earlier in the year. Children and adults alike have really loved it. We are so grateful to Kayleigh and Tim, who have helped us put these new presentations together.

Another new resource which has been selling well is the new book ‘Be an Osprey Expert’ by Jackie and Pete Murray, which enables children to discover every aspect of Osprey life through a series of activities and practical tasks. We will be building it into school visits to Lyndon next season. New Osprey books are in the pipeline for next year too, so watch this space!


Most weeks have seen the team out and about, presenting the Osprey Roadshow all over the county. We visit Catmose Community College in Oakham twice per term, as part of their Wednesday afternoon programme whereby students choose an activity to attend. More and more schools are coming on board as they hear of our shows. In mid-November we took part in Stamford High School’s ‘Big Biology Day’. Students, staff, parents and other visitors showed a lot of interest in our stand, and we made many new contacts.

2016 is likely to be a great year for all of us. It is the 20th Anniversary of the Rutland Osprey Project (1996 – 2016), and that great achievement will be marked in many ways – the development of our new Osprey Ambassadors Scheme in schools, more new books, and a spectacular Osprey Festival in July, involving local schools in Osprey-themed activities covering Art, Music, Drama, Creative Writing, Science, Ecology and the Environment. Not forgetting, of course, the 3rd World Osprey Week in April.

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If you would like to know more about The Osprey Education Team, do please get in touch. And if you are in any way connected with a school or college not yet on our database, please tell them about us!

Ken Davies,

Education Officer

The final countdown

Yesterday was the final work party of 2015! Our team of dedicated volunteers turned out in their dozens to finish off the section of Willow coppicing we began two weeks ago. There was still a lot of work to be done before the task was complete, but complete it we did! Chainsaws purred, felling the larger trees, bowsaws and loppers cut and chopped, the fire crackled and popped, and logs were stacked up, until it was all done.

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What a difference all the hard work has made! You can see from the photographs that the area is now significantly clearer and brighter, with much more space.


Of course, after all the hard work was done, there was Paul’s fantastic soup, Jan’s amazing cakes and some excellent mince pies from Helen, helping to get everyone into the festive spirit. Paul had also provided some home-made sloe gin, which went down very well!

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Work parties will now cease for the duration of the Osprey team’s trip to Africa, and will resume upon our return in February.

Thank you so very much to everyone for all of your hard work, both yesterday and on every work party since October. You are all amazing!