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By Rebecca Pitman on September 20, 2018
It’s a little embarrassing really. To my shame, I know barely anything about the part of the world where our three tagged ospreys have migrated, so I thought I would do some reading up.
Surrounded by desert, Senegal has a tropical climate with some great beaches – according to my Lonely Planet travel book. Apparently its trademarks include: the Wolof and Mandinka tribes; vibrant markets; striking mangrove swamps; its groundnut industry; lively fishing communities; great scuba diving opportunities and good beer. Its 10.5 million population has given rise to many musicians with internationally renowned reputations. Many crumbling old colonial buildings comprise some of the architecture, especially in St Louis on the west coast of Senegal (just up the coast from where our female ’30’ has wintered for the past six years).
French is the national language of course (even I knew that much), but if you want to greet someone a phrase to remember is ‘Asalaa-maalekum’ meaning ‘peace’ in Wolof. The national dish is ‘maffé saloum’- a beef dish cooked with peanuts, tomatoes, yams and carrots (not one for vegetarians with a nut allergy) and a popular drink to quench your thirst is ‘bissap’ juice – described as having lots of ‘zing’.
The smallest country within mainland Africa with a population of just 1.5 million, Gambia was first colonised by the Portugese and then the British. It’s an incredibly biodiverse country for such a small area, with 576 bird species. Sunshine and golden beaches contrast with ruins of slaving stations, reminding us of the painful history of this region of Africa.
Tourism and the fishing industry drive Gambia’s economy. Imagine what it must be like for an osprey holding a wintering territory on the beaches of Gambia, with its dense rows of brightly coloured fishing boats along the shoreline, competing with the local human population for food and navigating the potential hazards of snagging a fishing net when diving. None of our three tagged ospreys are currently residing in Gambia, but many ospreys which breed in the UK do of course.
Some fascinating facts about Gambia: the capital’s airport, Banjul International Airport, had its runway partly built by NASA as an emergency runway for space shuttles. Word of caution: never whistle after dark – its a taboo.
What is it like where ‘S1’ is spending his time? Well I was staggered when I googled images of the Arquipélago dos Bijagós (or Bissagos Islands), just off the coast of Guinea-Bissau. The beauty of those rainforest clad tropical little islands fringed by pristine beaches, surrounded by crystal clear water makes me want to book a flight right now and leave this dreary wet September day at Rutland far behind. No wonder wildlife watching on the Bissagos Islands is listed as an essential experience for tourists at this protected biosphere reserve. Incidentally, another inhabitant of these islands is a rare species of saltwater hippo – I wonder if S1 will see one?
As for mainland Guinea-Bissau, this is another very small country of 1.3 million, intersected by waterways. The official language is Portuguese and the architecture of many buildings reflects the colonial history. Guinea-Bissau is the sixth largest producer of cashew nuts – no coincidence then that the tipple of choice is a cashew rum (‘caña de cajeu’). While at the bar, why not try some ‘riz gras’- a rice with greasy sauce, or some grilled fish and salad? The locals are described as some of the most “unconditionally hospitable” people in West Africa, despite being one of the most poverty stricken in the whole of the continent – quite a humbling thought.
What about 4K?
Since we last spoke, this young male has moved even further south – now into Guinea. Answers on a postcard for where he will eventually end up (not a request to be taken literally, thank you readers). Sierra Leone? Côte d’Ivoire perhaps?
When viewing the satellite tracking webpage, did you know that if you click and drag the little street-view person (the small yellow figure in the bottom right-hand corner) over the map, it’s possible to view some of Google’s street-view images and photo archives? Where available, there are some fascinating panoramic views to be had all over these west African countries.
If the editor of Lonely Planet is hiring, just let me know.
By Rebecca Pitman on September 13, 2018
There is a chill in the air early morning, our Lyndon visitor centre has now closed down for the winter (“But its only mid-September?!” I hear you cry) and our seasonal staff for the osprey project have their contracts drawing to an end. After a very busy (and incredibly hot) season its slightly surreal to witness such stark changes – perhaps not quite as profound or politically charged as what Bob Dylan was singing about, but it will take a little getting used to for the remaining staff here at the Wildlife Trust.
And what of our intrepid travellers? Its been four days since we checked in on the whereabouts of our tagged birds and I’m sure all our avid followers of the Rutland ospreys are champing at the bit to find out their latest locations.
This young male was in Morocco on Monday, 26 miles south-west of Marrakesh. 4K has moved significantly further south since then to Mauritania, near Nouakchott to be specific, west of the Traza Desert.
This individual is further south than its peer – S1 had reached Senegal by Monday, but is now in Guinea-Bissau, west Africa. It has crossed over The Gambia and seems to have sought an island existence for itself for the time being, having headed near Bolama.
Imagine what the view must be like from that archipelago. Good fishing opportunities amongst these islands? Friendly locals? Here’s hoping.
By Anya Wicikowski on September 9, 2018
Today is the final day of the Lyndon Visitor Centre 2018 osprey season; tomorrow we will close for the winter. It is very quiet here, with Maya leaving on the 31st at 10:20 and 33(11) at around 10:00 on the 3rd September, by now both ospreys should be well on their way to their wintering grounds. Hard to believe it has been almost a week with no ospreys in the bay!
For those of you that would like to look back fondly, we have a little video of the 2018 Manton Bay highlights. What a great season it has been! We can announce that this year there were 8 breeding pairs of osprey in the Rutland area, with 14 chicks successfully fledged. Unfortunately the number is much lower than expected, as many nests only had one or two chicks and not the usual three. This could be due to the extreme weather we experienced this season. However, this year we did have some very positive signs that next year could be the best season yet for the Rutland Osprey Project.
I would just like to say a massive thank you to everyone who has supported and visited the project this year, whether online or in the centre. The biggest thank you of course is to the incredible volunteers who dedicate their spare time to making the Rutland Osprey Project so special; they do a fantastic job of sharing their enthusiasm and knowledge, in the hide and visitor centre. This year we are especially grateful as they managed to battle though the extreme temperatures we had this spring and summer, thank you so much!
I thought S1 might have reached his wintering grounds by now, having entered Senegal on the afternoon of the 7th, but instead he has carried on and looks like he could be heading towards The Gambia. After crossing the Senegalese border he roosted to the East of St Louis, he then headed further south and, as of 17:00 8th was just north-east of Kaolack. He is reasonably far inland at the moment, around 150 km in fact, and is only about 70 km away from the Gambian border, so could his wintering ground be somewhere along the central river? We should find out soon!
30 is a bird of habit and is still following her normal migration route though Western Sahara. Compared to S1 her route is much closer to the coast, but as her wintering ground is on the Senegalese coastline this is not surprising. 30 is still on what is most likely the hardest stretch of the migration, across hot desert, with not many safe perches along the way, but with only 1000 km left she is two-thirds of the way there!
4K is quickly catching up and is only around 300 km away from the Morocco-Western Sahara border, his chosen route seems very similar to that of 30, so maybe he will be over-wintering in a similar spot.
By Anya Wicikowski on September 7, 2018
After spending the night in the desert on the 5th of August, S1 was quickly up into the sky and off south, he has now made his way to the south of Mauritania. This morning at around 7:00 he was only about 100 km from the border with Senegal, which means he could be arriving at his wintering ground as we speak! It will be very interesting to see which part of Senegal or The Gambia he has chosen to spend his winter. We know that 30 has her preferred spot on the Senegalese coast, somewhere between Dakar and St Louis, so is S1 heading down to this area? Or could he be following his nest mate S2 who was photographed on the Sine-Saloum Delta, near the northern border between Senegal and The Gambia? At S1’s current rate it won’t be long until we have the answers to these questions, let’s hope he has a successful last few days of migration before his well-earned rest.
As always 30 is also making great progress in just one day she has travelled over 330 km and last night was in southern Morocco. It is more than likely that she is now in Western Sahara, following her familiar autumn migration route.
30 roost 6th
4K has rocketed along and early this morning made the crossing from Europe to North Africa. He spent last night on the Spanish coast near the town of El Palmer, then first thing in the morning he was off, heading out towards Morocco. 4K has followed a very similar route to S1, but why do the birds choose to cross the Strait of Gibraltar at this point? There is more chance of them been blown off course and much more open water to navigate. The answer could be elevation, if you look at the images below you can see the boys are perhaps choosing to miss the mountainous area around Gibraltar and choosing the much lower elevated area to the west. We are already learning so much about these amazing birds!
By Anya Wicikowski on September 6, 2018
This morning we had beautiful golden sunshine bathing Rutland Water in its bright glow, but there was also a slight nip in the air, autumn isn’t coming, it is here! Down in Manton Bay the sunshine is bouncing off the reservoir casting light all around, although it is full of wildfowl, waders and plenty of other birds it still feels empty…
The osprey nest sits proud in the water, but nothing is sat upon it, apart from the odd corvid or cormorant. There is no food begging osprey, which each year becomes the sound track of the summer. The T-perch is bare and 33(11)’s favourite spot in the poplar tree is empty, the Manton Bay osprey have gone. 33 was last seen on Monday, by now he will be off on another amazing migration, hopefully to return recharged next March.
S1 has made fantastic progress; he entered Western Sahara from Morocco on the 3rd September at 17:00. He has been skipping over the border into Mauritania a few times; a good reminder that these ospreys don’t see our man-made borders, highlighting the need for international cooperation to protect not just these, but all migrating birds.
S1 2nd – 3rd
If you saw the last blog you will know that 30 started her migration on the 31st of August. She has now made it all the way to Morocco! Amazingly she has flown 2622 km in just six days. She followed her fairly typical route of heading down the west coast of France, passing over the Gironde estuary, as S1 did just days before. She then swooped round the Pyrenees by taking a coastal route across to Spain; following a similar route to S1, on the 2nd she roosted just outside of Madrid. Over the next couple of days she quickly made her way through southern Spain, and crossed into Morocco on the 4th making landfall near the town of Tangier. She is now west of Marrakesh and will no doubt make her way into Western Sahara either today or tomorrow, she is on the home straight, and has managed an amazing feat already!
It was mentioned in the last blog that 4K was spotted over Manton Bay on Sunday by volunteer Chris Woods who managed to get a photo; I had said jokingly that he could be just saying goodbye before he headed off on his own migration, it seems I could have been right, as 4Ks’ next stop after Manton Bay was Normandy. Interestingly, he seems to be following a very similar route to that of female 30, their Northern France roosting areas are less than 100 km away from each other. However, instead of skirting the French coast as 30 does, 4K decided to take the slightly short but much more notorious Bay of Biscay, he made the crossing in seven hours and rested on the northern Spanish cost near Bibao. He then headed south-east, the last data point showed him roosting near the Valdecanas reservoir, hopefully catching a well-deserved meal.