AW has Senegal in his sights

We already know that Ospreys are master migrators, but AW’s latest data demonstrates it once again. At 5pm this evening he was just 80 miles north of the Senegal border. This means he has just about crossed the Sahara in three days!

The last batch of data had shown that AW had crossed into Mauritania at around 2pm on Sunday afternoon. He had already flown more than 250km since leaving his roost site and he was cleary determined to get across the desert as quickly as possible. The position at 2pm showed that he was flying SW at 23kph and he continued to make steady progress all afternoon. By the time he settled to roost at 7pm he had flown another 277 kilometres, stopping just east of the border with Western Sahara. Like the previous evening he would have roosted on the desert floor. When John, Paul and myself were in northern Senegal last winter we saw an Osprey perched on the ground in a sandstorm. It was a truly evocative sight and looking at Google Earth now I can imagine exactly what AW must have looked like perched in the vast wilds of the Sahara on Saturday evening.

Male Osprey perched at Djoudj, January 2011

A gap in the data means we don’t know what time AW left his roost site but by midday he was 122km further on, heading south west at 46kph. He maintained a remarkably consistent course during the afternoon and eventually settled to roost before 7pm after covering 270 kilometres. There are some truly incredible land forms in the desert and AW’s Sunday night roost site demonstates that. He roosted in a valley surrounded by rocky hills rising to 1500 feet. Perhaps he was sheltered from the desert winds down in the valley? He was just 10km west of the village of Terjit – without doubt one of the most isolated places of human habitation on the planet!

AW's roost in the valley floor, 5th September

Next morning AW had moved 14km further south and he recommenced his migration just before 9am. He made slower progress than the previous day, but by 3pm he had covered another 200km. He flew a further 75 kilometres in the next two hours, still heading south west. The last position in this batch of data showed him flying south west at 24kph. He was now just 130 kilometres from the Senegal border, and more importantly, the Senegal River. There is every chance that as I write he will be perched close to the vast river, perhaps eating his first fish for at least three days.

AW has flown a remarkable 2050km across the Sahara since 8am on Saturday morning. I wonder how much further south he will go?   The latest data will be on Google Earth by tomorrow morning, in the meantime, here is a map of AW’s incredible flight since Saturday.

AW's flight across the Sahara 3rd-6th September

Finally, here are some photos that John took from the plane windown as we flew over the Sahara en route to West Africa last winter. They really do demonstrate what a desolate, barren place it is.

4 responses to “AW has Senegal in his sights”

  1. Ken Whiting

    I can’t believe how fantastic these birds are, to fly over the desert for that far without food is just incredible. I can,t wait to find out where his destination will be.Will it be the same place as last year ? I’m new to this and I am fascinated.

    1. Tim

      Hi Ken, yes AW will be heading to a known wintering site that he would’ve found in his first winter in West Africa. Will be great to know where that is! Tim

  2. trevor pullen

    we have been to see the ospreys a number of times at rutland water and watched them on live cam, its absolutely amazing what these birds are capable of. hope to see them back next april/ march.

  3. Hilary Whitwell

    We have enjoyed watching the wonderful ospreys throughout the summer at Rutland Water and are always so impressed when we watch them flying and fishing, to be able to watch AW migrating across the desert we find mind blowing they truly are amazing birds, can’t wait to watch him flying back next spring.