Creatures of habit

It’s been a strange day at Lyndon today. As you’ll probably have guessed if you have been watching the webcam, Manton Bay is now devoid of Ospreys. As Kayleigh reported earlier in the week, S3 headed south on Wednesday morning and was quickly followed by 33 that lunchtime. With all of her family heading south, Maya followed suit yesterday morning. She headed east from Manton Bay shortly after 10am and hasn’t been seen since. It all means that there is a rather empty feel to Rutland Water; Manton Bay is full of life with waders such as Ruff and Greenshank patrolling the shoreline and flocks of Gadwall and Teal building-up, but it just isn’t the same without the Osprey family. Having watched their every move for the past five months, it seems strange that we don’t know where they are now. There is every chance, though, that all of the family will have now crossed the English Channel into France. We wish them well on their incredible journey. We should also say a huge thank you to Kayleigh for her wonderful blogs this summer.

We may not know where the Manton Bay family are, but there is one Rutland Osprey that we can follow throughout the autumn and winter. The latest data from her satellite transmitter shows that by 5pm on Wednesday evening, 30(05) had reached Andalucia in southern Spain.

With the first full batch of migration data now in, we know that 30 left her nest shortly after 9am on Monday morning (31st August). Remarkably this was exactly the same as autumn 2014; almost to the minute. The weather on Monday was poor for migration (rain and low cloud) but it did not stop this experienced navigator setting out on her tenth autumn migration. During the course of the morning 30 made steady progress south, and by 1pm she was already south of Bath. An easterly wind resulted in her drifting further to the west than autumn 2014, but by the time she set-off across the English Channel from Portland Bill she had begun to compensate for this westerly drift. At 3pm she was half way across the channel, 85 kilomteres west of the corresponding position (at exactly the same time) on her 2014 journey. She skirted to the east of the Channel Islands and reached the Normandy coast at 5pm; three hours after passing Portland Bill. She continued flying until 8pm when she was perched close to a lake in the town of Craon in Pays de la Loire. She had flown just under 600km from Rutland Water and, although we do not know exactly where she roosted, she was now just 25km west of her 2014 flight path.

30's first day of migration was very similar to her flight on the same day in 2014

30’s first day of migration was very similar to her flight on the same day in 2014

30 must have flown further south on the night of 31st August because by 7am next morning she was 170km further south-west, just to the north of La Rochelle. The weather must have been good for migration because she maintained the same south-westerly heading over Ile de Re and then out across the Bay of Biscay. Ospreys are powerful flyers and a flight across the open sea is not the barrier it is to other species – such as Honey Buzzards – which are far more reliant on thermals to aid their journey. By 2pm 30 had completed a 350km flight across the bay of Biscay at altitudes ranging between 200 and 500 metres. Excitingly, she made landfall over the Urdaibai Estuary, where Roy Dennis has translocated Scottish Ospreys for the past three summers. Our friends at the Urdaibai Bird Center have also been closely involved in the Osprey Flyways Project and World Osprey Week, so it was exciting that 30 paid them a (brief) visit!

30 flew 350km across the Bay of Biscay before arriving at the Urdaibai estuary

30 flew 350km across the Bay of Biscay before arriving at the Urdaibai estuary

Unai Egia, the music teacher at Urretxindorra school, situated a few kilomoetres from Urdaibai, wrote a wonderful song about Osprey migration two years ago. Click here to watch the music video (and read the lyrics) of the song, performed by students at Montorre and Urretxindorra schools. The song seems very apt given 30’s flight this year.

Urdaibai would have been an excellent place for 30 to rest for a few hours, but she was clearly determined to continue her migration. During the course of the afternoon and early evening she flew another 311km before eventually settling to roost in a forested area 45km south of Valladolid. During the course of her day’s flight she had covered a staggering 831km.

By first light next morning 30 had moved into open field just over 1km from her roost site, and may even have caught a fish in nearby Lavajo Rabiosa. By 9am, though, she was already 20km south and, like the previous day, clearly determined to press on. By 2pm she had covered 148 kilometres at altitudes of up to 2700 metres. Conditions must have been good for migration because she flew another 149 kilomteres in the next three hours; reaching northern Andalucia at 5pm, with the Sierra Morena mountains prominent on the horizon. This meant that, less than 60 hours after leaving her nest site, 30 had flown an amazing 1728km.

30 flew over 1700km on her first three days of migration. Red line is her 2014 flight for comparison.

30 flew over 1700km on her first three days of migration. The red line is her 2014 flight for comparison.

30’s transmitter is on a three day cycle, so we should receive the next batch of data over the weekend. If the first three days of migration are anything to go by, she should be flying south through Morocco by now. Watch out for an update in the next few days.

Don’t forget that you can follow 30’s migration on your own copy of Google Earth by following these simple instructions. 

5 responses to “Creatures of habit”

  1. Cirrus

    Thank you TIM – end of season Blog and yes indeed, KAYLEIGH , a great big thank you for all your great Blogs. So enjoyed them.
    I’ll jsut have to give my Rutland Osprey book another read this autumn to keep the Osprey blues at bay. A greatful thanks to all the Staff at Rutland.

  2. Liz

    Thanks so much Tim for deciphering the data and for your interesting post. It never ceases to amaze me how far these birds can fly in one go.

  3. Peter Corry

    The young birds are ringed at the nest shortly before they can fly, but how and when are the satellite transmitters fitted? I think 30’s must have been put on when she was already an adult and able to fly.
    It’s fantastic to be able to follow the spring and autumn migrations.

    1. Kayleigh Brookes

      30’s transmitter was put on her when she was 8 years old. In order to fit trackers to adult birds, specially designed traps are used to catch them safely. The things we have learned from tracking Ospreys are amazing, and it’s fantastic to gain an insight into their migratory habits.

  4. Sandra Evans

    Another Osprey season over! How quickly those months have passed and what a privilege it has been to watch the Manton Bay family thrive. I shall continue to watch 30’s migration and look forward to watching her return next year. Thanks to the Rutland team for all your hard work and dedication. The blogs and photos this year were fantastic. See you all again next year. Wishing all the ospreys a safe journey.