Last week two of our Osprey Education Officers, Jackie and Pete Murray, went on a special journey to northern Spain to further spread the word about ospreys at the Urdaibai Bird Centre – one of the main stopovers on the migration flyway! Over to them…
The Rutland Osprey migration story has England at one end and West Africa at the other. Many of you follow the story of the ospreys here in Rutland during the summer months, and will also have seen pictures and heard the tales of those who have visited the ospreys in their overwintering sites in West Africa.
Pete & Jackie Murray (two of the Osprey Education team) have just been on a visit to Urdaibai and here is their story about the ‘bit in the middle’ of this migration journey.
Situated in the Basque area of Northern Spain, the Urdaibai Reserve is an important part of the flyway for many migrating birds including ospreys. Its weather and geographical position tend to have a funnelling effect and for many birds it is the first place they will make landfall after the hazards of flying south across the Bay of Biscay. Our satellite tracked osprey 30 regularly passes through this area on her way to and from Senegal.
Just how important Urdaibai is to bird migration is brought home by the sign that greets visitors at the entrance, ‘Urdaibai Bird Centre – International Airport for Birds’. Inside the building the displays and films all take migration as their central theme. The flyways map display that greets the visitor stepping into the building is breath taking both in sheer size (two stories high), its design and the important message it conveys.
Like Rutland, Urdaibai had no ospreys, and also like Rutland migrating ospreys were regularly seen on passage. So, based on the success of the Rutland re-introduction, there has been a licenced programme of translocating a small number of chicks from Scotland to Urdaibai during the last five years. 2017 will be the last year for these re-introductions, and in July Roy Dennis and Tim Mackrill will be taking a small number of chicks to their new home in Urdaibai. When they learn to fly and migrate to Africa, they should subsequently return to Basque area to breed.
We were taken to see the “hacking pens” into which the new chicks will be homed when they arrive. All clean, tidy and waiting for their new arrivals. The chicks will have a stunning view over the wetland where they will learn to fly! There is a monitoring cabin nearby, with an outside kitchen consisting of a stainless steel sink under an awning, ready to prepare fresh locally caught fish to feed the young ospreys.
Some of the earlier translocated birds are already returning to Urdaibai and we were lucky enough to be greeted by a flyover from osprey 3N, as we left the nearby town of Gernika on our way to the Urdaibai reserve. Later we were able to view 3N on his favourite perch in the middle of the beautiful wetland that covers much of the Urdaibai Biosphere reserve. Sadly no breeding ospreys as yet as there are a lack of females, although a female Scottish bird did spend some time with 3N and accepting his fish before taking off once more and flying north.
Everyone at Urdaibai is firmly committed to the idea of the future of conservation and the importance of the education of children, and they have strong links to local schools and to schools in Bilbao. Our schools in Rutland have been linked with these schools via skypes during World Osprey Week (WOW) each year, and pupils from Montorre and Urretxindorra schools area sent entries last year to our 20 years Rutland Osprey Festival. It was humbling to see pictures of these skypes, WOW work, and prize winning entries and certificates from the festival displayed in the bird centre. There was also a one of the pictures from Ken Davies’ book Ozzies’s Migration repainted on huge paper and the text translated into Basque.
While we were there we were delighted that some of the local pupils were able to be brought to the centre for what was rather grandly termed a ‘conference’ with us. In surroundings that would be appropriate in any conference facility and with the aid of a big interactive screen, we were able to describe Rutland Water, its surroundings and of course the whole osprey project from its beginnings. Although a very young audience, the pupil’s grasp of English was amazing, especially when it is considered that their first language is Basque and that they must also learn Spanish as well. They listened with interest and asked intelligent and well though out questions about us, the project, and conservation issues in Britain.
We cannot end without the story of the stork! When we arrived, after initial greetings were over, we were told we had to see their new chick. Puzzled as we had not thought there were any ospreys breeding, we clambered up to look out of a high window. Below on the edge of the roof was a large osprey type nest on a pole, and in the nest was a stork chick. Already the size of a goose it stood dozing in the sun. Several days earlier, it had been found having fallen from its nest in a tree in a nearby woodland. When found it was in a pitiful state, weak from lack of food, and covered in parasites. The locals brought the chick to the centre, where with the help of medication, a hastily built nest, and feeding on a kilo of food per day, the young bird was thriving. It is expected to fledge in a week or so and will be able to join the other storks on the reserve.
Huge thanks to Xarles and the staff at Urdaibai, the teachers and students from the local schools, and the friends we made during our visit- We look forward to our next contact with you all.
If you would like to know more about the Urdaibai Biosphere Reserve and Bird Centre follow this link….
Jackie Murray and Pete Murray