The WOW race hots up!

As we wait expectantly for the next Ospreys to arrive at Rutland Water, it is extraordinary to think that, all over the globe, Ospreys are making similar journeys back to their breeding grounds. The latest update on the Ospreys we’re following as part of World Osprey Week shows how much the birds’ journeys can be affected by the weather.

As we have seen through 30(05)‘s data, her journey so far this year has been severely impaired by the weather, and her progress has been slow. The same is true of her latest day’s travelling. Yesterday she travelled only 129km (80 miles), and, as of yesterday evening, she is still in France, 119km (74 miles) from Calais.

30's route 30th March

30’s route 30th March

She left her roost at 08:00 yesterday morning, flew over Louviers and across the River Seine. She stopped at 14:00 at a location near Senarpont, on the River Bresle, and it was there that she roosted last night. As you can see from the photo below, there are several lagoons in the area, which makes it a very sensible spot for 30 to stay.

30's roost site 30th March

30’s roost site 30th March

The wind has been rather severe over France, with winds predicted to gust at 43mph later today. This is clearly why 30 is still travelling slowly and decided to stop yesterday afternoon. It is comforting to know that she is being sensible – roosting early, flying slowly and avoiding flying through the bad weather fronts. She will get home eventually!

Judging by her latest position, it looks as though 30 is taking a similar route to the one she took last spring. In the map below, you can see (furthest right green line) that 30 crossed the English Channel at almost its narrowest point, between Calais and Dover. It is interesting to see that she is heading the same way this season. The other two lines on the map show her autumn migrations in 2013 (green) and 2014 (purple).

30's route across the channel spring 2014

30’s route across the channel spring 2014

A little further south, another Osprey from the UK is also being affected by the strong winds. The latest data sent by Roy Dennis shows that Blue XD is heading much further east in Spain than usual; almost certainly as a result of the north-westerly winds. By lunchtime today he had reached the River Ebro at Velilla de Ebro.

Much further east, Helena – one of four Finnish birds that we’re following – is now also back in Europe. The previous batch of data had shown that she was in Tunisia on 25th March. We now know that Helena headed out across the Mediterranean at 8:19am on the 26th March, and eventually stopped for the night on the island of Comino having flown 422 km over the sea in just over 8 hours hours. Her average speed over the sea – 51 km per hour – suggested that, unlike 30 and Blue XD, she must have had a good tail wind. Next day she completed the crossing to Italy, avoiding the dangerous skies above Malta where illegal killing of migratory birds of prey is still a terrible problem. Once in Italy she maintained the same north-easterly heading and was just south of Bari on 29th March.

One other piece of important information to report on Helena is that we now know where she spent the winter. Pertti Saurola has now received the full batch of data from her GSM transmitter and it shows that she wintered in Nigeria between Aviara and Uzere, west of the delta of the Niger river, and some 100 km from the coast of the Gulf of Guinea.

On the other side of the Atlantic, the race up the east coast of America is hotting up! Iain MacLeod takes up the story…

Donovan is making steady progress, but is not in too much of a hurry – just as well . . . more snow in NH today!! March 28 was a poor upload day and we are missing a bunch of points in the morning, but he obviously set off fairly early as by 1pm he was 100km to the north-east of his March 27th roost site. By 8pm he was another 50km north near High Falls in Moore County, North Carolina. He spent all of the 29th in that area fishing on little ponds and roosted in the same spot. He left shortly after noon on the 30th and was on his way again and by 5pm was perched next to small pond 130 km north near Williamsboro in Vance County, just about 15 km from the border with Virginia.

Belle is hot on the heels of Donovan as they fly up the east coast of America

Belle is hot on the heels of Donovan as they fly up the east coast of America

Belle, another of the American Ospreys we’re following isn’t far behind. Despite wintering much 900 miles further south (in Brazil rather than Venezuela), she is catching Donovan up; the latest data shows that on Sunday she was flying north through South Carolina, just 200 miles behind. In contrast, the third American WOW Osprey, North Fork Bob, appears in much less of a hurry to get back. The latest data shows that he has only just left his wintering site in Venezuela.

With the race back to the breeding grounds in both America and Europe hotting-up, make sure you check out our interactive World Osprey Week map.