Yesterday we were wondering whether 30 would linger in the south of Spain, or continue south to Africa. That question has now been answered because at midday today we know she was flying past Marrakesh!
After arriving in Cadiz on Sunday afternoon, 30 remained there for the rest of the evening. Having flown well over 1500km in just three-and-a-half days since leaving Rutland Water she was certainly due a rest. Cadiz harbour offers rich pickings for migrating Ospreys and, having caught a meal 30 settled down for the evening near El Marquesado.
At 7am next morning she was perched 11km further south, perhaps eating breakfast. An hour later though, she was off. Whilst most birds of prey actively avoid long sea-crossings during migration, Ospreys are much more powerful. It was no surprise, therefore, that rather than heading South-east to make the short crossing to Africa across the Strait of Gibraltar, 30 flew due south from Cadiz, direct across the Atlantic. At 8am she was 6.5km off the Spanish coast flying just 10m above the waves and an hour later she was 40km further south, with the Moroccan coast firmly in her sights. She made landfall just after 10am after a flight across the sea of approximately 110km. This is much further than the 14km crossing at Gibraltar, but using the more direct route across the open sea not only saved 30 time, but also kilometres. If she had stuck to the land-based route as species such as Honey Buzzards and Short-toed Eagles would have done, she would have had to have flown 80 kilometres further.
Having made landfall, 30 continued South-west, using the coastline as her guide. She passed Rabat at 2pm, flying powerfully South-west at 49km/h at an altitude of 490 metres and then continued to make steady progress South-west for the rest of the afternoon. By 6pm she had covered another 150km and was still showing no signs of letting up, despite the fact that her day’s flight already totalled 420km.
We don’t know exactly where 30 roosted but at 10am this morning she was 65km south of her position yesterday evening, migrating SSW at an altitude of 1000 metres. Two hours later she had made a distinct turn to the South-west and was passing to the north of Marrakesh. This change in direction was almost certainly due to the fact that the Atlas Mountains would now be appearing on the horizon. This vast mountain chain, which rises to more than 4000 metres in places, presents an obvious barrier to migrating birds. Our other satellite tagged Ospreys have actively avoided flying through the highest peaks and it looks as though 30 is going to do the same.
Once the Atlas Mountains are behind her, 30 will face the most arduous part of her journey. The vast and unforgiving Sahara. When the next batch of data comes in – either later tomorrow or on Friday – she will probably be crossing the desert. We wish her well.