As we know from the recent arrivals at Rutland Water, Osprey migration is now in full swing. Migrant Ospreys are powering their way north towards nests in North America and Europe from wintering sites as diverse as the Amazon Rainforest and sub-Saharan Africa. It is an incredibly exciting time, and next week we hope that schools all around the world will share that excitement by getting involved in the first-ever World Osprey Week – or WOW for short!
Over the course of WOW we’ll be reporting on the migratory journeys of eight satellite-tagged Ospreys, who, thanks to the wonders of modern technology, we’re able to follow in incredible detail. Here’s an update on how our WOW birds are getting on so far…
If you have been keep up-to-date with the WOW Ospreys over the past few weeks, then you’ll know that our previous update showed that two of them are getting very close to home.
The first, 30(05), is returning to her nest close to Rutland Water having spent the winter on a beach in Senegal. By Friday evening she had reached central France, and her latest batch of GPS data shows that she is now even closer to home. Last night 30 roosted on the banks of the river Seine in Normandy. She is now just 400km from Rutland Water and so, all being well, she may arrive back sometime tomorrow.
We do not know what time 30 left her overnight roost site yesterday morning, but by midday she had already covered 180km north-east. A stiff south-westerly breeze had caused her to drift further to the east than we might have expected, and that continued to be the case during the afternoon. The wind helped her cover 110km over the next two hours, but she was drifting east all the time.
At 3pm 30 was perched beside the River Seine,another 27km to the north-east. Heavy showers were forecast for northern France yesterday afternoon and that may explain her unexpected stop. Despite her early finish she had covered 325 km during her day’s flight and was now within striking distance of the UK. She spent the rest of the afternoon beside the Seine, almost certainly taking the opportunity to catch her fish before she sets off on the final leg of her journey.
30 may be close to home, but she won’t be the first of the WOW Ospreys to get back to her nest. That honour has gone to Cosican Osprey, CAT. Having spent the winter in southern Spain – much further north that the other WOW Ospreys – CAT was always likely to be the first back to her nest. In our last WOW update we reported that CAT had flown the length of Spain in just three days.We now know that she spent the night of the 19th just south of Perpignan in the south of France, and next morning set out across the Mediterranean back towards home on the coastal cliffs of Corsica. She headed out to sea shortly after 7:30am and 10 hours later arrived in Corsica after an amazing flight of more than 500km.
You can look at CAT’s incredible flight in more detail on our WOW interactive map by clicking here. When you do, have a look at how different her spring migration has been compared to her autumn flight from Corsica to Spain. By flying further north through Spain and then into France, CAT shortened the sea crossing considerably and also benefited from the westerly winds which often blow during the spring in this part of the Mediterranean. Ospreys truly are master navigators!
Our remaining three European WOW Ospreys are all much further south.
Yellow HA and Blue XD are Scottish male Ospreys that were fitted with GSM satellite transmitters by Roy Dennis last year. The GSM transmitters – which send data through the mobile phone network – showed that the birds both wintered in Senegal, at the Sine-Saloum Delta and Casamance River respectively. They both began their spring migration on 16th March and are now heading across the vast wilds of the Sahara. The GSM transmitters collect data every minute, but because they work via the mobile phone network, the bird must be near a mobile phone mast for us to receive data! Roy Dennis takes up the story…
Having wintered on the north shore of the Casamance River in southern Senegal, Blue XD set off on migration at 10:38 on 16th March. He flew just under 200km north-east across the River Gambia to Dafar in Senegal.
Next morning he maintained a more northerly heading as he continued onward through Senegal. By the time he settled to roost for the night he had flown another 213 km. Since then he’s flown towards the Sahara Desert and will be out of mobile phone mast range until he approaches Morocco – so we have to wait until then to learn his timings and tracks over the desert.
Yellow HA, meanwhile, has migrated on a more westerly track so has picked up a mobile phone mast. Having left his wintering site at the Sine-Saloum Delta during the morning of 16th March, he roosted overnight on 17th/18th near Lac d’Guiers. Next day he flew 252 km north and then north-north-east inland of Nouakchott through Mauritania. On 19th March he flew another 232 km north-north-west and then north-north-east. The GSM transmitter, which collects data every minute, showed that his soar and glide path was very pronounced, suggesting that he was getting great lift over the desert. At 14:27 he started to soar from 704 metres and by 1434 topped out at 2329 metres, before gliding north – finally roosting in the desert at 18:22.
Over the next two days Yellow HA pushed on north, crossing into Western Sahara at 14:26 on 20th. By midday on 21st he was heading north over the desert. It will be fascinating to see where he, and Blue XD are when the next batch of data comes through – mobile phone masts permitting!
To see the latest locations of the two Scottish birds check out the interactive WOW map. You can find out more about Roy Dennis’s work on Ospreys on his website. Very many thanks to Roy for allowing us to include the two Scottish birds in WOW.
The two Scottish birds may be along way south of their compatriots from Rutland and Senegal, but at least they have started their migration. The final European WOW Osprey, Ilmari, is still at his wintering site in Cameroon.
Ilmari is a nine-year-old male Osprey from Hämeenlinna in southern Finland. It took him just under six weeks to reach his wintering site, 30 km west of Douala in Cameroon. To read more about this and his previous migrations, click here.
Last year Ilmari set off on his spring migration on 29th March, so, with a bit of luck, he should set off during WOW. Watch this space! We are very grateful to Professor Pertti Saurola, the Osprey Foundation and and the Finnish Museum of Natural History for allowing us to include Ilmari in World Osprey Week.
Over the other side of the Atlantic, we’re also following three American Ospreys on their journeys north. Two of them, Belle and Donovan have already set-off.
In our last update Iain MacLeod from the Squam Lakes Natural Science Center in New Hampshire reported that Donovan had reached Cuba. He obviously likes it there, as Iain reports…
Donovan surprised me and decided to hang out in a Cuba for a couple more days. As of the morning of 21st March he was in the middle of Havana (!) which concerns me a little bit (stay away from people!). He was fishing along a riparian green belt in the middle of the city. I’m glad he’s not rushing home (we got another foot of snow here in New Hampshire yesterday), but I’d prefer he loitered in Florida.
Another of the American Ospreys to have started her migration, is Belle. This three year-old female from Massachusetts spent her winter on the southern edge of the Amazon Rainforest and set-off on the long flight north on 14th March. The latest GPS data we have showed that by the evening of 16th March, she was north of the main Amazon trunk – already 350 miles north of her winter home.
The final WOW Osprey, North Fork Bob, meanwhile, was still at his wintering site in the Guianan Shield Highlands of southern Venezuela when we received the latest update from Rob Bierregaard who fitted Bob with his satellite transmitter in 2010. Like Ilmari, there is every chance that Bob will begin heading north during WOW. So watch this space.
We are very grateful to Rob Bierregaard for allowing us to track Bob during WOW. To find out more about Rob’s Osprey migration studies in the United States, check out his website.
So that’s it. That’s where they are all now. It will be fascinating to follow the birds as they head north over the next week. Keep checking the website to follow the birds on their incredible journeys.
Registering for WOW gives you access to a range of free teaching resources for primary and secondary schools and also the opportunity to contact other schools who are studying Ospreys. To find out more, click here.