WOW Migration Update

33(11) was the latest Osprey to return to Rutland Water, and elsewhere in Europe and North America, many other Ospreys are returning to their nest sites. It is great to report that four more of the Ospreys we followed as part of World Osprey Week have now made it home.

Sadly, there is also some bad news to report. It seems that Ilmari -one of the two Finnish birds we are following – has failed to make a long crossing of the Mediterranean from Libya to Greece. Here is the latest update on the two Finnish Ospreys from Professor Pertti Saurola…

Finnish Ospreys


4 April 2014

At 08:00 local time (07:00 GMT, there is no summer time / daylight saving in Algieria), Ilmari was flying 22 km from his stopover place; the satellite measured his occasional speed at 38 km per hour and altitude at 1,650 m above sea level, though only 204 m above land at that point.  Around 10:00 Ilmari crossed the border to Libya. The next fix was not received until midnight, from the sandy desert ‘in the middle of nowhere.’ He travelled 368 km this day.

5 April 2014

At 09:00, local time (07:00 GMT – like Algeria, there is no summer time / daylight saving in Libya), Ilmari was at his stopover location, but two hours later he was in flight 19 km away, which means that he had set out at around 10:15-10:30.  A fairly inexact Doppler fix indicates that Ilmari probably spent the night in the desert after covering some 314 km this day.

6 April 2014

Most of the fixes for this night and day are still missing. The first GPS fix is from 13:00 local time, some 184 km from the estimated stopover location of the previous night. His new stopover place was situated 56 km due south of the city of Misrata and 33 km from the Mediterranean coast. At an estimate, he flew 278 kilometres this day.

7 April 2014

At 09:00 local time, Ilmari was on the ground near Tawergha, 10 km from his overnight location. At noon, local time, Ilmari passed by Misrata and set out to cross the Mediterranean immediately, some 200 kilometres west of where he set out last spring.

This day, the last fix on Ilmari was received at 17:00 local Libyan time. At that time, Ilmari was flying in a north-easterly direction 167 km from the Libyan coast. Three GPS fixes received from the sea at 13:00, 15:00 and 17:00 showed that Ilmari flew at an altitude of 200 m above sea level, and that his average speed was 34 kilometres per hour.

8 April 2014

We did not receive a single GPS fix this day. However, we did receive four Doppler fixes of accuracy level “2”, at 18:41, 19:27, 23:03, and 23:47 Greece summer time, along with four more inaccurate Doppler fixes. They all showed evidence of the same thing, that Ilmari was some 24 km to the south-southwest of the Schiza island outside the southwest horn of the Peloponnese peninsula. Unfortunately, it looks very likely that Ilmari has lost his life in the waves of the Mediterranean, since all these fixes during 11 hours (including all the inexact ones) have come from the sea. According to the fixes from 19:27 and 23:03, Ilmari floated 5.7 kilometres to the east-southeast in that time.

In total, Ilmari flew 771 km during his last day, and 751 of those kilometres were travelled at sea.

Why did Ilmari pass away? Did he fall victim to the illegal hunting common in Greece, as in other Mediterranean countries?  Or did the hard weather conditions put a stop to Ilmari’s travels, just some twenty kilometres from land – already in sight – and rest? We can only guess at the answers to these questions for now. A quick analysis of the weather, made by Professor Juhani Rinne, did not reveal anything dramatic. It is possible that Ilmari has had to fly against the wind and rain in the last stages. We cannot completely shut out the possibility of a thunderstorm, either. A future, more detailed analysis may shed more light on what part the weather conditions have played in Ilmari’s death.

Sadly it looks as though Ilmari failed to cross the Mediterranean.

Sadly it looks as though Ilmari failed to cross the Mediterranean.


05 April 2014

At 9:00 local time (06:00 GMT), Heikki was flying to the west of Lake Turkana, 15 km from his stopover place. After flying 276 km along the western coast of Lake Turkana, Heikki stopped for the night near the northern end of the lake.

6 April 2014

At 9, local time, Heikki seems to have been feeding at the shores of Lake Turkana. During the following four hours, Heikki first flew 33 km northwest, and then 28 km due east to the delta of the Omo River, where he turned due north. After 15:00, Heikki crossed over to Ethiopia. He found his overnight location near the border to southern Sudan, after travelling 165 km this day.

7 April 2014

The first two fixes of this day, at 9:00 and 11:00 local time (06:00 and 08:00 GMT – Ethiopia does not have summer time / daylight saving), showed that Heikki had flown 16 km to the east-southeast from his roost, apparently to fish at River Omo. The following fixes were not received until 19 and 21 o’clock, 110 km from the previous one. The night’s fixes indicated that Heikki had had to relocate a few times during the night.

8 April 2014

At 9, local time, Heikki was flying some 7 kilometres from his restless stopover location, and proceeded 232 km northwards during the day.

9 April 2014

After flying 227 km Heikki settled down for the night three kilometres from the Blue Nile.

10–12 April 2014

Heikki spent three days refuelling at the Blue Nile.

13 April 2014

After resting and refuelling for three days, Heikki left the Blue Nile and continued northwards. At 11:00 local time (08:00 GMT), Heikki was still at his fishing location, but two hours later he was in flight 46 km north of the place where he had been refuelling. During this day, Heikki travelled 253 km, and the settled down for the night 33 km from the Sudanese border.

14 April 2014

Heikki did not have a quiet night’s rest, because some disturbance made him move 2.6 km between 01:00 and 03:00  (22:00-00:00 GMT). By 09:00, Heikki had flown 11 km, and soon after that he crossed the border into Sudan. His next night was spent by a river again – after a day trip of 176 km.

Heikki has now reached southern Sudan, after spending the winter on the coast of Mozambique. As one of the world's most northerly breeding Ospreys, he still has a long way to go!

Heikki has now reached southern Sudan, after spending the winter on the coast of Mozambique. As one of the world’s most northerly breeding Ospreys, he still has a long way to go!

To find out more about the Finnish Ospreys, check out the Finnish Museum of Natural History website.

Scottish Ospreys

Roy Dennis’s two Scottish birds are now home…well, just about. Roy takes up the story…

Blue XD

Blue XD crossed the English Channel on the afternoon of 7th April and arrived over Hayling Island at 17:40. He flew 272 km during the day, and roosted in woods north of Emsworth in Hampshire.  Next morning he probably caught a fish off Hayling Island, before eating it just north of the Northney Marina. He then resumed his migration at 10.03. That night he roosted at Grebe Lake, Calvert east of Bicester.

On 9th April he made a strong flight north via Coventry and Manchester. He stopped off at Wetsleddale Dam near Shap for a fish(?) and then roosted overnight beside River Eden at Armthwaite.

After only a short flight on 10th April, he headed more purposefully north via Kielder Forest next morning. He crossed into Scotland at 11.30am and then over the Firth of Forth from Port Seton to West Wemyss.

By 6am on 12th April he was back at his nest near Aviemore.

Blue XD's flight through England and into Scotland, 9-11 April

Blue XD’s flight through England and into Scotland, 9-11 April

Yellow HA

Having spent several days in Perthshire, Yellow HA flew north over the Angus hills to Deeside on 10th April. He then continued north, passing Rhynie and Huntly before finally roosting near Elgin. Next day he flew to the Lossie estuary in the afternoon and was still there at 7pm.  He was now very close to home – but showing no desire to return to his nest. 

Unexpectedly, Yellow HA has remained in the Elgin area since then – visiting various nest sites. I called in at his nest today and saw that his mate, Morven, has attracted a new 6 year-old mate. Maybe Yellow HA decided last year to get a new mate and nest, and may be an easier fishing area? Whatever the case, it is great that he and Blue XD have both made it safely home to Scotland.

To find out more about Roy’s work with Ospreys in Scotland, check out his website.

American Ospreys

Over on the other side of the Atlantic, two more of the WOW Ospreys have also made it home. Rob Bierregaard takes up the story…

Belle got home on the 10th after a trip of 28 days and 4,622 miles. She arrived a full month earlier than she did last year. She has now figured out the path that adults take each spring, staying over land as much as possible, even if it makes for a slightly longer trip.

She has been back to Deep Bottom Cove in Tisbury Great Pond and over to Cape Cod, where she spends a lot of time. We hope this is the year she will hook up with a male.

This is the third trip home for Belle-a record for our birds tagged as juveniles. She’s also tied with North-Fork Bob for the longest a bird has made it with a functioning radio (four years).

Belle was in a hurry as she got close to home. Her last GPS fix on the 9th April was at 18:00 just across the Chesapeake Bay in the Virginia portion of the Delmarva Peninsula. She clearly kept flying after that, but we can’t tell where she spent the night. The first location in New Jersey on the 10th was at 06:00, so she probably roosted close to that spot on the Jersey Shore. The first location on the 10th was 167 miles from the last on the 9th. That would have taken her about seven hours, so my guess is that she flew to about 01:00 before settling down for a few hours’ sleep before making the big push to get home.

On the 10th, she covered 267 miles in 12 hours, with a one-hour stopover in New Jersey probably for some fishing. Crossing Connecticut, she was flying over 30 mph, which is fast for an Osprey.

Much earlier in her migration Belle had an interesting turn when she got to Haiti. Just like in her previous two migrations she went out of her way to spend some time fishing at Lake Azuei, a very interesting spot. Turns out there’s a rift valley on Hispaniola and two below-sea-level lakes, which are known, among other things for hosting healthy populations of crocodiles. She’s the only Osprey I’ve tracked that has such a regular stop on the spring migration.

Belle's spring migration from Brazil to Massachusetts

Belle’s spring migration from Brazil to Massachusetts

North-Fork Bob, meanwhile,  had a pleasantly uneventful trip home this spring, leaving his wintering site in Venezuela a bit later than normal on 23rd March, and arriving back on the North Fork on the 11th April; a week later than his arrival last year. Bob is somewhat of a celebrity in eastern Long Island. His arrival is much anticipated in the local press.

To read more about Rob’s Osprey studies in America, check out his website.  

North Fork Bob's migration from Venezuela to Long Island, New York

North Fork Bob’s migration from Venezuela to Long Island, New York


Don’t forget you can also see the latest locations of all the WOW Ospreys, on the interactive map.


WOW at Provo Primary

Finally, it has been great to hear how many different schools around the world got involved in WOW. Sian Jones the Principal of Provo Primary School in the Turks and Caicos Island, has sent us a great report explaining what went on at her school…

There was a lot of excitement in the air at Provo Primary during the week of March 24th to March 28th because of their participation in the inaugural “World Osprey Week” (WOW). Provo Primary joined in with other schools around the world, to celebrate WOW, with a full week of activities that had the entire school body involved.

The stage at Provo Primary was transformed into an Osprey information booth, with posters, books, pictures and video clips. Parents, teachers and students were encouraged to learn about this majestic bird that can be seen in the Turks & Caicos Islands.

The Department of Environment and Marine Affairs (DEMA) were invited to make presentations and share their knowledge about Ospreys to the students during the week, along with a local photographer. DEMA also partnered with FORTIS TCI to erect an Osprey nesting platform in the Children’s Park in the Bight, which was attended by the students of the Year Two class (known as the Osprey class). The students also went on a tour of the Environmental Centre and ended the field trip outing at another osprey nesting platform in the Turtle Cove area, where they did some cleaning up around the nesting area.

A special WOW assembly was held on Friday March 28th and attendees were treated to performances and visual displays by the students. There were songs, poems, and a skit performed by students and teachers, which focused on sharing the information learnt about Ospreys with others. Students participated in an art competition and the winners were awarded prizes and certificates from DEMA.

The week ended with a beach clean-up at Smith’s Beach where another Osprey nesting platform is located.

Thank you to everyone at the Leicestershire & Rutland Wildlife Trust for organising this wonderful WOW celebration and encouraging us to learn more about the ospreys that live here in our islands. It has been a great success and the interest of the children and the support community has been amazing. A true example of learning at its best!

Here are some photos of our week…

wow-march-2014 (1) wow-march-2014-7 yr-3-ospreys-march-2014-5 wow-Osprey Platform 1

Thanks very much to Sian for sending such a great report – we are delighted that you had such an excellent week!

If your school would like to find out more about WOW and the Osprey Flyways Project, click here.