This year we had the thrill of receiving our first ever sightings of Kielder ospreys away from the local area. First, within a week in the summer, came news of two Kielder born ospreys who had made it back to the UK. A 2010 female from Nest 1, Blue 35, failed in what was almost certainly her first nesting attempt in South Cumbria. And a 2011 male from Nest 2 was spotted in North Yorkshire. Only about 1 in 3 ospreys will survive the two years from fledging to return from their migration area for the first time so these are possibly the sole survivors from their respective years.
Exciting enough but in November came the news that a 2012 youngster, Blue 1H from Nest 2, had been seen in Senegal! This is our first insight into Kielder ospreys’ migration destinations. Hopefully she will return to the UK next year. Using Google Earth Sally has produced maps (click to enlarge them) showing locations of the nests, sightings and the birthplace of our resident males Yellow 37 and White YA from Glaslyn. The maps can be viewed from the top bar in future. We hope we will be able to add more pins.
When the Osprey Watch volunteers talk to visitors about migration we say the destination for UK ospreys is normally West Africa, for example Senegal or Gambia. So Blue 1H is in a country we tend to mention. She is very near the Mauritania border, towards the northern limit of where UK ospreys will settle in Africa. So is she further north than other UK ospreys we have information about?
Until only a few days ago, one of the two Loch Garten 2013 fledglings, Breagha, was further north. He spent several weeks near the Mauritania-Senegal border, but recently moved south to an area near Kabroussein, Senegal. (This isn’t far from Guinea-Bissau, a country where a number of ospreys have ‘disappeared’ from the radar or died. A month ago the satellite tracker on Blue YZ, the 2013 juvenile from Loch of the Lowes, stopped sending data from that country.)
Another Scottish satellite tagged osprey, Blue YD a 2012 born osprey from Angus, is north east of Blue 1H’s sighting at Toddé, so she is the UK osprey in the most northern part of West Africa, as far as we know. Blue YD returned inland to last winter’s quarters from a stay at the coast over the summer. Satellite tagging data and on the ground research (eg by Yves Prevost in 1982) shows that the established adults dominate the coastal and especially estuarine areas where fishing is easy with abundant stocks. When the adults return to Europe each Spring to breed the young ospreys who remain behind often move to the coast, but then get pushed back inland when the adults return in October or November. Birds on the coast studied by Prevost mostly travelled no further than 10 km from their roosts, a sign of plentiful food. This must be the case for 30(05), an adult from Rutland Water who is at her usual haunt on the Senegalese coast and is very settled. Her longest flight over ten days recently was just one mile!
Satellite tagging also demonstrates the faithfulness of ospreys to their wintering sites. An example is Rothiemurchus, a 2009 born osprey from the Highlands who returns each year to an area inland on the river Gambia. The fishing there must be really good because he rarely travels over 0.5 km. No need to go to the coast for him!
The UK osprey who has travelled furthest south in West Africa is probably White 14 from the Lake District Project. He had a rather more easterly migration route than the great majority of UK ospreys, and ended up in the Ivory Coast. Not content with already being notably far south, he is currently on an island, Bioko, between Nigeria and Cameroon. So far he has visited thirteen countries!
In marked contrast to his high mileage, some ospreys do not even cross to Africa, preferring to stay in Iberia or, more rarely, France. Two satellite tagged UK ospreys are in Southern Spain; Beatrice, born in 2000 in Scotland and tagged in 2008, spends her winters near Marbella. And Caledonia, a 2012 Loch Garten chick, lives quite near Seville.
Since satellite tagging of UK ospreys began in the late 1990’s so much has been learnt about routes, destinations and the behaviour of ospreys in their overseas patch. Each year adds significantly to the knowledge. This can be used to help conservation eg the Rutland Water Osprey Flyways Project which, in the Project’s words, “links schools along Osprey migration flyways and provides wildlife education opportunities for schools in the key overwintering areas”. And an increased understanding of the geography of West Africa is a beneficial by-product of following ospreys for many people!