Ready and waiting…

Kielder Water and Forest Park was looking stunning on 20 March.

blue skies, choppy waves
(c) Joanna Dailey

The Forestry Commission England Wildlife Rangers have been working hard on refurbishing the four osprey nests at Kielder. Radio and Electronics Branch have been equally busy with the nestcams and the technical infrastructure. Here’s the result of their joint efforts at the two main nests.

fresh moss for the ospreys on Nest 1A
(c) Forestry Commission England

sun shining on Nest 2’s new moss lining
(c) Forestry Commission England

None of the breeding pairs arrived yesterday and they would be advised to hang back further south until tomorrow at least!

early snow on Wednesday
(c) Forestry Commission England

Tomorrow is the day Yellow 37 from Nest 2 arrived home in 2016. We hope he and the other breeding ospreys are having safe journeys.

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Track and field

Paul has created what we think is a first, a marriage of satellite tracking data with photos of the osprey’s activity observed in the field – in this case UV foraging. Here is UV on an earlier foray on 26 February.

26 Feb: UV at 11.37
(c) V J Paine

Just before 13.00 he returned to thrill us once more. Here is Paul’s animation, many thanks to him.

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Changing places

In the last post we described changes to the northern part of the Langue de Barbarie. An increase in human activity in the unpopulated area at its southern end may well be why UV – and other ospreys – were less in evidence in February 2017 than the same period last year. Where are UV and his like spending time now?

Doune Baba Dieye, the island where a village was destroyed by the ocean, hosts UV (sometimes) and other ospreys whilst the displaced villagers tend their crops on the north spit of the Langue. In February 2016 there were ospreys on Doune Baba Dieye so this isn’t a new destination. But they are still present in number in 2017 which was not the case on north spit albeit over a short observation period. Plus there’s the supporting evidence from UV’s data to indicate the spit is less popular, at least with him.

This year UV has visited more or less the same southern area of Doune Baba Dieye as in 2016.

the beach by the Senegal River looking towards the south of Doune Baba Dieye
(c) Joanna Dailey

This beach was a destination more often last year than this. The tip of the mainland, part of which is visible to the top right of the photo, is another destination for ospreys to perch. Beyond the trees top left is where UV has been more of the time in 2017. This is the area, looking inland.

the tributary frequented by ospreys and others
(c) Joanna Dailey

Some of the dots on the sandbar are ospreys and on some days UV is one but not when we visited. Either day!

the edge of the tributary
(c) V J Paine

ospreys by the sandbar
(c) Joanna Dailey

The beach and trees around the tributary are well used.

the best way to cool the feet
(c) Joanna Dailey


a popular beach
(c) Joanna Dailey

a more panoramic view
(c) Joanna Dailey

And crabs were enjoying lunch.

Last year Whistling Duck flocks were in the shallow water but not this, although bird life abounded.

Gulls and a Grey Heron
(c) Joanna Dailey

UV and other ospreys also perch at the end of the mainland that you can see in the first photo.

an osprey on the crest of the beach at the tip of the mainland
(c) Joanna Dailey

But there is human activity there too which will deter the less tolerant birds.

A fisherman at the very end of the mainland waits for the tide to be right…
(c) Joanna Dailey

… and later on it was
(c) Joanna Dailey

And the next day off the very end of the mainland
(c) Joanna Dailey

You can see how shallow the water is near the river mouth. Another area UV perches is a mangrove lined tributary off the main river. Access is only possible around high tide.

Spoonbills near the start of the tributary
(c) Joanna Dailey

reeds give way to mangroves…
(c) Joanna Dailey

… the channel narrows…
(c) Joanna Dailey

…UV perches in this area
(c) Joanna Dailey

But not on that day!

an osprey in the mangroves
(c) Joanna Dailey

The habitat housed kingfishers and heron, ospreys were seen and also heard slightly further away. It is a quiet area and difficult to access, good for wildlife.

Leaving the tributary revealed the first human activity.

just out of the tributary a herdsman tends his stock
(c) Joanna Dailey

That was to the east, to the west…

a perch with adornment
(c) Joanna Dailey

Overhead ospreys foraged.

a German osprey forages
(c) V J Paine

one of many ospreys in moult
(c) V J Paine

You’ll have noticed some detritus on the beaches in the earlier photos. Here is more including a Wetlands International bucket.

how did that get there?
(c) V J Paine

Wherever the origin – and netting especially is a local responsibility – plastic entering the food chain is a growing problem, and one that can persist for hundreds of years. The detritus is not necessarily from the local area but could well have been brought to shore from thousands of miles away by ocean currents. These currents being what they are, much of west Africa’s beach flotsam emanates from western Europe and countries around the Mediterranean. In recent years, some enterprising Senegalese have found a way to make money out of the washed-up garbage.

But it would be far better to stop this problem at source – and that means all of us should dispose of our unused items responsibly!

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A different place

This blog is about habitat change on the northern part of the Langue de Barbarie but we’ll start and end with some ospreys!

aerodynamic Garfish from either end
(c) Joanna Dailey

One of the puzzling aspects of UV’s behaviour since his return to his wintering area in October 2016 is the increasingly small amount of time he has spent on the northern spit when compared to last winter. In February 2016 we found many ospreys on the beach which is several miles from housing. Sea or river fishing appeared productive. One of the aims of the February 2017 visit was to try and determine why UV visits the area infrequently.

As the pirogue neared the area quite extensive crop growing was noticeable.

vegetable growing on the small islet
(c) Joanna Dailey

crops extend onto the land beyond the islet
(c) Joanna Dailey

Cabbages are relatively salt tolerant but must be able to thrive because the sand is being deposited by the wind and not tidal action, so is not salt laden.

tending the crops
(c) Joanna Dailey

The people working the land are from Doune Baba Dieye, the village on the other side of the Senegal River destroyed by the power of the sea in 2011. Lives and livelihoods were lost but here is evidence of rebuilding.

They are not alone in utilising the end of the northern spit.

a temporary fishing camp near a favourite spot for ospreys in Feb 2016
(c) Joanna Dailey

You can see that gulls aren’t concerned by the activities but there was a striking absence of perching ospreys when compared to the same time last year – a couple on the beach rather than over twenty.

checking the nets
(c) Joanna Dailey

When UV has been to this area in the last couple of months he has often been perched in what looks like water on the Google Earth images. In a recent post Paul’s calculations about the rapid extension southwards of the north spit were mentioned. Here is evidence.

a shallow lagoon will be washed over by tides twice a day
(c) Joanna Dailey

The pin is the position where the photo was taken. It is near some of UV’s recent perches. Paul has modelled the probable extent of the land now. Or, more accurately, ten days ago!

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Spookily, as this blog was in draft UV’s data arrived showing he spent nearly three hours on the spit late yesterday. This photo was taken very near where he spent part of the time.

UV sat below the bottom of the photo
(c) Joanna Dailey

There’ll be more posts about UV and his wintering area. But for now here are the promised ‘other osprey’ photos – they may not land on north spit so often but foraging is still profitable!

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So much more than a red dot

A detailed picture of activity can be developed from the data provided by GSM/GPS trackers. Fascinating and valuable though that is, to see the subject – in this case UV  – is a greater thrill.

A recent trip to the Langue de Barbarie area of Northern Senegal gave the opportunity to learn what changes to the area have occurred in the last year and to try and find UV.

Did we succeed? Here’s some proof!

26 February: late morning check out of the beach lagoon (c) V J Paine

26 February: late morning check out of the beach lagoon
(c) V J Paine

26 Feb: UV looks around the inland scrub (c) V J Paine

26 Feb: UV looks around the inland scrub
(c) V J Paine

2 March: UV pays no attention to a lively unringed Osprey in the neaxt Baobab (c) V J Paine

2 March: UV pays no attention to a lively unringed Osprey in the next Baobab
(c) V J Paine

There’ll be more about the area and UV’s activity over the next few days.

Much is owed to chief UV spotter Pip and chief photographer Vic who carried heavy photographic kit over beach and scrub. Some great images are the result, heartfelt thanks to both.

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Back to the beach

The last update about UV was written on 12 February before data for that day’s activity had arrived. We commented on UV’s tendency to spend most of the day inland so you can guess what he did on 12 February!

A few hours on the beach

A few hours on the beach

Since 12 February UV has spent much more time at the coast in different spots. He has also rarely been recorded flying at heights of over 200 m ASL. He has been airborne for much less than the 3-4 hours a day than he had been averaging.

Is he starting to build up reserves ready to start migration? Possibly – time will tell.

You’ll notice UV kept close to shore in the image above. He has seldom ventured far from land in the past week. Paul’s weather analysis has identified one possible reason.

credit: OSCAR/NASA JPL courtesy Paul Wildlifewriter

courtesy Paul Wildlifewriter

In contrast with much of the winter until now, the SSTA (sea surface temperature anomaly) for 15 February shows a distinct patch of cooler-than average sea around the coast of Senegal – the green in the image. There is also a north-going current.

These changes could be affecting the type and numbers of fish available near the coast, or their distribution. Cooler water near the coast could be attracting some pelagic species which normally feed in the rich cold water of the ocean. Another colourful chart from Paul.

courtesy Paul Wildlifewriter

courtesy Paul Wildlifewriter

The red at the coast denotes more plankton presence than normal because of the additional nutrients and oxygen in the cooler water. So there could be plenty of prey for UV and his fish eating companions!

It will be interesting to see whether the SSTA continues and where UV forages over the next period.

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UV’s activity in the first ten days of February has been similar to last month with most of his perches being inland rather than on the coast of northern Senegal. He is still flying for up to four hours a day. How does 2017 so far compare to 2016?

In 2016 UV had a more extensive range as these two images show.

UV's range: from the northern part of the Langue de Barbarie to it's southern end

UV’s range: from the northern part of the Langue de Barbarie to the southern end

UV's range: more inland activity and a more compact area

UV’s range: more inland activity and a more compact area

Despite travelling much further south on many days in early 2016 – and doubless catching fish on his offshore forays there – the current hunting ‘hotspot’ between the two sections of the Langue de Barbarie featured in 2016 too.

2016: nearly 2 hours flying

2016: nearly 2 hours flying near the northern end of the south spit on 18 Jan

2017: a longer sortie

2017: a longer sortie in a similar area

The top image was made in January 2016. Although the scale is slightly different you can see the change in the coastal landscape between the two images. The tip of the south spit is gradually receding and the sandy lump on the mainland at the right of the images is growing. Both are the result of the creation of the breach in the Langue de Barbarie in 2003, an event we’ve mentioned many times before.

When UV travels to the most eastern area of his current range he often meanders there yet flies high for part of that trip. On return he frequently races back towards the coast. The return journey is usually downwind so he has a ‘helping hand’ to achieve some impressive speeds. A helpful graphic by Paul of one excursion.

courtesy Paul Wildlifewriter

courtesy Paul Wildlifewriter

56 knots is 103 kph or 64 mph. Not bad going!

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