UV – a high flyer

The wonderful news about 7H has occupied the mind (and heart) this week. There will be another post with some great photos of her courtesy of Pip and Vic later in the weekend. But before his cousin gets all the attention UV deserves his update to be published!

At the end of February a spectacular dust storm moved across West Africa.

Dust covers the coast of Senegal

Dust covers the coast of Senegal

It was caused by winds and thermal activity deep in the Saharan desert. The graphic is more startling than the impact – the storm was of fine dust, not as damaging as larger grained sand from local sand storms can be. It had subsided by 28 February, but did it have an impact on UV who was under the dense part?

Apparently not, because he made his journey south from the Langue de Barbarie to his ‘home’ on the coast near Mboro on 26 February, rather than sit it out. And then was ‘out and about’ locally.

One theme of the period from 28 February to 3 March has been some high altitude flying by UV. He has regularly flown at over 600m altitude – mainly on his way to the coast from roosting a couple of km inland, or flying along the coast.  The image below shows activity over the water on 1 March when he was at altitudes between 780m and 900m for part of the time (the points to the left are the highest).

UV on 1 March

UV on 1 March

When over water at such heights he would not be able to see fish so whatever he was doing it wasn’t hunting. Is he still looking for somewhere different to move to, is he watching other ospreys in the vicinity? We’ll never know unless the indefatigable Pip and Vic fancy a long weekend near Mboro!

UV has explored much less this past week. During the day he is mainly within a 500m² area inland (visible in the image above), although he will often fly over a 5 km stretch of coast. On 1 March it was slightly more. Fas Boue is often a turning point, but not on Sunday.

Over the last two days he has been more limited in both altitude reached and range. His activity on 5 March is below.

UV range on 5 March

UV range on 5 March

Two or three visits to the sea are usually evident from the data. Longer intervals between fixes early in the day may mean at least one more is missed. He occasionally roosts on the beach or just inland but seldom for long. These are areas Rutland Osprey Project’s 30 just up the coast uses most, but not UV. Is the reason his juvenile status? Even at Cintra he would roost sometimes about a km inland and there was almost certainly a hugely lower osprey population there, if any, although it is under researched. There are more questions than answers on interaction between juveniles and adults in wintering grounds.

It will be fascinating to record any changes in his behaviour over the next couple of weeks when most breeding adults will be departing for Europe.

With thanks to Paul for the dust storm graphic and interpretation of it, and interesting discussions on behaviour.



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7H near Azemmour: Pip Rowe’s five star report

When I booked a week’s holiday for birdwatching in Morocco the Kielder juvenile, Blue 7H, was still sending data from Azemmour. It then became apparent that no more data was being received but Joanna held out a glimmer of hope that it was a tracker problem. There was also the added interest of Ospreys having been reported on several rivers.

We left Gatwick on the morning of 23 February and after a 4 hour flight we checked in to our hotel in Agadir in time for lunch.

We spent a few days birding in the Agadir area and saw 4 different Ospreys along the Oud Souss and another on the Tamri Estuary. The weather was fairly warm but foggy until about midday every day. A steady stream of Swallows and Martins were seen passing overhead and even a few Swifts.

We left Agadir at 5.30am on the 27th February for the 400km drive to Azemmour. Easy and fast autoroute to Marrakesh and then N7 & N1 to Azemmour. These roads were a lot slower and shared with donkey carts, mopeds with 3 or 4 people on as well as lorries in a hurry to get somewhere!

We arrived at the Mazagan Beach Resort where Blue 7H spent some time in October 2014. She had expensive tastes! It is a huge hotel full of nobs, snobs and flunkies with very large grounds, it’s own golf course and Airport style security – Vic is a typical bloke and always carries a penknife much to the consternation of the military style guards!

Mazagan Beach Resort (c) Magazan Beach Resort

Mazagan Beach Resort
(c) Magazan Beach Resort

After a quick lunch we drove to the Pylon area.

Those pylons 7H likes so much (c) Vic Paine

Those pylons 7H likes so much
(c) Vic Paine

We were able to walk all around and I was able to talk to lots of people – in rusty French – and ask if they had seen an Osprey just like this one.

Have you seen...? (c) Vic Paine

Have you seen…?
(c) Vic Paine

Everyone was very helpful but hadn’t seen her. In fact, they were almost oblivious to the bird life around them except one farmer who said “but there she is up there on top of that pylon”. It was a beautiful Kestrel but not quite what I wanted.

We then drove towards the river roost area and eventually found our way to La Plage via a bumpy dirt track used by the lorries transporting the dredged sand. Every time we saw farmers, fishermen and shepherdesses I leapt out of the car brandishing the pictures and asking for help. Again, everyone was so nice and happy to talk to me that my fears of human interference were truly laid to rest..

We headed for the beach roost area.

Heading for the beach roost area (c) Vic Paine

Going towards the beach roost area
(c) Vic Paine

We panned the scope all around but nothing seen. There appeared to be a gypsy encampment here made of plastic sacks and sheets between thorny scrub. It was strewn with litter and didn’t smell very sweet but again, nobody was unpleasant and, quite honestly, didn’t even seem to notice 2 mad birders scanning the beach and jabbering away to each other “Did you get it Marty”

There were 2 dredgers anchored near the river mouth hoovering up the sand and gravel washed down the river during the rainy season.

Dredging (c) Vic Paine

Dredging area
(c) Vic Paine

It is then pumped onto large heaps ready for the lorries to cart away for use elsewhere. The dredging is a 24/7 floodlit operation and I imagine the lorry drivers are collecting their loads for at least 18 hours a day, if not more. We drove straight past the entrance to the depot and carried on up the river bank.

We then started searching for the Poplar roost trees until we realised that the row of 45′ tall Eucalyptus trees were what we were looking for. The area along the river bank is obviously prone to seasonal flooding and is full of low thorny scrub, Marsh Samphire and lots of wild flowers as well as the rather more unsightly plastic rubbish and other flotsam that has washed up here.

A favourite roost spot for 7H (c) Vic Paine

A favourite roost spot for 7H
(c) Vic Paine

Within an hour we had seen an Osprey fishing in the river and were frantically checking to see if we could see an aerial or a ring but eventually had to admit that no, it was not 7H. Even so, it was a thrill to see this elegant fisher go into full dive mode pull out a big fat fish. It then headed up off to the beach area to eat its supper.

The light was starting to go so we sadly had to leave but not before we saw 2 lovely male Hen Harriers hunting along the upper banks of the river as well as a Stone Curlew materialising out of the Marsh Samphire.

I tried to send a short text to Joanna just to tell her what we had and hadn’t seen and then back to the hotel for a bath, dinner and a good sleep to get us fit for the next morning.
After a lovely breakfast we checked out of the hotel at 7.30am 28th February and decided to drive to the Eucalyptus trees via the pylons. We stopped at the pond/lake where 7H fished last year and watched a Cormorant just about manage to swallow a huge fish.
Nothing seen on the pylons and no sign of an Osprey on the trees either.

The 'right' trees but no Osprey (c) Vic Paine

The ‘right’ trees but no Osprey again
(c) Vic Paine

After an hour or so I decided to try to walk right up close to the trees and look along underneath just in case I could find any evidence of a body. I was relieved not to find anything and started to head back towards Vic. On the way an elderly Arab gentleman came over to me, shook my hand and then kissed it! Rather unexpected but made me feel quite honoured really.

As I rounded the corner I could see a mad man jumping up and down and pointing to the very top of the trees – the Osprey was back!

I broke into a semi-gallop and got within bin viewing range. Vic always says he can’t use my scope but he had managed to this time and, like me, was sure he could see an aerial and a metal BTO type ring but we hardly dared to say it just in case. After a few minutes we had a really good view and there was no doubt it was a tracked bird but without a sight of a Darvic ring to confirm we couldn’t be 100% sure it was THE bird. Vic managed to get several photos showing the aerial though.

A tantalising glimpse (c) Vic Paine

One of the tantalising glimpses
(c) Vic Paine

Suddenly the familiar “chip, chip” alarm call was raised and the Osprey flew down off the top of the tree and landed in cover half way down. Even though I knew it was there it was almost impossible to see. It then took off and swooped up and then down towards another Osprey, alarm calling all the while. The tagged bird drove the other Osprey away towards the beach and then returned to land in the top of the trees. This time I was able to see a Blue Darvic ring – and the alphanumeric digits were in white!

There is a ring on the right leg, but... (c) Vic Paine

There is a Blue ring on the right leg, but what digits/letters…
(c) Vic Paine

By now I had forgotten to breathe and just kept concentrating on reading the ring. Finally I got two good scope views of it and YESSSSSSSSS it was Blue 7H. All the while I could hear Vic clicking away with the camera and swearing under his breath for that ****** bird to turn around and keep still!

She took off again and we watched her trying to catch breakfast for about 20 minutes but without success. She then disappeared away out over the beach area and we lost sight of her.

7H flies off, oblivious to the thrill she has given (c) Vic Paine

7H flies off, oblivious to the thrill she has given
(c) Vic Paine

I tried to ring Joanna to tell her but she was out of mobile range so I left a message “Joanna, it’s Pip, I have the best possible news for you”

Joanna called me back and left a message on my answerphone which I think I will keep for ever! She was laughing, crying and wittering all at the same time – I think she was pleased? By now it was getting on for midday so we had to pack the car and head back to Agadir in time for dinner.

I just can’t get over how unbelievably lucky we were to be able to prove that, just once in a blue moon, trackers do fail but the bird flies on! It gives a glimmer of hope for some of our birds where the signal has failed in “odd” circumstances.

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“Best possible news”

Those words were uttered by Pip Rowe, forever a heroine to Kielder Ospreys. Taking a two day detour from her holiday in Morocco she visited Azemmour and this is who she found…..

7H alive and well near Azemmour (c) Vic Paine

7H alive and well near Azemmour
(c) Vic Paine

As you can see the tracker is still attached, so the reason for lack of data since 22 January must be tracker failure. But the most important thing is that 7H is alive and looking good.

Pip has kindly agreed to write a guest blog when she returns home. So looking forward to that!

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UV goes sightseeing

How long have you got? The last week has been pretty busy for UV so here are selected highlights!

19 and 21 February were his ‘quiet’ days on his home patch  with much roosting and just a couple of trips to sea. This was him on 21 February with well over 8 hours of roosting. Although he did have quite a long flight to the coast and north past the village of Fas Boue in late afternoon.

UV has a quiet day

UV has a quiet day

In between those two days he was more active. Despite a headwind he travelled past Fas Boue, generally at under 20 kph, until he was only a few km from Rutland Osprey Project’s adult female 30(05)‘s wintering grounds. And we know she is still there from her tracker.

A roaming day

A roaming day on 20 February

If you click on the image and zoom in you can see in the centre he spent some time exploring near two pieces of water. These are sedimentation ponds, part of a surface mineral sand extraction concession licensed to TiZiR. The double line of UV’s path to the right of the ponds is him flying parallel to the dredging operation.

22 February was another day with little of note although UV did fly quite high – over 200m altitude – when over the sea. He was not hunting because  he could not have seen fish so presumably he was scouting around the area. And that was a hint of things to come!

On 23 February he headed north in light winds past Fas Boue again, at times just under 700m high. This time he kept going but gave 30(05)’s area the respect a mature adult deserves, heading inland some way!

UV keeps clear of 30(05)

UV keeps clear of 30(05)

UV spent the afternoon in the area just north of 30(05) and further inland. He roosted in that area overnight, his first night any distance from his ‘home’ territory since he arrived there at the start of the month.

On 24 February UV spent the morning in the same general area but then flew north again. Here is a graphic from Paul which gives a very good idea of how high he flew as he used the thermals to soar.

UV reaching heights of

UV reaching heights of over 450m

He travelled about 40 km reaching the lagoon at the southern end of the Langue de Barbarie which he had visited in January as he flew south.

UV by a lagoon again

UV by a lagoon again

He headed back south in the late afternoon and roosted overnight in the same area as the previous night. He spent 25 February around, but mainly in, the Lompoul Desert, an 18 km² desert.

UV roosts in the desert

UV roosts in the desert

The circled area is an area of Berber style tents and a small Lodge offering accommodation. UV stayed clear of that but all his day roosts were in the desert area. It is probably a fanciful human reaction to wonder if he is missing the lagoon at Cintra and roosting in the Sahara.

On 26 February he went not north back to the lagoon at the Langu

e de Barbarie but south to his usual area. Again he flew very high, over 800m, as he headed south. And he gave 30 a wide berth! This second graphic from Paul, to whom many thanks for both, shows his behaviour on the ‘out’ and ‘in’ journeys and his relative altitude.

UV behaviour around 30(05)'s area

UV behaviour around 30(05)’s area

Today’s e-mail has just arrived and so far (just after 16.00 GMT) he has had a very quiet day. So tomorrow may not be!

You can follow 30(05) and many other ospreys in Europe and the US as they migrate north via WOW, a great initiative by the Rutland Osprey Project.



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UV and Darou Khoudoss. Mainly

Just as the last update was about to be published data arrived showing that on 12 February UV returned to the mining area at Darou Khoudoss for the third time. Since then he has had another shorter visit.

Paul has produced a graphic with all four tracks. It is based on a 2011 historical  image where the water appears silver (reflected clouds); at the scale necessary to show UV’s trips the green of the water is difficult to see, even if you click to enlarge.

UV following similar routines on his visits to Darou

UV following similar routines on his visits to Darou

It is striking that on most visits UV follows a very similar ‘U’ route (probably because of the pattern of breezes both at the coast and inland) and focusses on the same stretches of water – there are other ‘ponds’ on the imagery but he seems uninterested in them. Given it appeared impossible for there to be fish in them we looked for reasons and Paul found that tilapia fish farming (financed by European partners!) has been introduced to the area – here is an article in French about it. Could UV have found a farm? Unfortunately the latest available satellite image is from 2013 and a farm could have been established after that. Nevertheless, the ‘lakes’ UV visits don’t have the expected shape of aquaculture ponds – the plan talked of lining them so there should be a more even appearance. So perhaps UV has simply been making sure there are definitely no fish in what may seem like a wetland area, rather than that he has found some at a fish farm. Which could bring trouble for him. Here is an image of UV on 12 February circling by some of the ‘lakes’.

UV circles near some of the 'lakes'

UV circles near some of the ‘lakes’

His last visit on 17 February was for only an hour and on the return leg he expended a lot of energy climbing over several minutes to an altitude of over 1300m. At that height he would have been able to see approximately 120 km. Is he trying to find more lakes, perhaps? Until Cintra nearly all UV’s experience of fishing was in a reservoir. At Cintra he preferred the lagoon to genuine sea fishing outside the sheltered bay. There are no lakes near his current site although Lac de Guiers to the north near St Louis may just have been visible.

Whatever his reasons for the visits, outside of those explorations he has kept to his small area between fishing villages with an occasional foray a few km to the south. This image of his range is typical of most recent days, with a bit of activity on or by the beach but most roosting on trees further inland.

UV on 14 Feb

UV on 14 Feb

The last post discussed UV’s avoidance of populated areas; on his visit to Darou on 12 February he undermined that ‘theory’.

Unusually UV overflies habitation

Unusually UV overflies habitation – Mboro – on 12 Feb

But he didn’t repeat the inspection on 17 February. He flew in a curve well wide of Mboro overlapping his outward journey – so not quite the ‘U’ shape of the earlier paths. Mostly he flies along the northern edge of the green area (vegetables are grown there) to the NE of Mboro.

UV avoids Mboro

UV avoids Mboro

Now that UV has established several spots where he spends much of his time it will be interesting to see if they change when any adult ospreys in the area – for example Rutland Water’s 30(05) – leave for their breeding grounds in the next few weeks.

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Days out and days at ‘home’ for UV

Since the last update UV has remained on the Senegalese coast near Mboro although he isn’t completely settled yet.  He has travelled inland and along the coast to the north and south. He is a bit more settled at night; from 5-8 February he used the same small roost area for at least part of each night and from 9-11 February he chose another patch nearby.

The image for 8 February shows how he went up and down the coastline during the afternoon. And out to sea a short way.

UV on 8 Feb until 16.00

UV on 8 Feb until 16.00

The distance between the two ends of UV’s journey along the coast is about 27 km. On the northern trip UV was within 10 km of Rutland Water’s adult female 30(05)’s territory. On the southern leg he went in a big curve around the villages of Boro Deunde and Mboro Kandio, then after flying on he turned back to take a second look at an area shown in the image below.

UV views the beach

UV views the beach

What are the structures on the beach (click on the image to enlarge it)? In discussion with Paul he described one possible function. In West Africa many local communities cannot afford commercial fertiliser so burn seaweed in the open air then rinse the ash with water and dry the slurry. It forms a powdery residue of mostly alkalis – such as calcium carbonate – which can be spread on crops to neutralise acid soils. Cheaper than commercial fertiliser by far! The structures appear to have low walls, which would prevent the powder blowing away. A photo from a bit further along the coast appears to show the burning process. Even if those structures UV had a look at are not drying ‘pens’ his travels are increasing our knowledge on a variety of subjects.

As on 8 February UV spent the morning of 9 February roosting or flying over the sea briefly. But soon after 13.00 GMT he headed east. The image below shows his path, which took him back to Darou Khoudoss.

UV explores inland on 9 Feb

UV explores inland on 9 Feb

Readers might recall he visited that area on 5 Frebruary and roosted by some polluted water. So a return to make sure there really aren’t any fish there, perhaps!

UV sits by the polluted water

UV sits by the polluted water

The image shows UV also explored other ‘lakes’ as he started heading back to the coast. He travelled over 45 km in total. At times he was at over 250m altitude as he flew on the outward leg. His maximum recorded speed on a fix was 47 kts (87 kph). Paul’s research identified tailwinds of 13-19 kts helping him on this leg! On the return trip he flew at lower altitudes and mainly under 20 kts.

On 10 February he spent most of the day either on the beach stationary for just a few minutes at a time, flying along the coast (another fairly long flight south) or roosting a short way inland for long periods. We know that 30(05) spends quite a lot of time on the beach but UV hasn’t yet spent a significant period just sitting there. Perhaps he is being disturbed by other birds – gulls as well as ospreys.

UV’s range on 11 February looks more typical of a juvenile who has settled.

A quiet day for UV

A quiet day for UV

Although UV visits the mining area it is noticeable that he nearly always keeps away from even small areas of human habitation. The top image shows him NOT overflying coastal villages and on his return from Darou he changed direction to skirt round the much larger urban sprawl of Mboro. Paul has made a graphic showing what again seem to be route diversions to avoid areas of human activity. UV's paths around farms

However, just to prove ospreys have the last word – the data came in for much of yesterday and today just as this post was completed. Inevitably UV went back to the Darou area yesterday AND overflew Mboro! He was fairly high, but all the same……


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UV explores – but only locally

Since the last update UV has remained in the area on the coast near Mboro. He is tending to roost overnight about 2-3 km inland, although he is sometimes quite unsettled as the first image shows.

UV overnight 4 and 5 Feb

UV overnight 4 and 5 Feb

UV started the hours of darkness further inland before moving to the area on the right of the image. But he continued to travel about as you can see. Even inland he hasn’t found a favourite tree for overnight and often he moves in the dark albeit seldom as much as on 4/5 February.

Most days he is about 2 km inland for long periods although in the last few days he has started sitting on the beach, albeit not for many minutes at a time.

On 5 February he had an ‘explore’ day, flying about 18 km inland and also 11 km along the shoreline on his return.

UV has a good look around

UV has a good look around

His furthest point was around a phosphate mining area, Darou Khoudoss. UV had a good look at an area of water.

UV flies over and sits by

UV flies over and sits by a ‘lake’

The water is flooded workings from apatite extraction and will be polluted. UV would not have seen any fish in there!

In contrast on the next day UV was much more focussed on the coast than previously.

UV's range on 6 Feb

UV’s range on 6 Feb

Paul has made a very helpful split-screen graphic showing UV’s first couple of weeks in Senegal.

UV and Senegal

UV and Senegal

As you can see, on his flight down to near Dakar on 25 January he deviated inland well before his current territory and he also had a look at those mine workings at Darou Khoudoss. He also scouted around on the northern edge of his current territory – the red track just above the green – a couple of days later.

The data came early on 7 February and he was on the beach, possibly having breakfast. The temperature was about 21°C according to weather sites. It was -5°C at Kielder at that time!



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