A West African theme

We’ve received news from the Roy Dennis Wildlife Foundation of an important sighting for us. In mid-November 2017, Fabienne and Michel Vernaudon saw Nest 2’s EB at Somone Lagoon in Senegal. Fabienne and Michel have an impressive wildlife photography website which is well worth exploring. They have given us permission to share their lovely photographs of EB in this post.

take off
(c) Michel Vernaudon

EB and catch…
(c) Michel Vernaudon

and again
(c) Fabienne Vernaudon

all mine!
(c) Michel Vernaudon

Confirmation that EB completed her Autumn migration successfully is very welcome. Our thanks to the RDWF and Fabienne and Michel for the news and photographs.  EB is now on the RDWF interactive map.

EB has been breeding in Kielder Forest since 2016. This winter, her youngest daughter from that year, Y6, has been seen at Tanji Bird Reserve in The Gambia – most recently last week – and her sole surviving offspring from 2017, 7L/Aln, is overwintering in the far north of the Banc d’Arguin National Park in Mauritania. (We have had no data from her GSM/GPS transmitter since 25 December, but absence of cell towers in the area is the probable reason.)

Albeit a very small sample, 50% of EB and 37’s 2016-17 fledglings have made successful first migrations to productive wintering grounds.

This map, also in ‘Location Maps’, shows all four Kielder Ospreys known to be in West Africa.

from northern Mauritania to The Gambia, four Kielder Ospreys

We’ve changed the banner at the top of the page in honour of the four Kielder Ospreys in West Africa.

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UV in January

UV had a fairly settled January, with no explorations of new areas and few outings of any distance. Paul created this heatmap from all UV’s moving fixes. It shows well the concentration of flying around the beach area, off which he conducts most of his foraging.

courtesy Paul McMichael

UV’s flying activity this January is noticeably more concentrated than in 2017, when he travelled around off the southern and northern sections of the Langue de Barbarie more often. Topographical maps of the area are well out of date. The erosion of the southern part of the Langue de Barbarie has resulted in the tip now being approximately at the bottom level of the green ring around the red circle, not beyond the top as shown above.

The beach at the centre of the red circle (which is only water on the map) has grown in the last few months as sand is deposited on that part of the mainland by the tides. This photo shows the new beach – offshore and to the right of the lighthouse.

a view towards UV’s current favourite beach
(c) Ndarinfo.com

During January, UV has perched in that area more than any other beach. He sat for over half an hour in two spots on the south spit – usually he flies over that area, which was his initial ‘home’ when he settled at the Langue de Barbarie in April 2015.

old haunts

The area is that part of the spit immediately above the bottom of Paul’s heatmap. Checking data from 2015, UV wasn’t recorded on either of those two perches at that time.

UV has begun February by spending much of his time on the new beach near the lighthouse, Pilote Barre, so his original area hasn’t lured him back for more perching!

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Y6 seen again in The Gambia

Regular readers will remember that last November, Chris Wood saw Blue Y6, the youngest of the three Nest 2 2016 offspring, at Tanji Bird Reserve in The Gambia. Despite several visits in December, Y6 was not seen again. And there have been no reports since.

But this afternoon, Bird Guide Fansu Bojang saw Y6 looking well on a stump in the Marsh area. Here are his photos using his phone through his scope.

(c) Fansu Bojang

(c) Fansu Bojang

(c) Fansu Bojang

(c) Fansu Bojang

We’re very grateful to Fansu for reporting his sighting. Here is the man himself, based at Kotu for anyone visiting The Gambia.

(c) Joanna Dailey

In a few months time, Y6 could be heading north on her first Spring migration. How wonderful it will be if she is seen back in the UK. But before then, perhaps we will be lucky to receive more reports from The Gambia.

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Backwards and forwards

UV has been going backwards and forwards, visiting some favourite spots from his coastal core area. But before reviewing his activity in the first half of January, here is a map of his migrations to date.

courtesy Paul McMichael

This map, and images of Archer and Aln’s migration routes, can be found by clicking on the Location Maps tab in the menu bar.

Returning to UV, he has had some ‘loafing on the beach’ days and some small expeditions. He hasn’t travelled further than previously visited places. This map of his wintering area shows the extent of his January range – from the wetlands near the Ngalam River to the National Park on the southern part of the Langue de Barbarie.

UV’s wintering range

Two recent consecutive days illustrate how varied UV’s behaviour can be. On 16 January, he was in his main foraging area near Pilote Barre by 07.30 UTC. He then spent most of the day further inland, going to wetland near Lac Guembeul for about 6 hours. Heading NW, UV made a brief stop near Doune Baba Dieye in late afternoon. The perched fixes were just offshore, probably on a sandbank. This photo is very near the area he perched. Sandbars are visible below the shallow water.

looking across to the mainland from Doune Baba Dieye, Feb 2017
(c) Joanna Dailey

UV’s range on 16 January was just over 22 km², but most of the time he was perching.

On 17 January, he was on or around the beach near Pilote Barre until mid afternoon. Although his range than day was just under 5 km², he would have expended more energy than on 16 January because he took at least 15 flights – including south to the channel at the top of the National Park and north parallel to the broad beach above the arrow for Pilote Barre on the map.

In the first half of January, UV has favoured the Pilote Barre area for foraging, sometimes near the shore, other times up to a km out to sea. He has seldom been recorded in the deeper blue part of the ocean so far this month. On 14 January he went further south than he has been since 14 December.

mainly too high for foraging

Later that day, UV was airborne for 47 minutes. Again, for part of the time, he was above foraging height. He could be looking for promising hunting areas, but he could be just ‘having a jaunt’.

We have had no January data for 7L/Aln, overwintering in ‘mobile network free’ northern Mauritania. Weather satellite imagery has shown dust in the atmosphere on many days, which won’t have encouraged her to explore any distance. Usually, the dust is carried well out west across the Atlantic, but on 17 January, the image shows a northerly turn.

courtesy Paul McMichael

Paul’s graphic shows the reason for the change of course.

courtesy Paul McMichael

Aln may move in the next few weeks as migratory birds of many species start heading north.

One Kielder osprey that we hope will make her first Spring migration is 2016 Nest 2 Blue Y6. Regular readers will recall that in late October 2017, Chris Wood photographed her at Tanji Bird Reserve in The Gambia. Here are some previously unpublished photographs of her from Chris’s sighting.

which way is Kielder?
(c) Chris Wood

not that way!
(c) Chris Wood

a fit looking young osprey
(c) Chris Wood

Let’s hope we see her on a nestcam at Kielder in a few months’ time.


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UV: his first couple of months in wintering grounds

UV arrived back in his wintering area on 15 October 2017. As in 2016, he had several exploratory flights further afield in the first few days after his return. Since then, he has been within his usual broad range. You can see the extent of it in Paul’s animation of UV’s flying fixes.

On many days UV travels well outside his core area of about 28 km². His furthest excursions are NE, to wetlands south of the Ngalam river (c14 km from the coast) and an irrigation canal running south from it (c11.5 km). Why does he visit these places? We wish we could give a definitive answer!

The reason is not weather related. Perhaps on some visits UV bathes in the fresh water, but there are fresh water lagoons in/near his core zone. Often, UV doesn’t stop, but overflies the area(s) then heads back to the coast. He sometimes flies high – over 500m ASL – either on the way there or back, occasionally in both directions. But in the wetland/canal region, he is usually recorded at altitudes of under 100m ASL.

The limited amount of information available from satellite tracked ospreys suggests UV roams more than most overwintering ospreys. One osprey who overwinters about 60 km south of UV, Rutland Osprey Project‘s 30(05), has a very small area, as you can see if you click on her name to open the link. She is a 12 year old female, but males can also spend virtually all their time within a few km². FR3, a 2015 male from Loch of the Lowes, is one such osprey, although as mentioned in his link, he had taken occasional jaunts. (His GPS transmitter ceased sending data this summer, but twice recently he has been seen in the centre of his wintering grounds.)

In contrast, an adult male who travels 16 km most days from roost to foraging grounds is Blue JV3/Jules, fitted with a GSM/GPS transmitter by the Roy Dennis Highland Foundation in 2017. There is so much still to learn about ospreys’ behaviour.

Close to UV’s core area, his data reveals interesting activity. Referring back to the animation, the land immediately north of the core – the northern part of the Langue de Barbarie – was a destination of choice in winter 2015-16, less so winter 2016-17 as agricultural activity increased there. The animation shows several visits to North spit from October to 2 December 2017 – then none to 1 January 2018. Jean-Marie Dupart told us that there was more fishing activity in early December – fishermen set up temporary camps and head out to sea in their pirogues, often leaving some people on the beach. UV spent over 3.5 hours on North spit on 2 January, so there can have been minimal human activity that day.

a quiet afternoon on N spit beach

The Google Earth image is from April 2017. The first perching point is no longer on a sandbank off a short ‘finger’, as this photo taken from 35,000 ft in December 2017 shows.

enhancement courtesy Paul McMichael
(c) Joanna Dailey

That ‘finger’ is more than double the length now.

Finally, we haven’t received any data from 7L/Aln since 25 December. As we’ve said, cell towers are only present in the very south of the Banc d’Arguin National Park, and Aln is in the far north. She hasn’t had an incentive to travel any distance in recent days, as this graphic shows.

courtesy Paul McMichael

The concentrations just south of Aln’s area of Mauritania were particularly dense on 1 January. In Senegal, there have been several health alerts in the past three weeks or so about poor air quality, as usually happens at this time of year. Perhaps as the Harmattan season draws to a close, Aln will explore further afield again.

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A great start to the New Year!

Jean-Marie Dupart was out photographing ospreys this morning, and he found UV enjoying brunch on the same Baobab as on 22 December, when Jean-Marie photographed him flying away. Here is a lovely sequence of Jean-Marie’s photos of a well-fed looking UV!

(c) Jean-Marie Dupart

(c) Jean-Marie Dupart

(c) Jean-Marie Dupart

(c) Jean-Marie Dupart

(c) Jean-Marie Dupart

Many thanks to Jean-Marie for sharing his special photos with us.

The data from UV’s GSM/GPS tracker shows that recently, UV hasn’t used that tree as much as several other inland perches. A very good start to the New Year for Jean-Marie to find him there, and in ‘pose’ mode!

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Best ever Christmas present

Just over a week ago, Aln’s GSM/GPS transmitter sent a limited amount of data from near the northern end of the Banc d’Arguin National Park in Mauritania. There are very few GSM masts in the area. Today, Aln was within range of one – at the southern end of her range on 16 December.

courtesy Paul McMichael

Aln was at the northern end of today’s fixes when the data was transmitted. This is possibly the southern extreme for sending data. As on 16 December, there were only new points for just a few hours. But so welcome! The next image shows Aln to the south early in the day, then travelling northwards.

a lazy morning before heading north

The weather for both UV and Aln has been challenging over the past few days, with the Harmattan bringing Saharan dust from the east – Jean-Marie’s photo of UV in the last post gave an idea how much visibility is reduced. This graphic shows large amounts of dust well offshore.

courtesy Paul McMichael

There should be clearer skies from tomorrow.

UV and Aln are about 540 km apart. Will Aln move south at some point? Recent poor visibility wouldn’t have encouraged her to leave the Banc d’Arguin. Time will tell, but she is in a known good wintering area, so Mauritania may be her home for the next 16 months or more.

Here are our two tagged Kielder ospreys this afternoon. Oblivious to Christmas!

Christmas in West Africa

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