Christmas comes early – Aln is safe

Until late yesterday afternoon, we lacked any knowledge of Aln’s whereabouts since she was in the foothills of the High Atlas Mountains early on 9 November.

We have now received a precious 100 data points, all from yesterday. Although we don’t know her route, Aln appears to be well and is living on the coast in Mauritania. For now!

from the mountains to the ocean

courtesy Paul McMichael

As Paul’s label states, Aln is in the very far north of the Banc d’Arguin National Park, and was also north of the Park boundary yesterday. We’ve mentioned the Banc d’Arguin before. This year, when he reached there, UV changed from the direct migration mode he’d deployed over the desert to a strategy more akin to fly-and-forage migration. He took several days to return to the Langue de Barbarie.

Analysing Aln’s new data suggests she has been in the area for a while. She had roosted a short way inland then went to the coast, flew north, and was returning south on the last fix late afternoon. The ‘panels to earth’ in Paul’s graphic above show she was flying high at times. The next image shows her travelling across the desert at much greater elevation than most of her flying offshore and along the coast.

meandering around the shoreline, high over the land

On her trip north, Aln flew low and slow.

about 5 km offshore at furthest points as Aln flew north

She perched for varying lengths of time during the day. In the image above, Aln sat from 11.54-13.35 – her longest recorded period of perching – at the edge of the ocean at her most northerly point of the day.

All these behaviours are characteristic of an osprey in their wintering grounds, or at a staging post.

We may be fortunate and receive some more data over the next few days, however it is clear that cell tower coverage is not comprehensive. Those 100 or so fixes have given reassurance that Aln is safe, for now.

A few 100 km to the south, UV was also flying high – over 500m ASL – when his data arrived this afternoon. He hasn’t spent much time on the North spit of the Langue de Barbarie lately. There’ll be a short post about his activity towards the end of the week.

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UV update

UV received a few brief mentions in early November – he was mainly loafing in his wintering grounds in coastal northern Senegal. Since then, he has had a couple of trips inland to a canal he visits occasionally. He turned round and flew back to the coast after, at most, a few minutes there. On one journey he was flying at over 1000m ASL for several fixes, and over 400m ASL for much of his excursion. Some high flying offshore has been a feature of his recent days.

low over the popular foraging area after a high approach

The cluster of fixes near the 13.45 dot is over an area UV has favoured of late. The water will be shallow there – you can see sandbars on the Google Earth image above – so fish should be easily spotted. But UV has also been making repeated trips to just past a shelf in the Atlantic Ocean.

offshore, but back to the ‘hotspot’

Where the shallow water meets deeper ocean the ample food sources at such current margins are likely to support plenty of fish. UV may be watching birds, or even marine creatures, foraging there. But, for the most part, he seems to catch his own meals nearer shore.

UV may have changed his preferred foraging area over the last couple of days. A ‘health warning’ first. There are few fixes until about noon at the moment. The weather has been partly cloudy and UV’s relative inactivity also reduces the frequency of ‘pings’ to satellites. He could have exhibited similar behaviour to that shown in the above images during the mornings. But he has concentrated on the river in the afternoons.

a sandbar can be seen where UV perched

The satellite imagery on Apple maps is slightly more recent than the April 2017 Google Earth pane.

courtesy Apple maps

UV had been foraging just below the northern part of the Langue de Barbarie (left on the image) until 23 November. Yesterday, as on 23 November, he was attracted to the area arrowed. This photograph shows the view of the river from the edge of the trees on the island of Doune Baba Dieye.

February 2017
(c) Joanna Dailey

UV would have been over the river at the left hand edge of the photo.

Unless there is news meriting a post, there will be one or two updates a month over the winter.

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There has been no new data from Aln’s GSM/GPS transmitter since early on Thursday 9 November, when she was setting out to cross the High Atlas Mountains.

Her southerly course was well to the east of most migration flyways. The image below shows the route taken by UV, now quite experienced. Many ospreys use a similar route across Western Sahara.

Aln’s last roost shown in red, course likely to take her to near or E of the circled area

There will be few cell towers along Aln’s expected path far inland – if she negotiated the High Atlas range successfully. Several days of no data were likely, but by now we should have received some information, even if only a partial upload.

Very sadly, absence of data suggests Aln has not survived. Let’s hope she proves that fear wrong. Ospreys so often amaze us.

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The search for Archer

We haven’t received any data for Archer since 11 October. She had been overwintering in an area between the main N2 road and the Senegal River. Our friend Jean-Marie Dupart visited on 20 October, but saw no ospreys. He made contact with local villagers at that time. Jean-Marie spent last Friday in Archer’s territory, which was mostly south and east of Boundoum.

rivers and irrigation channels

Here are photos of one of Archer’s favourite stretches of water to perch near and forage along, seen from sluice gates near the junction with the Lampsar River.

looking back to the Lampsar River
(c) Jean-Marie Dupart

looking east to a popular foraging/perching area
(c) Jean-Marie Dupart

Jean-Marie talked again to the villagers at Boundoum. Many of them fish in the rivers in the area. Being caught in unattended nets is a risk for ospreys – and other fish eating species – but the local people have seen no evidence that Archer met such a fate.

At the edge of the village there is a dam on the Gorom River.

(c) Jean-Marie Dupart

Gorom River
(c) Jean-Marie Dupart

In the next photo, the mobile phone mast which probably transmitted most of Archer’s data stands tall.

(c) Jean-Marie Dupart

As you can see in some of Jean-Marie’s photos, there are numerous electricity poles and a few pylons in the area. Archer usually roosted on some poles to the SE of the village. Flying into wires could be a hazard in poor visibility, and electrocution can’t be ruled out. But the crops are tended and the rivers fished and no remains have been found by the villagers.

Jean-Marie saw one osprey during Friday’s visit, but it was definitely not Archer as it was unringed.

(c) Jean-Marie Dupart

(c) Jean-Marie Dupart

The rivers may contain plenty of fish but wetland lagoons – which Archer also visited – are drying up now. Did Archer leave the territory because of increased competition for reducing resources? There is still enough water and fish to suggest several ospreys could overwinter there comfortably. Jean-Marie has seen only one osprey in two visits.

An aside – Booted Eagles also flew over the river during Jean-Marie’s observations. Here’s a lovely photo of a juvenile. They overwinter in wooded savannahs along the main river systems in West Africa.

(c) Jean-Marie Dupart

So what conclusions can we draw following Jean-Marie’s visits? There is no evidence – so far – that Archer has come to harm, yet she does not appear to be present in the area now. As we’ve said previously, the mobile phone networks in Senegal provide good coverage, but perhaps Archer has found a ‘notspot’. Her transmitter could have developed a fault, despite working normally in the days leading up to the loss of coverage. The reality is that we may never know what has happened.

Many thanks to Jean-Marie for his searching, making contacts who could yet discover some answers, and for his photos of Archer’s area.



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Brief update

Our friend in northern Senegal, Jean-Marie Dupart, spent 8 hours in Archer’s territory yesterday. There is no still no news about her whereabouts. There’ll be a post tomorrow with photographs of the habitat and information from Jean-Marie. We are very grateful to him for his efforts.

There was no data from Aln yesterday, nor today so far. This is not surprising given she was poised to cross the High Atlas range. Cell towers will be few and far between. The absence of data does confirm Aln carried on migrating, rather than stop at the Barrage Bin El-Ouidane which was just SE of her position yesterday morning.

To end this post, a treat. Chris Wood has shared more footage of 2016 Nest 2 Blue Y6 at Tanji Bird Reserve last week. The first clip shows Y6 on the tree where Chris made the i/d, the second from a nearer perch she flew to.

Enjoy, and many thanks to Chris. Press HD for best quality, footage © Chris Wood.

got enough videos now?!
(c) Chris Wood


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Aln’s first two days in Africa

After crossing to Morocco from Spain early on 7 November, Aln carried on flying.

a SSW course

Aln’s course was roughly parallel to the coast, but always moving further away from it, especially after the coastline curved south of Rabat.

An early landmark was a factory.

a car factory

You can tell by the red dots moving away from the orange path that Aln caught a thermal.

Before 11.00 GMT Aln was flying by a reservoir, just after another thermalling episode.

no stopping, or even taking a close look

Aln was near another reservoir a couple of hours later. She was in true ‘migration mode’.

no deviation to check the reservoir out

Interestingly, Scottish adult male osprey Blue DF – fitted with a GSM/GPS transmitter by Roy Dennis this year – stopped for an hour there during his migration to the Casamance region of Senegal. For the rest of 7 November, Aln’s route was close to Blue DF’s.

She roosted in an agricultural area on the edge of a field.

Yesterday, after a couple of short moves away from her roost, she set off at about 09.15 and crossed the foothills of the Middle Atlas Mountains. She ended her day just short of the High Atlas Mountains.

southerly course

Aln’s route took her over the Oum er Rbia river. Longstanding blog readers will recall that UV’s 2014 cousin, Blue 7H, overwintered on that river at the coast.

When Aln reached the river, she dropped low and flew slowly, then perched by it.

a drink, perhaps

This view is very near where Aln paused.

(c) A Adlane
courtesy Panoramio

Aln took advantage of thermals in both the mountains, and when south of them flying over a cultivated plateau.


She stopped shortly before 16.00 and would have seen the High Atlas range ahead of her.

the view for Aln

Her roost was atop a rather less impressive ridge.

a roost in the last of the cultivated land before the mountains

In the ‘looking south’ image, you can see a reservoir.

the red dot is the roost

Aln could use the reservoir as a staging post, but – despite the relatively small distance flown yesterday – she is more likely to continue her migration. She was NW of the reservoir in the few fixes today. Watch this space for a potential ‘don’t second guess ospreys’ post!

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Aln reaches the High Atlas Mountains

Aln’s data arrived late yesterday, and today’s email came very early. Here is her travel since arriving in Morocco.

courtesy Paul McMichael

Aln flew 435 km on 7 November, but only 178 km yesterday as she crossed the western edge of the Middle Atlas Mountains. This morning, she was flying on the northern edge of the High Atlas range.

She will get no help from the wind, which is very light inland. But there will be plenty of opportunities to catch big thermals over the high ground – if she continues on a southerly course.

There will be a detailed update on her recent travel this afternoon.

In northern Senegal UV has been doing plenty of loafing. Although he did fly over 3.5 km out to sea this morning, further than some overwintering ospreys travel in a day. There is still no news about Archer.

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