The cloud 9.9 feeling following Pip and Vic’s sighting of 7H has persisted all week, fuelled initially by some super shots of her. And then patient answering of various questions “what time exactly did that happen, what was the habitat like, what other birds did you see, how many people were in the area…. ” and so on. Vicarious viewing!
Before sharing some further details a bit of context may be helpful. 7H had quite a wide range around Azemmour; a graphic from Paul shows the extent.
Her ‘favourite’ areas changed slightly over the months but in the weeks prior to the cessation of data there were 4 or 5 places she visited nearly every day. These are marked on the next image.
So off went Pip and Vic, armed with files of GPS points prepared by Paul and lots of images!
Pip has already given a gripping account of the hunt, but didn’t say that on the first afternoon they spent nearly four hours searching, first at the pylons and then at the beach and down the river where they saw an unringed Osprey. They must have thought ‘wild goose chase’, but undeterred they were out early on Saturday and their determination was rewarded! But only after another wait.
Their observations have given much greater insight into 7H’s life near Azemmour. For example, the overnight roost area is on a slight hill so with the Eucalypts being the tallest trees on the east side of the river and the pylons the highest feature to the south, 7H has a dominating view around her area from these favourite spots. This suggests she is the Queen of quite a large patch!
The description of the overnight roost area – which looks like scrub on Google Earth – is useful. Here’s Pip: “ …this is not really scrub but quite tall, dense trees up on the riverbank with a good brush understorey“. So good natural protection with thorny barriers discouraging entry to the area.
We were keen to learn more about how quiet the other roosts are, given the length of time 7H spends at them. Pip again: “Pylons – there is a busy road crossing under the pylon line as well as the railway running alongside. Pedestrians, donkey carts, mopeds, taxis and lorries. We didn’t see a train but we weren’t there more than an hour. Right under the pylon line is crop land. I spoke to lots of people using the road as well as the people working on the crops – they were weeding by hand. It was busy but only people going about their daily lives – not noisy and loud but you were aware of them. We then drove up the track that runs parallel to the railway to the farm house and spoke to a couple of people there as well. No dogs came rushing out barking and it was all pretty peaceful really.
River – the dredging ops are 24/7 and floodlit as well with lorries coming in and out all day and, probably, a lot of the night as well. … The banks are actually quite high but not steep so the fisherman with rods are well below her usual perches and wouldn’t seem threatening to her. There are a couple of small caves almost opposite the Eucalypts where 2 men were cooking shellfish – ready to sell I would imagine. Not shouting and noisy but just going about their business normally.
Eucalypts – again crop land, fields are divided by thorny scrub hedges and very few people in this immediate area although there are a couple of small houses near by, the closest of which appeared to be uninhabited.”
From Pip’s account it is clear 7H is a very tolerant Osprey. Yet she very rarely saw any human activity until she migrated because her natal site is deep in the forest, and she did not explore far from the nest. It is almost impossible to envisage UV living contentedly with this level of hustle and bustle around.
7H does have limits, perhaps – there are at least two ponds with fish at the Mazagan Beach Resort. One with White Koi is on the main path to the beach. Data never showed her tempted to try her luck, whereas for a spell she would roost for lengthy periods by the one on the driveway. And she would not have been alone, Pip: “… the Cormorant was really struggling to swallow a large fish which I think was a Perch. There were also many Coots, Moorhens and Cattle Egrets as well as Grey Herons, Black-winged Stilts, Sandpipers, Wagtails and a Kestrel there.” There should be a hide!
One final intriguing observation from Pip and Vic. When they returned to Agadir and Oud Souss they noticed that many local families were barbecuing and generally enjoying themselves on the beach on the Sunday. The Ospreys there still fished but were affected by all the activity. We don’t know if the beach at Azemmour is the same, but throughout Morocco Saturday/Sunday is the weekend, unlike other Islamic countries of the Middle East where Friday/Saturday is the norm. Paul analysed 7H’s behaviour for the three Sundays in January for which there is data. She did not sit on the beach either side of the river on any Sunday. Only three days, but interesting. We’ll be looking further into this.
ANYWAY, what about those photos, you cry! Here you are, aren’t they a fantastic lasting record of Pip and Vic’s efforts? Click to enlarge.