The Ospreys are returning!

It is Day 4 of World Osprey Week and there are a lot of smiles as these fish hawks return from their winter migrations.

The seasonal movement of the Western Ospreys in the United Kingdom and Western Europe happens twice a year. This means that the birds travel a total distance of 8000 km or 4970 miles annually. They migrate north in the spring where the days are long. They are returning to their nests to breed. The summer in Europe is a perfect time to raise their chicks because food is plentiful throughout the food chain. They will return to Africa from August-October, travelling alone. The mothers leave while the dads remain at the nest to feed the fledglings. Once the fledglings leave then the male will depart. They will live in the mangrove forests and estuaries of The Gambia and Senegal. The adults return to the United Kingdom between February, March, and early April while the juveniles will remain in Africa.

This seasonal migration is treacherous. It is especially difficult for the young birds. Only 30% survive their first year. Just to get to Africa they have to go through the Bay of Biscay. In the map below the Bay of Biscay is directly to the west of France. It is a huge body of water with strong winds. The Osprey have to hug the coast or they can be blown out to the Atlantic Ocean and perish.

If they make the Bay of Biscay successfully, they have three other challenges. The first is the crossing of the Mediterranean Sea. Then the Atlas Mountains in Morocco and the Sahara Desert. There is absolutely no water in the Sahara and, consequently, no fish. The trees are small and there are two major predators in the desert, the eagle owls and the jackals.

They will live in the mangroves and the estuaries of Senegal, The Gambia, with some staying in Guinea.

The new arrivals in the United Kingdom are exciting.

Laddie LM12 has been fixing up the nest at the Loch of the Lowes since 21 March hoping that NC0 will return and want to be his mate. And his wish came true. NC0 arrived back at the Scottish nest today, 25 March. But instead of bringing her a nice fish, Laddie decided that more nesting material would be appropriate. The image below shows Laddie (the one mantling) arriving once he had spotted NC0 on the nest. Shortly after they bonded their relationship – to the happy delight of thousands watching on camera!

NC0 has just arrived at the Loch of the Lowes nest in Scotland. Laddie flew to greet her with new nesting material. 25 March 2021.

Mrs G arrived at the Bywyd Glaslyn Nest in Wales at 8:42, 25 March. Her mate, Aran, should not be far behind.

Mrs G is approximately twenty to twenty-one years old. She has been nesting at Bywyd Glaslyn since 2004. She laid 32 eggs with her first mate 11 (98) and 17 eggs with Aran. Of those, 46 hatched and 41 fledged. She has at least 100 grandchildren and 4 great grand chicks. As the oldest Osprey in Wales, she is the matriarch of the Welsh Ospreys!

The beautiful dark plumage of Mrs G. 25 March 2021. Just after a fish dinner!
Mrs G. The oldest osprey in Wales. 25 March 2021

Dylan arrived at Lyn Clywedog in the Hafren Forest in Wales at 19:30 on 24 March. He is waiting for his mate Seren, Blue 5F to arrive.

Dylan just arriving on the Clywedog Nest. 24 March 2021

And others are starting their journeys. Rutland 4K (13) was fitted with a satellite tracker when he was five years old during the summer of 2018. Satellite imagery indicates he left his winter home in Guinea on 21 March and is traveling at a rate of 72 kph or 45 mph.

More and more arrivals will be coming in the next few days. What a fantastic way to wind up World Osprey Week.

And checking on on the Achieva Osprey Nest in St Petersburg, Florida, I have a smile on my face. We are beginning the third day of the ‘turn around’. Gosh, I hope that I do not jinx it. It started with Diane bringing in an extra large catfish first thing on the 23rd of March. She fed the osplets for hours including Tiny Tot who had his first bursting crop for more than a week. The 24th was a good day. Crops on all during the day and this morning Jack brought in a fish with a head at 7:20:16. Tiny Tot had a nice crop! I wonder if Diane has been doing a lot of loud calling. Last night Jack landed on the nest without a fish. Diane and the three started yelling loudly – Jack took off quickly. You could almost hear Diane tell him not to come back without a fish. So the fish arrives this morning with its head – almost a first!

In the image below, Tiny Tot still has a full crop at noon on 25 March 2021.

Tiny Tot is still much smaller than his siblings but he is surviving and doing well the last few days. 25 March 2021. @Achieva Credit Union Osprey Cam

Oh, thank you for joining me on a beautiful spring day. In Manitoba, the sun is shining and the Grackle family of 17 have returned from their winter vacation. It’s a good day.

Thank you to the Loch Arkaig FB page, the Scottish Wildlife Trust, the United Kingdon Ospreys, Bywyd Glaslyn Streaming Cam, and the Achieva Credit Union for their images or streaming camera where the images were taken. Thank you to Rutland for the satellite tracking information for 4K (13).

The introduction of Osprey into the UK

Writing about Wales and the United Kingdom makes me a little ‘homesick’. My family and I lived in a beautiful little town in Lincolnshire while I read for my PhD at the University of Leicester. There were canals full of ducks, the prettiest gardens, and wonderful friends. Those were wonderful years and many times, in the last few years, I have longed to return, not as a visitor, but to live in the wildness of Pembrokeshire or the highlands of Scotland. My desire to see the Osprey and the eagles ‘in the wild’ will happen soon in Manitoba. Patience is required like it is for everyone else waiting. The Ospreys will return to the nests built by Manitoba Hydro and the Bald Eagles will be fishing off Hecla Island. On the way, they will stop in Winnipeg. It is always a surprise for everyone- looking out and seeing a Bald Eagle in one’s garden. Indeed, the first Bald Eagle has already arrived.

Leading up to World Osprey Week from 22-26 of March, I started with two of the nests in Wales yesterday. I had meant to move up to Loch Arkaig today but, it makes more sense to find out about the reintroduction of the Osprey into the United Kingdom before going to Scotland where there are now, at least, three hundred breeding pairs. Indeed, those first twelve birds brought to Rutland twenty-five years ago, when only five weeks old, came from nests in Scotland.

“Osprey – Rutland Water” by Airwolfhound is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

Today I want to share with you just one little eight-minute video. It really is worth a listen! I could not write with the enthusiasm of Tim Appleton – trust me – this man is inspiring and passionate.

In 1994, an Osprey landed in the tree across from Tim Appleton’s garden and that was the beginning of the work with Roy Dennis to establish The Rutland Osprey Project. Tim Appleton, MBE is an amazing individual. Just reading his biography on Google makes me tired! This man is a dynamo when it comes to doing good works for birds. Roy Dennis is Roy Dennis Wildlife Foundation and Dennis worked with Appleton to create Rutland. Indeed, the success at Rutland led to the founding of the nests in Wales.

“The osprey nest at Rutland Water” by Phil McIver is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0

Here is the interview with Tim Appleton talking about this great adventure that lead to 170 fledglings. It must have been the most amazing journey. You can just ‘feel’ Appleton’s joy and love for these amazing birds.

Here is the streaming cam to the Manton Bay Osprey nest. Ooops. Looks like another hijacked nest! That is definitely not an Osprey on that nest. It’s a Cormorant and right now there are gale force winds on that nest and this bird is determined to stay. Wonder what the owners will think about that after their 6400 kilometer or 4000 mile journey from Africa to come home? It could get interesting. Personally, I wouldn’t want to be that Cormorant if the female owner of this nest got mad! I don’t know how many of you watched Solly take it out on DEW on the Port Lincoln Osprey Nest in Australia – but, wow. Wouldn’t want to mess with this Osprey not for a second.

Cormorant is gone. Wonder if it will return?

This is another very short video showing the 2019 Osprey family from the Manton Bay nest. A fresh fish is being caught to take to the nest:

If you want to read more about the Rutland Ospreys, this is an excellent book. You can purchase it from amazon.co.uk Yes, you can actually order from the UK site. You might be able to purchase it directly from the Leicestershire and Rutland Trust Offices – but I cannot promise. When I was in Scotland in 2019, most of the Osprey sites had buildings where you could buy books, pins, and clothing to help support the different projects.

Thank you so much for joining me today and celebrating the arrival of the Osprey in England so long ago and you can wait for their return from their winter migration. It is a long journey and we hope that they all arrive home safely!

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Credit for the feature image: “Photo of the Week – Osprey at Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge (VA)” by U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service – Northeast Region is marked with CC PDM 1.0

World Osprey Week 22-26 March 2021

What is World Osprey Week? It is when the world joins with all our friends in the United Kingdom to celebrate the return of the Ospreys from their winter migration. It is a time for celebration, educational fun, and competitions – especially for children. There will also be a lot of videos for those of us who do not live in the UK. Congratulations to the Leicestershire and Rutland Wildlife Trust who are celebrating the 25th anniversary of Osprey Week!

Ospreys are large ‘fish hawks’. In fact, they used to be included with all species of hawk but, now, they have their own category among avians. They live near water. It can be either fresh water or salt water – rivers like the one show in the image below or coastal estuaries, lakes, reservoirs, or fish hatching ponds. You will find them anywhere there are large numbers of fish. They are known for their ability to hover, like a helicopter. They do this often when landing at their nest or when fishing where they will hover over the fish until they plunge into catch that fish – feet first!

“One More Shot of the Wales Countryside” by Monkey Boson is licensed under CC BY 2.0

The history of Ospreys in the United Kingdom is a sad one. By the middle of World War I (1916), they were almost extinct. The demise of the Ospreys was due to shootings and egg collecting. Later, in the twentieth century, more were dying because of pesticides like DDT. Indeed, the Ospreys were one of the first of the large birds to alert the world to the threat of these harmful chemicals. Electricity is something that each of us use daily. My laptop computer is plugged in right now recharging as I write. The lamp to my right allows me to see. But this modern convenience – electricity – is a real threat to raptors such as the Osprey. Indeed, the main threats today are loss of habitat, power line collisions, and electrocution.

“Ospreys Mean Spring” by Me in ME is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Operation Jimmy honours Blue CU2 ‘Jimmy’ an Osprey born in Scotland. On his migration home, Jimmy stopped in Wales and continued to return. Jimmy was very popular. Sadly, he was electrocuted on a killer pole on a windy rainy day after he had caught his last fish. People were sad and angry. But they got to work. In an effort to stop birds from landing on these electrical poles and being killed, artificial nests started being constructed for the Osprey. In this video you can see one being installed. With the addition of natural perches, it is hoped that there will not be another electrocution.

Last year there were four breeding pairs in Wales. Today I will take a quick peek at two of those nests: Glaslyn and Dyfi. The streaming cam links are posted so you can join in the fun welcoming back these very famous Osprey.

Bywyd Gwyllt Glaslyn Wildlife (BGGW) started when the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) ended his stewardship program of the Glaslyn Ospreys in 2013. BGGW is a small community not-for-profit group that is dedicated to the care of the wildlife in the Glaslyn Valley including the current resident pair of Ospreys, Mrs G and Aran (since 2015).

What a gorgeous place for an Osprey nest!

“Llyn Gwynant” by Joe Dunckley is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Mrs G is the oldest breeding female Osprey in Wales. She has been breeding at the Glaslyn nest since 2004. She is estimated to be nineteen or twenty years old. Mrs G has laid at least fifty-one known eggs to date. Forty-one of those hatched and thirty-eight fledged. Mrs G has at least eight-five grandchildren – some have revised this figure to 100. Whew! Those are the ones they know about. What a legacy! Here is the link to their live streaming cam:

Another nest in Wales is the Dyfi Ospreys near Machynlleth. The current resident pair are Idris and Telyn and they are passionately adored by their followers. This project began in 2009 with the erection of artificial nest and perches. The first breeding pair were Monty and Nora. Nora, however, did not return from the winter migration. A new female Blue 12/10 took Nora’s place and was subsequently named Glensi. The couple fledged thirteen chicks between 2009 and including 2017. Glensi did not return to the nest in 2018. Did I say that migrating back and forth from the United Kingdom to Africa is dangerous? That spring Monty bonded with Blue 3J/13 named Telyn. Together the pair have raised six to fledge – three females and three males in the 2018 and 2019 season. Monty did not return after the 2019 season.

“Storm clouds over the Dyfi estuary” by Ruth and Dave is licensed under CC BY 2.0

I love seeing Osprey catch fish to feed their little ones. Here is a look at Monty and Telyn in 2019 when there were three hungry mouths. Sadly, this will be Monty’s last clutch. He was an incredible provider:

We are related to dinosaurs, can you tell?

Here is the link to the Dyfi Osprey Project and its streaming cam:

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCk70QelhKG9mVuj7jN4I5Cg

All over the United Kingdom individuals are posting their sightings of returning Ospreys. There are currently contests at many nests to predict when the resident pair will land. One of those is Loch Arkaig and I will be taking a look at that nest tomorrow.

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I have not checked in on Solly lately and it is time. Solly, the Eastern Osprey born on the barge in Port Lincoln is 172 days old today. She has been moving between the Streaky Bay area and Eba Anchorage with a couple of flights to Haslam for several weeks. Today she is back in Streaky Bay! These satellite trackers are really quite amazing.

These three images show her movements for today (the top one) and yesterday (the bottom one). This girl loves to fly around.

It is unclear if there have been any sightings of her sibling, DEW.

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Thank you so much for joining me today. Stay safe!

Thank you to the Port Lincoln Osprey Project for the satellite tracking imagery of Solly.