Great migrations

September is a month for migrations – with our satellite tracked ospreys, Beatrice has already got to her wintering site in southern Spain, Morven is still fishing away up in Caithness (building up fat reserves for the migration), while the two males, Talisman and Nimrod, are still fishing Findhorn Bay and Culbin Bars to take back fish to their young. But the two inland birds from Badenoch & Strathspey are carrying out long migrations.

The male Red 8T, which fishes at Rothiemurchus Fishery and has been photographed by many bird photographers, has just completed a big non-stop migration, which involved flying all last night over the Bay of Biscay. On the night of the 8th/9th September he roosted just south of Kielder water in Northumberland. He was on his way at dawn and by 2pm he was heading for the Dorset coast. Straight out over the English Channel, he continued to be helped by northerly winds and clear skies, he passed over the Channel Islands at 4pm and an hour later had crossed the French coast. He flew on over Brittany and then straight out into the Bay of Biscay. The winds by now were more to the east and he started to be drifted to the west. Luckily he just clipped the very north-west corner of Spain and 0900 hours GMT this morning he was just south of La Coruna. After 27 hours of non stop flight he had covered 800 miles (1286 kilometres) at a mean speed of 30 mph, and I think he’s still flying. What a fantastic journey and another superb example of a fit experienced male deciding to do a big migration, with a conscious decision to fly over the sea at night through clear skies.

The young chick, Rothiemurchus, reared close to where Red 8T fishes, also reached Northumberland, and then spent the 8th September there. Yesterday, he flew from there via Harrowgate and Stourbridge to roost last night near Lydeard St Lawrence in Somerset. 298 miles with a following wind is a good journey for such a young bird – but he has gone rather far to the west. This morning the first signals show that he was off early and 10am he was off Teignmouth in South Devon, and an hour later he was heading out over the English Channel 7 miles south of Salcombe. At 11am he was 50 miles out to sea, flying SSW at 82km/h. The weather is clear and sunny, but alas the wind is NE and quite fresh. If Rothiemurchus carries on with this heading he will sadly miss the western end of Brittany and then it’s a long slog over the Bay of Biscay, and he could even miss the north-west corner of Spain! My advice would be turn left and head south – but for a young bird, never before been on a migration, he does not know what is ahead. Sincerely hope he makes it.