Ozwald’s migratory instinct kicks back in!

Ozwald must be the latest migrating osprey leaving Scotland this year by a long way. At last his my migratory instinct has kicked back in and he has deserted the snowy mountains of Scotland and today is flying over Spain through cloudless skies. His behaviour in the last two months has been very unusual and it just shows there is always something new to learn about ospreys.

He set off on migration from Nairnshire on the rather early date of 16th August. Maybe his father had been finding it difficult to catch enough fish for his brood of 3 young, especially in this summer which has been very poor for breeding ospreys in Scotland. The start of his migration was good and in two days he had just about reached England, when suddenly he took a swerve and did a big loop back to the Scottish Highlands. Very strange behaviour which I could not understand.

He then spent his time drifting around the big rivers of eastern Scotland in Angus and Aberdeenshire, and as far north as the River Spey. It looked as though he was never going to migrate and that was even more so, from 26th September, when he settled down on a small river running in to the River Don at Bellabeg in Strathdon. In fact, close to a place called Lost!

His transmitter started to be very intermittent because of the shortening days of autumn and the number of cloudy rainy days. With such a lack of sunshine the battery in the transmitter was failing to charge and as a result failing to give good signals. I was starting to get very worried because the shortening days and colder temperatures were making it even more difficult to catch fish. I was nearly becoming resigned to the fact that he might not survive. One day in particular I was on the point of going to Strathdon to see if I could see what he was doing, but that day he moved further down river.

In the last week, we have had a lot of snow in the mountains and this must have been the trigger for Ozwald to decide to migrate – living any longer in the Scottish Highlands was no longer an option. On his departure on 11th October he would have seen the snows in the high Cairngorms and it was marvellous to find him a few days later in Norfolk.

In the last couple days, he has really started to migrate with 528 kms on the 19th and a staggering 643 kms yesterday. This morning he’d already set off early and was flying south-west through the mountains of the Basque country in northern Spain. The weather is perfect – cloudless skies and no real wind, just east 2 mph where he started and north 1 mph further down his track. If he keeps this heading he will reach Portugal but I hope he turns south and when we hear from him in 3 days time, hopefully he will be in Africa. Bon voyage!

Ozwald’s transmitter is sponsored by the publishers, home and abroad, of ‘Skyhawk’ and the author Gill Lewis, so I immediately emailed the exciting news to Gill when I got it this morning. Gill was just going to give a talk to 100 school children in Wigan, and I bet they, as well as all the other children following Ozwald’s migration, will be excited that he is heading for Africa at last.

I also emailed my friend Rolf Wahl, who studies the ospreys in the Orleans Forest, south of Paris, along with the GPS map of where he roosted on the night of the 19th/20th of October. He tells me that he was either at or very close to one of 2 osprey nests in the northern part of the forest – of course those ospreys had gone south long ago.

Scottish wandering 24th August - 11th October