Going with the wind

After being ringed and satellite-tagged by Roy Dennis, Ian Perks and Fraser Cormack on 11th August, the young honey buzzard’s first notable movement was on 22nd August when the satellite tag logged her 270 metres to the west. She roosted in the same location that night before returning to the nest the next day.

She remained in the vicinity of the nest for the next week but then, on 31st August, began to range further within the local woodland, up to a maximum of 4.5 km from the nest.

At midday on 11th September the honey buzzard was still in the same area but sunny conditions encouraged it to leave the woodland for the first time. She was still in the natal area at 15:27 but during the course of three hours during the afternoon she flew over 50 km east in a stiff westerly wind, passing over Dufftown and then roosting in Clashindarroch Forest.

Clear skies and a brisk westerly wind of 15 mph encouraged the young Honey Buzzard to continue east the next morning. By 09:56 she was 23 km south-east of her roost site flying at 69 km/h at an altitude of 309 metres. She continued on the same heading, passing over Bridge of Don on the north side of Aberdeen and then out into the North Sea at approximately 11:20. The next GPS fix logged her 57 km out to sea at 13:55 at an altitude of 477 metres, south-east of Aberdeen.

She flew 175 km across the sea on an easterly heading before the next GPS fix at 17:56 when she was flying at an altitude of 180 metres. As dark fell she was only mid-way across the North Sea, but she continued on an easterly heading and by 02:34 she had covered another 282 km and was now flying north-east at an altitude of 283 metres, meaning she had maintained an average speed of 33 km/h across the sea since the previous GPS fix. She finally made landfall on the Danish coast at approximately 06:30 BST having flown 640 km across the North Sea in 19 hours of non-stop flight including through the night, with nine hours of darkness and only limited moonlight. When you then factor in that she had flown an additional 52 km to the Aberdeenshire coast the previous morning, she had actually covered just under 700 km in 21.5 hours of migration – a demanding journey for a young bird of her first migration. The influence of the wind in both her initial heading and then journey across the sea was clear.

The honey buzzard flew just under 700 km with a westerly tailwind on 12-13 September, including 640 km across the North Sea

After reaching the Danish coast she stopped in a small wood just in from the coast at Agger and then remained there all day on 13th September, recovering from her arduous flight. She remained in the local area on 14th, too, before roosting in a thin strip of woodland on the edge of the village of Vestervig, 4.5 km to the east.

By 14:19 local time on 15th, she had moved 20 km south-east and was perched in another small wood in farmland 2 km from the shore of Tambosund, in the western part of the part of the Limfjord in north-west Denmark.

She remained in the same area yesterday, but this morning set-off south soon after 10:15 under sunny skies and with a helpful northerly tailwind. Three hours later she had flown 70 km almost due south and was passing to the east of Rinkøbing Fjord, flying at altitudes of up to 800 metres. On a clear sunny day she would have had a spectacular view along the coast as she headed south.

By 15:00 she had reached the town of Esbjerg, flying at an altitude of 648 metres. By now she was right on the coast, and she continued south over Vadehavet at the northern end of the famous Wadden Sea National Park. By 16:16, the last GPS fix in the batch she had just crossed the island of Rømø having already flown 180km from her overnight roost, and may now have joined other migrating honey buzzards heading south towards the German border.

The honey buzzard had flown 180 km south through Denmark by 16:15 this afternoon.
Heading south over the Wadden Sea National Park

It is exciting to be following this young honey buzzard on her fist migration south, and after a difficult start we are delighted to see her making good progress south through Denmark. We’ll be posting regular updates on the rest of her journey south towards the Strait of Gibraltar on then onwards to sub-Saharan Africa.