A stop-over in the Massif Central

In our previous update the young honey buzzard was roosting in eastern Belgium, close to the Luxembourg border. She has continued on south-westerly track through France and is now in the Massif Central in central-southern France where rain has interrupted her journey. She has spent the past two days in woodland on the banks of the Allier River near Clemont-Ferrand.

On the morning of 21st September she made short local movements in woodlands close her roost site in eastern Belgium before setting off in earnest at 11:00. Forty-five minutes later she was passing over the town of Bastogne at an altitude of 876 metres and she continued south-west through the rolling hills and forests of the Ardennes over the course of the next few hours before crossing the border into France at 13:35.

Conditions for migration were good with a light northerly wind and warm sunny conditions perfect for the formation of thermal updrafts. At 16:00 the GSM transmitter logged her altitude as 1686 metres as she circled high in a thermal. She maintained an almost perfect south-westerly heading all afternoon and eventually settled to roost in a large area of forest in the south of the Champagne-Ardenne region of north-eastern France, having flown 246 km at an average speed of 33 km/h during the course of the day. Her textbook migration suggests that, by now, she may well have joined other migrating honey buzzards as she heads south.

A light tailwind helped the honey buzzard fly 246 km through the Ardennes and into France on 21st September

On the morning of 22nd September the young honey buzzard made short local movements in the forest soon after first light, and then resumed her journey south at 10:50. She initially flew due south but, after crossing into the Burgundy region at 11:45, she reverted to a more south-westerly heading.  Although she was flying into a light headwind, it was clear the conditions for soaring were again good, particularly during the afternoon when she reached a maximum altitude of 1715 metres.

Conditions for soaring flight were very good on 22nd September, allowing the honey buzzard to circle up to altitudes of over 1000 metres before gliding onwards (flight left to right)

By 15:46 she had flown 107 km and at that point she again turned due south and flew another 63 km before pausing in a forested area in the south of Burgundy for half an hour at 18:00. She then flew another 9 km before settling to roost at 19:00 in an area of forest south of Toulon-sur-Arroux after a day’s flight of 179 km, at an average speed of 24 km/h.    

She flew 179 km on 22nd September

Next morning she moved between small woods in farmland a few kilometres south-west of the roost site, and also landed in fields on several occasions.  At midday she was perched in riverside trees just north of the town of Gueugnon, having only flown 10 km during the morning. She set off again soon afterwards and this time made a more purposeful move to the south-west, skirting around the north side of Gueugnon and then circling up to an altitude of 843 metres. She flew 85 km south-west over the next 3.5 hours, circling up to altitudes in excess of 1000 metres and at 15:30 was crossing the Allier River at Saint-Yorre.

It was clear from her flight altitude that conditions for migration were now deteriorating, and she flew at low altitude for the rest of the afternoon, travelling a further 40 km before settling to roost in woodland close to the Allier River, just north west of the town of Pont du Château and close to the capital of the region, Clemont-Ferrand. She had flown 135 km during the course of the day. 

The honey buzzard flew 153 km on 23rd September

Rain and low cloud meant that the young honey buzzard remained in the same area on 24th and 25th, perching in woodlands on the banks of the river. Better weather is forecast for today, so it will be interesting to see if she continues her journey south. 

The honey buzzard has spent the last two days in woodland on the banks of the Allier River
Flight between 21st and 25th September

We featured the migration of the honey buzzard in our latest podcast. You can listen online below.