Autumn migration and a new interactive map

The start of September means that we are in autumn migration season, and many of the UK’s ospreys have already started their long journey south. In recent years satellite transmitters have provided an incredible insight into the flights of individual birds, but colour ringing also has the potential to provide a wealth of information on migration. The Foundation coordinates the colour ringing of ospreys in the UK, and the recent surge in popularity of digital photography means that we now get many more records during migration. In the past few days alone we have received reports of UK birds from the Channel Islands, Belgium and Spain. These sightings include the breeding female from Foulshaw Moss in Cumbria, who was seen at Embalse de Aguilar in northern Spain; a two year-old male from Rutland Water who was identified in Belgium having likely spent the summer in the Netherlands; and a juvenile from Galloway Forest heading south over Jersey. We have added details of these sightings, including photos, to a new interactive Google map that we will update regularly during autumn migration. So if you are lucky enough to see or photograph a colour-ringed osprey in the coming months, please send us the details using our simple online form.

Click here to view the colour ring sightings map.

Many thanks to Alan Modral for these fantastic photos of a juvenile osprey that passed through Jersey on 26th August.

PL9 was ringed as a chick at a nest in Galloway Forest this summer and was photographed by Alan Modral in Jersey.

PL9 attracted some unwanted attention from one of the local Peregrines.

Thanks also to Alberto Benito took these stunning photos of blue/white 35, the breeding female from Foulshaw Moss in Cumbria, at Embalse de Aguilar in northern Spain. This large reservoir may well be a regular stop-over location for 35. Many thanks to Alberto for the photos.

LS7 sets off

It is now almost a month since the first release of the Poole Harbour ospreys, and the first of the youngsters has set-off on migration. LS7 was the first juvenile to fly after the pens were opened at dawn on 31st July, and, aptly, we can now say it was also the first bird to migrate. Friday dawned sunny and clear with just a very light north-easterly breeze: perfect migration conditions. LS7 was present at the release site at 7 am but by mid-morning, it and the seven other juveniles were widely scattered around the harbour. This exploratory behaviour is typical of young ospreys and is critical to the imprinting process, helping them to learn that Poole Harbour is home. After spending much of the day away, the youngsters usually begin returning to the release site around mid-afternoon; drawn in by fresh fish which is placed on artificial nests at around 4 pm.  Over the course of two-and-a-half hours on Friday evening all of the youngsters returned to the release site; each collecting a piece of fish and then eating it on the T perches on the nearby saltmarsh. All except LS7, that is. Over the years at Rutland Water we learnt that in late August and early September a sure sign that a juvenile had migrated was when it didn’t come into feed in the evening, and so we suspected that LS7 had set-off earlier in the day. Confirmation came 24 hours later when the youngster failed to appear for a second evening in succession. Now, four days later, it is remarkable to think that LS7 may already have reached southern France or northern Spain.

LS7’s migration 25 days after making its first flight is fairly early, but well within the normal range for juvenile ospreys. For example of ten juvenile ospreys satellite-tagged by the Foundation in northern Scotland,  the average length of the post-fledging period (i.e. fledging to migration) was 34 days, but ranged from a minimum of 18 days to a maximum of 56. It is likely, therefore, that the remaining seven birds will set-off on migration over the next two-three weeks. The team at Poole will continue to provide fish for the juveniles until they leave; thereby replicating the situation at natural nests where the breeding male continues to provide fish for his offspring until they migrate. Most young ospreys do not catch a fish for themselves until they have set-off on migration, but it has been encouraging to watch the Poole juveniles making frequent practice dives into the water around the harbour. Although usually lacking the grace and power of adult birds, these dives are a critical part of the post-fledging (or in this case, post-release) period. On Friday last week during one of three successful osprey cruises around the harbour we were treated to wonderful views of a juvenile making repeated dives above the Wareham Channel. It always pulled out just before hitting the water, but you really got a sense that it was learning what to do: instinct is a powerful thing for young ospreys. Like their first migration, juvenile ospreys do not learn to fish by watching their parents, but inevitably it takes some time before they become proficient hunters.

LS1 exploring the harbour (photo by Simon Kidner)

The artificial nest at Middlebere is a great place to see the juveniles. This can be viewed from Arne RSPB or the National Trust Middlebere hide (photo by Simon Kidner)

The three osprey cruises were certainly a resounding success last week, with ospreys seen on each trip, including an adult bird which caught a fish in the Wareham Channel during the first cruise on Wednesday. It is likely that this was CJ7, the two year-old adult female from Rutland Water who has now been present at Poole for at least three weeks. Ironically however the star of the show turned out not to be an osprey at all: on Friday we were treated to incredible views of a juvenile red-necked phalarope just a few metres from the boat. A small number of these diminutive waders breed in the Shetland Isles and Outer Hebrides each year and research using data loggers recently revealed that a bird from Fetlar unexpectedly wintered in the tropical Pacific Ocean. After crossing the Atlantic it flew south along the East coast of America, crossed the Gulf of Mexico into the Pacific Ocean and reached an area between the Galapagos Islands and the South American coast by mid-October; a return journey of 22000km. So if this juvenile attempts a similar migration it certainly has a long journey ahead of it.

A juvenile red-necked phalarope was an unexpected highlight of Friday’s boat trip (photo by Katie Horrocks)

We were treated to some fantastic weather on the three boat trips

The phalarope was only the third Poole Harbour record, but a more familiar sight at this time of year are marsh harriers. Young harriers are now dispersing away from their nests and on Friday evening a wing-tagged juvenile visited the osprey release site. The green tags indicated that this was a bird from North Norfolk, but it didn’t have a chance to linger long. All five juvenile ospreys present at the time joined forces to chase the intruder away. Like this young marsh harrier they will soon be fending for themselves. It will be interesting to see which of the birds is next to leave.

Translocation to Poole

After an incredibly busy four days collecting a total of 20 young ospreys for translocation to the Basque Country and Dorset, Emily Joáchim and I set-off from Roy’s house in Moray with eight of the birds shortly after 4pm on Monday. Each bird was placed in a large cardboard box lined with moss in the back of our hired van in order to keep them as quiet and as stress-free as possible during the long journey to Poole Harbour. Aitor Galarza, meanwhile, was already en route to Spain with the final 12 birds to be translocated to the Urdaibai Biosphere Reserve near Bilbao.

The birds were transported in large cardboard boxes lined with moss

Rather than drive the 630 miles to Poole Harbour in one go we decided that it was far better to split the journey into two. Our destination on the first evening therefore was Fradswell in Staffordshire where Barry Dore and Jakkie Tunnicliffe had kindly offered B&B for both us and the birds. Fortunately the roads were clear and we made good progress, arriving at 11:15pm. The overnight stop not only allowed us to check the birds were travelling well but also to feed them that evening and again at 6 am next morning.

The stop in Staffordshire enabled us to check and feed the birds.

Barry and Jakkie with the consignment of eight young ospreys.

After saying goodbye to Barry and Jakkie we were on the road again at 8:45am on Tuesday morning. I had already heard from Paul Morton that excitement was building in Poole and that was very much in evidence when we arrived at our pre-arranged meeting spot at 1:30pm that afternoon. Even heavy rain couldn’t dampened our spirits as we were greeted by Paul, Jason Fathers and others. We checked all was well with the birds and, after a quick photo, call headed straight to the release pens at a site on private land adjacent to the harbour. Having been travelling for almost 24 hours we were keen to get the birds settled as quickly as possible.

Once on site Paul, Jason and I were met by Brittany Maxted and a group of volunteers who will be feeding and caring for the birds over the coming weeks. Roy and I had already decided which birds would be placed in which pen, with siblings together and broods of a similar age. After a quick briefing with the assembled team, we put the birds into the relevant pens along with a good supply of local fish kindly sourced and prepped by local restaurant, Storm. We then retreated to Osprey HQ – Jason’s old caravan where live CCTV images from each pen enabled us to watch the birds settling into their new surrounds without disturbance. Within a few hours several birds had fed and all looked very settled.

The birds settled into their new surrounds very quickly.

Over the past two days Brittany and the team of volunteers have been monitoring the birds very carefully and providing fresh fish three times a day. All are feeding well and several of the more advanced birds are wing flapping and showing a great deal of interest in the view across the water. The birds are likely to remain in the pens for about three weeks before being released in early August.

Brittany and Jol monitoring the birds at Osprey HQ.

We’re pleased that this important project to restore breeding ospreys to the south coast estuaries is underway and delighted to be working with such a great team at Poole – Paul Morton of Birds of Poole Harbour, Jason Fathers of Wildlife Windows and the volunteers led by Brittany Maxted. An exciting five years lie ahead.

No change

Roxy continues to spend her time near the nesting site

Reached Scottish Borders by nightfall

Beatrice flew 264 km today – fishing near Harthill 8am – 10am, then a north flight to Wigan where turned NNW to fly over Morecambe Bay and so up through Lake District to Carlisle where turned NNE and by 7pm settled in a  forest near Castleton to roost overnight.

March 31st

March 31st

Staying at Santona Marismas?

Yellow HA lookedlike he might stay another day on the south coast of Bay of Biscay, but may be he will restart north later in day.

March 29th - 30th

March 29th – 30th

Usual areas

Continues to move between NE Sutherland and SE Caithness

Nearly at his winter home

On 9th October he flew 225 miles from just south of Nouadchkott in Mauritania down through Senegal and at 1700GMT was inland from Dakar flying at 40kph at 275 metres altitude.  He has 91 miles to go to his wintering site – wonder if he will get there tonight or roost overnight on the way.

oct 9th

In a hurry now

Rothiemurchus flew 539 miles in two days on a very good track from near Casablanca in Morocco to well down in the Sahara Desert.

October 5th - 6th

October 5th – 6th


En route to wintering site

Beatrice left on 18th and flew to the Pyrenees and crossed at her usual passes between 1300 and 1400GMT. She flew on down over Pamplona and roosted near Encisco. On 19th she flew 374 kms south through Spain, flying between Siguenza and Guadalajara at 1300hrs at 51kms/hr at 1662 metres altitude. By 2000hrs she was perched by the Reservoir de Gasset north of Cuidad Real.  She has 300kms to fly and the weather today is clear and sunny with very light north winds, she should get there by evening. I saw her chick perched at the nest this afternoon.

August 18 - 19th

August 18 – 19th