No 14 roosted in the East of Mali on the night of the 27th.Unlike his previous 2 years he seems to be veering towards the West rather than the East – following more closely to his south bound migration perhaps. Either way there is a lot of desert yet – in Mali alone there are 480,000 square miles.
Back at the Bassenthwaite nest an osprey has been seen 2 days running now – but today the sun yellowed haze was so great it was only possible to see a grey shadow amongst the branches.
At 13.56 today 14 had passed into Niger, the Tahoua region. This is an arid dusty area of small trees and scrub bordering the desert, but it supports agriculture and Tahoua City is a market town where Tuareg merchants from the North and Fulani traders from the South meet up. It is also an area that mines gypsum, a versatile mineral existing as alabaster for carving, plaster of Paris for splints, dough conditioner for bread, an ingredient for foot cream and in one of its natural forms creating the beautiful desert rose. Interesting – but its link to ospreys lies in the fact that In ancient times it proves this area to have been much wetter as the mineral is formed in layers by the evaporation of water from great lakes. A much better place for an osprey to be flying over.
If he makes it to England he may well fly over other ancient Lake beds – these are in Blue Anchor, Somerset.
Ashley Dace Wikipedia commons
At last No 14 has started his return journey heading nearly due North from Bioko into Nigeria, as he has done before. There are some areas of water there for him to fuel up before the Sahara crossing. He started on March 23rd and reached the area near Abuja on the 25th, so he should be flying over sand by now. All fingers and toes crossed for him!
First osprey arrivals were noted at Loch of Lowes and Rutland Water last week and around the Bassenthwaite valley people have been keeping their eyes peeled for a first sighting here. Today, basking in the Spring sunshine there is a bird eating a fish on the nest tree. Not sure if it is one of ours or a passage bird – but lovely to see! Along with the chiff-chaffs that are now falling in from the sky and making the spinneys and copses and willow car resound.
Photo – from Ospreywatch lower view point on Dodd. Chris Pond
With the extensive trim that the Lower Viewpoint at Dodd has had views over the South end of Bassenthwaite Lake and the SSSI wetland area are now visible. Here’s hoping that KL and Unring, our male and female from last year have started their migration and will return to their nest by end of March/beginning of April. Sightings of both tree and nest should be possible from all the telescopes now.
Just to update – number 14 is still living in Bioko, fishing and flying so his tracker is still functioning. Not too long now and he will be getting the itch, along with all the other mature ospreys, to start flying North. Fragile wings against global winds.
A typical flight pattern on Bioko
Bassenthwaite from Noble Knott
A couple of weeks ago Ian Winfield of the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology gave a talk at the Kirkgate at Cockermouth with updates on the state of the Vendace in Derwentwater and Bassenthwaite. The Vendace is a good indicator of water quality and has had a shaky few years here, for some time being considered extinct, in Bassenthwaite certainly. However, with the work done on lowering phosphate levels there has been a number of sightings including a photo that made local headlines at the end of January.
Follow this link or copy and paste in new tab and it should take you to the BBC page. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-cumbria-38782250
Follow this link or copy and paste in new tab for the CEH. http://www.ceh.ac.uk/news-and-media/news/britains-rarest-freshwater-fish-vendace-reappears-bassenthwaite-lake
The BBC picture is taken from a second or two of video in Derwent water 20m down where the vendace zooms out of the murk and bumps at speed into an inoffensive perch. Difficult to know which was the more surprised!
(As vendace are a deep water fish, it is highly unlikely that any fishing osprey could catch one.)
Whinlatter v Bioko. Where would a bird rather be?
At 5.00 am this morning Number 14 was alive and well and moving around his habitat on the southern side of Bioko. Although rainy at the moment he has a nice Christmas weekend to look forward to with temperature’s dropping to 24 degrees C. with lots of sunshine.
Ho! Ho! Ho!
Over the past week or so we have been watching Bega anxiously as her tracker seemed to be signalling from one place. This can indicate one of a number things, either that her tracker has stopped working, or it has fallen off (unlikely) or that she has perished. We are, of course, hoping it will be the first, although we know that it is just as likely to be the latter. The tracking device works by solar power so if the panel falls face down it will stop working. As the are is remote it is unlikely we will be able to find anyone to go and look at the last place it signalled. But if you know of anyone in Guineau Bissau with access to GPS please let us know!
Checking Bega’s satellite tracker before fitting, Summer 2016
Flying into remote and dangerous areas is the norm for ospreys, particularly for those young birds making the migration for the first time. Every beat of their wings could bring them in range of water or banish them into sand; every dive could plunge them into crystal seas or into polluted sludge; every fish could be healthy or sick; every human encounter could be benevolent or inimical. Every day could be the first of many or the last. Satellite tracking can tell us a lot about the routes ospreys take, the heights they reach and the speed they go, but it can’t tell us the things that really matter to the bird. It doesn’t tell us the near misses with disaster, it doesn’t say if the water holds fish or not or whether there is a catch or empty claws. It doesn’t monitor exhaustion, dehydration, starvation, disease or injury.
From over 60 years of studying ospreys we know that only about 20- 30% reach adulthood to reproduce themselves, and this is the same for most species. For ospreys the majority of these fatalities occur in the first migration. Our own birds have proved this time and again, starting out so hopefully into the unknown. So for Bega, the travel inland into Guinea Bissau, an area where we know other ospreys have perished, is very worrying. Why has she chosen to leave the Senegal and Gambia estuaries? There seems to be water, but of what quality? Are other ospreys thriving there, or are there none?