Skimming over Sardinia

2020 Migration No 14   Sardinia

Suddenly, the map changes from Khaki to Indigo and Viridian; from colours of death and dehydration to the colours of life and good fishing.

No 14 has had a couple of nights of respite in Tunisia  and then made a very early start on the morning, Sat 28th March 2020, to get him across the 132 miles of the Mediterranean, sensibly island hopping to Sardinia. He arrived at 06.00 travelling at about 30kph at an altitude of 505 metres. (the first red dot on the Sardinia map.) Close to Lake /Largo de Malargia

Economic development of a country is usually detrimental to its wildlife but in Sardinia the advent of tourists has been most beneficial for passing ospreys. Previously this rocky island had only one large lake. This gave the authorities a challenge to find enough water for visitors to squander on drink, showers, and toilets. The result is a series of 57 dams, often with hydroelectric associated.

For example the Lago de Coghinos, dam, combines utility with a relatively new ‘green’ feature to help eels move up and down .

https://www.enelgreenpower.com/stories/a/2017/03/the-eel-friendly-dam

At 09.00am, at the second red dot, No 14 was flying at an elevation of 1,260 metres just below the highest point of the island, the mountain Punta la Marmora 1,834 m.  and he will have passed over Lake Coghinos soon after that- watch out eels!

A comparable program in the Lake District can be seen in the Ennerdale Valley with the efforts being made to re-instate the Arctic char and provide a way upstream to their gravel spawning grounds. From a handful of fish left in the early 2000’s their numbers have risen to over 300.

This 2014 video tells the first part of the story and features our own Wild Ennerdale Forestry Ranger, Gareth Browning. Hurray!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GUGyi-ShrxY&feature=emb_err_watch_on_yt

It’s got to be, Sardines for tea.

No14 may be lucky and pick up an energy rich sardine by the coast this evening but they are generally found closer to the surface of the water, eating plankton in the warmer months.

Interestingly, sardines do not feature in the Sardinian’s top ten traditional cookery recipes. In the past the people were too busy avoiding the waves of Romans, Vandals, Byzantines, Barbarians, Saracens, Aragonese, Spanish, and Austrians, to live anywhere near their coasts.

However, try this for a taste of the Med. with a couple of tins of sardines from the cupboard.

  • Mix in a bowl – some oil from 2 tins of sardines with 1 minced garlic clove, 1 small chopped and fried onion, 1 tsp French mustard, 1/2 lemon juice, 1 tbs oregano/marjoram/sage/parsley – whatever’s growing. Pinch paprika, .
  • Place the sardines on a tray and roll/cover with mixture.
  • Cook in a 200C oven until sizzling.
  • Eat with new potatoes and roast fennel.

Ennerdale Water from the Dam

Time in Tunisia

2020 Migration of No 14

Nestling between the green fells, the blue line of Bassenthwaite Lake has a surface area of 5.128  km2. Ospreys can travel one end to the other in the space of minutes. The lake No 14 pinpointed as his destination yesterday is, in nearly every particular, different.

Bassenthwaite Lake

North Edge of the Sahara – Tunisia 

Under cooler skies 15C he reached the edge of the Grand Erg Oriental Desert and in a zig-zag course veered slightly Northwest to visit the Chott el Djerrid, The Lagoon of the Palms. It sounds like a good choice. It looks wet on this map.

However, he may have been in for a huge disappointment as Chott is a Salt Lake – the largest in the Sahara with a water surface area ranging from 7000 km2 to 0km2.

In winter, run off from the Atlas Mountains fills the below-sea-level basin with brackish water. In summer, this evaporates leaving a dry sea of silver, pink, purple and orange salts glittering with eye-watering intensity under the sun. Around the level margins of the lake there are no green plants to be seen except patches of the salt tolerant date palms. Instead, roadside traders sell ‘desert roses’ with their delicate petals of gypsum and sand. At no point can a fish exist in such a salinated environment.

From the flight path it looks as if No 14 may have found a pool at the edge of the Lake at between 09.13- 09.26am. Perhaps he had a quick plunge or bathe but then he went on straight North, aiming for the coast.

Why the zig -zags?

One of the things to remember about trackers is that they can pin point the position of the bird on the map, but they can’t tell you why a bird does one thing rather than another. So, when there is a zig-zag line of flight, as in the first map, we have to make guesses.  It would seem that he had made a decision to fly towards Chott el Djerid but was doing it in short hops with a short stop at each of the red dots. There was not any strong winds forecast and there are no valleys to dictate his course. Perhaps he was flagging a bit and needed a breather.

Of course, it might also be that he found himself in an ‘Arabian Nights’  scenario, seeing castles in the air, following a visitation from the Fairy Morgana.  Not impossible!

The optical phenomena of the Fata Morgana occurs when there is a thermal inversion – often occurring after a night of clear skies when surface temperature drops. It is particularly prevalent here as the cold air puddles in the empty lake basin. As the sun comes up creating a warmer layer over the cooler one an atmospheric lens is created so that objects at a distance are reflected, often upside down, in a mirage. Fata Morgana are a complex type of stacked mirage, weaving a moving magic in the air. Can birds see them and be allured by them? Who knows?

Prosaically, his erratic path might after all be a data error. Mystery!

 

Listen to Scheherazade telling the stories of desert, sea and adventure in the music of

Rimsky-Korsakov

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=17lEx0ytE_0

 

Algeria -The Grand Erg Oriental Desert

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Algeria – the last Sahara Slog

No 14’s journey now takes him over that part of the planet washed by the great dry seas of the Sahara, made up by arid mountain ranges, vast plains of pebbles and rolling sand deserts of wind created dunes. He entered the Grand Erg Oriental Desert on Tuesday 24th March, roosting overnight a third of the way over. If you travelled a distance similar to that of Land’s End to John of Groats you would still be within the giant basin of the Grand Erg Oriental and in all that time you would have seen nothing but sand and an endless horizon quivering with heat. It’s the last push before he can reach water and food.

Two days before and further South he was flying over the mountainous area of the Ahaggar and Tassili n’Ajjer National Parks. It is a land of dramatic sandstone pillars and forests of wind sculpted rock. Still stark and largely waterless, Tassili n’Ajjer bears witness that as little as 2000 years ago an osprey’s forbears could have fished and bathed easily there. Under overhanging eaves the smooth rock surfaces hold hundreds of paintings depicting scenes from as far back as 8000 years. They show the valleys running with rivers between groves of trees and a thriving population of wild animals, and people, dancing, hunting and swimming. The pictorial time line continues, mapping the environmental decline of the area. Wild animals are replaced by cattle which are replaced by camels until the desert takes over and the paintings cease.

Have a look at some of them.

https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/179/video

Reminding us of our own pieces of neolithic rock at Castlerigg – this is a sight that migrating ospreys may be looking out for as they fly up the Bassenthwaite valley over the next few weeks.

Castlerigg Stone Circle, Keswick

 

Sahel Stop-overs – No 14 continues

Niger – pronounced with a soft g and a French accent. On the map it’s a pale khaki colour contrasting with the emerald forests of Nigeria and translating into a reality of dry desert waste, sand and rock at the centre of the Sahel region. Landlocked, it is flanked with equally desiccated neighbours, Mali to the west, Algeria and the Sahara desert to the North, and Libya and Chad to East. It’s one of the hottest places on earth. Today it was 40C dropping to 24C over the 24hours.

It’s not a place for a fish eating bird to hang about in, so, he has pushed on fast.

On Friday morning March 21st he left Nigeria, and roosted that night in central Niger,

on Saturday March 22nd he roosted in the North of Niger

and Sunday March 23rd crossed the border to roost in Southern Algeria.

The clusters of red dots indicate the places. Not easy to find a spot safe from small nocturnal predators such as fennecs or sand cats. Niger is the land where they have built a metal monument to a dead tree, (it was in a place where it was the only one for 400 km in any direction,) so a sand hillock, rock outcrop or low scrub will have been his uneasy resting place.

Going North on Saturday he would have been able to see the rocky walls of the Air massive in the distance to his right. This and the Tenere desert to the West is a UNESCO site of 30,000 square miles.Wikipedia has some great pictures of a dramatic and barren landscape!

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/A%C3%AFr_Mountains

If he was very lucky he may have passed near a herd of the last wild Addax Antelope with their pale coats and elegant corkscrew horns. They have large square teeth for browsing tough vegetation and big feet and heavy dew claws to walk across sand. They get all their moisture from plants and only excrete dry faeces and concentrated urine. Owch!

Swaledale sheep (instead of Addax antelope) in typical whinchat territory in Spring Lakeland

Tootling along with him will be migrating nightingales travelling to the Southern gardens of UK and whinchats,that we may well see on the fells this summer – if we’re allowed out!

Here in UK we have a very different human demographic to that of Niger. Ours is a long-lived nation that is age heavy, hence the measures to protect a large part of our population. Niger – in the wetter west by the Niger River is a country of children. There are 7.24 births per woman and average longevity only early 50’s. Pressure on land for food is increasing and as desertification of the Sahel increases both people and animals suffer and die.  Running parallel to No 14’s flight path the Agadez road South to North is a human migratory highway, carrying refugees from famine, war and slavery. I don’t suppose any of them will find a place to call home as beautiful as the Lake District.

On a lighter note, if you can get over the non-stop presentation to listen/inwardly digest, (use pause button a lot) I think this as good a potted Niger history as you’ll get.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AHeq99pojLo

 

 

 

Flying to a Different Beat

The 2020 migration of No 14  (no 2)

Flying to a different beat

Flying to the sound of his own wing beat; Self isolation may be advised for many but it seems to me that a migrating osprey puts itself into voluntary isolation for the duration of its journey, often up to a month.

Humans, as social animals, are inclined to be able to stand being in close proximity to others over their whole lifetime, starting with the nurturing process of bringing up their babies. Being apart and alone for any length of time is uncomfortable, but for many other animals and birds the opposite is true; physical closeness causes great stress, prompting aggression and fear. Although ospreys are more social in their wintering/non-breeding grounds than many other birds of prey, probably due to limited suitable fishing sites, they definitely do not have a touchy-feely relationship. A 2 metre social distance is minimum to maintain cordial interaction.

Very often when they return to their nest site in Spring we have observed that, although the urge to mate is strong enough to overcome their social reticence, when not engaged otherwise a pair will often stand on opposite sides of the nest facing away from each other for the first few days. Standing close to a creature with punishing talons, sharp beak and a 1.5 metre wingspan is a hard ask.

So, No 14 will be perfectly happy soaring the skyways by himself and only occasionally seeing another osprey at a distance at a fishing site or winging its way North.

Maps attached:

Here is his roost position at 0500  on 20.03.2020 in Northern Nigeria and the second map when he set off westwards and was fishing at Cross River, very near the town of Zango, at 0800.

What might he be seeing?

Northern Nigeria is the home of the Hausa people who have a very lively culture that is evolving into some more modern dance and song. In fact, brought to you virtually, here is Adam A Zango, from Zango itself with a typical street scene and some up-beat and  pretty cool moves.

 

Adam A Zango Hausa music

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WW-jubD1pyo

Hogs and Logs

Forest Research – not just Trees.

Over the last few years we have had an increased number of sightings of hedgehogs at Whinlatter. What can be nicer on a fine Spring evening than to hear a rustle in the bramble bushes by the lower carpark and watch a small snouting hog roll out on its quest for a forage feast of slugs and worms. It’s encouraging as it seems to be bucking the disastrous downward trend – a decline from 1.5million in 1995 to 500,000 in 2018.

Possible reasons include loss of habitat and food sources, increased predation by other mammals and deaths caused by road collisions.

Close by the car-park runs the road, not a major one, but still lethal to a fair amount of animals, squirrels, deer, birds. Some car owners use it as a short racing cut over the pass.

Last year a hedgehog was found on the tarmac near the Forest entrance and brought into the VC. It had had a glancing blow. Taking it on a last journey to the vet’s was the only option.  It has not been the only injured one by a long chalk.

Recently, The Forest Research arm of the Forestry Commission has been working in collaboration with other bodies to model hedgehog roadkill seasonal trends and hotspots across the British road network. This helps identify and map the worst areas for hedgehog road deaths, and then hopefully used to advise where measures to minimise the risk of hedgehog-vehicle collisions should be targeted.

The study found that around 9% of the 400,000 km of road in Britain is particularly dangerous for hedgehogs. Grassland areas, and the outskirts of urban areas, have the highest risk, and major roads are particularly hazardous, despite forming a relatively small proportion of the total road network.

Home in to have a look at where the hot spots are in the Lakes.

https://www.forestresearch.gov.uk/news/research-identifies-worst-areas-hedgehog-road-deaths/

 

https://www.mammal.org.uk/science-research/hedgehog-hotspots/for more information .

2020 and 4000 miles to go

Welcome to the Lake District Osprey Project 2020.

On the human side all our migrations have been curtailed. However, for migrating birds, including the ospreys, life cycles and the seasons impose their own rhythms. Across the African continent scores of birds will be shaking their feathers and looking North. Number 14, the wonder-bird has spent the winter at his roost in Bioko.

However, at first light this morning he succumbed to the Spring wanderlust and felt the urge to be off. 

By 0749 he had crossed over the ocean and into Nigeria. The GPS fix places him over Oban Hills in the Cross River National Park. This is a UNESCO site of lowland tropical rainforest and home to the endangered Nigerian Chimpanzee and the Preuss’s Monkey.

Crossed fingers that he has an uneventful journey and returns to South Lakes safely.