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!
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?
Yes!!!! He’s made again to winter quarters on the island of Bioko, Equatorial Guinea! This will be his third visit to the island since his initial flight in 2013.
First satellite hit on the destination 2pm, October 12th for 2016. No 14 is probably fishing now off the South coast, rainforest area. (photo Wikipedia Commons Falcanary)
As a reminder here is the first part of his journey this year. Left Lake District on September 16th and reached Algeria by 19th September. (From there he has taken a slower course Algeria 19th September to Bioko 12th October)
Now here’s an interesting map! It shows Bega, to the west, No 14 to the east and the last known position of our missing chick VO in 2015.
Bega seems to be exploring the coast down to Guinea Bissau, This is a low lying country – highest point 984′ (300M) above sea level, with a large estuarine and island mangrove coast line. This initially looks good for an osprey population but according to statistics it is one of the poorest nations in the world due to constant political coups, and there are severe problems with agriculture and overfishing. How, might this impact on fish eating bird life in the area? However, Bega has already done better than V0, the chick from 2015, who we lost transmissions from further North last year(red and yellow spot on N Senegal border).
No 14 has flown from Burkina Faso through Togo and Benin to Nigeria and looks to be heading back to Bioko. Hooray!
St Louis, the old French capital of Senegal. This looked like a good place to stop as, considering its proximity to the Sahel, it is a very watery place. Indeed, so watery that it is considered to be the place most threatened by rising sea levels in the whole of Africa.
There are large marshland areas adjoining the city that in the rainy season (just finishing) are created by the Senegal River overflowing and making grand habitat for flamingos and pelicans etc. There is also the Langue de Barberie , a spit of sand for which (tongue in cheek) I feel I should have an affinity. It stretches 600km along the coast from Mauritania, 25km of which separates the Senegal River from the Atlantic Ocean. (Sept 27th – 28th)
Surely a fishing paradise.
( St Louis – Ji Elle Own work Public domain Wikipedia commons)
However, this didn’t seem to suit and she is now heading for the current Capital of Dakar.(Oct 6th)
No14 is still lingering on the Ghana Togo Border]
Two downloads to look at. One for Bega and one for No 14. In comparison they are of great interest as they show the huge area that our UK birds cover in their migrations.
Number 14 is in Mali, the very centre of the Sahara on his way back to Bioko.
As of Friday:
Both Bega and her brother No 14 are now in the air.
Bega crossed the channel, and left the Normandy coastline on the 14th then headed for Bordeaux and at the last download was at Poitou- Charentes. This area is renowned for the migratory movements of its people, as it is the region of origin of most of the Arcadian and Cajun populations of Canada, where of course the N American osprey populations are just starting to move on their journeys to Central and South America.
Number 14 is on his third trip south. Left Cumbria at 10.00 Thursday and then motored to Garstang 11.00, West Birmingham 1400 and the last signal Marlborough, Wiltshire 1600, heading for New Forest area.
The Apron strings, or maybe the Braces, have broken. Bega is flying free if not too wild.
On Saturday 3rd Bega (and No 14) were still in their usual summer grounds, but on Sunday 1st Bega started moving down the country, not in the usual focussed flight we have seen in many of our other birds, that eats up the miles in one burst to get them well away from home, but in a sort of meander that took her near to Fowlshaw.
On Tuesday 6th she was still in that area, although it does not look like she has come across No 14.
Although this pattern of behaviour is slightly different, it may be the right thing for Bega. Whilst manning the viewpoints up to August 29th, no-one actually saw Bega catch a fish, so the rich area of sandy shallow estuary and flats of South Lakes would be a good place to linger in and begin to take your fishing career more seriously.