“Mr South” migrates over Switzerland

Norwegian male map

Rune Aae, the Norwegian Osprey expert helping with the translocation of chicks for our project, has fixed satellite transmitters on a pair of Norwegian adults that he has been following since July 12, 2015. The male (“Mr South”) traditionally winters in Ivory Coast and the female (“Mrs South”) winters in Guinea Bissau.

The male’s migration is already well under way (although the female is still cooling her heels in Africa—but has started heading north). He flew over Switzerland on April 9th, perhaps right over some of the new nesting platforms that we had finished building just the day before in the Trois Lacs region!

While our nests won’t deter him from returning to Norway where he was born and breeds, we are pleased to think that he has probably seen the region where we hope that some of his “compatriots” which are being translocated to Switzerland will return to breed in the future. Last year there was a “family drama” in Norway as it appeared that Mr South had split up with Mrs South and found someone else—which unfortunately did not result in successful reproduction.  We hope that both “Mr and Mrs South” will have a better breeding season in 2018!

A nest-building marathon

Osprey nest from top

Seven new fabulous artificial nests built and an older one renovated in the past two weeks!  This is the result of our spring surge to get everything ready for “our” Ospreys, so when they return they will have an increasing choice of beautiful nests in which to make themselves at home. While they may still decide to build their own nest, it is important for the young birds to see a large variety of attractive platforms and to store these in their memory for when they come back.

Osprey nest B2The nests are built at various distances from the release site in the Trois Lacs region, on the most favourable and best located trees discovered after many days of prospection, mostly undertaken in autumn and winter. Our fantastic climbing team managed to build the platforms at the top of dominant trees often over 30m tall, and our warmest thanks go to Christian Grand, Pascal Grand, Yann Marbach, Daniel Schmidt and Henri Vigneau for their sterling work at such impressive heights. The ground team of nest-building helpers, who gather and send all the construction material up, included Michel Beaud, Cyril Combremont, Emile Curty, Denis Landenbergue, Pascal Rapin and Wendy Strahm. Many more nests still to follow, but for now all we need is for some of our birds to return and enjoy the beautiful homes awaiting them!

 

 

Third year project report

Toupie KF4

A report on the third year of the reintroduction of the Osprey in Switzerland (“Troisième année de réintroduction du Balbuzard pêcheur Pandion haliaetus en Suisse“) appeared in the March 2018 edition of the journal Nos Oiseaux. While only in French, it provides an illustrated overview of the work undertaken through the project and the results achieved in 2017. This included the surprise of temporarily having a “baker’s dozen”. Not only all 12 birds which were released all migrated, but we even hosted a young migrating female ringed in Germany. Obviously attracted by our birds, she made  a 5 day stop-over before continuing on her way south. The article can be downloaded here.

The 2017 team

Our third year of reintroduction went very well, thanks to the fantastic work by so many people. Special thanks go to all the volunteers who spent two weeks (or more) living on-site: Dominique Bourquin-Tièche, Sandrine Bierna, Emile Curty, Sandra Hails, Bernard Monnier, Pascal Rapin, Christine Rast and Virginie Trieu. We also thank our great colleagues and supporters: in Germany, Mario Firla, Holger Gabriel and Daniel Schmidt; in Norway, Rune Aae and his family; our two Osprey wardens Amélie Bierna and Andreia Días; and of course Michel Beaud, Denis Landenbergue and Wendy Strahm. Many thanks also to webcam specialist Pascal Schöpfer, to telemetry guru Adrian Aebischer, and to other volunteers who helped out this year: Gilbert Bavaud, Reto Dürler, Flurin Desax, Christelle Mugny and Martin Schneider.

Finally, we thank the professional fishermen who regularly supplied lots of fresh fish for our birds: Pierre Schär & family, Claude Delley, and Henri Christinat & family. And of course all our project donors as well as the Bellechasse penitentiary and its staff. Click on the photo gallery for a few nice memories of the 2017 team.

Safe travels “Farine”!

Mont Vully, FR

Today we can finally confirm that our last young Osprey of the season, KF5 (better known as Farine since she had a very white head), has migrated. Now that all the 12 Ospreys reintroduced this year to Switzerland have gone, the release site has become very quiet. Farine had spent about a month in our aviaries with her sister Noctule after having arrived from Norway on July 11. We quickly noticed that both were big eaters and they ate significantly more fish than the other birds. At one point some were even wondering whether they would be “too fat to fly”…

However, when their cage door was opened on August 7, both birds easily made a nice first flight before settling into their individual routines. Against all bets, Farine’s sister Noctule beat her by migrating on September 3, joining three other birds that took advantage of perfect weather conditions with a small “bise”, a northerly wind stimulating them to migrate that day.

After watching all her mates head south, Farine finally decided to travel on September 7. At 3 pm she suddenly spiralled upwards, soaring high over the Mont Vully until she became just a tiny speck in the sky. She then headed south-west towards Lake Neuchâtel, where we eventually lost her radio signal. Because we can never be sure when we will see our young birds for the last time (some can make a “false departure” and unexpectedly reappear after 2 or 3 days of absence), we need to wait for a few days before we can be sure that they have really gone. Since it has been three days with no sign of Farine, it is now clear that she has been the last to leave, bringing to a close an exceptionally successful third reintroduction season.

Two Osprey chicks Noctule KF1 and Farine KF5
The two sisters feeding: Noctule (left) and Farine.

A new tenant

KF7 rescued adult female Osprey

Late Saturday night on August 19 an exhausted and unringed adult female Osprey was found by the side of a road in Finstersee, in the Canton of Zug. She was brought to the Berg am Irchel Bird of Prey Sanctuary, managed by Andreas (Andi) Lischke. It was the first time in 16 years that he had an Osprey brought to his rescue centre. Andi took the bird to the Zurich animal hospital where they gave her a thorough check-up for two days, but found nothing wrong although she seemed abnormally tame. She then stayed for a few more days in Berg am Irchel, but wouldn’t eat by herself. Andi eventually decided to transfer her to the Nos Oiseaux reintroduction site, with the hope that seeing young birds flying around and feeding at our “fish restaurant” might stimulate her to feed and stay with them for a while.

On August 29 she was banded with a metal Sempach (Swiss Ornithological Station) ring on her left leg and a blue plastic ring marked KF7 on her right leg. Looking in good condition, she spent the afternoon in one of our cages, watching with obvious interest our young birds flying around and feeding on top of the aviaries. However, it was clear that she wanted her freedom back, so the decision was made to release her the next morning.

We opened her cage on August 30 at 6:05 am, just before it began to get light. At 6:30 she jumped onto the open door, and at 6:40 flew off directly towards the Lac de Neuchâtel. Delighted to see her fly again so well, we watched her until she was out of sight, disappearing in a south-westerly direction. We wish her all the best wherever she goes, and hope that next spring she will safely return to wherever she had come from!

A baker’s dozen

Angela AT07 German chick

On August 10, three days after we had finished releasing our 12 young Ospreys, we had a great surprise to see not just 12, but 13 birds at our reintroduction site—a real baker’s dozen! After counting all the birds several times, we finally identified the visitor: a young German bird that was fortunately colour-ringed, with the code AT07. We immediately contacted Daniel Schmidt-Rothmund, who is responsible for the Osprey colour-ringing programme in Germany, and learned that AT07 had been ringed on June 26 on a nest located less than 50 km away from the region where we collected 6 German chicks two days later!

AT07, or Angela as she soon became known, watched our young birds for a while before finally deciding that she could also serve herself at our fish restaurant. From then on she took several fish there every day until August 14th, before continuing her migration. We were of course sorry to see Angela go, but at the same time very happy that she decided to stop over for several days. And who knows, perhaps one day she will remember the place and even pay us another visit?

Twelve Osprey chicks arrive safely

Weighing an Osprey chick in Germany

In this third year of our reintroduction project, twelve young Osprey chicks – six from eastern Germany and six from southern Norway – have been successfully transferred to Switzerland. They are now happily eating fish caught daily by professional fishermen from Lake Neuchâtel and Lake Morat, and with every day are getting increasingly familiar with their new home. The young birds and their “foster parents” (a team of 5-6 people taking care of them around the clock) are all doing very well!

We are very grateful to the bird-ringers, Holger Gabriel and Mario Firlo in Germany, and Rune Aae in Norway, who did some spectacular climbing to collect them:  the first two on high tension electricity pylons and the third on some very tall Scots Pines. A big thank you also to: Osprey “guru” Daniel Schmidt, for helping organise the German transfer and for bringing six birds to Switzerland; to the electricity company Mitnetz Strom which temporarily cut-off the power and made their staff available to guarantee maximum safety for the pylon climbers; and to Marianne Imhof of Ace Pet Movers who was an angel helping us to get the six Norwegian birds safely into Switzerland.

Click here to see an article and as well as a video about the young Osprey collection in Norway that was aired on Norwegian national TV.

Operation “bird-spikes”

Groupe-E removing bird spikes

If you look closely at medium-tension power lines in Switzerland, especially at pylons where the cables are suspended below the horizontal bars, you will notice that there are metal spikes (which electricity companies call “bird-spikes”) placed at the ends of the bars to discourage large birds from perching there. However, these devices do not prevent raptors from landing on pylons, and we have even observed some of our young Ospreys settling on top of the spikes!

Mission accomplished on this 28 m tall pylon, all the bird spikes are gone!
Mission accomplished on this 28 m tall pylon, all the bird spikes are gone!

Unfortunately, there have been quite a few cases recorded where birds accidentally get entangled or even impale themselves on these spikes. We still remember last summer when one of our young Ospreys, 19 days after he had been released, inadvertently flew in thick fog straight into one of these spikes, and did not survive the accident. In the meantime, the electricity company Groupe-E agreed, at our request, to remove these structures from all of the pylons near the release area. On June 13th they temporarily shut off the power in order to safely allow their team to undertake this task. We thank Groupe-E warmly for making these electricity pylons much safer.

Groupe-E team
Many thanks to the Groupe-E team for their efficient work in removing the bird spikes.

 

Second year project report

Osprey fishing at Fanel sep16A report on the second year of the reintroduction of the Osprey in Switzerland (“Deuxième année de réintroduction du Balbuzard pêcheur Pandion haliaetus en Suisse“) appeared in the March 2017 edition of the journal Nos Oiseaux. While only in French, it provides an illustrated overview of the work undertaken through the project and the results achieved in 2016, including the highlight of spotting one of our birds wintering in Senegal in December! We are now organising our volunteer team for the project’s third year in the summer of 2017, so if you are interested and available for a period of two weeks please contact us.

This article can be downloaded here.

The Osprey in Switzerland