A second male back!

PS7-Taurus

PS7, otherwise known as Taurus, is back! Born in the State of Sachsen-Anhalt in eastern Germany, he had been released in Switzerland on July 27, 2017 after having spent four weeks in the aviary. He then migrated on September 3, and that was the last we heard of him. Until June 29 of this year, when an unknown Osprey with a blue ring on his right leg was seen perched in front of the aviaries, just three days after the arrival at Bellechasse of six chicks translocated from Germany. Luckily on June 30 we were able to read his ring. Since then he has been visiting the area nearly every day, clearly interested in seeing the young Osprey in the aviaries. Where there are now twelve, after the arrival of six more chicks from Norway yesterday.

A few days after we discovered Taurus in Switzerland, we learned that he had previously been spotted by Renaud Glotoff in neighbouring France on May 22 near Dôle, about 120 km west from the release site. This first return in May or later by an immature is typical for this species. Since they are not in a hurry to get back to a nest, they have plenty of time to visit other areas on their way. After Fusée last year, and then again this spring, Taurus is our second immature male to come back to the Trois-Lacs (“Three Lakes”) region.

Three new nests and…

Nest-building by Christian Grand and Yann Marbach

This spring three new nests were built in the Three Lakes region, bringing the number of platforms built so far to 16. Thanks again to the very dedicated nest-building team, with super climbers Christian Grand, Paco Grand and Yann Marbach, helped from the ground by Michel Beaud, Emile Curty, Denis Landenbergue, Carmen Sedonati, Wendy Strahm and Henri Vigneau.

Since Fusée’s (PR9) return in April, he has been seen several times on one of our platforms, either resting, preening, or eating a fish. We were also delighted to see him carry a clump of earth with dry grass to the nest, carefully arranging it in the middle before scraping the centre of the nest with his feet into a little depression. And to top it off, after briefly lying down for a comfort test, he then rearranged a branch!  Even though Fusée is still a bit too young to breed (plus he hasn’t yet found a lady friend), this observation of some typical Osprey behaviour is the first of its kind to be made in Switzerland for over a century.

Preparations are now under way for the new 2019 reintroduction season, with the next translocation of chicks from Germany and Norway expected between the end of June and the middle of July.

Fusée on Swiss radio !

Fusée PR9 is back

Today the Swiss radio announced a scoop: Fusée (PR9) is back again! Spotted by keen “ospreyholics” on April 9, this male, born in Norway and released at Bellechasse in 2016, had already made headlines last year. He was the first Osprey fledged in Switzerland to have returned in over a century, having been seen first in May and then again in July-August. His notoriety increased when his wintering area was discovered last autumn in Senegal, where he was again seen in February 2019. This is now the fourth time that Fusée has safely completed his long migration (over 4,000 km), and he might soon start getting interested in girls…

The full radio broadcast about the project (in French) can be listened to here.

Fourth year project report

A report on the fourth year of reintroducing Osprey to Switzerland and the first returns (“Quatrième année de réintroduction du Balbuzard pêcheur Pandion haliaetus en Suisse et premiers retours“) appeared in the March 2019 edition of the journal Nos Oiseaux. While only in French, it outlines the main activities undertaken in 2018, starting with the construction of additional nest platforms, the translocation of 12 young birds from Germany and Norway, their care and release in the Three Lakes region of Switzerland, and finally their departure at the end of August to mid-September. The highlights of 2018 were the first returns in Europe of two immature birds released in 2016, with one spending a month over the summer at Bellechasse. Even more incredible was the discovery of his wintering site a few weeks after he migrated to West Africa. The article can be downloaded here.

We are now in the process of organising the volunteer team for 2019. If you are interested and available for two weeks sometime from the beginning of July to mid-September, please contact us.

Desperately seeking blue rings

Blue Osprey rings

Osprey migration is starting, with the first birds flying across Switzerland. Some have even already arrived to their nests, for example in Scotland, England, Germany or France. Yesterday, one of the first to be recorded in Switzerland flew over our release site at Bellechasse. Although most likely a migrant, one never knows!

Blue Ring Swiss OspreyWhich is why we’re asking all observers to please tell us if they see an Osprey with a blue ring on its right leg, in Switzerland or the surrounding region, either at www.ornitho.ch or here (noting the time of observation). While it is still too early to hope for a pair to nest this year, we are ready to help any bird showing an interest in a potential territory by rapidly building a platform if needed.

So off to your binoculars and telescopes, and good luck!

A new look for Fusée

Fusée PR9 by Marc Steinmetz

After four months with no news, Fusée (PR9) has been spotted again in Senegal on February 10, with a new look. The last time he was seen (on October 10, 2018), he still had the typical plumage of an immature bird, but what a difference a few months have made! Jean-Marie Dupart, who discovered his wintering site in the north of Senegal and managed to photograph him on three occasions last autumn, had not seen him since. Denis Landenbergue and Wendy Strahm, of the Swiss Osprey Project, then spent a day looking for him with Jean-Marie last December 22, 2018, but with no luck – Fusée kept a low profile.

Fusée PR9 by Marc Steinmetz-(2)Returning a week ago to the same place, a wetland known as Trois Marigots, Jean-Marie and Marc Steinmetz had the nice surprise to see Fusée again. From Marc’s superb photos, one can easily see that this famous male Osprey now has a typically adult-looking plumage, uniformly dark above. We are of course delighted to know that Fusée has had a good winter, and are eagerly hoping to see him again soon in the Trois-Lacs region. It will probably not be long before he starts his migration back to Europe, where the peak of arrivals can be expected between the end of March and mid-April.

The 2018 team

Once again our season went very well in 2018, thanks to all the people who worked very hard to ensure the success of our fourth year of reintroducing Osprey to Switzerland. In particular we thank the volunteers who spent at least two weeks of their precious time in the field at Bellechasse: Nadjiba Bendjedda, Gérald & Terry Berney, Roxanne Bolomey, Solange Chuat-Clottu, Philippe Evard, Johnny Kursner, Pierre-Luc Pahud, Torsten Redies, Virginie Trieu and Marièle Zufferey.

A big thank you as well to the other colleagues and supporters providing crucial expertise for the project: Mario Firla, Holger Gabriel and Daniel Schmidt from Germany; Rune Aae and his family in Norway; our two Osprey technicians Amélie Bierna and Andreia Dias, as well as Emmanuel Carino. Without forgetting of course Michel Beaud and Pascal Rapin, totally committed as ever to all aspects of the project, and on the Project Steering Group with Denis Landenbergue and Wendy Strahm; and all the other enthusiasts who in one way or another have helped us this year: Adrian Aebischer, Emile Curty, Christelle Mugny, Christine Rast, Pascal Schöpfer and our climbing team Christian and Pascal Grand, Henri Vigneau, and Yann Marbach.

All our thanks as well to the professional fishermen who again this year regularly provided fresh fish for our birds : Pierre Schär & familly, Henri Christinat & family at the lake of Morat, and Claude Delley at the lake of Neuchâtel. Finally, special acknowledgement goes to the Bellechasse Penitentiary and all of their staff, as well as to all the private and institutional donors to the project. Click on the photo gallery for some nice souvenirs of the 2018 team (although a few esteemed members unfortunately slipped through the cracks – we will try to do better next year)!

So long, and thanks for all the fish

roach fish

The 2018 Osprey season has finally ended, over a month later than in previous years. The last of our 11 birds to leave under her own power was Mystère (F10), one of the most vocal young birds that we have ever had, always having “something to say”. When she took off on September 15, one week after her sister Pistache (F11), the sky was suddenly eerily silent, leaving us just with Mirage (F08).

Many people have been asking after Mirage, following her missed landing on August 8. We are happy to report that she is doing well in her new home at the “Greifvogelstation” (=Raptor Recovery Centre) in Haringsee, Austria. Right after her accident she was brilliantly taken care of at the Centre Ornithologique de Réadaptation at Genthod, returning to Bellechasse on September 4. We had hoped that she would then be strong enough to be released, but as she subsequently lost three primary wing feathers, this was not possible. Fortunately Dr Hans Frey, experienced in keeping Osprey in captivity and having a large aviary at Haringsee, was able to give her a home over the winter, and longer if needed. So after getting the necessary paperwork in order, Mirage flew (in an airplane) on October 25 from Zürich to Vienna, where she was graciously received by the Greifvogelstation.

We warmly thank the volunteers who were involved in taking care of her, and the fishermen who kindly continued until late in the season to provide fish. At Zurich Airport, Ace Pet Movers were very helpful in organising her transport to Vienna. Let’s just hope that in future, all our birds will be able to leave on their own wings!

Good news from Senegal

Fusée in Senegal

Good news: Jean-Marie Dupart, based in Senegal, has seen and photographed Fusée (PR9), the male released in Switzerland in 2016 and which spent nearly a month with us this summer at Bellechasse!

The last time we saw Fusée in Switzerland was on August 26, after which he left on migration. He was first seen in Senegal on September 16, not far from St-Louis, in the north of the country. His discoverer managed to read his blue ring on October 1, and confirmed his presence at the same place on the 10th. It seems likely that Fusée will spend the entire winter in this area, which is a wonderful wetland with lots of fish. The site is about 20 km from where another one of our young Ospreys released two years ago was seen on 22 December, 2016 — in the Langue de Barbarie National Park.

Georges is in Andalusia

Georges F03 in Malaga

We received some great news about Georges (F03), which has cheered us up immensely, since sadly Mirage (F08) has not recovered from the accident that she had the day after her release. Georges has safely reached Andalusia, where he was seen on September 12 by two local birders at the mouth of the river Guadalhorce in Malaga!

Born in eastern Germany in a family of three, he was translocated on June 28 to Switzerland, where he was released on July 23. He was named after the cross-like design on his head, in tribute to Georges Lacroix (meaning “the cross” in French), a French conservation pioneer who was instrumental in the successful Bearded Vulture reintroduction in the Alps of Haute-Savoie.

“Our” Georges was one of the first of this year’s birds to venture out to explore the area around the release site, and he was even filmed on August 13 at the Fanel nature reserve, practicing diving. He left on migration on September 4, so it took him eight days at the most to reach Malaga (about 1,450 km away from Bellechasse in a straight line).

Many thanks to Juan Ramirez and Antonio Tamayo for their observation and for giving us the photo above. We also thank Fernando de la Cruz, from the Council for Environment and Land Planning of the Andalusia Authority, for his message saying that their rangers would ensure the safety of Georges while he is in the Guadalhorce estuary reserve. Georges obviously chose a very nice place to stop in!

The Osprey in Switzerland