Short trips are starting

Osprey Fanel 13aug18

After weeks of care and lots of chopped fish served in our specially-designed aviaries, the first Ospreys to be released this summer (on July 23 and July 27) have started to make short trips “away from home”, to learn more about their surroundings and to prepare for migration. Since our birds are equipped with a small radio transmitter, we know when they are flying further afield, but we don’t always know where they go. However, for the most part they are visiting the lakes of Morat, Neuchâtel (Fanel and the Chablais de Cudrefin) or Bienne (Hagneck and Ile St Pierre).

On August 13 we had a nice surprise when Kilian Disler filmed “Georges” (identified by a blue ring marked F03 on his right leg) in the Fanel nature reserve, and even got shots of him diving into the water. See his beautiful video of Georges, 21 days after his release, here. On August 8 Sonja Portenier had already photographed “Nuage” (blue ring F01) at the Chablais de Cudrefin, 16 days after her first flight. Thank you Kilian and Sonja for this precious information!

Osprey F01 at Fanel
“Nuage” at the Chablais de Cudrefin, 8 August 2018

If you see an Osprey with a blue ring on the right leg, many thanks for telling us the date, place and time of your observation. However, please don’t disturb the birds by approaching too closely (no less than 300m). It is much better to observe them from a good distance with a telescope or binoculars, rather than trying to get too close.

Fusée is back!

 

Fusée PR9 is back

After being seen in Switzerland in May (see story of his return here), but with no news since then, we were delighted that “Fusée” (PR9) suddenly appeared at our release site the afternoon of July 28. That day there were already five young Osprey flying around the aviaries that had recently been released, so we thought at first that we were seeing double when we counted six birds. We finally identified the “extra” bird, perched on the same branch with two of our young ones, which seemed rather bemused to have a visitor. Fortunately, Fusée later took advantage of some “free fish” at our feeding station, so we were able to confirm by webcam that it was indeed him. For a video of his brief landing and departure with a fish, click here. We immediately noticed that Fusée was far more experienced and agile in collecting fish than the recently released young birds. This is yet another very positive step for the project, as he is the first of our birds to return to the reintroduction site, just two years after his release in 2016.

Since then Fusée has been visiting us again from time to time, and has even adopted an artificial nest as his favourite perch. Let’s hope that he will survive his next migration and return next year…

Class of 2018

F11-5jul18The 2018 Osprey reintroduction season is on track: on June 28, six chicks arrived by road from eastern Germany and entered Switzerland via Basel. The other six, from southern Norway, flew on a direct flight from Oslo to Zurich on July 5th.

It is not yet sure how many males and females there are, but at this point in time it appears to be about half and half. In general, males weigh less than 1.5 kg and females more, but for some chicks it is difficult to determine their sex as they are still growing.

Our “Class of 2018″ is now complete and all of the birds, aged between four to six weeks old, are doing well and eating lots of fish. A big thank you as always to the extremely dedicated specialists, climbers and volunteers, with whom we have a lot of fun working with!

Checking-in-birds-5jul18
Rune Aae and Wendy Strahm, with Hans-Erik Bakkland of Trust Forwarding checking in the birds at Oslo.
Ace-Pet-Moving-Osprey
The birds arrived safely to Zurich Airport, thanks to Marianne Imhof and Marcel Brozius of Ace Pet Moving.

“Mouche” on target!

PR4_MoucheWe are delighted to announce that another one of our birds is back in Europe, having recently been seen in the east of France! “PR4”, otherwise known as “Mouche”, is a young female released at Bellechasse in 2016. She was collected almost exactly two years ago in Sachsen-Anhalt, Germany. After that she spent about a month in the aviaries prior to being released on July 23rd and migrating on August 25th (the last time we had any news of her). None of our young birds are fitted with satellite transmitters, as we want to make sure that they are not in any way hindered as they learn to fish. So once they leave Switzerland we have no way of knowing where they are until someone sees them, either during stop-overs in their migration or in their wintering place, or when the lucky ones return home.

In French, “faire mouche” means to reach your target, and “mouche” means “fly”. So Mouche (named after the fly-shaped spots on the back of her head) is really living up to her name. She has made it back safely from migration, and she is doing exactly what all young Ospreys do when they return in their “teenage” years: flying about and exploring her world. Therefore it is not surprising that Mouche has overshot her release site and is now visiting an area about 180 km to the north.

Let’s hope that when Mouche becomes an adult and starts looking for a partner, that she will return closer to home, or maybe even come visit us later this summer?

Our first bird has returned

Osprey-PR9

It’s confirmed, we now have proof that one of our birds has returned to Switzerland!

Our suspicions had been raised as a greater than average number of sightings of Ospreys in Switzerland have been reported this spring on www.ornitho.ch. However, knowing that it is difficult to see if a bird is ringed or not, they could well have been birds that are passing through on migration, which is normal at this time of the year.

The great news is that we recently received proof that PR9, otherwise known has Fusée, has returned. Fusée is a young male born in Norway in 2016. He had already demonstrated that he was precocious as after being brought to Switzerland on July 14 and released on July 30, he was the first of the “class of 2016” to migrate on August 23.

His name seems to be predestined, since Fusée means “rocket” in English. All our birds are named by the Osprey team based on the design on their heads. This is because we spend a long time watching them by webcam while they are in the aviaries, and naming them helps us to distinguish who is who. At least some of the 2016 project team recognized a rocket shape on this bird’s head, and it now appears that he has clearly lived up to his name!

Although it is still too early for Fusée to settle in a territory and breed, the fact that this bird has migrated to Africa and made it back to Switzerland is a big milestone for the project. He will probably spend this summer like teenage Ospreys usually do, taking a “year off” to wander and explore. This means that he might move around and turn up anywhere. If you see any Osprey in or around Switzerland, please pay special attention to check if it is ringed – and don’t hesitate to let us know (to avoid any risk of disturbance, locations will obviously not be disclosed).

Fusée is the first Osprey to have fledged in Switzerland and returned in just over a century.

 

“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.

The Osprey in Switzerland