The “last two standing”, Cactus (F24) and Cèpe (F15), finally migrated on September 17, ending the 2019 Osprey season at Bellechasse. They nearly matched the record for the latest departures since the start of the project, when two young left on September 19, 2015.
Cactus was the last to fledge on August 12, while Cèpe was one of the first to be released, on July 19. Which meant that he established the record of spending the longest time between release and migration, i.e. 60 days (the previous record was 49 days, by PR1 in 2016).
Interesting is that the 2019 final departures were quite like those of 2015. That year the last male (PP4) seemed to wait until the youngest female (PP1) finally decided to leave. This summer we had the impression that Cèpe (photographed on September 8 by Adrian Schmid in Hagneck) was just waiting for Cactus (also the youngest female) to leave before finally taking the big leap himself.
Thanks to a fantastic osprey team working non-stop to take care of our birds, 2019 has been a great year, with all 12 chicks successfully reared, released and migrating. All we can do now is wish them safe travels and look forward to as many of them as possible returning in 2-3 years.
Tino (F22), a young male from Norway, is the first of the 12 birds released this year to migrate (on August 25, 27 days after fledging). He left at almost the same time as Roger (F07, also Norwegian) did last year (August 26, 25 days after fledging).
All bets for who would be the first to migrate had however been on Cèpe (F15), named after a mushroom-shaped mark on the back of his head and who seemed to be the most advanced, but one can never tell. The refrain “Cèpe is back” had almost become a mantra due to his tendency to vanish for up to two days and nights, often out of radio signal range, only to suddenly reappear. We do know that he has been flying as far as the nature reserve of Chavornay – 53 km away from Bellechasse – thanks to beautiful photos taken by André Hübscher on August 16. There he was seen unsuccessfully trying to fish several times, probably a good reason for him to come back just two hours later for a meal at our “Osprey restaurant”!
Today Cèpe is still at Bellechasse, but let’s see how long it will take before he finally migrates. So is Taurus (PS7), the two-year-old male regularly observed since June 29. The only bird for which we haven’t had recent news is Fusée (PR9), who was last identified for sure on May 5. However, there have been Ospreys noted in the region in late May and early June, and we suspect that at least some may have been him. Could he have moved elsewhere when Taurus returned? In any case we very much hope that he will be seen again in his wintering grounds in Senegal.
The 12 young Osprey of our “class of 2019” have now all been successfully released and are feeding well. Many are already busy exploring the area, each choosing their favourite places where we can follow them thanks to a small VHS radio transmitter attached to their tail.
While the “place to be” remains the nature reserve at Fanel in the Lake of Neuchâtel, the lakes of Morat and of Bienne (where one was photographed by Yannick Bischof on August 9 at Hagneck) are also frequently visited. At least one of our birds (Cèpe, named after the mushroom-shaped mark on the back of his head) also visits Niederried along the Aar River.
Since the first Ospreys further north have already started to migrate (including one born in Germany this year and seen in Switzerland on August 8), it will probably not be much longer before the most advanced of our birds start heading south.
As for Taurus, the two-year old male who returned for the first time this year, he is still around and has shown some very interesting behaviour. Just after the first releases he seemed to go into “parent mode”, carrying a fish to some of the young birds several times. He has also been seen bringing clumps of grass to a nest platform and moving some branches inside. Now all he needs is a female!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
Which 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!
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.
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.
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)!