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!
Our Ospreys have started to head south, and Roger (F07) was the first to migrate. The reason why we called him Roger is because he had a “number 1” design on his head. So it seemed obvious what this Swiss star should be called, even if we didn’t know that he would be number 1 to migrate! He left on August 26, a bright and sunny day with a strong northerly wind (perfect conditions for Osprey travel).
Fusée (PR9), the biggest surprise this year, also left on August 26. Released in 2016 and first seen back in Switzerland in May, he suddenly appeared at Bellechasse on July 28. It was a pleasure seeing him in the region for a month, communing with the young birds released this year, and appropriating an artificial nest that we had built. Let’s hope he will have a safe trip to Africa, and that we will see him here again next year!
Since Roger’s and Fusée’s departure, eight other birds have also left on migration, including a record number of five on September 4, a warm and sunny day with a nice breeze. Currently we still have three birds with us: the two youngest (Mystère and Pistache), as well as Mirage. Unfortunately Mirage was injured the day after she was released, slipping on top of a wet electricity pylon when landing for the second time in her life. Our great thanks go to the Centre Ornithologique de Réadaptation at Genthod for their dedicated care, and we hope that she will soon be strong enough to be released.
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!
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.
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…
The 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!
We 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?
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.
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!
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.
The 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!
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.