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.
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.
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.
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 since the Sanctuary was founded (in 1956) that an Osprey was brought in for treatment. 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!
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?