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)!
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: 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.
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?