Third Osprey Morning

Niels Friedrich team at Hagneck looking for Osprey

Our third Osprey morning provided some very interesting data. After the two previous ones (of May 9 and May 30), on June 20 a total of 41 participants watched from 23 observation posts from 5:30-10:00 am. Osprey were seen at four different posts in the Three Lakes region. Thanks to the observation being simultaneous, we can definitely say that at least three different Osprey were in the area, and possibly four or even five. Could one be Radar, seen once in Belgium this spring ? Or another returnee from the class of 2019?

The morning started off well with an Osprey seen in the Häftli nature reserve, along the Aar River downstream of Bienne. At the same time Taurus PS7 was near Bellechasse, and Arthur F12 at the Hagneck delta (photo), where after eating a fish he made a brief courtship display (flying and calling high up in the sky with his legs dangling), before disappearing from view. A few minutes later two Osprey were observed flying between Hagneck and Lüscherz. Although too far away to see if they were ringed, this was probably Arthur with another Osprey, perhaps the bird noted earlier at Häftli. Arthur was seen again about an hour later back in Hagneck, alone, catching his second fish of the day. Fifteen minutes after the two Osprey were seen together, one was spotted flying upstream on the Aar river at Niederried. Was it one of the two seen earlier from Lüscherz? Or else Taurus (although he had never been seen at Niederried before)? Or another bird altogether? Without seeing a ring, we can’t tell.

Three sites along the Doubs River were also surveyed.  No Osprey were noticed there, although one had been signalled on June 17 along the French part of this river less than 50 km from Bellechasse – rather unusual at this time of the year.

All in all, despite the overcast sky and a few local showers, our third Osprey morning surpassed our expectations. A big thank you again to the volunteers who got up very early for a very successful operation!


Two small heads

Moselle Osprey Habitat where Mouche nests

Great news in Moselle (France, see photo): Mouche PR4, born in eastern Germany and translocated to Switzerland in 2016, has become a mother for the second time ! Since May 24 David Meyer, who is monitoring the pair, has seen the male AM06 bring fish to the nest and Mouche carefully tearing it into small pieces to feed at least one chick. Then on June 4 he saw one small head poke above the edge of the nest for the first time, and on June 6 he could see two. The nest is quite deep and built high up on a dead tree, so from the ground and at a distance of several hundred meters it is difficult to see more than this until the chicks get bigger.

Last year we had high hopes for this pair when they were seen feeding at least one chick on May 30, only to receive the news that on June 17, following several days of cold and rainy weather, the first breeding attempt had failed. However, the pair spent the rest of the summer in the area, and fortunately both adults returned this year. Right now the parents are clearly taking their responsibility very seriously, and we very much hope that this year they will manage to rear their chicks to fledging.

Second Osprey Morning

La Goule, Doubs, Jura, Switzerland

The second Osprey morning took place on May 30, with the same goal as that of the first: to undertake a simultaneous watch at many potential fishing grounds to try to see where these birds are taking their first meal of the day. 57 volunteers got up even earlier than the last time to look for Osprey at 31 sites from 5:30 to 10:00. Thanks again to everyone who turned up at their designated posts in the Three-Lakes region, along the Aar and the Doubs (photo) rivers, or at the lake of Schiffenen.

The day dawned bright and sunny which felt like a miracle after almost continual rain since our first Osprey morning. However, this luck was tempered by the strong “bise”, a northerly wind which made both observation and fishing conditions more difficult, particularly on the larger lakes. Two Osprey were observed, the first being Arthur who put on a good show at Hagneck and then flew to Lobsigen (almost 10 km away), where he caught two fish. A second bird was seen from Fanel very far out, so impossible to see if it was ringed, but it could well have been Taurus.

No Osprey were seen on the lakes of Morat and Schiffenen, nor along the Aar and Doubs Rivers, but searching for them in such a large area can really feel like looking for a needle in a haystack!

A third “Osprey morning” will take place on Sunday June 20, a particularly good time when any Osprey seen in Switzerland  could be either one released by the project (such as Radar or other male returnees), or else a subadult female originating from elsewhere. Anyone not already signed up who would like to take part in the next Osprey Morning is most welcome to contact us here.

Radar in Belgium

Radar an Osprey mobbed by a Lapwing

Radar (F16), born in Germany and translocated to Bellechasse in 2019, has just been spotted back in Europe on May 14 by Niels and Jacoba Ryckeboer near Louvain in Belgium (470 km north of his release site).

Our first reaction to this good news was to think that this male, named after the radar-shaped design on his head, was not really living up to his name! Time will tell if he is just doing a little exploring before returning home, or whether he might try joining the nearest breeding Osprey population to where he was seen (at the Biesbosch National Park in the Netherlands, where three pairs bred last year).

However, exploration is common for a bird of his age. For example, Fusée (PR9, born in 2016) was seen back in north-eastern Switzerland – 140 km away from Bellechasse – on May 10, 2018, before returning to the Three-Lakes region on July 28. Likewise Taurus (PS7, born in 2017), was spotted on May 22, 2019 in France near Dôle – 120 km away from Bellechasse – before eventually returning to his reintroduction area on June 29. So we will be keeping a close look out for Radar, hoping to see him back home soon.

In the meantime we are grateful to Niels and Jacoba Ryckeboer for finding our fourth confirmed male returnee (one from each of the years 2016 to 2019), and for letting us know that Radar, despite being mobbed by a Lapwing (photo above), is looking well.

First Osprey Morning

Dawn over Lake of Bienne

While Arthur (F12) and Taurus (PS7) are regularly seen in the Three-Lakes region, finding other returnees is a real challenge. With spring migration finishing soon, there is a greater chance that an Osprey seen in Switzerland between May and July could be one of “ours”, or perhaps an erratic, non-breeding female originating from elsewhere. Three “Osprey mornings” are planned to search for these birds, which can be very discrete despite their size. So looking for them during their “breakfast time” could increase the probability of spotting one.

The first Osprey morning took place on May 9, a beautiful, sunny and warm day right between two periods of cold and rainy weather. 48 volunteers got up before dawn to search for the species between 6 -10 am at 29 sites, mainly in the Three-Lakes region, but also along the Aar and Doubs rivers. Many thanks to everyone for their commitment and enthusiasm!

Three Osprey were seen during this first morning: one at the Lake of Neuchâtel (at Fanel, likely to be Taurus), and two at the Lake of Bienne (Arthur at Hagneck, and a different bird at St Peter’s Island, either a migrant or a returnee). Three more sightings were made later in the day: two of a blue-ringed bird in the Seeland (most probably Taurus), and one near Goumois on the Doubs, a few km away from where  Martial Farine had noted a blue-ringed male  on April 19, 2020.

The next “Osprey mornings” will take place on May 30 and June 20. If anyone not already signed up would like to take part in these memorable events, please don’t hesitate to contact us here.

Ladies first

Plume (F02) catching a Tench Tinca tinca

Good news about our two females: Mouche (PR4), born in 2016, is breeding for a second consecutive year with AM06 in France (Moselle). If all goes well, their first egg should hatch around May 20. Plume (F02), born in 2018, has returned to Germany (north-eastern Bavaria), to a nest platform about 50 km from where she was photographed last summer. She is with a ringed 4 year old male (BE63) who, according to Daniel Schmidt, formed an « unstable pair » with an unringed female last year – but they didn’t breed. This spring there was a bit of a « ménage à trois », in which it seems that Plume may have gained the upper hand. Apparently there is now a female incubating on the nest, although we are not yet sure which one. While we are waiting to know more, see above a great photo of Plume catching a Tench (Tinca tinca), taken by Markus Nilles and Kakuko Hirose on April 9.

As for our two males back in the Three-Lakes region of Switzerland, Arthur (F12) is treating his fans to a lot of acrobatic flying at Hagneck, even more since a pair of Yellow-legged Gulls have decided to squat the platform we built for him last month. Being just three years old and all by himself, Arthur has not been able to evict them—although he has been trying hard. Taurus (PS7), on the other hand, four years old this year, has been busy carrying clumps of grass and a few branches to two different platforms. As he hasn’t been lucky enough to meet a passing female so far, he needs to persevere and be patient (and us too)! At Urdaibaï in Spain, where a reintroduction took place from 2013 to 2017, a male born in 2013 (named Roy) waited eight years before breeding for the first time this year. He has paired with a three year old female released in 2018 at the Marais d’Orx in France, a little over 100 km away: a good illustration of the value of having two reintroduction projects undertaken (simultaneously or just one after the other) located relatively close together. This first reproduction at Urdaibaï can be followed thanks to a webcam here.

Four out of four

Osprey Arthur F12 at Hagneck, SwitzerlandWhile Mouche (PR4) and AM06 are busy in Moselle adding branches to their nest (and starting to mate even before sunrise according to David Meyer), we are happy to report that our two males that returned to Switzerland last year (Taurus PS7 and Arthur F12) are back again. Congratulations to Attilio Rossi and John Spillmann who spotted Taurus for the first time (without reading his ring, but it was indeed him) on April 2, and to Michel Cattin, one of Arthur’s many fans, who discovered him back at Hagneck on April 7.

In addition, Plume (F02), who was seen in north-eastern Bavaria last year, has just had her photo taken again by camera-trap on April 5 on a nest platform in the same region. Thanks to Matthias Gibhardt and Daniel Schmidt for keeping such a sharp eye on her movements.

While we would have liked our females to return to Switzerland rather than going farther afield, at the same time female ospreys tend to integrate with other populations, and in so doing help diversify the gene pool. We can only hope that a female born elsewhere may sooner or later return the favour here!


Mouche is back in Moselle

Mouche PS4 an Osprey in Moselle

Great news from France by David Meyer, who saw two Osprey back at their nest in Moselle on Saturday, March 27. After long and patient monitoring he was able to read the rings and confirm on the 29th that Mouche (PR4) and her partner were indeed back. For the record, Mouche was born in Germany in 2016, when she was translocated and released at Bellechasse, only to be seen once in 2018 in eastern France. She returned in 2019 in Moselle where she paired with a male ringed AM06, and the two built a late nest in the summer. The pair returned in 2020 and bred for the first time, hatching at least one chick which unfortunately did not survive. Hopefully they will be more successful this year!

On the other hand, we hope to have news soon about Arthur (F12), Taurus (PS7) or any other territorial birds in Switzerland. There has already been a greater than average number of Osprey observations in the Three Lakes region since the beginning of spring, although this could be due to more observations during Covid-19 times, remarkably mild weather for a week, more passing Osprey than usual, or a combination of all of these. The suspense is building up for the first sighting of an Osprey with a blue ring on its right tarsus…

2020 Project Report

Three Osprey perched at Niederried: Albi, Silex and Rugby

A report on the 2020 Osprey Project season (“Projet Balbuzard Pandion haliaetus: retours et lâchers en Suisse 2020”) has been published in the March 2021 edition of the journal Nos Oiseaux. While only in French, this report summarizes the first breeding attempt of Mouche in the French Department of Moselle, where she had at least one chick which sadly did not survive. Two males (Taurus for the second year, and Arthur for the first) returned to Switzerland, although Fusée was not seen again. In addition, two females were photographed; Flamme (born 2017) in her wintering grounds in the Gambia (although we do not know where she goes in Europe), and Plume (born 2018) on four different artificial nest platforms in north-eastern Bavaria, Germany. Twelve more young birds from Germany and Norway were translocated and successfully migrated from Switzerland between 15 August and 17 September. At least five of them “visited” an unringed male several times during his three week long stop-over in the region last summer. The article can be downloaded here.

In 2021 we will focus on searching for possible Osprey territories in Switzerland.  It will include organising three “Osprey mornings”, where volunteers will be stationed at the same time in the most likely Osprey fishing sites in the Three Lakes region (and maybe others along the Doubs or the Aar rivers). The simultaneous observations will take place from dawn to 10 am, on the Sundays May 9, May 30 and June 20. If you are interested and available in participating for at least two (or even better all) of the three days, please contact us with the dates when you are available and preferences for observation sites. Everyone inscribed will be contacted ten days before each date for the allocation of an observation point, to be determined based on the number of volunteers who have signed up. Many thanks for your participation in advance!

A room with a view

Osprey nest at Hagneck

In preparation for the 2021 Osprey season, we have just built a new nest platform in a very special place: the Aar delta nature reserve at Hagneck, on the shores of Lake Bienne. This site is particularly strategic since last year Arthur (born in 2018 and ringed F12), spent much of the summer here. We of course hope that he will come back after an arduous return migration (of probably 8-9,000 km), and find this nest with a fabulous view to his liking.

This is the 22nd platform built by the Osprey Project of Nos Oiseaux, this time with the generous help of the CEPOB (Centre d’Etude et de Protection des Oiseaux, Bienne et environs), which sponsored its construction as part of their 40th anniversary celebrations. Built with all the necessary authorisations, this “room with a view” could not have been achieved without the brilliant work of the climbers Christian Grand and Yann Marbach, as well as the support of Emile Curty and other volunteers on the ground. Now we just need to cross fingers that Arthur will return this spring! For some photos of the team in full action, see here.

The Osprey in Switzerland