First couple

Swiss Osprey Taurus PS7It seems that both Taurus (PS7) and Arthur (F12) have already migrated south, although we are still checking. But the big news is that Taurus, four years old, had a partner this summer! We kept it very quiet to avoid any risk of disturbance, but they were seen together for at least five weeks, and during that time they were inseparable. In addition, the female had a ring (AB13), indicating that she was born  in eastern Germany in 2014. Summer is often a favourable time for Osprey pairs to form, as was the case for example in Moselle with Mouche two years ago. While we don’t know exactly when AB13 turned up in the Three-Lakes regions and first met Taurus, we do know that she migrated before him, which is normal for this species. This first known formation of an Osprey pair in Switzerland for over a century is promising, since once formed, Osprey pairs tend to stay together year after year. So let’s hope that all goes well with their migration and wintering, and that they will both return safely to Switzerland next spring!  

Five fledged

The Osprey Mouche feeding her chick in Moselle The two chicks of Mouche (PR4) and her partner AM06 have successfully fledged in Moselle (photo above, by digiscope). David Meyer, who has been keeping a good eye on them, saw the first youngster flying on July 15, and the second on the 18th. During a recent visit on site, we were delighted to see them getting more confident each day, with the eldest even taking its first dive in a pond (but emerging “empty-taloned”) on July 29.

They are the first known to fledge from a Swiss-released female, and even if the event took place in France, it is an important new milestone for the project of “Nos Oiseaux”.  Mouche beat out Plume (F02) by about two weeks, where her three chicks have now fledged in the north-east of Bavaria. The last time they were captured by camera-trap together on the nest was on July 26 (photo below). Despite some terrible weather, this total of five young successfully fledged is a very good result!

Three Osprey chicks in Plume's nest in Germany

First date?

German Osprey BT24 with Arthur F12 at Hagneck, Switzerland

Arthur (F12) has been seen at Hagneck with a ringed female! On July 18 Benjamin Gygax saw him carrying a fish, followed by a second Osprey, clearly identifiable as a female. He took the above photo and was able to read the black ring on her left leg: BT24. Thanks to the fantastic ringing programme in Germany coordinated by Daniel Schmidt, we learned that BT24 had been ringed on 29 June, 2020 by Henry Lange in a nest on a pylon in the province of Brandenburg. It is quite exceptional that an Osprey returns to Europe after its first migration, possibly indicating that BT24 didn’t travel all the way to Africa last autumn but rather wintered in the Mediterranean region. Let’s hope that she may be seen again this summer, or even return next year to Switzerland. Note that during the third Osprey Morning, Arthur had already been seen flying together with another Osprey between Hagneck and Lüscherz, but the birds were too far away to see if the second one was male or female, and if it was ringed.

Osprey Arthur F12 carrying a branch at Hagneck, Switzerland

On June 27, we admired for the first time Arthur “diving” into dry tree tops to break dead branches, and on July 17 he collected and carried a particularly large one over the artificial nest platform (photo). However, after flying about with it for a while, he then dropped it, so he still has a bit of learning to do – and he needs a female to give him a hand!

Elsewhere, on July 18 we finally managed to read the ring of another German-born female, AB13, where we suspect that she has been spending at least part of the summer. Reading her black ring was very difficult, as it was so faded that it looked greyish.  The reason why this bird – ringed in 2014 by Dieter Roepke on a pylon in Mecklenburg – is in Switzerland at this time of the year remains to be elucidated.

First three ringed

Three Osprey chicks of Swiss Osprey Plume F02

Plume (released in Switzerland in 2018, and who returned for the first time to Germany in 2020) has three chicks (see photo)!  This week Daniel Schmidt ringed them in north-eastern Bavaria, about 450 km away from Bellechasse. For a while it was not clear which female was on the nest, since at the start of this season there was a ménage à trois when the male (BE63, born 30 km from there in 2017) was with an unringed female at the same time. Later Plume appeared to have won BE63 over, although it was only confirmed very recently that chicks had hatched.  All three of them are doing well, even if one, as is often the case, is much smaller than the others.

In Moselle, David Meyer tells us that Mouche’s two chicks are now visible at the edge of the nest, and that she is still often by their side. They now have the typical Osprey look with their black eye-stripe, and are also frequently spreading their wings. As the nest is on top of a dead tree, it is unfortunately not possible to climb up to ring them.

Having at least two of “our” females nesting this year in France and Germany is an important new milestone for the project. The next one should be to find a territorial pair in Switzerland, but for that we will need to wait a bit longer.

 

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.

The Osprey in Switzerland