Direct… or less direct departures

Osprey Racine F29 fishing

Although some Ospreys from higher latitudes are still crossing Switzerland, “ours” have already migrated to warmer climes. We had thought that the last to go was Arthur (F12), seen the morning of September 11 at Hagneck (lake of Bienne), just before his departure.

Three others had already departed before him. Olympe (F28) was last photographed by Enzo Bertolo on August 26 at the Fanel Nature Reserve (lake of Neuchâtel), where Taurus (PS7) was apparently also seen for the last time on September 3, together with Racine (F29). The last observation of Flamme (ex-KF6), was on September 6 in the Haut-Doubs in neighbouring France, a day after he was seen catching a big fish in the lake of Taillères, on the Swiss side of the border.

We believed that Racine had migrated on September 4 (after he was seen at Fanel in the morning), but what a surprise when Olaf Oczko and Klaus Becker spotted him on the 5th at Moos near Radolfzell, on the German side of the Lake of Constance (165 km to the north-east)! He was then regularly noted there until at least September 16, before being observed one last time, at Fanel again, by Claudine Waespe on the 22nd. Recently we also learned that Racine had already been photographed by Jochen Büchler at Moos on July 29, two days before he was discovered back in the Trois-Lacs region. A good example of how two year old birds can at times turn up in the most unexpected places.

Another surprise was the long stay of an unringed female in the Grande Cariçaie (lake of Neuchâtel), where she spent part of the summer in the same area as Olympe. Both birds were even seen once displaying by Martin Zimmerli: a precocious behaviour for a two year old male, and promising for the future.

Building fever at Hagneck

Arthur building his nest at Hagneck, Lake of Bienne, Switzerland

Numerous observers have noted this month that Arthur (F12), our four-year-old male with a territory at Hagneck on the Lake of Bienne, has been having increasing bouts of “building frenzy”. He has been showing off his acrobatic flying skills by diving into trees to break off a dead branch and carry it to one of his nests, at times making typical territorial calls.

This is classic behaviour at this time of year for a single male of his age. Even without a female around, Arthur is busy getting ready for when one comes along, in order to provide her with a nice choice of nests. In addition to bringing more branches to the platform installed for him last year, he has started building not just one (already mentioned in July), but two “secondary residences”. Since they are both on dead trees, it remains to be seen if they will resist autumn and winter storms. But one thing is certain: Arthur is very motivated!

There are now not many days left before Arthur and our other four males identified this year start heading south. Then a stressful six-month count-down will start, until hopefully all of them make it back from their wintering grounds in West Africa.

Racine is back

Racine F29 a young Osprey released in Switzerland collecting fish

On Sunday 31 July, Michel Beaud called with some nice news: he had just seen two Osprey together! Could this be a pair? Going back to investigate further, they were still present, but the birds didn’t seem very different in size. Both sported a blue ring on their right leg, so we knew that they were “ours”. Thanks to a camera trap, we discovered that it was not a pair, but that Racine (F29), a small male released in 2020, had just returned. He was hanging out with 5 year-old male Taurus (PS7), who magnanimously accepted his company, possibly because he still considers him to be a juvenile and no competition, at least yet.

Collected from a nest on a pylon by Mario Firla on June 30, 2020, Racine was the smallest of our German birds that year. He hadn’t put on much weight in the aviaries and was released in the first group of four birds on July 25 which included Olympe (F28), already back in Switzerland this spring. Racine waited until the other three had flown out, before taking off to land straight on top of the aviaries, where fresh fish had been laid out. He finished a fish already half-eaten by his cage-mate Méandre (F25, who had fledged a little earlier the same day), before eating two more entire fish. Weighed down by his hefty meal, Racine then didn’t fly again all day. Unlike Olympe and Méandre that had left the “Osprey restaurant” to roost in nearby trees, he spent his first night of freedom sleeping on the aviary roof.

The next morning we waited until it was just light to put out the fresh fish of the day, as discretely as possible. However, Racine noticed us and flew out of sight, but thanks to the signal from his radio tail transmitter, we knew that he had not gone very far. We quickly discovered that he had wedged himself between the aviary roof and the top of a cage: a very uncomfortable place where fortunately he never went to perch again.

The following weeks were eventless for Racine until August 9, when his transmitter suddenly stopped working. From then on this made it harder to know what he was up to, as the only way for us to identify him was by his ring when he came in to feed in front of a surveillance camera. The picture above shows Racine snatching a fish on July 31, 2020, exactly two years before he was first seen again in the Three-Lakes region. On September 3, forty days after his release, we had a nice surprise when Arlette Berlie photographed him in the Fanel Nature Reserve, 8 km away from the release site. Racine migrated four days later on September 7 – the last time we saw him until his return this summer.

Two beautiful chicks

Two Osprey chicks of Mouche and AM06 on a nest in Moselle

This year Mouche (PR4) and her partner AM06 have once again raised two beautiful chicks in the French department of Moselle (pictured above). Dominique Lorentz told us that the first one fledged a little earlier this summer than in 2021, on July 5, and the two youngsters were already flying very well on the 12th.

Plume (F02), on the other hand, was less lucky than last year in north-eastern Bavaria. According to Daniel Schmidt the season had started well, since she was photographed starting to incubate on April 17 and had laid at least two eggs. However, her nest (with one unhatched egg) was found abandoned on June 14, for reasons that are unknown. Also in Bavaria, Rafale (F14), on her second year back, was photographed on April 7 on a platform together with an unringed male, but it appears that another female finally bred on that nest.

As for the four territories of returning males that we have been able to find so far (Taurus PS7, Flamme ex-KF6, Arthur F12 and Olympe F28), the first three (aged 5, 5 and 4 years old respectively) have been actively building nests. Taurus and Arthur brought many branches to platforms specially installed for them, with the latter going even one step further by building a “secondary residence” not far away from his “principal” nest. Flamme, on the other hand, chose to build his own nest directly on top of a dead spruce, which was later broken during a violent storm, illustrating the value of providing stable platforms to facilitate the installation of the species. As for Olympe, even though still very young (just 2 years old), he is already showing some courtship behaviour.

Other news will follow by the end of August/beginning September when our birds start to head south. Until then, any osprey sighting in Switzerland or along the Doubs is always welcome!

A hot day for Osprey

Two Osprey morning participants Daniel Aubin and Marièle Zufferey on the Hydrokarst boat looking for osprey

Our second “Osprey Morning” of the season, on June 19, resulted in at least six different Osprey observations: a record, both for their number seen in a single day at this time of the year, as well as for the temperature (the highest ever for June in the region, reaching locally up to 37°). Great thanks to the 48  volunteers who baked in 26 sites for the cause!

The day started out well, with Arthur (F12) at Hagneck and Flamme (ex-KF6) along the Doubs River, turning up at 5:30 and 6:40 respectively, and then sticking around for the rest of the morning.

The third observation was a blue-ringed male (very likely Taurus PS7, although his ring could not be read), who arrived at 7:52 to the Fanel Nature Reserve. He remained on-site until at least 10:50, when the heat drove the last observers to find a well-deserved cool drink. Apart from catching a fish, washing his feet after his meal, and finally taking a bath, he remained quietly perched on some dead trees. A typical example of how the species can spend hours doing almost nothing, making it often difficult to spot.

Then at 8:10 another Osprey was seen from Chevroux, stealthily flying over the Grande Cariçaie towards Portalban: very likely Olympe (F28), already seen the day before in the same area. However, he was remarkably discrete on the big day, since other observers at Gletterens, Portalban, and on two boats cruising off-shore were not able to see him.

In addition to these four males, there were also some nice surprises elsewhere. At 6:40 an Osprey was seen flying upstream over the Wohlen lake, but impossible to see if it was ringed. This is the first time the species has been seen in June in this very favorable habitat, 16km east from Bellechasse.

At 9:35 a likely Osprey was seen (for just a few seconds) flying over the Aar River near Altreu, at 33km to the north-east of Bellechasse. An observation post was included for the first time in this area not far from Solothurn, following the sighting of an Osprey there ten days before. In addition, an Osprey carrying a fish was seen at 9:00 at the Inkwilersee, a small lake 16km east of Altreu (and 46km from Bellechasse). Could this possibly be the same bird, or two different ones?

In any case this second Osprey morning for 2022 was a great success. Now we still need to clarify the identity of some of them, and to determine whether they are territorial or nomadic birds. In the meantime, any observation of the species in the region (noting the time, and if possible with a photo) is always welcome!


The table was set

Fish Lake Morat for Osprey breakfast

On Sunday May 29, our first “Osprey morning” of this year, 57 participants got up before the crack of dawn to monitor 29 sites where Osprey might fish, for example at Sugiez at the Lake of Morat (photo above by Claudine Waespe).

Two of our “sure bets” were observed: Arthur (F12) made a spectacular display flight at the Lake of Bienne at Hagneck, and Flamme (ex-KF6), did the same along the Doubs River just across the border. Taurus (PS7), however, remained remarkably elusive, proving once again how good this species can be at escaping detection. Two other Osprey were seen in the Grande Cariçaie protected area at the Lake of Neuchâtel. One of them was certainly Olympe (F28), his identity being confirmed the following morning thanks to photographs by Pascal Rapin. The other was spotted at about the same time 6 km away by Jean-Luc Holweger (from his sailboat), but too far to see if it was ringed. Was it Taurus on an excursion, or maybe another yet unidentified individual ?

With a total of four Osprey seen, we are very pleased with the result. Especially as Olympe seems to be establishing a territory in the Grande Cariçaie, just where two unringed females stayed for an extended period in May (and they may still be around). We cannot thank the participants enough for their enthusiasm and commitment on a rather cool morning for the season. While not everyone was lucky enough to see an Osprey, we were overwhelmed by the nice messages and reports received from all the teams.

A second Osprey morning will take place on Sunday 19 June. Anyone with binoculars (and ideally a spotting scope and/or telephoto lens) interested in participating can contact us here, and there will certainly be more surprises!

Welcome back Olympe!

Osprey Olympe F28 at Fanel Nature Reserve

We have just received the great news that Olympe (F28), the first returnee from our “class of 2020”, was spotted this morning in the Fanel Nature Reserve, at the Lake of Neuchâtel. Many thanks to Thomas Bachofner for sending us this superb photo of him looking fit and well.

Collected from a nest on a pylon in eastern Germany by Mario Firla  on June 30, 2020, Olympe weighed 1,490g, so at first we weren’t sure if he was a male or female. It was only once the DNA test result came in that we knew for sure that he was a male. He was released on July 25, and migrated on August 24. Only to be observed the following day in the French department of Lozère, having covered 400 km in less than 36 hours.  His return to Switzerland just 7km away from his release site shows once again how philopatric male Osprey are. Being the sixth male (that we know of) which has returned since the reintroduction project began in 2015,  he is living well up to his name by setting a new record. May he set many more!

Mystery solved

Osprey Flamme KF6 with just metal ring

At last we know the identity of our “mystery male” living on the French side of the Doubs River, thanks to the perseverance and exceptional photos of Didier Pépin (see one of them above).

And the solution is … Flamme (in the past known also as KF6), as the code of his metal ring could finally be read! Born in Norway in 2017, he was released in Switzerland on August 2, and migrated on the 28th. Since then he had been spotted three times: once on August 3, 2019 by Solène Carboni and Christian Bulle (see photo) in the French Department of Doubs, and twice in February and March 2020, in his wintering grounds in the Gambia (when he hadn’t yet lost his blue plastic ring). We now know for sure that he is a male, and that he is currently busy building a nest of his own… a few km away from the two platforms built for him last month. So far he hasn’t found a female, but he seems determined and we have high hopes for him.

Since his “re-discovery” last year (with only a metal ring) by Cathy Poimboeuf, Flamme has been carefully monitored by a super-motivated team committed to ensuring that he is not disturbed. While we would have liked him to return to Switzerland, we are obviously delighted that he is thriving nearby. He clearly enjoys French food – as don’t we all?

The story of Flamme makes us think that some of our other males may be living quietly in areas which are rarely visited, possibly even several tens of kms away from the reintroduction site. Will the next “Osprey mornings”, scheduled for May 29 and June 19, help us discover new territories? Everyone (with binoculars) interested and available to participate on either of these days is of course welcome to sign up here.


They’re back

Arthur F12 meeting an unringed male at Hagneck, Switzerland

In addition to our “mystery male” that returned to the Upper Doubs on April 3, both Arthur (F12, born in 2018) and Taurus (PS7, born in 2017) are back in the Trois-Lacs region. Arthur was first observed at Hagneck on April 7 by Fabian Grossenbacher, exactly the same date that Michel Cattin saw him back in 2021. Michel was determined to be the first to spot Arthur back again this year, but he skipped April 7 and 8 due to terrible weather, so of course that was when Arthur turned up (bad luck Michel)! This spring, Arthur has already been seen three times with another Osprey: a probable female on migration on April 17 (with a metal ring on her left leg), an unringed passing male on the 18th, and another unringed male which he promptly chased away on the 21st (photo above by Claudine Waespe). While he doesn’t appear to have found a mate yet, there is still hope .

Taurus was confirmed back on April 12, although he had probably returned a few days earlier. While he has been busy preparing a nest, so far his partner from last summer, AB13, hasn’t been seen back. Will she eventually return, or will he try to find another female?

Radar (F16, born in 2019), was photographed twice last year, in Switzerland on May 3, and in Belgium on the 14th. In theory he should return this spring, but so far he hasn’t been spotted.

Our females, on the other hand, are busy preparing for the next generation. Mouche (PR4, born in 2016) and her partner AM06, as well as Plume (F02, born in 2018) and her partner BE63, were already back last month at their nests in France and Germany respectively. And Daniel Schmidt has just informed us that Plume is incubating at least two eggs. Other good news is that Rafale (F14, born in 2019), who was noted once on a platform in Germany last summer, was photographed on April 7 together with an unringed male, on another nest in north-east Bavaria. 



30 nests

Nest-building team observing the latest Osprey nest platform

On April 9-10 we built two more nest platforms, just on the other side of the border in the French Department of the Doubs. This is to encourage our “mystery male”, an Osprey with just a metal ring on his left leg and none on his right. We strongly suspect that he is a bird released at Bellechasse that has lost his blue plastic ring, and still hope to be able to read the code of his metal ring at some point. This spring he was first spotted back on April 3 and he has even been seen transporting nesting material (although so far there is no female in sight)!

As we were building the second platform on April 10, an Osprey briefly circled high just overhead, almost as if it was inspecting the operation under way. Was this our “mystery male”, or just a passing bird?

However, in the meantime two fantastic nest platforms are now available in the upper Doubs, both on Silver Firs. One of them, at 48m high, is the tallest of the 30 nests that we have built so far. Great thanks again to the climbers Christian and Paco Grand and to the very motivated team (photo above) who have invested much time and energy for the success of this memorable weekend.


The Osprey in Switzerland