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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 2020 team

We had another good season in 2020, with all 12 chicks released migrating, plus we had two birds, Taurus PS7 (from 2017) and Arthur F12 (from 2018) returning to Switzerland. This was thanks to all the hard work of many people both this year and in previous ones. Special thanks go to the volunteers who spent at least two weeks of their precious time helping in the field at Bellechasse: Océane Cordoliani, Christophe Chaigne, Niels Friedrich, Martine Guex-Meier, Alba Hendier, Sven Henrioux, Johnny Kursner, Florian Meier, Catherine Robert, Jean-Luc Simon and Marièle Zufferey. They all worked enthusiastically with the Osprey wardens Cyrielle Boudon and Marine Brunel, long-serving volunteer Denis Landenbergue, and project coordinator Wendy Strahm. Not forgetting Adrian Aebischer, Michel Beaud, Emile Curty, Pascal Rapin, Christine Rast, Pascal Schöpfer and many other colleagues and supporters who also helped the project in one way or another in 2020 (all listed in our report to be published in the March 2021 issue of Nos Oiseaux). Our warm thanks to all!

Au revoir Amphore

Amphore balbuzard migrating 17sep20

The winner of the “last to leave” contest this year is Amphore (F30), a young female from Germany named after the vase-like design on the back of her head. After days of observing her just lying about and only moving when feeding, we realised that (very fittingly) “Amphore” is an anagram for “Amorphe” (French for “passive”)! However, her seemingly “laziness” was just because she was the youngest of the German birds. She soon became more active, growing up to become a beautiful strong female (see photo, taken the day before she migrated). On September 17, a bright day with a strong north-easterly “bise” wind, she circled up high towards the Lake of Neuchâtel and disappeared over the horizon, bringing to an end our 2020 season.

The first to migrate had been Zeppelin (F26) on August 15 and Olympe (F28) on the 25th. Then six more left in the first four days of September: Méandre (F25), Volcan (F31), Tonnerre (F32), Jedi (F35), Tulipe (F36) and Gustave (F27), soon followed by Racine (F29) on September 7. And then there were three. Who seemed to bond and be in no hurry to leave, happily enjoying the Indian summer at Bellechasse. The two youngest Norwegians, Rugby (F33) and Silex (F34), finally migrated on September 15 and 16 respectively, with Amphore leaving the day after.

As for the two confirmed male returnees of this year, Arthur (F12, born in 2018) migrated on September 1 and Taurus (PS7, born in 2017) on September 4. In addition, David Meyer, who discovered Mouche (PR4, born in 2016) in Moselle and monitored her first breeding attempt, tells us that she and her mate spent the summer there and were last seen together on September 1.

So a globally positive season, even if despite our best efforts, we again did not succeed in releasing many more males than females this year. The reason why we hoped to reintroduce a larger proportion of males is because, being more philopatric, they traditionally return to the area where they fledged, which is much less often the case with females. While we still await confirmation from the DNA analysis later this autumn, it seems that this year we have released seven males and five females.

As the season draws to a close, once again a big thank you to the Osprey project team for their dedication and enthusiasm in taking great care of the birds, and ensuring their safe departure to destinations unknown.

Two out of two

Zeppelin F26 and Olympe F28 Ospreys

Up to now, two of the 12 young Osprey reintroduced this year to Switzerland have migrated, and we have just had some wonderful news: both have been seen on a stop-over in France! We have only once before had one of our birds identified during its autumn migration in Europe: Georges F03, spotted in Spain in September 2018.

This summer, Zeppelin (F26) was our first bird to leave on August 15, a week before the earliest departure ever recorded before by the project (that of Tache (PS6) on 22 August 2017). We are happy to learn that he was seen fishing on August 27, in the company of three other Osprey, by Jean-Louis Pujol at Etang de Vaccares in the Camargue – just 3 km away from the home of Luc Hoffmann (a great Osprey fan and supporter of its reintroduction) at the Tour du Valat.

Olympe (F28), who started his migration around 9:30 am on August 24, was photographed by Philippe Thouvenot at the Marais d’Usanges in the Department of Lozère at 7 pm on August 25, covering a distance of 400 km in less than one and a half days. Many thanks to Paul Lesclaux (manager of the Osprey reintroduction underway at the Marais d’Orx in southwestern France), for having drawn out attention to this valuable observation.

Both birds were translocated from eastern Germany on 30 June and released in Switzerland on July 25, fitted with a tiny radio transmitter of which the antenna is visible on the photos. Our best wishes to both birds for a safe continuation of their first trip toward tropical Africa!