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.


Getting ready

Osprey nest platform on Larch with Christian Grand and Pascal Grand

April is here and a new Osprey season is starting! Like last year, our first two breeding females are ahead in the game. Mouche (PR4) and her partner AM06 have returned to their nest in Moselle, with the male arriving first on March 20, and Mouche soon after on the 24th. David Meyer and Dominique Lorentz are keeping an eye on what they are up to and will send us periodic updates. At the same time, Daniel Schmidt tells us that Plume (F02) and her partner BE63 have both returned to their nest in Bavaria on the same day (March 29). As for our males, we’re still waiting to see which ones will return to Switzerland or the Haut-Doubs (just across the border, in neighbouring France).

In the meantime on March 27 we built two additional nesting platforms, so we now have 28 in total in the Three-Lakes region. One is our highest ever, at 44m, adorning a majestic Larch; the other is on a 35m tall Scots Pine. Both were built with the support of the CEPOB (Centre d’Etude et de Protection des Oiseaux, Bienne et environs) as part of their 40th anniversary celebrations. Thanks again to our acrobatic climbers Christian and Paco Grand, and of course also to the ground team which included Emile Curty, Philippe Grosvernier, and Benjamin Gygax – with Denis Landenbergue and Wendy Strahm.

2021 Project Report

Ringed Osprey on the Doubs RiverThe 2021 Osprey Project report has been published in the March 2022 edition of the journal Nos Oiseaux. While only in French, this report outlines the highlights of last year. Now that the release phase of the project has finished, two birds reintroduced each year between 2016 and 2019 are so far known to have returned: 4 males in Switzerland, and 1 male plus 3 females in neighbouring countries. Two of these females bred successfully in 2021: Mouche in France (Moselle – with 2 fledged chicks) and Plume in Germany (Bavaria – with 3 fledged chicks). Two males (Taurus, for the third year, and Arthur, for the second) held territories in Switzerland, with Taurus forming a couple late in the summer with a German female ringed AB13. In addition, a “mystery male” summered in the Haut-Doubs not far from the French-Swiss border (see photo above). Although he only has a metal ring on its left leg, we think it is one of “ours” that has lost his blue plastic ring, but his identity is still uncertain. Finally, two youngsters released at Bellechasse in 2019, Radar and Rafale, returned to Europe for the first time in 2021. The article can be downloaded here.

Three “Osprey mornings” were held in 2021, mobilising over 70 volunteers. Two more are being planned this year, on 29 May and 19 June. If you are interested in participating, please let us know the date(s) when you are available and possible 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 in advance for your participation!

Best Christmas Present

Rafale F14 and Tino F22What a pleasure to receive a message from Daniel Schmidt on December 25 saying that he had just found a photo (see below) of our female Rafale (F14), while checking the contents of a camera-trap from a platform in north-eastern Bavaria. She was pictured on August 2, visiting this  nest where two young  had already fledged.

Translocated from eastern Germany on June 25, 2019, Rafale had been released at Bellechasse on July 29 (above photo of her with Tino F22), and migrated on September 3. After the male Radar (F16), this is the second bird from our “class of 2019” confirmed back in Europe this year.Rafale F14

This great surprise means that the pattern from previous years, with at least one male and one female known to have returned, has continued:  Fusée (PR9) and Mouche (PR4) from 2016; Taurus (PS7) and Flamme (KF6) from 2017; and Arthur (F12) and Plume (F02) from 2018.

It is possible that other birds may also have returned, but have not been found yet (for a large species, Osprey can be very discrete).  We suspect that an adult male seen during the summers of 2020 and 2021 along the Doubs River may be one of ours, possibly Fusée (PR9) who has not been spotted for sure since 2019. With just a metal ring (of the same model we use) on his left leg, it is likely that the blue plastic ring on his right has been lost.

One thing is clear, we are anxiously counting the days to see what surprises next spring will bring!

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!


The Osprey in Switzerland