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!

Arthur, the summer of 2020 star

Osprey Arthur at Hagneck, Lake of Bienne

Arthur (F12), a two-year old male Osprey who returned for the first time this year, is without a doubt one of the ornithological stars of this season. Since the beginning of July, he has been seen or photographed at Hagneck, on the shore of Lake Bienne, almost every day!

As for Taurus (PS7), a three-year old male who returned for the second time this year, he was observed in the Three Lakes region between April 9 and May 27, and then again (after surprisingly not being noticed for nearly two months) from July 22, when he has been seen every day since.

Regarding Fusée (PR9), our first male returnee in 2018 and again in 2019, so far there has been no sign of him this year. The exceptionally bad weather conditions that caused many Osprey to disappear during the last spring migration make us worry that he may not have survived, unless he has managed to spend this summer incognito in some remote or rarely visited area.

All 12 young birds translocated this year from Germany and Norway have now fledged. Most of them have started to venture further afield in their adopted country, visiting places such as the Lake of Morat, the Fanel Nature Reserve at the lake of Neuchâtel, the Niederried dam reservoir along the Aar River or the Auried Nature Reserve near Kleinbösingen. The most advanced of the twelve young, Zeppelin (F26), has already migrated, and we are expecting more departures any day now.

We thank all the people who have already sent us observations or photos, noting that for any Osprey recorded in Switzerland (whether or not a ring is seen), it is always of great added value if the time of observation can be recorded.

One more female!

Plume F02 in Bavaria

We have received good news about Plume (F02), a female born in 2018 in the German province of Sachsen-Anhalt and translocated to Switzerland, where she was released on 23 July and migrated on 2 September. She was immortalised on July 7 thanks to a photo-trap on a nest platform built by Daniel Schmidt in north-east Bavaria. Photos provided by Forester Matthias Gibhardt are the first proof that she has returned to Europe.

However, Plume did not come back to where she first fledged, but found a breeding population elsewhere, which is fairly typical for females of this species. Mouche (PR4) already did the same thing, joining a small breeding population in Moselle some 200 km away from Bellechasse. Plume has returned further afield, almost 500 km away from her release site (and 200 km from the place where she was born).

For males on the other hand, all three “Swiss” returnees identified so far (Fusée PR9; Taurus PS7 and Arthur F12) came back to the Three Lakes region where they had been released. Which means that of the six Bellechasse-reintroduced birds that have been seen again so far, at least one male and one female from each year have survived to migration : Fusée and Mouche from 2016, Taurus and Flamme KF6 from 2017, and now Arthur and Plume from 2018. While our current return rate of 16% is a little lower than the 20% noted for example by the Rutland Water reintroduction project in England (first of its kind in Europe), the 2020 season is not yet over, so we can still hope for some more good news. There has been at least one observation this spring of a blue-ringed Osprey in the Doubs Valley which seems to be another male returnee, but so far we are not sure about its identity.

Another encouraging sign is that there have been several observations of unringed females in western Switzerland during the first half of this summer, which is quite unusual for this time of the year. Fingers crossed that one of these females may meet up with one of our males!

The Osprey in Switzerland