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.