The wonders of migration.
We have been getting a lot of questions about how our ospreys will make their way to Africa this autumn, so I thought I’d share with you what we know, but bear in mind this is still something of a mystery and an area with lots left to research!
We know most UK ospreys travel south via a route that takes them over England, (though some go west over Ireland) and then usually over western France, then Spain or Portugal. They often cross near Gibraltar, then hug the African coast to their eventual destination, as too far inland means crossing desert.
We know most ospreys take between 4-6weeks to make the journey in autumn, but are considerably faster on the way up in spring (the breeding instinct is strong and they must get to the nest first!).
Young birds make more stops and wander more before settling down to habitual yearly pattern.
Most birds go to the same over-wintering area each year routinely- creatures of habit!
They stop many times on route and can spend up to a week or more on a particularly good estuary or river, especially if weather is unfavourable.
They can fly at considerable heights, at up to 100km a day and can even fly up to 48hrs non stop!
Most miraculously of all, we still do not know exactly how they navigate- probably some combination of visual clues (we know they fly more on good clear weather) and certainly genetic instinct, and probable some form of geomagnetic perception we do not yet understand.
I often ask our younger visitors if they could walk to Africa at age 10, with no parents to follow, no map and catch all their dinner with their feet on the way! It does put our young ospreys achievement in perspective- migration is truly miraculous!