We have just updated our satellite tracking page and the latest data shows our chick Blue 44 still using the same triangle of woodland between the two lochs. His fishing flights have been getting wider but he is still staying near the nest- probably because dad is still providing food there. The male brought a perch in this afternoon, but the biggest excitement of the day was a pair of intruder ospreys dive-bombing him on the nest- from now on there will be many more ospreys passing through here on their way south as females and non breeding birds begin to move in numbers.
As our Scottish ospreys begin to migrate, we have been getting lots of question about this mysterious part of their lives- the information below is quoted from our Osprey FAQ section which you can find on a tab at the top of this page.
Q: Do ospreys migrate?
A: Yes – they migrate to West Africa for the winter, covering up to 4000 miles during their journey. The fastest migration recorded took just 31 days, but it can take months for the birds to arrive at their destination. The female begins her migration first, leaving the nest and her young shortly after they are fledged. The male remains, and continues to fish for the young until they are able to fish for themselves. Finally, the young are left to begin their migration on their own. Nobody knows how young ospreys know what route to take, but they always begin their journey by heading off in a south-westerly direction.
There is some recent evidence that some Ospreys are now ‘short stopping’, that is, overwintering in southern Europe, for exampleSpainandPortugal, rather than travelling all the way toAfrica. This could be in response to milder winters in continental Europe (as a result of climate change) or could be an old tradition disrupted by the Ospreys recent extinction in these countries.
Q: Do the youngsters migrate to the same area as their parents?
A: Yes, we believe so – It is thought that young osprey chicks follow inherited genetic programming which tells them where to head on their first migration.
Migration is a very dangerous undertaking for young ospreys – in the wild, between 40-60% of all young birds die in their first year. Once they have arrived in Africa, the young ospreys don’t return for the first three or so summers. However, once their hormones kick in and they are old enough to breed, they begin their return journey.
Q: How do they navigate?
A: We still do not know exactly how they navigate: we suspect a combination of inherited genetic instinct, visual clues (we know they fly more in good clear weather) , stars and geomagnetic perception. It is still a mystery!
Q: What happens once the adult pair reaches Africa? Do they winter together?
A: Osprey pairs leave for migration separately. The Female usually leaves first and the male remains for another few weeks to provide fish for the chicks. We believe that an osprey pair will spend the 6 months of winter apart inWest Africa, though large numbers of ospreys roost in loose colonies in some areas. The pairs only meet up again when they return to their breeding nest next year.
Previous Satellite studies tell us:
- Most Ospreys take a month or more to get to their destination but it can be 4-6 weeks or more.
- All Ospreys stop and feed on route and stick to areas with waterways and can spend up to a week or more on a particularly good estuary or river, especially if weather is unfavourable.
- Most go to the same over-wintering area each year routinely – creatures of habit!
- Young birds make more stops and wander more before settling down to habitual yearly pattern.
- Ospreys take longer to migrate in autumn than in spring when they take short cuts in order to get back to their nests fast!(the breeding instinct is strong )
- The weather affects how far and fast they travel
- Birds that don’t make it often end up too far west or over the sea too long.
- They can fly at considerable heights, at up to 100km a day and can even fly up to 48hrs non-stop!
Q: Do you know where the Lowes female overwinters?
A: We do not know exactly where she spends the winter unfortunately, but we are hoping by tracking one of her chicks this year we may get a clue.
Q: Do you have a map of the flight path ?
A: No, sorry- we can’t be this exact yet- that is why we are satellite tracking our birds to get more information. Most UK Ospreys studied so far travel down theUK, across the Bay of Biscay to France and Spain, cross the Straights of Gibraltar, and follow the west coast of the African continent to their wintering grounds, avoiding crossing the Sahara desert.