The search for Blue 44

Another week has passed by with no new satellite data for Blue 44, but we remain hopefully that he is alive and well. As I reported last time we have been in contact with representatives of SEO (the Birdlife International partner in Spain) based in Extremadura. Last Saturday, one of these contacts, Javier Prieta went to the Alcántara reservoir in Cáceres where Blue 44 was last known to have been, with the purpose of finding him or looking for signs of where he may have been..

Here is his report (translated from Spanish) of what he found:

“Yesterday (Saturday) I spent all morning at Alcántara Reservoir. I couldn’t find the osprey or the transmitter, but taking a look at the place was almost impossible. I’m attaching some pictures to give you an idea of what it looks like. They could at least be used to explain what happened.

The thing I was most worried about was getting to the right place, the corner of a peninsula in the reservoir. But it was very easy in the end. I drove over there with no difficulties along a dirt track and a public path that takes you to a private property at the end of the road. You only had to walk a few metres to get to the reservoir.

Alcántara Reservoir (© Javier Prieta)

The place wasn’t like I expected anyway, thinking that it would be a smooth shore. The level of the water was pretty low and the terrain is very rocky. This area where Blue 44 roosted is a craggy shore with dead trees that used to be submerged but can now be seen coming out of the water. Blue 44 probably perched there. The peninsula is a small hill with densely packed vegetation and an abrupt drop to the water. The whole shore is rocky and almost cliffy in some areas. It’s impossible to walk on the shore. Trying to get down to some of the most accessible points was dangerous. I stuck out my head in a couple of places and I could only see a few metres of shore. That’s why I spent the rest of the day looking for perching areas and flying ospreys, but I didn’t see any.

Rocky shoreline at Alcántara Reservoir (© Javier Prieta)

Knowing the place now, it’s most likely the osprey hasn’t been shot. No hunter has the guts to get over there. The satellite points are in unreachable points from land. It is the hunting season at present but I didn’t see any hunters in the 5km surrounding me. At the end of the road I didn’t see any empty cartridges or footprints. There isn’t any small hunting such as partridges or rabbits in the area. I guess an osprey wouldn’t eat poisoned bait since they eat fish. As the osprey had been seen in a good state of health that very same morning at Gabriel y Galán Reservoir and flew 100 km south without any major problems, the most plausible explanation is a failure in the transmitter or its loss (it could have fallen into the water from a perching site). The last satellite points are from the same point at 6, 7 and 8 in the evening, which are in complete darkness here, giving the idea that the osprey was resting. It looks like failure.

Blue 44’s last known location (© Javier Prieta)

It could send more data. This summer we radio-tracked a Honey buzzard that stopped transmitting on the 30th of October but started again the 15th of November.”

So there you have it – not perhaps the news we were all hoping for but then we knew the chances of anyone finding him alive were slim. It seems highly unlikely that Blue 44 has been the victim of persecution and we have gained a fascinating insight into his last known location.

We are extremely grateful to Javier for the efforts he went to during his search and for making a 150km round-trip from his home to do so. The international co-operation that goes on to follow and protect these amazing birds and other wildlife is truly incredible and inspiring.

By way of thanks I would direct you to Javier’s blog which he writes in English as well as Spanish, giving news of the latest bird sightings and research in Extremadura:

http://birds-extremadura.blogspot.co.uk/

Jonathan

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Preface

Another week has passed by with no new satellite data for Blue 44, but we remain hopefully that he is alive and well. As I reported last time we have …

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