Friday, 28 October 2011

Stopping over in Spain

27 October 2011

Ozwald is living in the same place within an area of one square km and 2.5 kms stretch of the river. He obviously likes his food and doesn't want to travel too far to find it. Maybe he's re-fuelling after his big hop across France, or maybe he's settling there to overwinter. 

latest location 1750 GMT on 27th

Ozwold's eye view...

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Cruising through Spain...will he stay or will he go?

On to Salamanca

22 October 2011

Ozwald was already migrating by 0900GMT and kept a leisurely flight SW being south of Palensia at 1000hrs. Just before midday he flew over Valladolid and at 1400hr was flying at 1760 metres at 25km/hr. At 1500hrs he was just east of Salamnace where he turned south and before the hour had landed beside the River Tormes and remained along the wooded edge of the river in farmlands between Santa Teresa and Fresno Alhardigo. This area is 160 kms WNW of Madrid. His journey today was 210 kms.

Stopping off

24 October 2011

He has remained on the section of the River Tormes - looks to be a very good place for fishing. It would be possible for him to winter in Spain - the old female from nest A11 (which Roy satellite tagged in 1999 and 2000) winters about 70 kms to the SW of the reservoir - Gabriel y Galan.

It will be interesting to see what he does from here. It's such a relief to know that he is already in an area he could potentially overwinter. I wonder if it is safer to overwinter in Spain, where there are no big predators such as crocodiles? I'm so pleased he's out of the UK. We've had cold rain and strong winds in the past few days.  

Maps to follow. I've had a look at some of the photo icons on Google Earth of the Rio Tormes and it looks like a perfect osprey river.   

Saturday, 22 October 2011

Wigan school children...osprey enthusiasts!


In the past two weeks I've been fortunate to visit two schools in Wigan; Abraham Guest, a secondary school and Winstanley Community Primary school. Pupils at both schools shared their enthusiasm for ospreys and wildlife. Both schools had produced great displays about Sky Hawk and had produced some wonderful wildlife writing. Regrettably, I was so busy that I forgot to take photos at Guest Abraham school, but I have included some photos below of the children's work at Winstanley Primary.

Myself and staff of Winstanley Primary in front of their amazing Sky Hawk display

The wall display of Sky Hawk and some of the children's terrific wildlife writing. The pupils are plotting Ozwold's journey and they were the first to hear from Roy Dennis that Ozwold had arrived in Spain...the news came in during their assembly!

An anthology of osprey poems by year 5 pupils. The artwork and the the poems are absolutely stunning. I think they should be published!!!! There are some beautiful osprey illustrations and vivid descriptions of ospreys in's fantastic to see all the children so fired up by wildlife...and lots of very interesting questions too.

Wigan must be a hot-spot of wildlife watchers!

Possible sad news on Joe...

After such a fantastic day at Wigan and buoyed up by news of Ozwold, I've just heard news of possible problems with another osprey named Joe, one of the other tagged ospreys at the Highland Foundation for Wildlife. Joe made a very quick and successful migration to Africa, but his transmissions have recently disappeared. This could be a faulty transmitter...a possibility as the battery was showing low voltage, but it could be that he has run into trouble and not survived. It's a harsh reminder that young ospreys face many dangers and many do not make it through their first year.

You can read about Joe here...

Friday, 21 October 2011


Incredible news in today, that Ozwold has really covered some ground. Autumn has really settled in the UK, with night temperatures in the south of England hitting 2 or 3 degrees and reports of snow in Scotland.
So the big news the past couple of days he has passed through France and has reached Spain. Not only that, but he has navigated via two areas often frequented by do they do it? It remains an incredible mystery. Was Ozwold's late and maybe confused migration upset by the usually warm autumn? Or maybe, his late migration was just within the normal range. Who knows! but surely researching osprey migration will build up a picture about the migrational habits of these amazing birds.

So...back to Ozwold's journey...

19 October 2011

At 8am he was flying SE at 32km/hr just west of Ipswich, and left the Essex coast just north of Clacton. At 9am he was flying SE at 32km/hr over the North Sea and an hour later was 20kms east of Ramsgate, where he changed direction to south. He reached the French coast at Sangatte and then steadily flew south passing west of Amiens at 1300GMT. He flew over Versailles to the west of Paris at 1500GMT, when he was flying SSE at 31km/hr at an altitude of 370 metres. He roosted the night in Orleans Forest after a flight of 528 kms. 
Roy emailed his friend Rolf Wahl who studies the ospreys in Orleans Forest - he  told Roy that Ozwold roosted at or very close to one of two osprey nests in that part of the forest.

I wonder if Ozwold included the Eiffel Tower in his mental-map of France! It's really incredible to think that he found a good osprey area to roost. It makes me think about the theory of Genetic Memory...that possible 
behaviour patterns, previous experiences etc are somehow built into our DNA. 

19th October - 528 kms

20 October 2011

The full GPS data is not in yet but non-GPS data showed that he roosted this night in the hills just north of Ermua, near Bilbao in Spain. It's just 16 kms SE of Urdabai Estuary. Today's migration was at least 643 kms. This is a very strong migration flight. This was near the area that Roy Dennis was filmed in Autumn Watch.
Autumn Watch is on every Friday at tune in and you can follow the Welsh ospreys' journeys, plus find out about lots of other UK wildlife too.

October 20th - line just links the two points

21 October 2011

Off in a hurry...he seems to be taking his migration very seriously...

Ozwald was already 61 kms SW by 0924GMT - flying towards Valdegovia in Alava province in the Basque country. The weather in Spain is clear and sunny with no real wind - east 2mph where he is or N 1mph further down the track. The temperature is 8C.

I just hope he makes a safe passage through Spain and is not tempted to go too far west into the Atlantic.

If you haven't already, look at Roy Dennis' website for information of other ospreys including Ozwold You'll also find information on conservation of other species such as golden eagles and sea eagles.

Roy Dennis, UK osprey expert and founder of the Highland Foundation for Wildlife has written about Ozwold in his blog..

These are Roy's thoughts about Ozwold's migration...from Roy Dennis' blog...

Ozwald's migratory instinct kicks back in!

21 October 2011
Ozwald must be the latest migrating osprey leaving Scotland this year by a long way. At last his migratory instinct has kicked back in and he has deserted the snowy mountains of Scotland and today is flying over Spain through cloudless skies. His behaviour in the last two months has been very unusual and it just shows there is always something new to learn about ospreys.
He set off on migration from Nairnshire on the rather early date of 16th August. Maybe his father had been finding it difficult to catch enough fish for his brood of 3 young, especially in this summer which has been very poor for breeding ospreys in Scotland. The start of his migration was good and in two days he had just about reached England, when suddenly he took a swerve and did a big loop back to the Scottish Highlands. Very strange behaviour which I could not understand.
He then spent his time drifting around the big rivers of eastern Scotland in Angus and Aberdeenshire, and as far north as the River Spey. It looked as though he was never going to migrate and that was even more so, from 26th September, when he settled down on a small river running in to the River Don at Bellabeg in Strathdon. In fact, close to a place called Lost!
His transmitter started to be very intermittent because of the shortening days of autumn and the number of cloudy rainy days. With such a lack of sunshine the battery in the transmitter was failing to charge and as a result failing to give good signals. I was starting to get very worried because the shortening days and colder temperatures were making it even more difficult to catch fish. I was nearly becoming resigned to the fact that he might not survive. One day in particular I was on the point of going to Strathdon to see if I could see what he was doing, but that day he moved further down river.
In the last week, we have had a lot of snow in the mountains and this must have been the trigger for Ozwald to decide to migrate - living any longer in the Scottish Highlands was no longer an option. On his departure on 11th October he would have seen the snows in the high Cairngorms and it was marvellous to find him a few days later in Norfolk.
In the last couple days, he has really started to migrate with 528 kms on the 19th and a staggering 643 kms yesterday. This morning he'd already set off early and was flying south-west through the mountains of the Basque country in northern Spain. The weather is perfect - cloudless skies and no real wind, just east 2 mph where he started and north 1 mph further down his track. If he keeps this heading he will reach Portugal but I hope he turns south and when we hear from him in 3 days time, hopefully he will be in Africa. Bon voyage!
Ozwald's transmitter is sponsored by the publishers, home and abroad, of 'Skyhawk' and the author Gill Lewis, so I immediately emailed the exciting news to Gill when I got it this morning. Gill was just going to give a talk to 100 school children in Wigan, and I bet they, as well as all the other children following Ozwald's migration, will be excited that he is heading for Africa at last.
I also emailed my friend Rolf Wahl, who studies the ospreys in the Orleans Forest, south of Paris, along with the GPS map of where he roosted on the night of the 19th/20th of October. He tells me that he was either at or very close to one of 2 osprey nests in the northern part of the forest - of course those ospreys had gone south long ago.

Wednesday, 19 October 2011

South East!

He's on his way, heading south east. It's great to see him making these bigger distances now. 
He had a good day yesterday - 163 miles or so from Swaledale to somewhere near Downham Market - just 3 good GPS on the way and he did 48 kms between 2pm and 3pm from north of Knottingley to SE of Doncaster. The evening/night 8pm - 9pm signals were non-GPS and in a group near Downham.  The weather in East Anglia is clear and sunny (good for transmitter as well) and light west winds so hope he carries on to continent.
I wonder where he will cross the English Channel. Many ospreys head further west and cross from SW England to the NW tip of France. They then can face a perilous continuous flight across the Bay of Biscay where they can run the risk of missing landfall in Spain and die exhausted out in the Atlantic. 
Maybe Ozwold's more easterly path will take him through France and avoid a journey across the Bay of Biscay. do they really do it? Do we all have an intrinsic compass within us? Interestingly, when I visit schools and ask pupils to point south, the majority usually get it right...sometimes because they are thinking of landmarks, or the position of the sun, but many just say it 'feels' south. 

Another interesting little animal I heard about today is a  little spiral sea-shell which lives in tidal mangrove forests of Kenya. It goes by the lovely name of Cerithidea decollata. or more commonly, the Truncated Mangrove Snail. These little sea shells feed on organic matter on the mangrove mud, but an hour or two before the tide comes in, they crawl off the mud and climb up into the mangrove trees, clustering on the tree-trunks. What is so interesting is they can predict the tides, so that if the tide is a spring tide, (a very high tide) then the snails invariably climb higher. If the tidal reach is lower, the snails to not climb as high. It's not known how the snails 'know' the height of the next tide. But if the snails are moved to a different location, they keep moving in the same pattern, until they become submerged in water and 're-set' their internal body clock. 

Sunday, 16 October 2011

South bound

Better weather and some better data in. Yesterday morning Ozwold was near Alston, Cumbria and by evening he had flown approx 40 miles south to Swaledale, Yorkshire Dales, near Gunnerside. So he's moving slowly south.

It was interesting to hear on Autumn Watch of Einion's (one of the Welsh tagged ospreys) 300 mile flight across the Bay of Biscay in just one day. An incredible distance across a potentially harsh environment. The coast of northern Spain looked very wild and rugged. Also interesting to see the German osprey on Autumn Watch...I don't know if I mis-heard but I think the leg-ring letters were RS...same as the osprey in Sky Hawk...I will have to watch i-player and find out, and let my German publisher know too.

Ozwold's got a long way to go yet! Maybe he won't even make it to Africa. Some ospreys are known to overwinter in Spain.

It's a huge relief to see he is out of Scotland...with snow on the way, cold weather and dark nights...I only hope Ozwold finds his motor!

Distance moved 11th October

Distance moved 11th October

Roost site 11th / 12th October ; He settled for the evening on the River Till then roosted the night in Floddenford Woods. The Till is a tributary of the river Tweed. It sounds a good river for trout, salmon and grayling, so I hope he managed to stock up on fish. It's the only tributary of the Tweed that runs wholly in England. It joins the Tweed near Berwick-on-Tweed. I wonder if ospreys follow rivers during their migration and build up map of rivers as we do with roads.

According to folklore...about the Till and the Tweed;

Tweed said to Till
"What gars ye rin sae stil?"
Says Till to Tweed,
"Though ye rin wi' speed
And I rin slaw
Whar ye droon yin man
I droon twa"

 Roost  site 11th/12th on River Till

12th to 15th October

Between 12th and 15th October

Friday, 14 October 2011

Osprey over Alchester

While awaiting more news of Ozwold, it's great to hear from my agent about reports of an osprey sighting over Alchester this week. So there are other ospreys lingering in the UK in this mild autumn.

Very warm and sunny here in Somerset today...shirt sleeve weather!

Thursday, 13 October 2011

Thank you to well-wishers

A big thank you to kids from UK, US and France for your good luck wishes to Ozwold...(some 'big kids' included too!).

It's great to have your support and know you're following him. Let's hope he visits France soon.... ;0)

Back in Scotland!

It look like he was blown back into SE Scotland near Humbie yesterday afternoon. Data showed him to be near Humbie wind farm.

Let's hope fresh data shows him to be further south over the next couple of days. It's still mild down here in Somerset in SW England. Some morning fog, but looks like it's clearing. I hope he flies this way soon.

Wednesday, 12 October 2011

Heading south...into England

News just in...It looks like he's heading south. The data has been very scrambled. Roy Dennis puts this down to lack of sun, failing to charge the solar battery. But readings show Ozwold near Strathdon at two different locations on the 10th, but today at 10am there was a reasonable non-GPS signal near Wooler in Northumberland. Some signals show that he roosted last night inland of Berwick-on-Tweed.

I hope he keeps moving south and doesn't repeat his circular loop back up to his nesting site.

But it's great to see he is on the move.

Go on!

No dramatic news!

The readings coming in from Ozwold have been infrequent because of low light intensity and failure to keep the solar battery constantly charged. However, readings show that he has moved further afield, but he is still in NE Scotland, so it's a huge relief to know that he's moving about.

The question still remains as to why he is still in Scotland? I've read reports of other osprey sightings in Scotland at the moment, so I wonder if he has a problem, or is he on the end of the range of normal variation for timing of migration?

Ospreys are tough birds. On their migration they survive extremes of conditions from freezing temperatures across mountain ranges, storms at sea and the blistering heat of the desert. So I hope the reason Ozwold is still in Scotland is because he's biding his time, waiting for the right moment his body clock tells him to leave. I just hope he gets going soon.

On another note, I had a fantastic couple of days at a secondary school in Wigan talking about Sky Hawk, wildlife and the process of writing. It was brilliant to see kids so engaged and interested in wildlife. There were some great ideas in the writing workshops too. So a big thank you to all year 7s for making me feel so welcome.

On my drive back home, I was musing how amazing it would be if all children could have the opportunity to get out to some of our wildlife reserves and national parks for 'outdoor learning'. Actually 'outdoor learning' sounds bland and smacks of sound bites. Although teaching in these locations brings subjects such as ecology, history, geography art etc etc to life and makes them palpable and understandable, it offers much more than that.
There are some processes of learning that cannot be immediately assessed or graded...and that's the ability to simply just be, and observe the world around and time to think, uncluttered from demands of exam grades, TV, computers etc. Children often don't get that time to think, to wonder or to dream...and that's such a huge part of learning whether for arts or for science. Maybe that's the same for all of us. I know many writers...and I have to include myself here, who have to switch off the internet before they start writing or it becomes too tempting to check twitter and Facebook and emails etc.
In the summer I watched my own daughter watching wasps as they flew to and from their hole in a muddy bank. She lay on the grass for ages, just watching them. She told me tiny details she'd observed...the way they wiggled their antennae, the different hum of their wings as they entered the hole. Then she asked the questions...where do they go in winter? what happens to their nest...of course then I had to get the books out to find out!
So I just wonder what would happen if children could have a few days to build dens in wild places and have the time to clear their heads of the busy demands on them, and simply just be...
Any comments welcome...or maybe I have stirred up a nest of hornets?

Friday, 7 October 2011

He's ok

A few readings from Ozwold...more details to follow. He's still in Scotland, and moving around.

I've just heard of news of another osprey spotted in Wigtown area, SW Scotland, so it's encouraging to know that there are other ospreys still in Scotland.

The weather maps show there will be fresh north easterly winds over the next few he should have a good tail wind behind him if and when he does go.

Thursday, 6 October 2011

Worrying times

I've just had the readings from Roy Dennis for the last few days, but the there have only been a couple of non-GPS readings a little to the east of Bellabeg but still in Strathdon. The problem with signals is that the transmitter is still trying to gather hourly GPS readings from 6 am to 9pm - but the daylight hours are rapidly declining in Scotland and the sun is sinking on the horizon - so especially on miserable overcast days the solar panel cannot charge the transmitter enough to deal with all the readings - so in those cases when battery strength is down the transmitter's position is calculated by the satellite - and this is a non-GPS location which can be accurate to within 150 metres but may be much less accurate in poor weather. 

Here in the south of England the weather has turned very autumnal in a matter of days...people were out in shorts and T shirts at the weekend and sunbathing on the beaches, and now everyone is wrapped up in coats and boots. 

I hope Ozwold gets going for some winter sun soon. It's a little worrying that he hasn't set off yet. There will be some more readings coming in later today, so I'll post them when I have them. 

Don't forget to watch Autumn Watch tomorrow evening...all about ospreys... following the young satellite tagged Welsh ospreys. 

Sunday, 2 October 2011

A place called Lost!

In Strathdon...27th to 30th September

Ozwald remained in Strathdon, moving up and down the Water of Nochty which flows into the River Don. at 9am today he was perched on edge of conifer wood near the small river. He has at times been close to a place called Lost!

I wonder how much influence the recent unusually hot weather has had on Ozwold? The impulse for migration is still a mystery. Is it governed by temperature, daylight length, stars, changing magnetic fields as the earth turns on it's axis, some internal body clock? I wonder why Ozwold is much later in starting his migration than some of the other tagged ospreys this year. Could it be genetic...maybe his parents started their migrations later than others. It would be interesting to know where Ozwold's two siblings are. They were ringed but not tagged. Maybe they are still in Scotland too! Only a relatively small number of ospreys have been tagged, so all this information will help to build up a pattern of the variation of migration between individuals. 

I just hope this spell of good weather has allowed him to fish successfully and build up the strength he needs for his migration. 

Watch this space....he has to go soon...surely!

September 27th - 30th