Rutland Water Osprey tagging

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Two Rutland Water Ospreys have been fitted with satellite transmitters so bird experts can track their amazing global journeys.

They’re now waiting to see whether the young males can fly to West Africa more quickly than a female bird, which previously did it in 11 days!

The male high flyers were fitted with mini gps trackers to help the internationally important Rutland Osprey Project track their movements throughout the year. Already in 9 days one bird has flown as far as the Western Sahara. The data is providing valuable information on their movements locally too. 

Lloyd Park from Leicestershire and Rutland Wildlife Trust said: “The transmitters provide highly accurate data that allows us to plot the birds’ exact movements both day and night. This is giving us an incredible insight into a range of different behaviours, including where and when they are fishing.”

The two male birds were tagged under the guidance of world-renowned osprey expert, Roy Dennis, and colleague Dr Tim Mackrill, from the Roy Dennis Wildlife Foundation. They’re working with Leicestershire and Rutland Wildlife Trust’s Osprey Project, to shed new light on the annual marathon migration flights the birds make; flying to the west coast of Africa to over winter, and returning to Rutland each spring to nest and raise chicks.

The epic 3000-mile journey sees young birds, which fly independently from their parents, battle strong winds that can carry them off track; only 30% or so survive that first migration flight. They usually fly 200-300 miles a day.

The GPS units weigh only 30g; they work on solar power and allow location, altitude and speed to be recorded. The units are fitted to the birds like a small rucksack, allowing them to continue their normal activities.

Tim Mackrill said: “We’re very excited that we’ll be able to follow the birds to their wintering grounds. As adult Ospreys they will already have established wintering sites, so it will be fascinating to find out exactly where they go. Some European Ospreys winter in Spain or Portugal, but most fly 3,000 miles to the west coast of Africa, into countries such as Senegal and the Gambia. A third Rutland Osprey, known as 30(05), has been tracked since 2013 and migrates to the coast of Senegal each winter. In the past she has completed the 3,000 mile journey in as little as 11 days, so it will be interesting to see how the two young males compare.”

Members of the Rutland Osprey Project will be joining the Osprey Leadership Foundation in January (2019) for a trip to Senegal and the Gambia in hope of finding not just the tagged birds, but also other Rutland ospreys overwintering there. 

Anya Wicikowski Osprey Project Officer said, “Aside from the scientific and conservation value of the tagging, the data provides an incredible educational resource and helps us to link young people along the osprey migration flyway. These latest tagged birds will form a key part of that work.” 

Follow the Osprey’s migration on the Rutland Osprey Project tracking page and map; the two male ospreys are 'S1' (yellow route) and '4K' (pink route). Female '30' (previously tagged, green route).