The 2011 Osprey season in mainland France


A mail received from Tim Macrill in late January 2011 spurred me to write a case history of an old male Osprey breeding in the Orleans’ forest since many years. Thanks to Tim, John Wright (for pictures) and the Rutland team we now know where this particular bird goes to spend the winter months.


Male « orange ♂ ».  A case history of the monitoring of one adult Osprey.

In 2002, a natural Osprey’s nest was discovered in the early breeding season in the Orleans’ forest, central France. Let’s call it “N.J.”

The breeding female at this nest wore an orange colour ring with the inscription 5A on her left leg and on the right leg a metal ring. After having consulted my ring file, it should read OIS. MUSEUM PARIS, BS14030. The bird had been ringed as nestling in 1999 in the forest and was thus 3 years old at her presumed first breeding.

The male was unringed.

A pair came back in 2003 to the nest N.J. Pictures were taken of the pair, female orange 5A and an unringed male. Pictures of the male showed some specific features in its plumage that made me think that it could have been the same bird as in the previous year but there was, of course, no scientific proof for this.

A pair came back in 2004 It was the same female and still an unringed male. I trapped the male and ringed him. Photos then showed the same plumage features as in the previous year. The male was ringed with a metal ring on the right leg reading OIS MUSEUM PARIS BS10513 and on the left leg a home made orange plastic ring holding the male sign, , repeated three times around the ring.

Considering the photos taken and showing specific plumage features earlier that corresponded to those as seen of the bird in the hand it still could not be proved that this bird was the same as in the two previous years. So, it was not until 16th June 2004, after having ringed the male, that the pair could be followed every year until 2011 included telling us these were same individuals.

In 2005, the pair returned to the same nest (« N.J ») but after a week they moved to a recently set up plat form nest, “E.N.”, situated about 800 m from N.J. This new nest was from then on  to be used every year until 2011 included. The pair produced young every year. They were all ringed and fledged briefly afterwards.  

See table of breeding performance for the female 5A from 2002 and for the male from 2004 until 2011





One of the young ringed in 2002 came back to breed in 2007 on a platform nest situated about 16 Km from the nest where it was born (N.J.)

We don’t know how many others that still may be alive, if some have been breeding and where they spend the winters. With a supposed survival rate of 30- 33 % in the two or three first years of life it should be logic to estimate that about 7 of the 21 produced young would still be alive.




A new and recent record in January 2011 with regard to the male, orange , was mailed by Tim Macrill of the Rutland Waters Reserve in central Great Britain as Tim, John Wright and Paul Stammers visited Senegal and Gambia: 


Tim wrote:

I, John and Paul Stammers are currently in West Africa with a group of Osprey project volunteers. On Thursday 20 January, we had a boat trip along a river just south of Kartong on the Gambia/Senegal border. We saw a male Osprey with an orange colour ring on the left leg with (in black) repeated several times around the ring. I am pretty sure that this is one of your birds - am I right? GPS co-ordinates were 13º03’04.5N, 16º44’24.0W.




By the two observations of male , 13th and 20th January, on the river Allahein, just south of Kartong on the border of Senegal and Gambia, one can conclude that this is probably the bird’s usual winter ground. Several European Ospreys equipped by satellite transmitters showed that they came back to the same place to spend the winter months every year. With the recent, highly performing GPS transmitters it has even be established that many Ospreys use the same supports to roost and that finding fish to feed is often within a rather short range from more or less regular perches. A few interesting observations of some intra- specific competition behaviours for the use of perches as hunting posts was described by Tim Macrill. See the blog:




The following pictures of the male and his mate through the years are there to support the writing of this case history.  

The un- ringed male of site N.J. in 2003 Some features in plumage did not change from 2003 to 2010 even after completed moults. Many different males though have similar patterns.






The male being ringed at site N.J. in 2004. Crown pattern the same as in 2003

Metal ring, Mus. Paris BA10513, right leg. Orange colour ring, code , left leg.




The pair, the female 5A and the male ,  in 2006 at site E.N.

Female, 5A orange, right leg

The male, orange ring left leg, code           




The male, orange left leg in 2010 at site E.N.

(All the pictures were taken at a far distance)




Male,   orange, left leg, in January 2011 at Kartong, Sene/Gambian border




orange, bringing a fish to a feeding post in his supposed regular winter area




  A typical habitat of many Ospreys wintering grounds along the river just south of Kartong




 The shortest distance from the nest to the presumed winter site of Osprey, male

Mapping elaborated by F. Couton.




  All these sightings that made it possible to correctly identify one individual Osprey, having bred in a Forestry commission land of the Orleans’ forest since at least 7 years and finally, by pure chance, finding the bird’s likely wintering ground in January, thanks to its specific coulour ring and the pictures of John Wright’s , that dear visitors, was one of the first highlights in the early 2011. A very nice Osprey record for France, indeed!

Thank you, all the Rutland team, for this nice treat! More about the team’s sightings in West Africa can be found on


Return of the pair from the winter grounds and their breeding from March to July


Le The male with an orange pvc ring having a male sign inscription that was observed and photographed on 22nd January at Kartong in Senegal- Gambia came back to his nest in the forest of Orleans on 8th March. His mate from the previous years, the female with an orange ring reading 5A, came back the same day. 20 days later the incubation started and on 5th May hatching had begun as feeding was observed at distance. In the end of May two chicks were seen being fed and the ringing of these was planned to the 22nd June. For an unknown reason one of the chicks had disappeared before that date. At the ringing of the young, the male and the female came close to the nest and could be photographed at a rather close distance.

We then saw that the female had lost her orange pvc ring that she still wore the 21st May. She had worn this ring for 12 years! A few Ospreys in the forest of Orleans have still their orange pvc rings since 13 years whereas a few have broken and disappeared after two to six years. On the 7th July, no birds were present at the nest but on the 14th there were two birds present. After that date the family was not seen at the nest site and may have started their migration one after another.

The following pictures were taken of the birds in this breeding season.


May 2011 - ♀ 5A is covering the chicks and the shows his rings from the perch


21st May 2011 - ♀ 5A had still her orange ring on the right leg


22nd June 2011 - ♀ 5A the day of ringing the chick. Her orange ring had disappeared... after twelwe years !



22nd June 2011 - the same day, while ringing, the male was also photographed from a rather close distance.


22nd June 2011 - The chick was ringed 3•Z


  A juvenile Osprey identified in Portugal.


The second long distance sighting in 2011 of an Osprey from the forest of Orleans was recorded on 7th August and reported on 12th August.

The following letter came from Paulo Alves, Potugal:


I've seen and sketched an Osprey ringed (photos of the bird and habitat and sketches in attached files). The ring is orange, with the code 3J in black in the right leg. On the left leg it has a metal ring.

It was seen in Montalvo, Portugal (co-ordinates: 39°28'35.87"N;  8°16'46.70"W), in 7th of August 2011.

I've observed the bird eating a large fish from Mugilidae family. It was mobbed by crows, trying to get a piece of fish. I've watched the bird from 7h50 am till 9h40 am, then it fly away with the remains of the fish in direction of Tagus river.

Paulo Alves

Reply to Paulo :

Dear Paulo,

I thank you very much for reporting the Osprey wearing an orange ring on its right leg with the code 3J read from up down the ring and the excellent description of your sighting including photos and a very good sketch.

I ringed this bird on 17th June 2011 in a brood of three young. The place was the forest of Orléans at about 50 Km E of the city of Orléans in the upper central France. The nearest community is Ouzouer sur Loire.

The bird was in good condition and about 6,5 weeks old at ringing. Its weight was 1500 gr and it was considered to be a male bird.

Many Ospreys are being ringed in Europe every year and I have a very good contact with many ringers using colour rings on this species. That is why I don’t believe it was ringed by any of my other foreign colleagues.

I would also much appreciate if you could forward our correspondence to the Portuguese ringing centre.

May I use your information and sketch for my personal web site?    (See “Ringing and monitoring”_ 2011 season.)

Best wishes,

Rolf Wahl

Paulo replied positively.


17 June 2011 - Ringing day. One chick of three was ringed 3 J

Back in the nest after being ringed


3 J at Montalvo, Constancia, Portugal on 7th August 2011


Sketch of 3 J by Paulo Alves


Montalvo : the habitat where 3 J was seen


The shortest distance from the natal place to the place of observation  

Mapping elaborated by F. Couton

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