Five months later.

A follow-up  to the story of the male, «  orange », at the end of the 2011 season.


After a successful breeding season where this bird was monitored from March to the end of July, he left his nest and most likely started his migration sometime afterwards. It wasn’t until the 13th December that I received an e-mail from Roy Dennis saying: The producer I was with in Senegal/ Gambia, was back there on holiday and photographed this osprey near Kartong, Gambia on the Allahein River.  When I enlarge I can see it has an orange ring with the male symbol - one of yours, looks like adult male. I've asked Lucy for the date and will send it on. I think this is the bird Tim saw last winter.”

Roy was quite right.

Following Roy's e-mail I wrote to Lucy Smith asking for some more information and permission to use the pictures taken by Tom to allow me to follow up this story. She said it was OK if I thought her pictures were good enough. I replied that, to me, they were very good because they brought further evidence to my story. The information she provided was very important in building new milestones in the life of this bird. She said: « Tom (my boyfriend) and I saw the bird on Sunday 4th December, probably between 9 and 10am, when we took a boat trip from Kartong up the Allahein River. Here are the photos of that osprey in The Gambia that Tom took.  Tom and I think it definitely has a red ring on the left leg, but unfortunately we can't see the numbers/ letters even by zooming into the photo.  You can see from the photos that the osprey was perched on a dead branch on mudflats in the middle of the river.  In that case, it must have been really near the river mouth, near to where we got on the boat at Kartong.” 

All this was of course very interesting and suggests the hypothetical winter site of this bird; one out of maybe eighty breeding individual Ospreys in central France, wearing colour rings.

Thank you, Roy, Lucy and Tom, for this new documentation!





Looking back at autumn 2011, I am surprised that none of the 47 juveniles ringed last summer were sighted and identified on stopovers, mainly during August, within mainland France. We have to go back to the spring for the only recorded sighting outside of the known breeding areas. That particular sighting concerned a sub-adult bird photographed on 18th April in the province of les Yvelines at l’étang de Pourras in the community of les Bréviaires. (About 45 Km SW of Paris).  This is about 150 Km to the NNW of the bird’s birthplace and where there are very good fishing and breeding facilities. The picture was taken by Benoît Froelich and the orange ring is quite legible. The code is “U2” and the bird was ringed in June 2009 in the Orleans forest. Therefore, I believe that at just under two years old “U2” was perhaps too young for breeding.





The breeding season in mainland France

The coordinator of the French restoration project, la DREAL, is the local representative of the Ministry of Environment in Orleans. The DREAL collects Osprey breeding information and reported breeding sites in the Centre region covering five provinces. In addition to these five, another three provinces each had one known pair of Ospreys. Locations of the breeding sites are kept confidential like in all European countries. DREAL also records information that includes successful and failed breedings as well as the number of young that have fledged. Local trusts continue to keep records of breeding Ospreys within their areas of conservation activities.

In 2011 we learned that in mainland France there were 37 known nests with eggs, from which 30 fledged 62 young. Of these, 47 were ringed. There may have been about 10 more nests unknown to the respective coordinators and thus could not be counted.

Monitoring and identifying Ospreys at breeding sites

In the 2011 breeding season, 52 adult Ospreys were identified correctly by their colour rings mostly in the immediate vicinity or close to the nests. The birds were identified in the following provinces: Loiret, Loir-et-Cher, Cher, Indre-et-Loir, Essonne, Yonne, Yvelines and Moselle.

Many thanks to the following individuals who spent many hours and respected the welfare of the birds: Gilles Perrodin, Ginou Houziou and Nathalie, Garry Ridsdale, Dominique Crickboom, Sylvain Larzillière, Alain Callet, Pierre Roger, Julien Daubignard, Jean Marc Lustrat, Michel Daudet, François Bouzendorf, Christian Gambier, Elise Bottereaux, Laurent Charbonnier, Michel Hirtz, Benoît Froelich and Sébastien Verneau.

Identifications revealed that there had been a clear turn-over of birds at some nests this year. Some 10- 12 years old birds having bred for many seasons failed to return and were rapidly replaced by new, younger birds. The competition in getting ready to use nests, or a partner to pair up with, was more evident this year than last. So, thanks to keen observers, intruding birds on nests could sometimes be photographed and identified. This information will be used in a database regarding the study of the Population dynamics of the Osprey in France since 1995. Moreover, the sightings which confirmed the identity of the birds will serve to educate and inform the public why it’s important not only to “count the Ospreys but also to know who they are and where they came from”. The most FAQ's are: “are they always the same pair every year?”; are “Ospreys faithful and how old can they be?” and “is fish all they eat?”.

I have selected a few photos of the most difficult birds to identify that took many weeks and even months of work in one case. The priority has always been to not disturb the birds and many days and weeks were spent at a longer distance from the nests of more fragile pairs to study their behaviour before trying to see « who they were ».




This breeding female was ringed as a chick in the summer of 1997. She probably lost her orange ring with the code “3K” after one or two years. When she came back to breed for the first time in 2000, I did not know who she was. So, I sketched her crown pattern and other details in her plumage as well as noting that the right leg had an overlapped metal ring. Every year the bird came back to the same nest and my sketches, after being compared, corresponded perfectly to those from previous years. To convince myself further, I tried to trap her so I could see her metal ring and identify which of the former ringed birds she could be.  Furthermore I hoped to fit her with a new colour ring. Unfortunately, I was never successful in trapping her. Some Ospreys seem to be too smart and avoid being caught. So, it wasn’t until 2008, at a trapping attempt that David Belletier managed to read the two last figures on the metal ring from a hide as she perched close to him. Later, that summer, Robert Thain managed to photograph her from a hide when landing on her nest perch. The weather was rather dull but his pictures were good and we could finally obtain the full code of the metal ring and be able to see that the lost colour ring had been 3K. I continued to sketch her plumage details for comparison in the following years. In the 2011 season, I met Garry Ridsdale and asked if he could help me get a picture showing all the figures of the metal ring. He said he’d try and shortly afterwards in good daylight managed to get a perfect picture from a hide showing all the figures, BS 14095! A bit of luck too, because the ring was turned the right way round therefore exposing all of the figures. See picture above.





This nest was used by a pair for about 10 years. That pair did not seem to come back in 2011 and the nest was taken by a new younger pair. This new pair was extremely difficult to identify for two main reasons; the environment had changed a lot over the years thereby limiting the usual observation points at a tolerated distance, and the new birds were shyer than the older, more experienced birds. Many, many hours were spent over four months trying to read their orange colour rings and by studying their behavior how to better proceed to never disturb them. After a couple of months, Gilles Perrodin managed to get a picture of the female from a long distance where the ring code could vaguely be seen. The male however was still unidentified. Fortunately, in July, Garry Ridsdale managed to get a better picture of the female clearly showing the ring code as “orange/ black P6”. The time passed and we were eager to identify the male before he’d set off on migration. In early August we saw that the family with the two fledged young were often completely absent from the nest site but the young returned  after a couple of hours, apparently still not being able to fish for themselves. On the 10th of August, early in the morning, when the rising sun was in a good orientation, Gilles and I went to our new observation point to wait for the birds leaving the nest. As all the birds had already left the nest, we hurriedly went to set up a temporary hide so we could identify the male when he returned. We knew that the male would not come back to the nest very often when the young could fish for themselves. Gilles stayed in the hide for a couple of hours while I observed at long distance. Then, the two young flew back to the nest and I told Gilles by walkie talkie to be prepared for the male to return to feed the young on the nest. It all happened so fast, the male dropped the fish in the nest and one of the young grabbed it and flew off to eat it somewhere else. The male just stayed in the nest for a couple of seconds before taking off. As he took off, Gilles managed to get two pictures of the ring, quite legible as “orange/ black M9”. Later, when looking up my ring file, I saw that M9 had been seen at another nest 45 Km away on 24th March probably trying to pair up with an old female (9A) who was waiting for her regular male to come back from migration. I then concluded that the regular male must have turned up shortly afterwards and chased M9 off that nest because a male, likely to have been M9, was seen pairing up on 4th April with P6. Both birds in this new young pair had been ringed in the Orleans forest in 2008. See pictures by Gilles that identified M9 at take off from the nest.













Other Ospreys identified by pictures showing their colour rings



Male, orange « 86 ».





Female, orange « C 9 ».






Female, orange « 9 A », perched. Male, orange « 21 », taking off. .






This picture shows a German female breeding in the fores of Orleans. The ring is black with a “three digits code” in white to be read « 3LM » or “LM 3”.






A male with a broken ring


We rarely get pictures of this kind because most lost colour rings disappear in the winter sites. However, Gilles Perrodin who has been monitoring this particular bird could read the ring every year and before it broke last summer during the breeding season. The full code was “orange/ black H4” of which the « 4 » can still be seen. N. b.  An Osprey cannot bite off a PVC ring but after some years the material can become fragile in some of the rings for unknown reasons and then break or fall apart. This ring has lasted  for five years.


This last picture closes the 2011 season of the Ringing and Monitoring in central mainland France and we are now waiting for news of the 2012 season to appear.


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