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RSPB Abernethy reserve osprey identified at hotspot 3,000 miles away

By Gavin Musgrove

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Osprey 195 hatched and fledged in Strathspey was snapped by French amateur ornithologist Jean-Marie Dupart. Photo: Jean-Marie Dupart.
Osprey 195 hatched and fledged in Strathspey was snapped by French amateur ornithologist Jean-Marie Dupart. Photo: Jean-Marie Dupart.

A young male osprey hatched at a nest on RSPB Scotland’s Abernethy reserve last year has been photographed in north Senegal by an amateur ornithologist.

Only a handful of UK ospreys are ever identified in their wintering grounds and it’s the first time an osprey hatched on the reserve has been recorded in West Africa.

The young bird, which was ringed in its Abernethy reserve nest by UK osprey expert Roy Dennis, wears a blue leg ring bearing the numbers 195, and it’s this ring which is visible in the photographs and has enabled the identification of the bird.

French amateur ornithologist Jean-Marie Dupart took the photographs whilst he was a volunteer taking part in a seven-day osprey survey along 300 kilometres of the Atlantic Senegalese coast.

After identifying that the bird was Scottish due to the colour of the leg ring, he contacted his friends, UK-based osprey enthusiasts Valerie Webber and Alison Elder, both of whom are regular volunteers at the world-famous Loch Garten Nature Centre and sent them the photos.

They forwarded the images to Tim Mackrill, of the Roy Dennis Wildlife Foundation, who confirmed that the osprey was not only Scottish but raised at RSPB Abernethy.

Of the whopping 612 ospreys Jean-Marie counted on his seven-day survey, Blue 195 was the only UK bird identified.

There were also 17 German, two French and one Swiss bird, with the rest being unidentifiable either due to the ring not being visible or there being no ring at all.

Jean-Marie said: "The Abernethy osprey was in a sort of salt lake just near the ocean with four other ospreys and I think he was eating just before I took the pictures.”

The positive identification of a young male osprey from RSPB Abernethy has given hope to local osprey fans and in particular those involved in the RSPB Loch Garten osprey nest.

The reserve has been without a breeding pair for two years now after its long success with the veteran female EJ.

Ospreys sometimes return to breed in the area they were hatched, and hopes are high that this young male may successfully migrate back to Abernethy and lay claim to the vacant Loch Garten nest.

An RSPB spokeswoman said “To hear that Blue 195 has successfully migrated and is thriving in Senegal is fantastic news.

"Once our young ospreys leave the nest we are normally totally in the dark as to whether they’ve survived their first migration.

"To think of him fishing in the warm Senegalese sun in that salt lake is a wonderful thought.

"We have our fingers crossed that his return migration back to the UK to breed is successful and will be keeping our eyes peeled come late March."

Osprey expert Roy Dennis
Osprey expert Roy Dennis

Mr Dennis ringed the male osprey and his two siblings – also both males – at the nest by Nethy Bridge.

He said: “Only around 30 per cent of young ospreys survive to two years – the age they usually return to Scotland for the first time – and even if they migrate to West Africa successfully, there is no guarantee they will survive.

"The results of Jean-Marie’s survey show how important this part of northern Senegal is for ospreys from different parts of Europe, and so it is very encouraging that 195 has settled there.

"We very much hope he is seen back in Scotland next summer for the first time.”

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