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Epic 28-hour flight for Aberfoyle osprey

Last modified: 23 October 2014

Female osprey at eyrie, Scotland

The tags have already beamed back some fascinating insights

Image: Chris Gomersall

Two chicks raised this summer in the Trossachs have become the first ospreys from the area to be tracked with the aid of satellite tags.

Lonaig and Eilean both left Scotland in September to undertake their amazing journey to West Africa where young ospreys usually spend at least two years. Tagging the birds allows scientists to track their movements in great detail, providing information about their migration and behaviour.

The tags, which weigh less than 25g, are commonly used as a research tool to study migration routes and behavioural patterns, and have no impact upon the birds. 

Lucy Tozer the Wildlife Information and Education Officer for the Aberfoyle Ospreys, said: “One of the tagged chicks, Lonaig, is from a nest that we’ve been watching on camera all summer at the Lodge Visitor Centre, and to be honest, it’s always a little sad to see them go. Sometimes the birds’ rings allow us to find out where they end up, but often, we never hear anything more about them.

“This year is different, and we’ll be able to track exactly where Lonaig goes and have the privilege of finding out a little more about his life hundreds of miles away in Africa, where he might well be seeing lions and crocodiles!”

The tags have already beamed back some fascinating insights into Lonaig’s migration. He left Aberfoyle on August 25 and unusually headed west instead of south, flying through Northern Ireland, Ireland and then eventually ending up on the Isles of Scilly. He then flew out into the Bay of Biscay, again went in the wrong direction, corrected his course and re-joined his previous heading (in the dark) and eventually landed in Spain after a 28-hour non-stop flight over the sea. He’s currently in Portugal.

Ospreys can be blown off course by bad weather and adverse winds, and those tracking Lonaig are curious to see whether he follows the same route back if he returns as a breeding bird to Scotland in two to three years’ time.

However, ospreys only have a 40% chance of making it to breeding maturity, as they face many dangers, including illegal persecution. Unfortunately, the signal from the second chick, Eilean, has already been lost, which may indicate a failure in the device, or that she has died on her first migration.

Lonaig came from an osprey family that was the subject of speculation earlier in the year after his father appeared to have set up a rival nest with another osprey only 200m from his mate’s. However, this second nest was eventually abandoned, and no eggs were hatched.

Now in its 11th year, the Aberfoyle Ospreys is a partnership between RSPB Scotland and Forestry Commission Scotland. Visitors to the project at The Lodge Forest Visitor Centre, Aberfoyle, can currently watch recorded footage of the ospreys and other wildlife, as well as live footage of red squirrels and woodland birds.

All the latest news on Lonaig can be found on the Aberfoyle Ospreys Facebook page: www.facebook.com/aberfoyle.ospreys

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