Osprey Conservation and Translocation Projects

Loch Garten ospreys

Loch Garten ospreys
Love the Loch Garten ospreys? Tell us all about it!
Loch Garten ospreys

Osprey Conservation and Translocation Projects

  • While the forum’s been up & down, I prepared some material I promised a while ago, about conservation activities aimed at protecting ospreys, and persuading them to recolonise areas where they once used to breed. I’ve found some interesting material on projects from around Europe, and I hope others will join in and contribute items.
    First, some background information:
    This page from Roy Dennis’ website, also in his book “A Life of Ospreys”, is about nest building, but also has a lot of information about osprey breeding habits, and the factors which encourage, or hinder, recolonisation.
    One of the biggest obstacles to the colonisation of new areas, is the tendency of young male ospreys to return to breed at the location where they fledged (known as philopatry). Translocation is the technique designed to overcome this, by transferring young ospreys to a new site suitable for breeding, shortly before they fledge. In Europe, it was pioneered at Rutland Water from 1996, and there are ongoing projects in several countries. This page from the Rutland Water site gives an overview of the project there:
     Ok that’s enough of the theory. First, we’re off to Spain........
  • Alerta Pescadora!


    This is the website of an osprey conservation project run by FAPAS, the organisation responsible for nature protection in the Asturias region of northern Spain.

    The region has a number of sheltered estuaries on the Bay of Biscay, like the Ria de Villaviciosa:


    Ospreys often pass through on migration – Morven made a stopover here in Spring 2009. They also have several wintering ospreys; the one in the Ria de Villaviciosa, known as “Ben” or “Yellow 4A”, has been adopted as a figurehead of the project. But they would love to have ospreys breed here again; the last nest in the area was abandoned in 1960.     

    To read the site, I suggest you look first at the Bulletin in English, then sample the Noticias (News). They have just started providing English versions of the news items, but you can get the gist of the older ones using Google translate.

    I think this site is interesting, especially for the educational work they are doing in schools and their enthusiasm for all things osprey. I have seen reports that they are planning to fit a satellite tag to the unsuspecting Ben, here seen fishing in the Ria de Villaviciosa, to find out where he goes to breed in summer.


  • Sue C   Do you have any information about the translocation of ospreys to Spain? It is a project which began about six years ago now and seems to be doing quite well. However there does not seem to be any regular updates about what is happening.

    It seems to be a mixture of Scottish, German and Finnish birds that have been translocated.

    Here is one report of some Scottish birds being sent in 2006. See http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/scotland/highlands_and_islands/5176818.stm

    and in 2004



    There does not seem to be any one stop shop for this project. Although a number of reports have been issued.

  • Tiger

    No I don't know of any site dedicated to the Andalucia translocation project. If you look on "Alerta Pescadora", there is information about it under the "El Rincon" tab, and also in the News items. The first brood of chicks born to translocated birds hatched in 2009 i.e. 5 years after they started.

    I've got some great info about the Corsica to Tuscany translocation though......  

  • Sue C


    No I don't know of any site dedicated to the Andalucia translocation project. If you look on "Alerta Pescadora", there is information about it under the "El Rincon" tab, and also in the News items. The first brood of chicks born to translocated birds hatched in 2009 i.e. 5 years after they started.

    I've got some great info about the Corsica to Tuscany translocation though......  

    Now that is a translocation I know very little if anything about. I would love to read about it. Any links?

  • There's a little info on this site which may be of interest to you Sue.



  • Thanks lyndab.


    Now that (Corsica > Tuscany) is a translocation I know very little if anything about. I would love to read about it. Any links?

    Tiger, The more recent "Balbuzard Info" magazines attached towards the bottom of this page, http://balbuzard.lpo.fr/actualites/actualites.html 

    give updates - in French - on this project, and also report on the osprey scene in Corsica and Italy. The other main item I have, is an Italian TV programme about the project which someone has kindly posted on Youtube, divided into 4 instalments. It's the best quality film about translocation I have seen so far.    

    As I think people would find it tricky to deal, simultaneously, with printed French text and a spoken Italian commentary, I was thinking of producing an English summary of the content of each film, for people to refer to as they watch them. Does this sound useful/interesting?

  • Sue C   Yes that sounds very interesting. I take it then that you follow the French ospreys? I was aware of how they were getting on when there were about 21 pairs. I guess that has increased over the last few years?

    They did track one French osprey called Tom one year. There was even a site in English for it. Then it all went quiet and the site disappeared.

    I will check out the links. I have been familiar with balbuzard site for a long time. A bit difficult to read though as it is all in French and my French is far from fluent! :)

  • Here is a link to the Spanish translocation project from 2003/4. I note that the birds were tracked. See http://digital.csic.es/bitstream/10261/13498/1/Pandion_haliaetus_Report_2003.pdf

  • I found this little snippet of information:

    Tag: Spanish ospreys


    Osprey breeds in Spain

    June 10th, 2009

    Ospreys (águila pescadora in Spanish) have bred in mainland Spain for the first time in 80 years. Three chicks have been born in the Marismas del Odiel, in Huelva and two in Cadiz. Since 2003, 108 chicks have been released in Cádiz and Huelva from Germany (68 birds), Finland (20) and Scotland (20).  The young ospreys released in Andalusia have shown normal migratory behaviour of birds raised in their own nests in the region, and have begun to fly south to areas typical osprey areas. Radio-tracking has detected them on the West African coast along the rivers in Senegal and Gambia .The presence of huge expanses of water in Andalusia in the form of reservoirs built since then bodes well for the species future. The osprey never became extinct in the Balearics where they have clung on with 20 pairs and the Canaries with 12 pairs.

  • lyndab and Tiger

    Thanks, that fills in some gaps about the Spanish project. It seems then, they had a pilot exercise in 2003 using just the 4 Finnish birds, then added German and Scottish birds from 2004. It's interesting that one they tracked to sub-Saharan Africa went E to Mali, which one might expect of a Finnish bird but would not be usual for say a Scottish one. I wonder if the descendants of the translocated birds will still migrate, given that the release sites are also wintering locations for a number of N European ospreys. I think I've worked out where they are:


      Barbate near Cadiz


    Now on to France. I can see Tiger's point - though there's a lot of info available, much of it is in .pdf files which are difficult to deal with if you don't have a lot of French. I'll try and produce some kind of summary about the Loire population next.

  • The Loire Forests – Osprey Heartland in Mainland France  

    Ospreys used to be persecuted just as much in France as in Britain. By the first half of the 20th century they were a rare sight, and were not believed to nest at all on the French mainland after the Second World War. This changed in the summer of 1984, when a Swedish raptor enthusiast named Rolf Wahl, at that time living in Paris, discovered two ospreys building a nest at the Etang du Ravoir in the Forest of Orleans, near the town of Ouzouer-sur-Loire.

    Realising the importance of this discovery, he alerted the ONF (French equivalent of the Forestry Commission) who manage the forest, and local naturalists, who arranged for the site to be protected and monitored, and the pair bred successfully for the first time the following year. Other pairs soon joined this fledgling colony; the “founding ospreys” are thought to have originated in Germany, as several German-ringed birds have been observed among the growing population. After a few years, Rolf Wahl gave up his business in Paris and moved to the Loire to work with the ospreys, where he has remained ever since. Rolf Wahl’s story (from his website, in French but Google Translate works OK on this) :


    The Foret d’Orleans is a former royal hunting forest which offers good nesting sites in mature pine trees (though most of the nests are now man made), with fishing in various ponds and the broad, shallow Loire. In the mid-90’s, a second colony began to form in the forest surrounding the Chateau de Chambord, about 50 miles down the Loire to the west, past Orleans.

    Mallachie flying past Chambord – 4th September 2009

    Further developments in recent years have been two nests on electricity pylons outside the forests, and one in the Essonne department towards Paris; from its position, I'm guessing this is somewhere in the forest of Fontainebleau. This diagram by Rolf Wahl shows the distribution of breeding pairs (red) and those not yet breeding (yellow) in 2006; by 2009 the total in the area had increased to 24 occupied nests.

    In 2009 there was another new nest in the Moselle department, near the German border, making the official total 25 on the French mainland. Field workers suspect there are some additional nests on private properties, which the owners are keeping secret, perhaps due to the French preference for keeping the authorities at arms’ length.           

    Etang du Ravoir is the only nest site open to the public, though only on Sunday afternoons during the nesting season. There is a blog which reports on day to day events at the site:  http://suivi-balbuzard-ravoir.francis-digiscopie.fr/index.htm

     There has been one satellite tracking project involving the Loire ospreys; in 2006 a juvenile named Tom was tracked to Portugal, where he spent the winter on the Tagus estuary above Lisbon. The signal was lost after 10 months. There have been other sightings & ring recoveries in the Iberian peninsula and sub-Saharan Africa. 

    Osprey conservation on the Loire is supported by government at national, regional and departmental level, and by the LPO as part of their “Mission Rapaces”.

    Tiger, I hope this summary includes the info you were looking for. If anyone has other questions, I’ll try to find the answer. Coming soon – Corsica.  

  • Thanks Sue C. I find it surprising that there are only 25 nests in mainland France. Given the land area and relative lack of population there must be scope for a huge increase in this number.

  • Fantastic Sue. I been waiting years for that information. The translations have been far and few between.

    See not all males are white chested. See http://pagesperso-orange.fr/rowahl-pan-hal/Index-photo2.JPG

    Aww Sue those sites are totally thrilling.

  • Sue Thank you, those are great. Have bookmarked them.

    Tiger WOW that male is amazingly dark.