In 2008 we began a satellite tracking project to help us learn more about the movements of young ospreys as they migrated for the first time from Loch Garten to their wintering grounds in West Africa.
The importance of tracking ospreys
Tracking these young ospreys would not only provide us with information on their migration route, but also give us a clearer picture of the mortality rates in these young birds. Each year, we fitted the eldest two chicks with satellite tracking tags.
The satellite tracking map shows you the various routes the tagged birds took.
We discovered that the young ospreys took very different routes from each other, due to navigating on their own rather than following a parent. Ten of the 12 tracked birds successfully made it to their wintering grounds, all in West Africa, with the exception of one, Caledonia, who settled in Seville, Spain.
Perhaps not surprisingly for fish-eating birds, rivers and coastlines proved to be important navigation aids.
Journey speed seemed to vary between male and female ospreys - males being faster than the females, although one female, Alba, was the fastest of all our tracked birds, completing her trip to West Africa in just two weeks.
While we might give Loch Garten's ospreys a safe home, watch over them and see them safely on their way, sadly one of the project's findings was that on-migration mortality is high in inexperienced ospreys.
Young ospreys do not return to the UK to breed until they are two-to-three years old. Unfortunately, none of the young birds survived past the age of two, with the exception of Rothes who made a partial return journey two years later, travelling as far north as France before returning south again to Guinea-Bissau. Rothes survived to the age of three.