An osprey that went missing from a Scottish nature reserve for more than 18 months has been found almost 3,000 miles away – on a beach in Senegal.
The three-year-old male bird, known as Blue YD, was tagged with a lightweight satellite tracker in July 2012 at a Scottish Wildlife Trust (SWT) reserve near Forfar.
Yet the device stopped transmitting in May 2014, leaving the wildlife trust relying on eyewitness accounts to learn of Blue YD’s whereabouts, according to which the bird had been spotted various times in North Yorkshire and St Andrews in Fife.
But the bird has now been found to have joined the winter osprey migration to west Africa.
Blue YD was spotted in Senegal by a sister organisation. Leicestershire and Rutland Wildlife Trust had travelled to Lompoul sur Mer to look for another osprey, but found instead the bird that had gone missing for one-and-a-half years. SWT said it was “thrilled” at the news.
John Wright, from the Rutland osprey project, said: “This is the second visit I’ve made to Lompoul sur Mer and both times I’ve counted around 100 ospreys consisting many German and Scottish birds.”
He added: “It was fantastic to see that Blue YD was alive and well. He’ll no doubt be enjoying the final few weeks of warmth before he makes his way back to the UK for the breeding season at the end of March.”
Once extinct in the UK, there are now about 240 breeding osprey pairs in the UK thanks to conservation projects, the SWT said.
Seen in flight from below, the osprey has white or slightly mottled underparts. The fish-eating bird with long, angled wings has been on an Amber list of species for conservation as it is in historical decline due to illegal killing, and low breeding numbers.
Ospreys in Britain, that live on average for 10-15 years in the wild, migrate to west Africa for winter and usually return to their breeding areas in March. Experts however say younger birds may not reappear at the sites from which they fledge for several years.
Jonathan Pinnick, assistant manager at the SWT Loch of the Lowes visitor centre, said: “It’s wonderful to learn more about the life of a bird that we have followed since it was a fledgling and it shows the value of tagging in allowing us to track the life history of individual birds.
“Perhaps he will be spotted back in Angus this summer, hopefully breeding and helping the continued recovery of the osprey population in Scotland.”
This article was first published by The Guardian on 04 Feb 2016.