Osprey Conservation and Translocation Projects

  • In reply to Sue C:

    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.  

  • In reply to Sue C:

    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.

  • In reply to Sue C:

    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.

    Tiger's RSPB Signature

  • In reply to Tiger:

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

    Tiger WOW that male is amazingly dark.

    ChloeB & Tiger's Osprey Data

  • In reply to ChloeB:

    Ospreys in Corsica

    The other half of the French osprey population leads a completely separate existence on the Mediterranean island of Corsica. Ospreys have always nested in Corsica, but by the early 1970’s, all the usual factors but especially, loss of habitat through coastal development, had reduced the population to just 4 pairs, nesting on the Scandola peninsula on the rugged northwest coast.

    The area lay within the Parc Naturel Regional de Corse, and it was the park authorities that took steps to protect the remaining ospreys. Nests were kept under observation during the breeding season, and in 1975 Scandola was made a nature reserve and closed to public access, either on foot (there are no roads) or by landing from boats. The spectacular red basalt cliffs can be viewed from excursion boats, which don’t seem to bother the ospreys. This Youtube video shows a cruise from Calvi – the Scandola section starts at 3 mins 15 secs. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QnAJ1UNmjPE

    Ospreys don’t nest in trees here – the nests are perched on rock pinnacles, built of driftwood and lined with seaweed. Ospreys which breed in the Mediterranean have another peculiarity – there’s no evidence that they migrate to sub-Saharan Africa. Ring recoveries suggest that young birds disperse around the shores of the Med, and adults may not go far from the nest site.

    The population gradually increased, and the construction of manmade nests helped ospreys to reoccupy a number of sites along the northwest coast. Today, there are a total of 32 nests, most of which are occupied each season. A current news report on the construction of a nest at Cap Corse: http://www.corsematin.com/ta/nid/237355/bastia-cap-corse-l-invitation-faite-au-balbuzard

    Though this is the largest osprey population in the Mediterranean, there’s also a concern that it’s vulnerable, thorough being concentrated in quite a small area. The project team have built artificial nests in other suitable parts of the island, but no ospreys have been tempted to use them to date. They therefore started to collaborate with colleagues in Sardinia and Tuscany, which has resulted in a translocation project with the Maremma Regional Park in Tuscany. This is the French language website of the project: http://www.parc-corse.org/balbuzard/accueil.html

    The other material I have is in Italian, so I’ll have a think about how to present that....


  • In reply to Sue C:

    Thank you Sue, that is real interesting. I have a translate facility which does a good job on translation front.

    Tiger's RSPB Signature

  • In reply to Tiger:

    Ospreys in Tuscany

    This is the first of four parts of an Italian TV programme about the translocation project from Corsica to Tuscany. I hope the summary below is enough to make sense of what’s going on.

    Return of the Osprey – Part 1


    0.00         The Maremma Regional Park is a few miles south of Grosseto in Tuscany. Typical landscapes – wooded hills crowned with ruined watchtowers, coastal pine forest and marshes.  The pastures are grazed by the traditional cattle and horses which live semi-wild, tended by the butteri, or Maremma cowboys. By the Ombrone river, the park authorities have put up artificial nests and osprey dummies (not very convincing!).  

    2.06     (Corsica) Introduction to the osprey. The Italian name is “falco pescatore” or  fishing falcon.

    3.04     Project leader Andrea Sforzi explains why ospreys had stopped breeding in Italy by the 1960’s – hunting, coastal development, DDT and egg collectors.

    3.50     Giampiero Sammuri, President of the Maremma Park. The translocation project was conceived in order to create a larger osprey “territory” stretching from Corsica across the Tuscan Archipelago, of which Elba is the largest island, to the Italian mainland.

    4.50     Landscapes and fauna of Corsica. The Scandola Reserve, UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1983, makes an ideal habitat for ospreys. Jean-Marie, who is responsible for looking after the osprey population, takes us on a boat trip to the reserve and shows off his freeclimbing skills to inspect a nest.

    8.15    Back in the Maremma, the mouth of the Ombrone river has been chosen as the  reintroduction site. Here the cages have been built to hold the young ospreys brought from Corsica until they fledge. Two park guards explain that the artificial nests, which they built 2 years before, weren’t enough to persuade migrating ospreys to nest.

  • In reply to Sue C:

    Sue C    Thank you very much for that. It is always good to hear about translocation projects.

    Tiger's RSPB Signature

  • In reply to Tiger:

    Return of the Osprey – Part 2  

    0.0   The project team explain that they chose to translocate ospreys from Corsica, because they have a closer affinity with the ospreys that used to nest in Italy than, say, birds from Scandinavia – they don’t say, but I assume they are referring to the fact they don’t migrate. The project also helps alleviate the problem of over-population which is starting to develop in Corsica. This results in young adult birds hanging around nesting areas as intruders and distracting the nesting pairs from incubation and fishing. They take the third chick from broods of three as these often don’t survive.

    3.32  The selected chicks are removed from the nest aged 5-6 weeks and taken to Tuscany by helicopter  the  same day. On arrival they are weighed, measured, ringed and placed in the cages where they will stay until release.
    5.10 They are confident the Maremma Park will be a suitable release site as migratory ospreys often make stopovers there. The river and waterways are well stocked with fish including mullet.
    9.13 The young ospreys are fed pieces of fish during their stay in the hacking cages.        
  • In reply to Sue C:

    Return of the Osprey – Part 3

    0.0     Hand feeding a chick which has been reluctant to eat since its arrival. Where possible, the team  try to avoid direct contact with the young ospreys, so that they don’t become too comfortable with humans.

    0.45 With footage of a nest in Corsica, it’s explained that in nature, the parents need to deliver up to seven fish a day to the nest at this stage.
    1.45 As the release date approaches, the chicks are fitted with radio transmitters to enable the team to track them. These are attached to tail feathers and will work for around 4 months.
    3.30 The cages are opened and the young birds take their first flight.
    5.40 The team use the tracking devices to check up on the released birds. One is mobbed by crows and loses a couple of feathers – in nature, the parents would chase crows away from the nest.
    7.50 Fish is provided on a platform close to the cages for a while after the release.
    9.05 At nightfall, nocturnal animals start to emerge – including foxes, a potential threat to the young ospreys.