Friday, 22 November 2013


Ospreys are birds that we seem to see with increasing frequency here in the Algarve.  Breeding birds from Northern Europe pass through the Iberian Peninsula in the autumn and spring on their way to and from wintering areas in West Africa and there are a few that seem happy to stay with us here through the winter.  As a result, Ospreys are seen here from September through to April and we also have several records for May and June.

Osprey - Santa Luzia, Nov 2013

Ringing, wing-tagging and particularly satellite-tracking have all helped to give a fairly detailed picture of Osprey migration routes.  They are said to be an exception among raptor species in that they migrate on a broad front and are capable of flight over long stretches of water but there does nevertheless seem to be a tendency for satellite-tracked birds to cross the Mediterranean close to its narrowest point and that probably means that the majority of migrating birds pass some way to the east of here.

Osprey - Santa Luzia, Nov 2013

The situation here may be complicated to some degree by the fact that a project was started in 2003 to re-introduce Ospreys to breed in Spain with the nearest site being only about 50km across the border at the Marismas del Odiel.  Possibly the birds we have seen in May and June at Castro Marim have been wanderers from there.  Or they may of course have been sub-adult non-breeders from Britain or Scandinavia that had no reason yet to go further north.

Osprey - Tavira, May 2011

A further possible complication is that in 2011 similar attempts to re-introduce Ospreys to breed in Portugal were started at the Alqueva Reservoir in the Alentejo region, although news of that project seems for some reason hard to come by.  Ospreys last bred here in the Algarve in 1997; the female of the last remaining pair died and although the male occupied the territory in subsequent years and females were seen, there was no further breeding.

Osprey - Tavira, Dec 2012

Although we are lucky enough to come across them relatively often, there is still something special about seeing Ospreys.  Maybe it is the fact that not so long ago they were genuinely rare birds in the UK and we can still recall the excitement of seeing them at Loch Garten in the early days of their re-colonisation.
Currently we are seeing birds at Ludo and around the Tavira/Santa Luzia area.  The Ludo bird has a red ring on its right leg but we haven’t been able to get anywhere near to it to read an inscription.  Maybe it is from the UK.  We have been lucky to see the Tavira bird at quite close range but of course that one doesn’t have a ring!

Osprey - Tavira, May 2011

Until quite recently, Osprey was considered to be a single species with a worldwide distribution and four recognised subspecies.  However, some authorities now regard one of those subspecies as a separate species, Pandion cristatus or Eastern Osprey.  That would leave us calling our birds Pandion haliaetus or Western Osprey.  Well, you might want to call them that but we'll just stick to Osprey!

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