Urdaibai Bird Centre : An International Airport for Birds!

Peter Cairns/2020VISION

This week it is World Osprey Week (WOW), and we are celebrating the return of Ospreys to Rutland. Education Officer Ken Davies, has flawlessly described a special relationship the Rutland Osprey Project has with the Urdaibai Bird Centre in Spain, who began their own Osprey Translocation Project six years ago...

One of the highlights of ‘World Osprey Week 2020’ should have been taking place on Thursday 26th March, and it was being eagerly awaited both here in Rutland, and over 1500 kilometres away in the Basque region of Northern Spain. Mrs White’s brilliant Year 4 class at Whissendine School were all set to link up by Skype with their Spanish counterparts, who were to gather at the famous Urdaibai Bird Centre to chat about Ospreys and other wildlife, show one another recent Osprey-related work they had been doing, and exchange short presentations.

Sadly, as we all know, our present circumstances mean that the link-up cannot now happen, but instead we thought everyone might like to hear the story of Rutland Osprey Project’s friendship with Urdaibai over the last few years.

Sitting as it does directly on the Ospreys’ migration flyway, Urdaibai is ideally placed as a spot for translocation, and an observation point of migrating Ospreys in spring and autumn. About six years ago now, a translocation project was set up there, involving juvenile Osprey chicks from Scotland, and using the same model as previously employed so successfully at Rutland Water and many other places throughout Europe and further afield. Though still awaiting their first breeding pair, each spring the staff and visitors at Urdaibai are excited by the return and summer stays of regular Osprey individuals, which are now regarding it as their home. Other Ospreys pass over regularly or stay at this fish-rich wetland for a few days, on their way further north in the spring, and much further south in the autumn. Thousands of other birds, some migratory and some resident, make Urdaibai a fantastic place to observe them at close quarters, and the Visitor Centre there is a hive of activity throughout the year. Schools and youth groups from a wide area make frequent visits.

Urdaibai Bird Centre in Spain

Good relationships between Urdaibai and the Rutland Ospreys go back several years now. We have done several Skype calls, involving local schools in both countries. Our last one, in 2019, was hosted by Empingham Primary School, and went very well, involving question and answer sessions, presentations, and a lot of fun. Osprey Education officer Pete Murray visited Urdaibai by motorcycle as part of a tour of the region in 2015, and then again accompanied by Jackie Murray in 2018, when they took part in an “International Osprey Conference” involving local schools, organised by staff of the Urdaibai Centre. They spoke about Ospreys to older children who had been learning English for some years. They also met Rowan Hardman who involved many hundreds of children in schools in the Bilbao area in a festival inspired by Osprey Migration and focussing on the flights of our famous satellite-tracked female 30(05).  Rowan said “The links between Urdaibai and Rutland are sacred! I think they will burn bright for a long time to come.”

It doesn’t end there! One of our favourite Osprey songs is from the Basque area, written and performed in their own unique language by staff and children of local schools who were on a visit to Urdaibai. We still play it at schools in Rutland. You can watch it here:

We recently heard that an Osprey was seen flying north over Urdaibai! We can never know which one it was, but it is just possible… just remotely possible… that it might have been another satellite tracked Rutland Osprey - male S1! Osprey Information Officer Abi was checking his route recently and found him flying more or less directly over Urdaibai on his way back to Rutland! Well, it’s a nice thought anyway!

And when we return to normal, as we assuredly will, we will re-arrange our call with Whissendine School, and introduce them to some new Osprey friends in the wonderful Basque region of Spain.

Urdaibai Bird Centre is hosting live guided tours of their beautiful Reserve each day at 10 am. As well as live tours, throughout the day you can tune in to a live webcam feed on the wetland. To learn more about Urdaibai, to tune in to the live webcam, and to follow their brilliant tours of their Reserve, click here.