|Time in Flight:|
Ceulan is some osprey. He made it through the worst summer weather on record including the great storm that devastated mid Wales on June 9/10th, 2012. His two siblings died in the nest due to the weather but, with a little help for half an hour, Ceulan lived to tell the tale. He is a true survivor.
Ceulan fledged at 53 days old and being a single chick, gained his independence quickly. He's named after the nearby river which burst its banks during the great flood, it flows into the Dyfi River where the ospreys fish.
Latest News for Ceulan
Ceulan has died.
Late afternoon to early evening on December 1st, he dived into the Diawel River, a tributary of the Senegal River 3.7 miles to the south, looking for fish. He'd caught fish here many times before. Ceulan got tangled up in fishing nets and was unable to free himself. A local fisherman checking his nets found him the following morning and took his body to his nearby fishing camp, where he remained for the following two weeks.
The map below shows his position (left) where Ceulan got tangled up in nets and the fisherman's camp where he was taken to the following morning.
(All the following images are clickable larger)
Ceulan knew this river well. Very well. The map below show all his GPS points - just look how often he frequented this area. He must have got to know it like the back of his talon. He was on to a good thing, the Diawel River must have been teeming with fish.
When we received Ceulan's GPS data on December 5th, I thought it looked a bit odd with him being at the same location for several days. We had seen this before though hadn't we, when Ceulan chose to rest on those huge electricity pylons for days on end in November? It was with slight trepidation I checked in with the ARGOS satellite system for his next data download on December 11th. He was still in the same place and the activity readings on the tracker hadn't changed either (they had on the electricity pylon saga). It was almost certain that the tracker was not moving - our only hope was that Ceulan's tracker had fallen off him and that he was OK.
We asked our friend Frederic again whether he could help, and on Saturday, December 15th, he along with his two sons and some colleagues went looking for Ceulan.
There is a tiny village (top right of first map above) with four families living around half a mile from where Ceulan got into trouble. Frederic asked one of the men in the village whether he knew anything about an osprey in the area.
(All the following images taken by Frederic and his colleagues)
Frederic talks to one of the village members, Oumar Diallo, about Ceulan.
Oumar explained to Frederic that a few days before he had untangled a dead osprey from his fishing net on the Diawel River. The osprey had a leg ring and a satellite transmitter. Oumar had tried to contact someone in the UK with the information he could see on the tracker, but to no avail. He then kept Ceulan's body in case anyone came to look for him and when Frederic got there on Saturday, Oumar immediately gave him the body.
Oumar and two other men from the village hand Ceulan to Fredric's adopted son, Sidiki.
The image below shows the area where Ceulan was discovered on the banks of the Diawel River, just the other side of the land bridge
The following email is from Paul Wildlifewriter. With permission..
The attached image may provide some more insight as to what has happened.
We know that Ceulan was still active during the day on 1/12/12 and that he
was at a usual fishing spot that evening. Untypically, it appears that he
did not fly back to roost that night. I think that this is when and where
the accident happened.
Fish collection after flood recession is a traditional activity right along
the Senegal River flood plain. At the beginning of the summer rainy season,
fish migrate upriver and disperse into the tributaries and irrigation canals
to breed. Research has identified this behaviour in twelve different west
African species, and there may be more.
At the end of the rains, fields are drained for crop harvesting and at the
same time, static nets and fish traps are set out to collect the fish which
are attempting to return to the main river. These nets are often set at or
near the many sluice gates which control local water levels.
*(I had a photograph of exactly this arrangment, taken in S. Mauretania, but
at the moment I can't find it.)
Unfortunately, fish struggling in or behind a net would be a tempting target
for a young osprey, and it's not difficult to imagine what would have
The following is from an email that Frederic has just sent me. He's talking about the same thing as Paul, and the rush to get the fish harvested (so they can eat them throughout the winter) before the whole area dries up.
"In this period, fishermen are so occupied by the fishing activities before the drought that they don't have time to hunt or something like that. We asked them if they know this bird, they said 'no' but I am sure they see them every year, more and more but they are may be confusing birds... Already I am sure it is not the first time they catched by accident a bird in their nets: they are so numerous in the water, in activity or not, usually abandoned when it is impossible to use them…
- I think it is really an accident: Oumar Diallo who found Ceulan immediatly went in his hut and got away in a few seconds with the materials (he means tracker and rings); another man went a few minutes later with the two wings."
So there we are, we seem to have answers to our questions. Ceulan was unlucky - he was in the wrong place at the wrong time. I think it is very important to understand something about the way that Ceulan died however. Have a look at the image below that Frederic took of the people in these four huts on Saturday..
These people are desperately poor. No clean water, no education for their children, no electricity, no cars, no nothing. They live in straw huts a few feet square and eke out a living in one of the most inhospitable places imaginable. These are not commercial fisherman with profits to make. Their only goal is to survive and eat for that day. Period.
The fish that they catch during this shortest of fishing seasons, are placed on supports they make out of straw and branches.
The fish are then dried in the sun and stored away so that they have enough to live on throughout the dry winter months. It won't rain in Senegal for another six months.
We are hugely indebted once again to Frederic, his sons and his friends. Thank you so much Frederic for helping us out. Frederic has his own blog (French) that you can see here.
These are the guys that went out on Saturday and found Ceulan:
Frederic Bacuez (France), Ornithondar
Moïse Guiré (Burkina Faso)
Sidiki Boukary Ouedraogo (Côte d'Ivoire/Burkina Faso), my second adoptive son
Xavier Dressler (France), driver
Morgan Perez (France), civil service for development in Gandon
Merci à vous tous
Ceulan taught us so much in his short life. So much so, I will write a blog over the Christmas period about this remarkable little osprey. Even as he died, he was still teaching us about how tough it is being an osprey in the first year of life.
This year, Montgomeryshire Wildlife Trust is 30 years old. We are a small charity with a handful of full time staff, around half a dozen, and about the same amount of part-time staff. Despite this, in a few weeks we start work an ambitious £1.4 million project to build a 360° Observatory on Cors Dyfi Reserve. We are all very excited. It will be the first of its kind and will allow everyone that visits to see, discover and learn about the natural world around them.
We have also just started work linking in with west African communities. Educating people about what happened to Ceulan and other ospreys will, eventually, make a difference. The Rutland guys are already starting to see results with their West African Project.
Ceulan did not die in vain. From our new 360 Observatory we will carry on his legacy - we will teach and educate thousands of people every year about his remarkable life. We have photographs and videos and stories to tell. In life and in death, Ceulan taught us more about the perils of being an osprey than any other bird I know. The sooner we get this Observatory built, the sooner we can tell more people about Ceulan and his battles for survival. He will be an ambassador for his species and will ultimately lead to ospreys being more secure in what is a dangerous world for them. We'll make sure of that.
Ceulan only lived to be six months old, but what a remarkable life he had. A Life to Remember.
Phew, what a week.
This time last week, Ceulan's (now) four day data set came in. Apart from a quick trip around Lac de Guiers, Ceulan had settled in the area near the town of Rosso, on the Senegal RIver, since he arrived here on September 15th (he only left the Dyfi on September 3rd - still can't get over that!). On November 5th however, he decided to move. There was nothing unduly concerning about this, first year ospreys do tend to move around more than adult birds as their environment changes around them.
What was concerning however, was the fact that the last seven hours worth of data that came in were all coming from exactly the same spot. Unless they're roosting, it is highly unusual for an osprey to stay in the exact spot for seven hours and more, and this was from 10:00 to 17:00.
On November 5th, Ceulan set off up river heading east (all images clickable to enlarge)
Then came the agonising wait until the next data download on Saturday.
Thanks to Paul and others on Facebook, we established that the spot that Ceulan had been perching on was an electricity pylon - and a huge one at that. Had Ceulan flown into it or been electrocuted? Saturday's data would tell us one way or the other.
The huge pylon next to the Senegal River by the town of Dagana
Saturday's data came in very late, tea time. Our worst fears were realised - for four whole days Ceulan's tracker was indicating that it had not moved, all the GPS points were, more or less, in the same place. He was still in the same spot that he had been for those seven hours on November 6th, by the electricity pylon, only this time for four whole days.
Whenever we see this type of GPS point scatter pattern, it invariably means one thing.
It looked as though Ceulan had died. What else could explain this type of data?
There were two things however, that kept the door of hope just the slightest bit ajar. The first was that the activity readings coming from the tracker were indicating that it was moving normally (for every location point it sends out a random number which changes if the tracker has moved; generating the exact same number over a prolonged period means that it is not moving). The second, albeit faint ray of hope, was that Ceulan's tracker was indicating that he was in two distinct places (16.53233 -15.52533 and 16.53217 -15.5253), even though these were only 18m apart, well within the margin of error which could explain that there was only one location in reality. I couldn't stop thinking about this though - if Ceulan was alive, why would he by flying to and fro from one point to the next, just 18m apart?
Then, late on Saturday night, it dawned on me. Look at the photograph of the electricity pylon again - do those two prongs at the top look as if they might me 18m apart to you?
It still looked hopeless however. If the GPS points were accurate and he was still alive, how was Ceulan fishing and eating? Yes, the GPS points only come in on the hour, but could Ceulan be setting off to fish, catching his prey, and returning to the exact same pylon all before the hand got back to 12 o' clock again?
Then on Sunday morning, another ray of hope. Because the data window opened late on Saturday, a few points are held back and are only sent just as the window closes (and you don't get notification as to when this is - you just keep pressing refresh until nothing happens any more or you fall asleep!). Three more points came in over night - and these were nine miles away from the electricity pylon. Moreover, they were from November 8th, Thursday, between 10:00 and 12:00. Surely these could not be errors this far away from the other points?
Late point scoring - one to the north west 1.6 miles away, and three from nine miles away. Looking better.
The last of the three points at 12:00 was directly over water and had a speed reading - 8mph at an altitude of 30m. Perfect for a fishing osprey.
The utterly unthinkable was starting to look, well, thinkable again. If Ceulan was alive, and the tracker had been reporting accurate readings all along, what could explain Ceulan's sedentary behaviour for all this time? I started to look more closely at the actual location where the tracker was telling us where Ceulan was at.
Most of Ceulan's points come from the middle pylon in the image below. These pylons carry electricity from the Manantali hydro-electric plant across Mali and Senegal.
Electricity pylons, 400m apart on a west-east direction
Looking closely at the data, Ceulan seems to have roosted on one of these pylons (actually, it would be the next one along just to the right of the image) on November 5th and then, on November 6th at 07:00, 08:00 and 09:00, he was perching on the pylon on the right on the image. By mid morning, Ceulan had made it to the next pylon along - the one in the middle of the map, and this is where he stayed! You can see these on Google Earth.
During his time here the weather was very hot. In fact, the increasing temperature might explain his initial decision to move. Were the water channels where he was starting to dry up? Were people coming out to the fields en masse to harvest their rice crops and disturbing him? The data coming back from Ceulan's tracker was also indicating very high temperatures.
Rosso weather station - temperatures increasing to over 40°C by November 7th before returning to more 'normal' levels
Now the good news. Today's window has opened and enough points have come in so far to tell us one thing at least. Ceulan is alive and he's moving around.
It looks like he flew back from his favourite pylon sometime late on Sunday or early Monday (November 11th and 12th) to his original home range, 20 miles back down river just to the south of Rosso. He's been moving around this area Monday and Tuesday. The last point we have for him is the one highlighted on the map at 15:00 yesterday. He seems to be moving east, back up river! Has he been disturbed again?
I emphasise that the window has not closed yet on this data set. If there are any major deviances to the GPS points still to come in though, I will add an update later on. Suffice to say, for now at least, it is time to start breathing again.
I'd like to thank the many people who have written to me with their help and suggestions in an attempt to work out what Ceulan's tracker data might mean during the last seven days, particularly Tiger and Paul. What a fantastic way to decipher scientific data, people from around the world, literally, voicing their interpretation and applying their specialist expertise and finding an explanation to some baffling data. Citizen science at its best.
The tracker has not malfunctioned at all. Many of us are guilty, including me, of blaming scientific instruments when the data they provide does not fit into what we 'expect' to happen. We continue to learn from the tracker and of course from Ceulan. We are understanding more about osprey ecology and osprey migration each time we get data back, and long may it continue. And just like anything else in life and in science, the more we understand something, the better equipped we are to ultimately be able to fix problems related to that 'something'. And boy, do we still have huge problems with osprey persecution left.
It's been a tough old week. Nails bitten, hair even more grey, hours in front of the computer trying to work out what's happening. With scorching temperatures and some tough times ahead of him, Ceulan is not out of the woods by any means, but, for now at any rate, the news seems good.
Back from the dead? Well probably not, but you do start to wonder don't you, that this little bird has something just a little bit special about him?
Ceulan is still in the same place that he has been for the last few weeks - just south of the Senegal River, around 40 miles inland from the Atlantic coast. He arrived here seven weeks ago today following his epic 12 day journey from the Dyfi, and he has hardly moved!
In mid October he did spread his wings a little to take a short fly-around Lac de Guier, a trip that took him two days. Other than that, Ceulan seems to be favouring his current location, as presumably, he has no reason to leave.
After three months of constant Welsh rain, I'm staying here.. (click to make bigger)
Ceulan is not the only osprey to be taking full advantage of the Senegal River. Our colleagues at Scottish Wildlife Trust are tracking two of their young ospreys from this year, two boys from different nests. Blue 44 is from the Loch of the Lowes nest and is currently in the south of France - will he stay here?
We already know from ringing and tagging research that some ospreys do not migrate all the way to Africa. One of Roy Dennis' tagged adult ospreys, Beatrice, only goes as far as southern Spain.
Scottish Wildlife Trust's other tagged osprey, however, is remarkably close to Ceulan. Blue YD is just around 45 miles up river from Ceulan and a couple of weeks ago on October 20th, was literally just a few fields away from him (see map). Did they see each other?
Another 2012 osprey tracked by Roy, a female called Fiddich, is currently just south of Lac de Guier, quite close to Ceulan's most southerly point on his lake excursion. Ceulan, Blue YD and Fiddich are all within 50 miles of each other in a triangle, just a couple of hours flying time apart. How amazing.
Now wouldn't you just love to spend a week in Senegal with a telescope, a decent camera and a Land Rover?
Just to remind you, Ceulan's transmissions now come in every four days. Then every six days from December to mid March.