Death in desert ends Rutland osprey 09's odyssey
An osprey which defied all the odds to reach its Rutland mating grounds earlier this year has died during the return migration flight to Africa.
The male osprey, known as 09, had flown the equivalent of three times round the world in 14 years.
In March, the bird survived a 22-hour, 320-mile non-stop flight, after being blown off course during his 3,000-mile journey from west Africa to Rutland.
But the latest journey proved too treacherous and 09 was found dead on a mountainside on the edge of the Sahara desert last week.
Concerns were raised by the Rutland Osprey Project team two weeks ago after the signal from 09's satellite transmitter remained fixed in one spot in Morocco for several days.
Project team leader Tim Mackrill said: "We were receiving transmissions from a remote ridge on the northern edge of the desert in some of the most inhospitable terrain in Africa."
Mr Mackrill sent an e-mail appealing for help to contacts in the country and his plea was answered by Farid Lacroix, a former search and rescue helicopter pilot living in Agadir.
"He immediately got in touch and offered to drive the 250km to the spot where we had been receiving transmissions," Mr Mackrill said.
"The Sahara is not the sort of place you can take lightly, but Farid's experience meant he was well-qualified to deal with the worst the desert could throw at him.
"Unperturbed, he set off up the mountain with a 15kg rucksack containing three litres of water, some food, a survival blanket, a satellite phone in case of an emergency and his camera equipment."
Mr Lacroix's route up the mountain saw him climbing more than 1,000ft in searing desert temperatures.
The team back in Rutland was hoping Mr Lacroix would find that 09's transmitter had simply fallen off.
However, they did not get the good news they were hoping for.
Mr Mackrill said: "Sadly, Farid immediately found evidence that proved otherwise – a pile of feathers and bones and 09's two leg rings, along with the transmitter.
"His transmitter's activity meter suggests he was alive until the early hours of September 12.
"It seems likely he was taken by either an eagle owl, or perhaps a jackal, during the night.
"It is really sad news. It demonstrates that even an experienced osprey such as 09 is not immune to the dangers of the 3,000-mile flight to West Africa.
"We are incredibly grateful to Farid for going to such amazing lengths to find out what had happened."
09 was one of the original birds translocated from Scotland to begin the Rutland project's breeding programme.
This year's migration saw a record 20 adult and nine young ospreys leaving for Africa.