The route Helena flew while migrating over Malta. Inset: ospreys are fish-eaters and can be seen during their migration in both spring and autumn in Malta.The route Helena flew while migrating over Malta. Inset: ospreys are fish-eaters and can be seen during their migration in both spring and autumn in Malta.

A Finnish osprey fitted with satellite tracking spent a night on Comino on Thursday and is now approaching the Adriatic, according to ornithologist Natalino Fenech.

The osprey – arpa in Maltese – is one of eight fitted eight fitted with a small satellite transmitter on their back by Finnish researchers .

The transmitters send signals at regular intervals, which indicate the ospreys’ whereabouts and enable researchers to learn more about their migration and stopover patterns.

The bird on Comino, named Helena, and her male, Ilpo, were fitted with transmitters – which cost some €3,000 each – last July.

“This bird has already flown at least 5,000km to reach us and needs to fly another 3,000km to reach its breeding ground. Ilpo is still at his winter range, wandering around the coast of Guinea in West Africa,” Dr Fenech said.

This bird has already flown at least 5,000km to reach us and needs to fly another 3,000km to reach its breeding ground

Back in September 2013 a juvenile osprey, also fitted with a satellite tracking device, did not enjoy such luck and was shot illegally in Delimara. In recent years, at least 10 ospreys have been recorded shot.

Data from the Finnish Museum of Natural History, which runs the project, shows that Helena flew over Ta’ Ċenċ at about 4.30pm on Thursday, then proceeded towards Daħlet Qorrot and went to roost close to the Blue Lagoon on Comino about an hour later.

The protected bird left on Friday morning and headed towards eastern Sicily, flying past Capo Passero and Avola and spent the night close to Augusta.

Helena left Finland on her way south on August 12, flying over Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Belarus, Poland, Ukraine, Hungary, Romania, Serbia, Bosnia-Herzegovina and Croatia before crossing the Adriatic to Foggia in Italy.

She then flew over Sicily, crossed the Mediterranean, flying midway between Malta and Lampedusa, and ended up on the Tunisian coast some 40km from the Libyan border on September 15.

She then flew to Ghana, near the border of Togo on October 9, from which she proceeded to the Niger Delta, where she spent her winter.

“Most of the ospreys we see in Malta come from Finland and Sweden. Several other birds of prey such as honey buzzards and hobbies also come from Scandinavia.”

At this time of year, a considerable number of birds of prey pass over Malta, particularly marsh harriers. A small number of ospreys have also been seen over the past week, Dr Fenech said.

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