An osprey, which was tagged with a colour ring in Renfrewshire, Scotland, last summer, has been spotted on the eastern Caribbean island of Barbados. The bird was identified by nature conservationist Tim Mackrill of the Roy Dennis Wildlife Foundation, who said the epic transatlantic journey spans over 4,000 miles. It is believed to be the first time a UK osprey has been seen in the Americas.
Ospreys have been colour-ringed in the UK since the late 1960s, allowing researchers to track migratory movements. Over the years, researchers have received interesting re-sightings, such as a bird that returns to winter on the Canary Islands each year or others which migrate as far south as the Ivory Coast and Ghana. However, the recent observation in Barbados is undoubtedly the most remarkable record of all.
The foundation received photos of an osprey with a blue ring on its left leg from Michael St John. The ring number indicated it was a bird from Scotland. Mr St John first spotted the osprey last October six miles away on private wetland, but was unable to read the ring at that time. KW0 was one of two chicks ringed last June at a nest in Clyde Muirshiel Regional Park by Clyde Ringing Group.
The osprey is believed to have flown around 3,800 miles from south-west Ireland to Barbados, and Mr Mackrill said it is highly unlikely that even an osprey could have completed this in a single flight, even with strong tailwinds. It is probable that the bird took the opportunity to rest on boats, which may themselves have been travelling to the Caribbean from the UK.
Young ospreys usually remain on their wintering grounds for the whole of their second calendar year, and KW0 could linger in Barbados until spring 2024. Most ospreys fly north back towards their natal area during their third calendar year, but that is unlikely to be an option for KW0, who may instead choose to remain on the other side of the Atlantic.
The osprey was reported to be "very settled" and may well remain on the island for the foreseeable future. Researchers hope to receive further sightings of this remarkable young bird in the months ahead.
The sighting of a UK osprey in Barbados has sparked excitement in the world of birdwatching and migration tracking. It serves as a reminder of the incredible journeys that some birds undertake and the importance of conservation efforts to protect their habitats.