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Monty: Questions & Answers

Posted: Sunday 7th August 2016 by Emyr MWT


Have you ever wanted to ask an osprey a question?

Yesterday we asked our followers on Facebook: If you could ask Monty one question, what would you ask him?

So, take your anti-anthropomorphic hats off, and put your Johnny Morris caps on. You asked Monty over 130 questions - here are his answers to 30 of the most popular ones:




Well Sam, I don't know exactly, but let's have a think about it..

I've been coming to this nest since 2008 and I was pretty young then, so that gives my year of birth as 2006 or before. So I am at least 10 years old, maybe a bit more.



Hi Helen.

I can't taste food in the same way as you do. I only have around 300 taste buds whereas you have over 9,000! So I have 30x less taste receptors than you.

Just like you though, my diet varies throughout the year. I eat mostly cichlids, carp, catfish and needlefish in Senegal and then mullet and trout in Wales. I don't make a conscious choice of which fish species to catch when I go fishing - I catch the first and easiest I can, depending on the weather and tide at the time.

I suppose if I had to chose, I'd go for an oily fish. They have more calories you see, so that means less fishing!

Around 20% of my diet in Wales is flounder. They are tough to eat and have the least amount of calories of the species I catch. Maybe Nora had a point!

Sea bass at the Dyfi



Hi Sadia

I have my favourite plaice just off the main Senegal River. It's got lots of trees and loads of fish in the river.

Some of my friends prefer it in southern Europe - Spain and Portugal for example. Some European ospreys even stay all year round in some places like the Balearic Islands. It's Africa for me though - I love the sun you see.



No I don't Denise. I do see lots of other ospreys, but I haven't seen Glesni yet - west Africa is a big place I guess.

I do see the same ospreys every year though - I've become friends with many of them. There's Gretel from Germany - she has a black leg ring; Emile from France (orange ring) and Mika from Finland.

Oh, there's Manuel from Spain too - he's a waiter in a seafood restaurant.






Not right now I don't, Margaret.

But there's no reason to think he's come to any harm. We've had more intruding ospreys than ever in Wales this year - he's most probably one of these. As we get to the end of the season now, he may just visit again, he usually does.



Hi Chris

A large bird of prey like me has a territory to defend in the breeding season. The size of my breeding territory can vary, but I know some of my male friends have a huge territory - up to two miles!

So to protect my family and kids, I will defend my nest from intruding males that come within the boundary of my breeding territory. They're usually looking for an opportunity to take my nest and missus away from me.

But because it's my breeding territory, I will mate with any other female in it too, especially if there is another nest in it.

This doesn't often happen in a 'natural' environment, but some people, despite being well-meaning in trying to help us, put nests up too close to primary nests, so I have no other option but to do what comes naturally to me. If I didn't, another male would come in to my breeding territory and mate with Blue 24. All hell would break loose!

I know in some parts of the world my colleagues nest extremely close to each other, but they are a different subspecies to me with thousands or millions of years of a different type of population-dynamics evolution behind them. I think you'll find any red-blooded male in the UK will defend his breeding territory from other males - and that includes mating with females on man-made platforms within them.


Oh, excellent David.

The first impressions you get of the visitor centre portacabins is not great I know, but once you're into the reserve properly it's absolutely magical.

There's a Cafe too and the new toilets were built only two years ago, but it's the 360 Observatory I like. There's even a life-size model of me in there! Sometimes, lots of people in red shirts wave at me. Well, I think it's at me anyway.

I'm told there are big, ambitious plans for a brand new, state-of-the-art, flagship............., oops, hang on a sec... I better let the red-shirts tell you about that when the time is right!



You betcha..



Well Roanne, if I stayed in Wales all year 'round, there would not be enough food for me.

The fish live deeper in the water in the winter so they're harder to catch and there's hardly any time to catch them anyway - just seven hours of daylight in December, if you're lucky! And then there's the Welsh winter weather...

I'm good at fishing, but not that good..




Great question Christine!

I have to be careful with my choice of fish. Too small and it ain't worth the effort, too big and I could be in big trouble!

The biggest fish I'm comfortable catching weighs around the same as I do - around 1.5Kg. Glesni, because she is bigger than me, can catch larger fish - around 2Kg. Sometimes females will catch slightly different species than I do because of this size difference.

It feels great to catch a whopper, but I have to be careful. Handling fish is never easy at the best of times, even with all these 'spicules' I've got under my talons.




A very big fish will be even harder to hold on to. As soon as I'm out of the water I like to shake my body (a bit like a dog) to remove excess water - this enables me to decrease my overall flying weight slightly, so that transporting the fish is a little easier.


With a whopper however, that calculation as to when I start shaking is critical. You see, when I shake, I momentarily lose airflow over my wings, reducing lift, so I have to be careful. Shake too quickly after becoming airborne with a monster fish, and I'm back in the drink - and so's my whopper!



Of course I can Sheila. I wave my uropygial gland back at you!



Tipyn bach, Barbara. Dwi ddim yn rhugl eto.



Awnlaay if it's to Dudley for a long weekend 'Ayzel.



Yes, I do Julie.

We don't have the complexity of language that you guys do, so our communication is much more basic. We can't express ourselves and our feelings as well as you, it's much more binary, like 'yes' and 'no'.

We can't smell very well, so we have two main ways we communicate.

1. By vocalisations. We have calls for intruder ospreys, other birds, contact calls, food soliciting, threats and a few others.

2. Visual. You guys call it body language - we can express ourselves with movement. We have mantling, sky-diving to attract partners and lots of subtle things going on that you folks don't quite understand yet.

I'm not going to tell you all of my secrets!




No, not at all.

I know you guys donate to DOP for coming to see me and watching the Live Streaming and that money pays for our protection every year. Most of my ancestors were persecuted to extinction here in the UK and many European countries - anything you humans can do to stop that from happening again is fine with me. After all, it's only for five months of the year.

Ogle away...


Not much in Wales - maybe the odd large bird of prey like a goshawk.

When I'm at the Dyfi, I'm more concerned about the eggs and kids. There are all manner of animals that can hurt them such as crows, herons, buzzards, peregrines and anything that can climb to my nest like a stoat, or take a young one off the ground or low perch, like a fox.




Yes I do Joanna. Nora was the first female that decided to stay with me after many failed dating attempts in 2008, 2009 and 2010.

We used to have a brill time - she was my sole-mate and was very sweet natured. I don't miss her constant nagging for catching too many flounders though. She never forgave me for bringing that garfish back either.



Hi Susan

Well, you know like when two of your husband & wife humans with red hair have a good chance of having an offspring with red hair? It's a bit like that with ospreys. Not that we have red hair, you understand.

It's not just phenotype features (anatomical - stuff you can see) that are passed down in your DNA, it's other stuff too - like behaviour for example.

So, when it gets to September here in Wales, I have these urges! And the urge to fly south gets stronger every day until the day comes when the urge to go south becomes stronger than the urge to stay. So I go. I have my ancestors to thank for these urges - thousands and thousands of them.

Think of being stuck in a lift that's broken down. As more time passes, your urge to get out increases; it's a bit like that.

So how do I know when to stop travelling south? Easy - when the urge stops. Some of my friends stay in Europe, some go further south than I do, but I like right here in Senegal. Suits me Sir.

All of my three kids got to Africa safely in 2011



Well Paul!

Since 2009 I've had one bromance, two wives and one serious girlfriend. Between all of them, we've had 19 eggs, of which 15 have hatched.

Two of my chicks died in the nest at a very young age in the terrible storm in 2012 and one died just a couple of weeks ago, Ceri.

So, that leaves.... Einion, Leri, Dulas, Ceulan, Clarach, Cerist, Gwynant, Deri (she was loud!), Merin, Celyn, Brenig and Tegid.

This explains it better:



You know how most plants and animals have a biological clock for each 24hr day (circadian rhythms)? Well, there are biological clocks for years as well as days (and months sometimes).

So I know roughly when is the right time to head north or south. There are other things that help me decide too, such as day-length and temperature changes, especially in Wales.

When I'm at the Dyfi, I like to wait until all my family have gone. Gles always goes first, then the kids and then I go after spending a few days by myself usually. I like the solitude after a hectic season. Mind you, I went before Dulas and Leri back in 2011. They didn't leave till 12th and 13th September! I have friends to see and things to do, you know..

Decisions, decisions - almost time to go again...



Oh, yes!!!

I'll be off in another month - first week of September like usual.

All Inclusive in Senegal this year - eat and drink as much as you can.



A pike.


Wrth gwrs Elfed.

I'll be back at the Dyfi on 7th April, 2017. Mid afternoon, depending on the weather.



Good question Eileen.

I don't really mind, I like Wales and Africa - both have their good and bad points. Because I'm a bird that can fly long distances, I can travel to the best type of habitat that meets my needs at any given time of the year..

Long days for fishing and less predators to raise a family in Wales in the summer, and better weather and fishing opportunities in the winter in Africa.




Yep, same place Janice.


Not much really, Sandra.

It's hot all the time, around 30°C, and I need less calories than I do in Wales with just me to feed. I lounge around keeping out of trouble, but I have to be a little bit careful - there are a lot more things that would like to eat me in Senegal than there are in Wales. How many crocodiles have you seen on the Dyfi recently?

They don't have dragons though.



Well Jane, it's all in their genes that I handed down to them.

They'll know where to go, when to go, and how to catch their food. They just don't know it yet. See Answer 19 too.

Ceulan - he took just 10 days to travel from the Dyfi to Senegal in September 2012


Hi Yuriko - I plan to come right back here to Wales.

Glesni and I managed to raise three youngsters last year for the first time (two each in 2013 and 2014) - I'm hoping for another good year in 2017.



Ah-ha, Jackie! You've left the trickiest question till last I see.

I can tell you that I'm not English. I'm not French nor am I Scottish.

So what does that leave us.... I'm saying too much already. Perhaps some things are best left a mystery?

Mind you, they tell me those curious people in the red shirts that come to ring my kids every year are working away at some kind of inheritance analysis thingy. They reckon they can work out where I'm from, and not only that, who's related to me!

I'm not sure I believe them though - do you...?


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