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OSPREY IS A FLOODY MIRACLE; MIRACLE BIRD WOULD GIVE THE BOLT A RUN FOR HIS MONEY.

Byline: JAMES McCARTHY james.mccarthy@walesonline.co.uk

A DRENCHED osprey born at the height of Mid Wales' flooding has left rescuers tearful with joy after completing his first migration to Africa.

The young bird - named Ceulan - spent the first five weeks of his life soaked to the bone and on the brink of death.

When he was rescued by Dyfi Osprey Project manager Emyr Evans, there seemed little hope he would ever reach maturity and attempt the 2,700-mile trip to Senegal, West Africa.

But the incredible bird, who is just 117 days old, has made the trip in just 12 days - crossing the 1,300 miles of the Sahara desert with no or little food in five days.

"It's a shame he missed the Olympics, he would have given The Bolt a run for his money," said Emyr.

Hopes are high that Ceulan, who is one of the first ospreys to be born in Wales since 1604, will be back in 14 months to find a partner.

But Dyfi Osprey Project, funded by Montgomeryshire Wildlife Trust, know there is only a one in three chance Ceulan will make it back.

Emyr told Wales on Sunday how he saved Ceulan after the floods.

He said: "We lost the camera for 36 hours and could not see what was happening apart from that the mother, Nora, was protecting two chicks.

"When the camera came back on after the rain finally stopped, we zoomed into the nest.

"I thought the two chicks were dead because they were not moving, but after a few minutes, they started to," Emyr said.

After half an hour, one died. He was so young he did not have a name.

"We had one surviving," said Emyr, who runs the osprey scheme, in Welshpool, Mid Wales.

"He was so weak he was on his belly in the nest face down and too weak to raise his head to beg for food.

"Nora could not feed him and he was going to die as well. There was no question."

Snapping into action, he phoned colleagues to see if they had any fish. One volunteered a trout she had bought for lunch from Morrisons.

Racing to the nest, he used a nine-metre ladder to reach 11-day-old Ceulan and wrap him in a fluffy blue towel.

"I got the chick down from the nest and fed him," Emyr, from Caernarfon, said.

"At first, it could not lift its head up. I had to force feed him by cutting up the fish and forcing it down his neck."

Nora circled overhead, calling to her chick.

"After 10 minutes, he came through and started to stand on his own two feet," Emyr said.

"I thought he had cracked it. After about 20 minutes, he was food soliciting, food begging."

Emyr put him back in the nest and by the time he returned to the visitor centre, Ceulan was being fed by his mother.

"I was relieved but still anxious as he was still hypothermic and shaking," Emyr said.

"I was just hoping that the bad weather would not come back."

Ceulan - named after a river that flooded - flew the nest on September 3 and has been tracked on his astonishing journey.

It has taken him to Exeter, Brittany, over the Bay of Biscay and down the east coast of Portugal until he hit the Algarve.

"Then instead of turning left at Gibraltar and taking the easiest route, he thought he would go straight ahead and cut the corner on another 11-hour flight to Africa and the north coast of Morocco," Emyr said.

"He was in Africa in less than a week."

He then took five days getting from north Africa to the Sahara in west Africa, which he crossed in five days without food and water.

"If Carlsberg did ospreys, they'd make Ceulan," said Emyr.

"He arrived in the Senegal river and has been there five days now.

"He is catching fish and fattening himself up. He would have lost weight on the way down and some condition.

"He would not have been in as good condition as he was in Dyfi."

If Ceulan survives, he won't be back next year.

"He is too young to breed at one," Emyr said.

"They don't start to breed until at least two or three years so we would expect him back in Wales in spring 2014."

Ospreys were a common sight in medieval Britain but were hunted and wiped out, and only started breeding in Wales again eight years ago.

The RSPB estimates there are 250 to 300 pairs in Britain, mostly in Scotland.

CAPTION(S):

Ceulan as a chick

Ceulan as a young adult and, below, his epic journey to Senegal

PICTURE: MONTGOMERYSHIRE WILDLIFE TRUST (c)

PICTURE: EMYR EVANS (c)
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Publication:Wales On Sunday (Cardiff, Wales)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Sep 23, 2012
Words:797
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