Conservation Without Borders: Flight of the Osprey

by Sacha Dench in Chagford, England, United Kingdom

Conservation Without Borders: Flight of the Osprey


raised of £20,000 target
2% 21 days left
Flexible funding – this project will receive all pledges made by October 11th 2019 at 2:00am

Sacha Dench + a team of renowned conservationists and scientists will take the world on a 7,000km journey into the lives of migrating birds

by Sacha Dench in Chagford, England, United Kingdom

From Scotland and Ireland to the coasts and waterways of west Africa, the osprey has watched over the landscapes and seascapes, connected people across all those lands, for millennia.

It should be a common bird right across its range.

Breeding in Europe, it once would have spent summers rearing young in tall trees along the great rivers of the Thames, the Trent, the Mersey, the Severn and the Tay, and many more besides. A sight that hasn’t been seen for decades. Each year a few keen eyes on their daily commute, will look up to spot them flying overhead scanning the land... they sometimes pause to rest or to catch a fish, and watch us and our curious new world, but they no longer stay. But why?

Reintroduced or returned by chance to small areas of Scotland, England, Switzerland, France, Spain...the osprey is now trying to make a comeback...with a lot of help from dedicated conservationists. We work with the most prominent researchers and organisations in species restoration, wetland conservation and public engagement.

In Autumn when the days turn colder, the birds head for Africa. A perilous journey across vast seas, mountain ranges and deserts, soaring on the thermal updrafts. In 2020 we will follow them, on a journey into the lives of the ospreys. The team of pilots, scientists, photographers and videographers, and local experts will share the story of their lives and the people working hard to help bring them back.

A bird of forest, wetlands, and sea...conservationists and scientists are doing their best, but what can the rest of us do to help bring them back?

It is all part of a broader story. Our own lives are more closely connected to the ospreys than we might imagine... the osprey is at the top of its food chain, and so by helping them we could help bring back the many other threatened species of birds, fish, the disappearing small invertebrates that all our lives depend on…

We’ve found a way of letting the birds tell their flying with them. Flying in a paramotor (a paraglider with an engine attached), Sacha will lead a team across Europe and West Africa... following their journey through the skies and to give a bird’s eye view.

Why is this project urgently needed?

  • Migratory birds are some of the most threatened animals on the planet, and the hardest to protect due to their reliance on multiple countries and many habitats.
  • The trends of many of the waterbirds using this migratory flyway are in long-term decline, with a significant number globally threatened with extinction. Indeed, many are not monitored so we have no idea of their current status. This stresses the need for urgent conservation responses, at multiple levels.
  • Threats to the birds include illegal hunting and persecution, pollution, entanglement in nets, collision with powerlines, habitat degradation, fish barriers in waterways etc. These threats can be directly addressed through generating mass awareness, political support for change, and promoting international collaboration.
  • There are critical wetland habitats along this flyway that are not protected and which are being degraded. We have a window of time to change that before the damage is irreversible.
  • Governments need to take urgent action to conserve and restore wetlands for wildlife and human health, and as a climate change adaptation strategy (wetlands store large quantities of carbon).
  • Pollutants like pesticides, pharmaceuticals and plastics are a growing threat, and their potential impacts on the osprey and their food chain are an important part of the puzzle.
  • This is a tried and tested model for conservation and engagement. The UN Convention on Migratory Species and its agencies have identified public engagement across flyways as critical to the conservation of migratory birds, and yet most efforts to do so, across geographical and political boundaries, fail. No other projects have delivered the results of ‘Flight of the Swans’.
  • There are large stretches of this migration route where support is urgently needed for recruiting and training data collectors and observers, and influential champions for the natural world. These gaps must be filled if we are to achieve long term effective conservation for ospreys and other migrating birds.
  • Local conservationists need extra national and international support. Implementing international agreements can be very difficult without raising the issues, over an extended period, in a very public way. Working with partners in each country, ‘Flight of the Osprey’ will begin this role in August 2019 across the year preceding the expedition, during the expedition, and will continue after the project through the film and local activity.

By the end of this project we will have achieved the following tangible outcomes:

  • Engagement: we will have reached an audience of over 10 million people through building relations and sharing stories with local, national and international media (with a target of 2,000 media pieces).
  • Reported reduction in persecution and illegal hunting of ospreys and other migratory birds, over the subsequent 3 years, at least in part through hunter-led initiatives.
  • Greater protected status for wetlands: we will have helped to bring about increased protection of at least 3 important wetland stopover sites along the way, and have given local groups greater agency to continue this work at other sites.
  • Data on the impacts of pollutants and plastics on wetland sites and migrating birds: we will have analysed the results of a wide range of plastic and pollutant sampling of the critical wetlands on the migratory route, which will benefit national and regional governments and conservationists (we will provide the results on an open access basis). Scientific results from the expedition will be published in international journals to make new findings available to the wider science and conservation communities.
  • Increased landowner and public interest and support for greater wild areas in the UK, which would support ospreys and other wildlife, as well as contributing more generally to water and air quality, as well as human health.
  • Data gaps in our wetland and waterbird censuses are able to be filled by newly identified and trained observers, for the first time providing a full picture of their population status.
  • Resourcing wetland centres from Scotland to West Africa: better resourced centres will engage more people and attract more support. The Wetland Link International (WLI) network will have attracted at least 3 new wetland centres as members, and will have energised and engaged with existing WLI member centres.
  • Schools and environmental centres: we will have conducted a programme available to all schools along the flyway, including the development of a digital ‘flyway’ for use in education, live following and interaction with the expedition.
  • Leave a lasting legacy: by ensuring local conservation partners are fully involved in steering the project in their countries, we will have provided media assets, a film, and ongoing support for the year following the expedition.
  • Share the messages globally: presentations will be given to governments and conservationists around the world, working on different flyways, in the following year to ensure the lessons learnt are broadly shared with the public and decision makers.

This crowdfunder will raise vital funds to enable us to build our partner network in the UK, Europe and West Africa, including essential research, as well as reconnaissance trips. We already have a significant volunteer team, and these funds will also mean we can offer them additional training and support.

Join us on a journey with the ospreys, as they show us their lives.

What pushed them to the brink of extinction?

And what can we all do to help bring them – and other migratory species - back?

Who is Sacha Dench?

Sacha has spent more than 20 years as a conservationist and communicator and is renowned for bridging the gap between science and the public, as a scientist, communications consultant for NGOs, found of volunteer groups and charity PR director.

Her last expedition, Flight of the Swans, engaged millions in the plight of the Bewick’s swan and was the inspiration behind founding Conservation Without Borders. The campaign inspired local groups – from hunters to farmers to schools – to take action that has created tangible conservation benefits, and generated over 1,700 broadcast and print pieces. The project won ENDS 2017 Environmental Campaign of the Year, led to Sacha being made a Woman of the Year and she became the first woman in 50 years to win the coveted Britannia Trophy for aviation.


This project offers rewards in return for your donation.

£30 or more

Osprey Supporter (Flight of the Osprey mug)

Donate money to a great cause - and get a lovely mug, adorned with the beautiful Flight of the Osprey logo...

£20 or more

Facebook Shout Out

As a way of saying thank you we will mention your donation on our Facebook page (making it a nice present for someone).

£20 or more

Pledge with chance to come to VIP party

This is mainly a pledge made because you love what we are doing and want to support it - but everyone who pledges at this level will be entered in a draw for a VIP ticket to our launch party (see VIP Launch Party @ £450).

£40 or more

Flight of the Osprey t-shirt

A must-have for every wardrobe, this tee is the ideal all-year-rounder. Sometimes the best designs are the simple ones - like this navy t-shirt with Flight of the Osprey logo. The t-shirts are made using only organic natural fibres. Printed in the UK in a renewable energy powered factory.

£50 or more

Signed Osprey Photo

Beautiful A5 image of an osprey, signed by both Sacha Dench and Roy Dennis, with a personalised message of thanks.

£50 or more

A Life of Ospreys - Signed Book

This wonderful book by renowned osprey expert, Roy Dennis, who has been responsible for osprey reintroduction in the UK. Signed by the author and Sacha Dench, with a personalised message of thanks.

£100 or more

Named individual sponsor

We name you in the acknowledgements section of the book of the project, as well as a public thank you on Facebook and our website.

£450 or more

0 of 25 claimed

VIP Launch Party

You will be one of 25 guests with a VIP ticket to the exclusive launch party in London. You will meet and spend time with Sacha, our celebrity supporters and other team members. The champagne and food is on us! Please note the date will be finalised shortly.

£1,200 or more

0 of 10 claimed

Fly Like A Bird

One of the team pilots will take you on a unique tandem microlight flight over the beautiful British countryside and for drinks afterwards, together with Sacha Dench, to talk about all things flying and how the preparations for the expedition are going (a night of B&B included, if required). This would make a great team day out or for a group of friends. Date to be agreed.

£1,500 or more

0 of 10 claimed

Exclusive Osprey Weekend

Join Sacha and one of our renowned osprey experts (Roy Dennis or Tim Mackrill), for a private tour of locations and answer all your questions about ospreys, as well as wider issues such as biodiversity loss and rewilding. They will also join you for dinner (and whisky!) afterwards. Dinner and B&B in a beautiful location are part of the Reward. Treat yourself, give a great present to a loved one or a really unique client entertainment opportunity.

£2,000 or more

0 of 4 claimed

Dinner with Sacha Dench

Sacha will come to your dinner party after the end of the expedition - to give you and your guests a behind the scenes version of what happened and to talk about conservation, ospreys, or anything else which interests you! Please note the date is indicative rather than set in stone and will be agreed between parties.

£3,000 or more

0 of 5 claimed

Exclusive Talk (RARE FIND)

Sacha, who is an experienced public speaker, will deliver an exclusive talk to your team or your clients at your event/venue. This can be a private or a corporate event. We will bring a paramotor and show you some of the equipment used in the expedition, and will share some stories which aren't usually told! Your company will become an official CWB Supporter and your logo will appear on our website. Date to be agreed to be agreed.

£4,000 or more

0 of 10 claimed

Official VIP Supporter (Scotland Launch)

Get all our branded kit (mug, t-shirt, hoodie and bag). Regular personalised updates from the team. Then be there when we take to the air (and road) in Northern Scotland. Up to 10 guests will be allowed at the launch, with behind the scenes access. This will include a private osprey tour and an interview with you will appear in a personalised version of the documentary film. Date tbc.

£4,000 or more

0 of 10 claimed

Official VIP Supporter (Poole Team Camp)

Get all our branded kit (mug, t-shirt, hoodie and bag). Regular personalised updates from the team. Then be there when the team stops off, camps and takes to the air again at Poole Harbour. Up to 10 guests will be allowed to join the team at camp, with behind the scenes access. This will include a private tour of the osprey facility and an interview with you will appear in a personalised version of the documentary film. Date tbc.

£5,000 or more

0 of 1 claimed

Channel Crossing - Boat Support Guest

One guest will be allowed on the safety (speed) boat, as it crosses the channel from Poole to Jersey, while Sacha is flying above. Opportunity to spend night before or after at camp with the expedition crew. Please note the date is indicative and will be confirmed closer to the time.

£5,000 or more

0 of 5 claimed

Project Patron

Spend the next three years being part of the Flight of the Osprey project! Attend key meetings (both online and in person), be featured on our website, credit in the film and book, be one of the hosts at our launch events and with an option to join the expedition for a section.

Let's make 'Conservation Without Borders: Flight of the Osprey' happen

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