20 October, 2015

Saturday in Limon, Costa Rica, 17 October

Once again, Island Girl has crossed into Costa Rica and arrived in the city of Limon. She had flown 177 km (110 miles) during the day and stopped off where she has been several times before. She sure likes it here.

She will often remain in this city for several days, sometimes even longer, while feeding on migrant birds like Yellow-billed Cuckoos.

Our friend and colleague, Marco Saborio, who lives in the capitol of Costa Rica, San Jose, drove all the way down to the Caribbean coastal city once again and looked for her during the weekend. He had hoped to photograph her there as he has done before.

Unfortunately, during his two days there, he was unable to find her. Too many towers, not enough good signals and some dangerous neighborhoods all worked against it.

So she is now in Limon once again.

Some of you have noticed that the maps have not been updated for several days.

There is a reason for this.

It has been suggested that it might not be a good idea to pinpoint her location while she is in Limon. Apparently there may be the potential for harm coming to her in this city.

So we have decided to hold off on publishing her location for the entirety of her stay there.

We will resume reporting again on the day she moves on.

Please be advised that she is still somewhere in Limon, knocking off birds and getting fat.

Taking her time crossing Nicaragua

On Friday, 16 October, our falcon flew SE across Nicaragua, taking her time while paralleling the eastern shoreline of Lago Nicaragua.

She passed over some extensive tropical forest en route to her destination at days end. She had flown another 211 km (131 miles) before putting in for the night in a huge area of extensive tropical rain forest in the Reserva Biologica Indio Maiz.

She was only 26 miles from the ocean and the border with Costa Rica was just 10 miles south.

Honduras into Nicaragua

On Thursday, 15 October, Island Girl continued flying SE through Central America. She left Honduras and flew another 229 km (142 miles). That took her into central Nicaragua where she stopped off on a mountain ridge about 56 miles north of Lago Nicaragua.

She slept in a small patch of forest at 2,275' elevation atop this ridge.

Sorry about the delayed reports. I have been working in the field on a series of bird surveys and this is the first chance I have had to report.

15 October, 2015

Central America

Island Girl continued her journey across Central America on Wednesday. On Day 25, she flew across the rest of Guatemala and then did something we haven't seen before.

For the first time that we know about, she flew right into El Salvador.

Usually she flies around this country during this segment of her migration. But yesterday, she flew across the entire country, turning east on the slopes of a volcano situated just northwest of the capitol city of San Salvador.

She covered another 521 km (324 miles) before crossing into eastern Honduras.

She selected another mountain ridge and slept at 2,822' elevation. Again, it appears that this area has been logged. The site is about 41 km (25 miles) south of the capitol city of Tegucigalpa and not far from the border with Nicaragua.

Her progress this year is similar to her fall migration from 2013 but about 9 days longer than in 2012.

Starting Across Central America-Guatemala

On Tuesday, Island Girl left Mexico after flying down a sort of central valley and paralleling a large reservoir (La Angostura). She put on some speed and traveled 336 km (209 miles) across Chiapas before crossing over into Guatemala and ascending up into the mountains.

This is one of the most gorgeous areas I have ever been and the indigenous people are strikingly handsome and beautiful wearing their classic and colorful embroidered clothing. Completely unique culture. Wish I could go back there....

As before, Island Girl is choosing  to follow a route down the mountain spine of Central America. I am sure it is much cooler at that elevation and I would also expect more atmospheric lift along the ridges.

She finally put in on a high forested ridge at 2,583 m (8,492'), by far the highest she has slept on this leg of her trip. Google Earth shows a massive amount of logging in this area.

She was about 160 km (100 miles) from the Pacific coast.

13 October, 2015

From my colleague, Oscar Beingolea, in Peru

He writes,

" I have been told that two peregrines are already at wintering sites in Peru. One was observed by Fernando Angulo living in Chiclayo.This adult male arrived in October 11th.

The second one was observed by Renzo Piana  living in Lima. It arrived on October 7th."

Oscar is a leading expert on peregrines in Peru and has been studying and banding them there for many, many  years. He has a huge amount of experience with these birds. 

In the Peruvian coastal desert, he sees migrant North American peregines, both tundrius and anatum as well as the local South American subspecies, Falco peregrinus cassini.

I know that he always looks forward to the arrival of the North American birds each year in mid-October.

Oscar also documented the first peregrines to ever breed in Lima many years back. Quite unusual.

I am not sure if they breed in any other South American cities. Data anyone?

Crossing the Isthmus

Island Girl continued along a SE bearing on Monday, travelling another 254 km (158 miles) across the coastal plain. Once again, she is approaching the Isthmus of Tehuantepec. If peregrines have the capability of memory, she must know this region very well, having crossed it at least 18 times before.

She settled in to roost in the tropical forest high atop a densely wooded plateau at 3,314' elevation, perhaps the highest she has slept since last spring. She was very close to the border of Oaxaca and midway across the Isthmus.

She appears to have a wonderful vantage point here, overlooking a broad agricultural valley below and to the north.

I can only imagine the night sounds in the forest. Must be amazing...

12 October, 2015

Record Day for Peregrine Migration

This just in from our colleagues at the Florida Keys Hawkwatch....

Thank you Rafael Galvez and crew! Amazing job and good work.

1506 Peregrine Falcons in 1 Day Count – New World Record

OCTOBER 11, 2015
Photos of Peregrine Falcons over FKH on 10/10/15 by Ted Keyel. Additional photos and composite by Rafael Galvez.
October 10, 2015 was an incredible, magical day when 1506 migratory Peregrine Falconswere tallied from the Florida Keys Hawkwatch at Curry Hammock State Park. No other site in the world has recorded such a high count during a single day of this incomparable predator. The previous world record was established by our site during Oct. 10, 2012, when an impressive 651 total Peregrines were tallied that day. This year’s new record more than doubles the previous count from 2012.
vid image
This day was also the third highest day count for Sharp-shinned Hawks at our site, totaling in1241. It would have taken 284 more Sharpies to match the 1525 from Oct. 20, 2011.
Below is a list by the hour of the impressive Peregrine Falcon flights our site experienced throughout the day (Oct. 10, 2015):
0900-1000: 10
1000-1100: 35
1100-1200: 250
1200-1300: 386
1300-1400: 453
1400-1500: 241
1500-1600: 46
1600-1700: 26
1700-1800: 28
1800-1900: 31
TOTAL: 1506
OUR AMAZING HAWKWATCH VOLUNTEERS this day were Ted Keyel, Colleen Kimbert Caudill and Charles Caudill. Mark Hedden and Rafael Galvez were backup counters during the latter half of the count day. A tremendous effort by this crew! Tom and Janet Kuehl have been visitors for many days and shared this magical day with us – thank you for your help and enthusiasm.
Most Peregrines this day flew by at great altitudes, requiring great effort by volunteers to keep up with the counts. Photo by Ted Keyel.
Most Peregrines this day flew by at great altitudes, requiring much effort by volunteers to keep up with the counts. Photo by Ted Keyel.
LeicaFKH Logosm

Resuming the migration....

On Sunday, Island Girl left Tuxpan and flew 332 km (206) miles south along the coastal plain of eastern Mexico. She passed Pozo Rica, Cardel, Jalapa and Veracruz although we don't know her exact route through these areas.

In the afternoon, she veered inland towards the Sierra foothills and eventually arrived in the city of Tres Valles.

She reached the SW outskirts of town at stopped off at 200' elevation.

Her roost was located in a residential area, very close to what looks like a house. The neighborhood is lightly forested with many homes, roads and people in the vicinity.

Since Google Streetview doesn't cover this specific road, we can't be too sure what she slept on but there are powerlines and poles in the area as seen from the main road to the east (Avenida Manuel Avila Camacho).

 I could see no evidence of cell towers but that doesn't mean much.

Apparently there is a college in town, the Colegio de Estudios Scientificos y Technologica. Any fans down in Mexico know a person in Tres Valles that could go look for us?

Anyway, Island Girl is on the move and should reach the Pacific side shortly.

10 October, 2015

Still in Tuxpan

Island Girl has remained in the city of Tuxpan for the last two days. She is using at least two different cell towers, the original one located at the edge of the river and another situated inland about 700 yards north on top of a hill.

Both towers are visible by using the Street View icon.

Incidentally, to get OUT of Street View, click on the horizontal arrow in the box on the upper left of screen.

On Thursday, she was at the river site at midnight and 4 pm local time.

On Friday she was at the inland tower at 0800 and 4 pm local time.

She seems to favor stopping off in cities and perching on cell towers for a few days.

Usually, she does this down in Limon in Costa Rica.

Building up her fat stores? Building up her experience? Lots of easy prey? It would be good to know.

This seems like a good study for someone. It is probable that more peregrines than just Island Girl are using these towers and not only just during migration.

Might be interesting to look below many cell towers in Central America and collect prey remains to see what the falcons are catching and eating.

Seems like that would be a pretty easy way to collect a lot of data.

09 October, 2015

Thank goodness for friends and fans....

One of my colleagues, John Sanders of Everett, WA, has just pointed out to me that I have been missing something on our website tracking maps.

Not sure how I missed this but it is much easier to go to Google Street View right on the tracking maps instead of moving over to Google Earth as I described yesterday. Just look for the Gold guy icon in the lower right corner of the screen.

Much, much easier and simpler....

Thanks John!

08 October, 2015

Tuxpan and a Perfect Hunting Site

Island Girl continued south along the Gulf coast as expected. She flew another 159 km (99 miles) and made her way into the center of the coastal city of Tuxpan.

She roosted right in the heart of the city and adjacent to the Rio Pantepec, a large, wide river that forms a perfect setting for hunting.

There should be pigeons, doves, egrets, shorebirds, terns, ducks and many other species in abundance especially during the migration period. I would not be surprised to see bats here, flying over the river at dusk.

Once again, Island Girl selected a large communications tower for roosting. It is a lattice type tower with several arrays of cell antennas, perfect for perching and for viewing the area.

Check out Google Street View again to see the actual tower.

Towers like this not only provide excellent visibility for peregrines to search for prey but also create a "launch site" for any falcon that is hunting.

They can fly with an immediately available momentum instead of having to take off from the ground, gain speed and mount up into the air. That all takes time and energy.

In contrast, a tower bird can launch off and immediately use gravity for acceleration.

The height of the tower provides another advantage too. Any  falcon taking off from such a height will already have a superior aerial position situated well above any prey bird flying below the tower.

No wonder she often uses such towers.

07 October, 2015

Tampico-This One is Fun!

Island Girl followed her usual route down the Gulf coast, reaching the city of Tampico. She had flown 176 km (109 miles) that Tuesday, her 17th day of migration.

For the first time on this southbound leg of her journey, she roosted right in the middle of this large coastal city in an urban neighborhood.

There is poor resolution on the Google Earth photo here so I could not tell what she had slept on. I looked for the shadow of a cell tower with no luck.

So here is what you can do. Many of you already know how to do this but for those that might not, give this a try. I guarantee it is worth all the effort.

Go back to the main page of our website.

Click on Southern Cross in yellow.

Click on tracking maps.

Select Island Girl.

Scroll down to her map.

Use the zoom bar to drill down on her last, southernmost red dot.

Click on this dot.

It should bring up a data box with her migration data. If you have the right box, the time should read 0700 GMT in the upper right.

That is equivalent to around midnight in Tampico so you know this location is her night roost.

Highlight just the two lat./long coordinates and hit copy.

Minimize the screen.

Now go to Google Earth. Download it if you do not already have it.

Paste her lat./long coordinates into the search bar at the top left of the screen and click on the "Search" box.

It will take you right to where she slept last night.

As you can see, the resolution is terrible.

HOWEVER, go to the top right of the screen, hover your mouse a bit and look for the street view icon of a gold person standing on a round green base. This is the icon for Google Street View.

Drag that icon right to her coordinates (between Ghana and Francia streets) and see what happens.

You should see a normal photograph of the street.

Then use your mouse to rotate the screen and the street view.

There, to the north, is a tall, lattice type communication tower with a microwave dish and several cell antennas.

That is where she slept last night!

We are so privileged to be alive right now to witness this stuff. I never would have even dreamed of this when I was younger.

Nice timing on your births all you peregrine fans. Good choice of centuries.

Google Earth. Microwave Telemetry. Solar powered satellite transmitters. Computers. GPS satellites.

Oh yeah, and the Internet.

Amazing how it all comes together and we can all learn this stuff together and yet from anywhere in the world.

I am curious to know where our audience (if any) is located. Add your country on the comments box if you will and let's see.

06 October, 2015

Day 17-Moving Down the Gulf Coast

On Monday, Island Girl continued south along the Gulf Coast of Mexico, fllying another 251 km (156 miles) for the day.

She reached the estuary near La Pesca and roosted in the foothills at 369' elevation. This site was located 22 km inland and overlooks a broad plain not far from the Rio Almagre and a series of large, interconnected salt water bays. Perfect shorebird habitat normally.

Gregg Doney reports that they were experiencing a red tide on the Texas beach and that seemed to drop the shorebird, tern and gull numbers to very low levels. Not sure how the tide impacts the birds but for the hawk trappers, you experience raw throats and flu-like symptoms as you drive down the beaches. Not pleasant.

Her roost was located 120 km (75 miles) due east of Ciudad Victoria and mid-way between the main highway south (Mexico180) and the beach. She was not far from the main road leading out to La Pesca.