30 May, 2014

Reaching Home...

On Wednesday, 28 May, after a 43 day transcontinental migration across 14,217 km (8,835 miles minimum), Island Girl returned to her eyrie cliff on Baffin Island.

She had flown another 456 km (283 miles) across Hudson Strait to complete her sixth satellite-tagged journey north.

This year, she took her most direct route home, flying straight to her breeding area.

In past years, her behavior at this stage of the migration has varied.

For example, in 2009, she wandered widely on Baffin before settling in. We are unsure whether she even bred that year.

However, in all years but 2014, she has reached the island during the first week of June (4, 2, 3, 5, 5 June respectively).

She arrived back earlier than ever this year.

Is this early arrival related to her increased experience with the route and greater familiarity with the migration?

Is it caused by an earlier spring on Baffin Island?

Is it related to climate change and warmer temperatures in the north?

What about stronger tail winds across the Great Plains pushing  her north faster?

Is it simply a random event?

All good questions for which we have no answers at this time.

Perhaps some of our younger readers will solve these questions some day.

This completes the north bound segment of the Southern Cross Peregrine Project for 2014.

Acknowledgements:

Thank you to all of our readers for following along with us to track the unique movements of this remarkable peregrine, Island Girl. Glad you appreciate her as much as we do.

Thanks again to Don McCall one more time for all of the daily data work.

Mark Prostor originally set up this website along with Don so we could all follow these falcons. I hope you two guys understand how many people appreciate your efforts.

Thanks also to the original 2006 field team that made this happen in the first place, including Chilean peregrine expert Christian Gonzalez, and his family Giannina, Seba and Franny, from the US, Tom Maechtle, Zach Smith and Mark Prostor, and from the Canary Islands in Spain, our friend and another peregrine expert, Jesus Garcia Ubierna.

Also special mention to peregrine expert Nancy Hilgert in Ecuador and our friend Marco Saborio in Costa Rica who has taken so many  amazing and wonderful photos of Island Girl on migration.

Funding for this work came from Dr. Clayton White got the project going early on. Check out his newly published book entitled  Peregrine Falcons of the World, co-authored with Tom Cade and Jim Enderson. This is nowthe new bible on peregrines all around the globe.

David and Ginger Ridgway were also inspirational in their support in getting the SCCP up and going at first. Thanks for believing in this project.

Special thanks to all the hundreds of FRG members who crowd-sourced additional funding for the project before crowd-sourcing was even a term. Hope all of you share in our delight in these results.

Finally, we all must thank our dear friend and SCCP team member, Kathryn Gunther, for originally catching and naming Island Girl at Putu way back in 2008.

Even after we made her let Island Girl go the first time in 2008 because Mark and I did not think she was a tundra migrant. Kathy had to catch her again a second time in 2009 before we relented.

Who would have ever thought that your first peregrine ever caught in Chile would go so far, ping for so long and capture the hearts of so many?

Nice going Kathy and thanks.

For the rest of you, please tune in again next fall to see if the transmitter is still going.

Will she complete yet another full migration?









Crossing Northern Hudson Bay

On Tuesday, Island Girl completed her crossing of Hudson Bay and reached land on the western edge of  Mansell Island at the NE entrance to the Bay.

She had flown 494 km (307 miles) across the ice heading towards her home on Baffin Island.

She roosted that night right on the edge of a small tarn a bit inland from the shoreline. This site was only 53' in elevation.

Perhaps this roost was a snow free location and there was free-standing water in the tarn. Perhaps she found prey there or even took a bath.

It would be fascinating to know such details.


27 May, 2014

Nearing Home,,,

Our tech guy, Don McCall, who has done such a great job again this season, writes the following note for Monday...

"Hi Everyone,

Island Girl flew 474 km (295 mi) yesterday, as she continued up the western shore of Hudson Bay and then, sometime yesterday evening, turned east and started flying across the ice on northern Hudson Bay. "

Don has been receiving all of the ARGOS satellite data each day and then writes up a short summary for all of our original team members and supporters. Lots of dedication there and I wanted everyone reading this blog to know about his continuing contributions.

Thanks again Don, as always.

So she arrived at the shore of the bay, flew NE following it for some distance and then, before reaching Rankin Inlet, made a dramatic, hard turn to the right (due east), heading directly out across the frozen saltwater vastness of Hudson Bay.

Somehow, she just knew when to turn east.

So she roosted out there on the ice, some 112 km (70 miles) from land.

Cold toes last night.

Always a dramatic image to consider, all alone on the flat, white, frozen ice plain, perhaps sleeping under ancient, gleaming starlight.






Crossing Into Nunavut Territory

On Sunday, Island Girl flew NE, leaving Manitoba behind and barely crossing into Nunavut Territory once again. She did not travel far, covering only 218 km (135 miles) for the day.

Weather at Churchill to her south was 31-41 degrees F. with NE winds at 7 mph at noon today. Sunrise 4:23 AM with sunset at 10:01 PM.

We are just 24 days from the summer solstice. She is likely to be incubating her eggs on that date.

This is her 40th day of migration and she has more than made up for some lag time in South America.  She was five days ahead of her position from last year at this point in time.

She is now on a NE heading, pointing directly at her eyrie or nest on Baffin Island.

In the past, she has often flown directly across the ice in the middle of  Hudson Bay. This year, she seems to be staying a bit further north than normal so she may cross higher in latitude than in previous years.

Canadian weather shows most of the Bay still frozen over, although thawing is occurring along the western margins of the shoreline near Island Girls route.

Large parts of Baffin Channel appear to be ice free at this time.

She roosted at 535' elevation in an area of tundra and rocks surrounded by tarns, lakes, rivers and streams so typical of this area.

To illustrate the remote nature of her position, the Google Earth images here are very low resolution.We can't really tell too much about her actual  roost site although you can be sure it is not a tree, cell tower or radio antenna.

She slept about 100 km (62 miles) west of  Hudson Bay.


26 May, 2014

Treeline

Island Girl continued flying north, traveling 359 km (223 miles) on Saturday.

She was about 200 miles west of Churchill on Hudson Bay and roosted at approximately the same latitude.

The northern edge of the boreal forest dips south here and so she is now in the transition area between forest and tundra, or where the treeline ends. For the next four months, she will live, hunt, breed and raise her young in the northern tundra. No more trees until the fall migration.

She roosted at 997' elevation on a hill above Egenolf Lake,  which hosts a hunting/fishing lodge.

Her track indicates that she is now veering NE, altering her bearing towards Baffin Island as expected.


25 May, 2014

Into the Wilderness Again

Island Girl did not tarry in Saskatchewan this year.

She just headed north and flew on to Manitoba and into the boreal forest, covering another 493 km (306 miles) for the day.

She flew near  the mining town of Flin Flon where I chased Sparrow King, another of our earlier tagged peregrines, so many years ago. Just missed him too.

Island Girl is now back in true wilderness although there was a lone dirt road 6 miles to her west. She has left humanity behind for another season and will see few, if any, humans until next fall.

She is in an area of forest interspersed with many lakes and streams and lots of rocky hilltops scraped clean by the last glaciation.

Her roost was located in a grove of trees near McNight Lake at 1,176'elevation.

She is running about four days ahead of her position at this time last year.




24 May, 2014

Into Canada

On Thursday, Island Girl flew across the rest of North Dakota and left the US. She had flown completely across six states (Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Nebraska, South Dakota and North Dakota) in less than five days.

She always seems to make her best time across the prairies of the US.

She traveled yet another 554 km (344 miles) for the day.

She flew into eastern Saskatchewan generally following her usual route as she approaches the famous boreal forests of Canada. She was approaching the edge of it that night.

She roosted in an open agricultural field just off Road 637 north of a town called Veregrin. Elevation was 1,550'. Duck Mountain Provincial Park was to her east.

Last year, she spent three days in  this general area before continuing on. She is now in an area where peregrines have lingered or paused before, perhaps trying to get a sense of the spring and the snow cover ahead before heading into the far north to breed.

How do they sense when it is safe for them to continue north?




Across the Grasslands

On Wednesday, Island Girl left Nebraska and crossed into South Dakota. She continued flying for another 494 km (307 miles) and it appears she flew right over the Black Hills and within view of Rapid City. Her line was very close to Mount Rushmore.

She is flying over some of the best and most extensive grasslands in the west, including BuffaloGap National Grasslands, Grand River National Grasslands and the Little Missouri National Grassland.

She kept flying on into North Dakota until she roosted for the night near Theodore Roosevelt National Park.

Hard to tell what she slept on although since her position was at the intersection of two fields, I'd suspect a fence post.

Elevation was 2,763'.

She was near Highway 85 south of Belfield, ND.

Check out the photographs on Google Earth near her roost site to get an idea of just how beautiful these grasslands really are.

Wish I was chasing along with her.


21 May, 2014

Into Nebraska (Migrating 1,725 Miles in Just Four Days)

On Tuesday, Island Girl flew another 483 km (300 miles) and took a surprising turn to the NW.

She crossed into Nebraska and passed over Lake Oglalla on a bearing towards the Black Hills of South Dakota.

She eventually stopped in NW Nebraska, almost to the border with Wyoming.
Her track was near many famous American landmarks including Chimney Rock, Scott's Bluff and especially the Sand Hills of Nebraska.

The Sand Hills are a unique area loaded with a profusion of small lakes and ponds. Although I have never been there, the area must support a huge number of birds at this time of year.

Check out the pictures on Google Earth.

She eventually roosted on a tall radio antenna (look for the shadow) just off Highway 385 north of Alliance. Elevation was 4,119'.

The antenna was located among agricultural lands just west of the Sand Hills.

Puzzling that she veered to the NW.

Over the last four days, this falcon has migrated a total of 1,725 miles (Saturday 424, Sunday 551, Monday 450 and Tuesday 300 miles).

She always seems to turn on the speed when she crosses the Great Plains.




20 May, 2014

Across The Great Plains....

On Monday, Day 34, Island Girl flew north across the rest of Texas, continued on through the Oklahoma panhandle and nearly crossed all of Kansas. She flew past both Wichita and Dodge City before holding up near the town of Osborne.

She had another big day, migrating another 724 km (450 miles) across the Great Plains. She is now two days ahead of her position last year at this time.

The 2013 roost site (day 36) was only 45 miles east of her on Lake Waconda.

She slept in a really interesting place on a winding tributary on the South Fork of the Solomon River at 1,625' elevation. She chose to sleep in a grove of tall trees, possibly cottonwoods, on a tight river bend and was nearly.surrounded by water.

It is worth looking  at the GE image for this one.

She was only 568'  from a farmhouse.

As usual, I wish the people living there could know what an important visitor they had out in their trees for the night.

I wonder if she saw them.






New Record for the Season

Island Girl set a new record for the northbound 2014 migration on Sunday.

She flew a total of 887 km (551 miles) for the day, crossing much of the state of Texas after leaving Mexico.

She eventually landed near the small town of  Post, Texas, located SE of Lubbock.

This area is arid, flat ground without much in the way of trees.

Hard to tell exactly what she roosted in from the GE photos. Looks like short, widely spaced vegetation of some sort.

Anyone out there know what kind of vegetation exists near Lubbock?

She settled in for the night at 2,387'elevation.

Don McCall, who is a pilot, stresses that the heavy tail winds typical for spring in this area helped her along quite a bit.

Is this why she chooses this route?

Having covered so much distance, Island Girl is now slightly ahead of her position at this time last year.


19 May, 2014

Island Girl Crosses Into the US

On Sunday, Island Girl crossed into Texas near the border city of Nuevo Laredo.

Don McCall notes that she was traveling with strong tail winds behind her and reached speeds of 120 km/hr (75 mph) on this part of her migration.

By 6 PM local Central time, she had covered an amazing 752 km (467 miles) and was nearing the Texas panhandle. She was somewhere between Abilene and Midland at that time.

We do not have her roosting coordinates as yet so we cannot give you a total distance but it will become available later.

Once again, this was her longest distance traveled for a single day this season.

This behavior has been pretty consistent for her as she starts across the Great Plains. We have seen this before.

More later....



Serious Migration Through Northern Mexico

As expected, Island Girl really turned on the speed across the deserts of northern Mexico on Saturday.

She flew a  blistering 682 km (424 miles), her longest distance this season.

She passed the coastal towns of Tuxpan and Tampico before leaving the coast and taking the inland route.

This route always puzzles me as we know there is abundant prey available along the Gulf Coast.

But she always crosses inland into the dry desert and thorn forest instead, passing near by Ciudad Victoria on her way.

She finally came to roost in dry, desert scrub forest at only 625' elevation and about 190 km (118 miles) inland from the Gulf. She was just east of Monterrey.

Her position on Saturday night was only 113 km (70 miles) from the US border and just a bit south of the latitude of Brownsville, Texas.




Passing Veracruz

On Friday, Island Girl started to put on  some speed as she often does in this area.

She flew NW across the coastal plain between the Sierra Occidental and the Gulf ofMexico, eventually passing by Veracruz, and the world famous sites of the largest hawk migration in the world, Cardel and Chichicaxtle. Over four million raptors are thought to pass through this area every fall, a must-see for all raptor people.

She flew for 306 km (190 miles), nearer to Jalapa than Cardel, before following a valley up into the spur of mountains that hook east all the way to the Gulf.

She slept at 4,794' elevation on the shoulder of a mountain surrounded by agricultural fields and forest.