07 May, 2015


Great name for a town.

Last stop on the Ecuador border before Colombia. Small fishing town in tropical forest along the shoreline of the Pacific.

Island Girl must like it here as she usually roosts in this region on her way north. Could be that it is just the result of flying north through the central valley but she always seems to pop out here and roost near the ocean.

She flew another 99 km (62 miles) taking it a bit easy on this day.

She did cross the equator, leaving the southern hemisphere behind yet again on her journey.

Roosting was in the rain forest only 7 km (4 miles) from the Pacific. She could no doubt see it again as she flew into the area, maybe even hearing it as she prepared to sleep.

She was just 22 km (14 miles) due east of Esmeraldas and closing in on the coast of Colombia.

Halfway Across the Country

She flew north along her usual and favored route, this year passing Guayaquil entirely and heading north up the central valley of the Guayas River.

She migrated another 292 km (182 miles) before stopping for the night in an area of broken forest and farmland, intermixed with old ox bow lakes and ponds. The elevation was fairly low as you might expect in the lowlands of the central valley at 497' elevation.

The huge reservoir, the Velasco Ibarra was to her south. Great hunting area, perhaps bats over the lake in the evening.

She is kind of burning up the sky. She has been migrating for just two weeks but she is already 4 days ahead of her 2014 schedule and two days in front of 2013.

Oh yeah. She is sleeping in trees once again.

Into Ecuador

Island Girl traversed into her third country of this migration on Thursday. She entered Ecuador via her usual route and experienced a dramatic and abrupt transition in humidity, temperature and habitat, migrating from hot, dry, barren desert into a humid, wet, tropical forest habitat.

She always slows down here, presumably to acclimate to the massive change in her environment. As Don points out so observantly, this was the shortest day of her migration so far this season.

There is a cluster of her roosting sites here from several years so she is pretty consistent in this behavior.

She covered just 149 km (93 miles) and roosted in the small coastal hills east of Machala, 28 km (17 miles) inland from the mangrove coastline and at the surprisingly low elevation of 239'. She usually does this here.

Leaving the Desert Yet Again...Last Day in Peru

Island Girl is making good time this spring. She is two days faster than her 2014 schedule and one day faster than her 2013 run.

She continued to follow the inland coastal foothills as usual in this area, thereby avoiding the heat of the Sechura Desert near the coast. She knows this area very well by now, having passed through here many times before.

She flew 262 km (163 miles), passing Piura and roosted "on a hillside overlooking the Chira River Valley".

She was within view of the Represa de Poechos, a large impoundment to her west and no doubt a potential source of food.

The city of Las Lomas was to her east.

She was only 16 km (10 miles) from the Ecuadoran border.

Near Chiclayo

Island Girl flew 262 km (163 miles) on Tuesday, 29 April, reaching the coastal city of Chiclayo. She slept once again on the side of a dry desert ridge overlooking the key agricultural valleys that support her migration.

She has been roosting inland along this segment of her journey, last night about 40 km (25 miles) from the ocean.

I can only imagine that the elevation she selects, 1,684' last night) might be significantly cooler than at  a lower elevation, perhaps with breezes cooling her night.

She was not far from a huge reservoir, the Reservorio de Tinajones, just up the valley from her.

She was also near, if not within, the Reserva Ecologica Chaparri. I wonder if they know that migrant peregrines pass this way each spring and fall.

Through the Peruvian Atacama

On Monday, 27 April, Island Girl continued on course up the Peruvian coast as expected. She flew another 266 km (165 miles) NW of Lima and eventually reached another dry mountain ridge to sleep for the night. She roosted up in the hills, apparently to avoid disturbance, at 543 meters (1,781'), as in WAY out there in the middle of nowhere.

The site was located NE of the town of Huarmey and approximately midway between Huacho and Chimbote.

Catching up here....

Hi Everyone,

Sorry for the delay once again, but, as before, a very intensive work schedule has precluded me from writing until now.

I can say that Short-eared Owlets are the cutest owl species I have seen yet.

Back to Island Girl.

Don McCall had stopped her location data as Island Girl passed through the Lima area as we have had reports of individuals trying to catch her there. Not sure why anyone would want to do that but there you have it.

She flew 318 km (198 miles) that day and put in for the night in the dry and arid foothills (3,339' elevation), exactly due east of and only 23 km (14 miles) from the big city.

She roosted in a classic location, as usual sleeping on a ridge in between two major agricultural valleys.

Amazing how consistent she is from year to year.

25 April, 2015

Flying Through the Atacama

Island Girl continued on her migration as usual, crossing one of the most intense deserts in the world. She flew another 272 km (169 miles) as she went past Nazca once again.

This time, she kept going NW until she reached another agricultural valley near the town of Palpa.

She roosted just north of a trio of intersecting drainages, all of which have abundant agricultural fields, the key to this route.

She chose an arid, severe habitat to sleep in at 3,385 feet elevation and only 7 km (4.5 miles) from the Pan Am Highway as she often does here due to the geography of the Peruvian coastal terrace.

She was about halfway between Nazca and Ica and is nearing the famous Paracas Reserve and the town of Pisco, which was devastated a few years back by a large earthquake.

Similar to what is happening in Nepal tonight. Having experienced this type of event, I can only wish all of the people of that country (and the surrounding ones too) my deepest sympathy.

24 April, 2015

Flying Along the Front Range of Peru

On Thursday, Island Girl continued flying NW across Peru and traveled another 293 km (182 miles) closer to her home. She again migrated past Arequipa, located farther inland and much higher in elevation.
She is moving NW along the foothills and well inland from the ocean. I think it was Christian Gonzalez who first pointed out that the winds move both inland  and upslope here, presumably providing her with good lift and a bit of a free ride.
Of course when I say foothills, I am talking the Andes Mountains here. These foothills can be 7-10,000 feet high.
She is moving through one of the most beautiful areas in the world right now. I have such vivid memories of the area, classic desert, intense sunlight, rock and dirt terrain with the most subtle colors imaginable, shocking in their surprising appeal.
Spartan in the extreme but so open and unencumbered. An ancient place of wind and heat and beauty.
I guess I just love this desert and always will. It just draws you in.
She slept on a dry rocky ridge located at 1721 meters (5,715 feet) elevation approximately 55 km (34 miles) inland.
Consistent with past years, she roosted above a classic agricultural valley, the Valle de Rio Ocona, a dramatic and vast cut snaking down from the glaciers of the high Andes.
These valleys are always centers for agriculture as they are blessed with abundant water. I imagine that people have lived in them since humanity first arrived in South America. They are the life blood of the coastal people.
And, although I have written this many times on this blog, I will say it again. It is these agricultural valleys that sustain huge numbers of birds which feed migrant falcons like Island Girl.
What will happen when the massive Andean glaciers melt and the waters are reduced remains to be seen.

Island Girl arrives in Peru

She flew 315 km (196 miles) on Wednesday, leaving Chile behind once again. She apparently followed the coastline as she usually does here although the signal indicates an over water route. I believe that is a function of the local geography here as she has been on a northerly heading all the way up the Chilean coast and now has to make the turn to the NW where she "turns the bend" into Peru.

This area has always fascinated me, as migrant peregrines must make a decision here. Alter the heading to NW and follow the coast line or keep going straight north and fly up into the high Andes as Felipe, our other tagged adult peregrine did with fatal results.

But Island Girl appears to have made the turn and ended up roosting well out in the desert near the main road leading uphill from coastal Ilo to Moquegua in the foothills of Peru.

Her roost site was 41 km (25 miles) inland at an elevation of 4,124'. She slept only 4 km (2.5 miles) from the Pan-Am Highway which heads inland here.

Still making consistent time on her journey north.

North Along the Pacific

Sorry for the delayed report. Computer was in for repairs.

Island Girl continued to follow her coastal route north on Tuesday, just as she did at this point last year.

She left Antofagasta far behind, apparently flew over the incredibly beautiful city of Iquique and continued on, covering another 381 km (237 miles) for the day.

She eventually put in for the night on the plateau above the coastline and slept at around 1,284 feet elevation, possibly in the cooler updrafts coming in from the ocean. She was just 600 yards from the shoreline and about 8 km north of the city.

Her roosting site was due west of the town of Huara on the Pan-American Highway, located 38 km (23 miles) east of her.

Don McCall has noticed how consistent her flight distances have been over the last four days, covering 392, 354, 399 and 381 respectively. Steady progress with no staging behavior as yet.

21 April, 2015

Return to Antofagasta, pigeon capitol of Chile?

On Monday, this wonderful peregrine, Island Girl, flew down to the Pacific coastline and followed it north. She seems to have stayed right on the coastline route throughout the day, passing Chanaral and Taltal before arriving at Antofagasta once again.

Our team knows this area well as we spent a fair amount of time trapping here in the past.

The major draw here for a peregrine is the huge abundance of food in the form of pigeons and doves. There are huge clouds of them in this grain shipment city, no doubt a welcome sight for a migrant, hungry peregrine.

She slept just above town, about 1.3 miles up in a dry, rocky draw at 2,650' elevation. She was only 3.7 miles from the coast.

I cannot help but think that she remembers this city, having migrated through here so many times before. Was there any forethought as she followed the coastline north? Does she think? Does she think about the availability of food? Does she navigate from memory? These are all questions for which we have no answers.

Antofagasta is a very popular town in Chile and has been undergoing a surge in growth.

As I examined her roost site on Google Earth, I realized that Island Girl had roosted only about 4 miles from where we had caught Sparrow King near the northern edge of Anto several years ago.

Looking at this site, a gigantic chicken farm, on GE I now saw that housing developments had overtaken the area. In fact, just to the west of the trapping site, there is a gigantic resort and housing development situated near the thundering rocky shoreline.

If you look at Highway 1 where it dog legs leaving town, you can see a large high rise hotel or condo and especially, a giant aquamarine swimming pool or should I say small lake with white sandy beaches for the guests/residents.

Chile keeps growing in the desert.

Kind of wish I was there....

Heading into the extreme desert...

On Sunday, Island Girl flew north for another 354 km (220 miles). She passed the city of Copiapo and approached the coastal city of Caldera where I trapped my first Chilean peregrine with Christian Gonzalez back in the 1980s.

She is now crossing the full on Atacama Desert yet again.

She roosted out in the desert, sleeping on a rocky mountain hillside at 3,067' elevation. She chose to sleep about 30 km (18 miles) inland and almost directly east of Caldera.

The San Jose mine is located on the backside of this mountain so there is a road nearby.

As a result, there are some great pictures on Google Earth of this area, including photos of flowers blooming in the Atacama. Well worth a view.

19 April, 2015

Seriously migrating now..

Yesterday, Island Girl started to migrate in earnest. She flew 392 km (244 miles) north passing by San Antonio, Valparaiso, Quillota, Illapel and Ovalle. She has now entered some serious desert once again although there is still sparse vegetation here.

She put in SE of one of my favorite cities in Chile, La Serena, and eventually roosted on a cliff situated on a steep desert hillside at 3,658' elevation.

She is following her "inland" route as she often does in the Atacama, sleeping about 45 km (28 miles) inland from the sea.

We still don't know why she chooses this variation as it is cooler by the coastline and there would appear to be much more bird life available to her there.

Still one of the mysteries about her.....