22 November, 2016

Island Girl Has Completed Her Southbound Migration

As Island Girl was approaching Valparaiso, Chile on the last leg of her southern migration, we lost all contact with her for approximately 5 days.  Usually this is a bad sign, because temporary outages due to a depleted battery in her backpack have always in the past resolved themselves after two or three days, with at least occasional data being received even if it's not of sufficient quality to publish on a web map. By the third or fourth day we began to fear that her backpack transmitter had failed, or worse (the batteries have never before lasted more than two years or so, so eight years has already been extremely exceptional).  But, amazingly, we received one more sub-standard data point early this morning, but it was good enough to indicate that Island Girl has reached her southern home range near Putu on the Pacific Coast of Chile.

Whether her transmitter and battery will regain full functionality, enabling us to track her next northbound migration in April, is an open question.  For now, all is well.

17 November, 2016

Approaching Valparaiso

Island Girl has flown 1200 km (746 mi) in the past three days, averaging 400 km (249 mi) per day as she has followed Chile's Pacific Coast southward, roosting at night in the high desert foothills of the Andes just a few kilometers from the ocean - although last night she roosted near some coastal dunes adjacent to the Petorca River north of Valparaiso. She is now 296 km (184 mi) from her final destination at the Putu Dunes just north of Constitución, and will most likely complete her migration within a day or two.

14 November, 2016

Heading For Home

Island Girl is now in Chile and following the Pacific coastline south, currently passing through the barren Atacama Desert, typically roosting at night hundreds of meters above sea level but only a few kilometers from the ocean. She is about halfway between Iquique and Antofagasta, and about 1450 km (900 mi) from her final destination.

12 November, 2016

At the "Arica Bend"

Island Girl’s shortcut yesterday (in the region of South America known to geographers as the “Arica Elbow”, or "Arica Bend") took her over the Pacific Ocean for 371 km (231 mi) before returning to land in southern Peru.  She appears to have made landfall in the vicinity of Ito, although it must be remembered that we have only a few GPS locations every day and the route that Island Girl actually follows to connect those dots is, by default, shown as straight lines on the maps but her exact route between the dots is unknown.  For example, she might have returned to the coast considerably north of Ito and then followed the shoreline to Ito, and the map would look exactly the same.

By late morning today, Island Girl was on the move again, following the coast, and was 86 km (53 mi) from the Chilean border.

Here's an interesting article about the geology of the Arica Bend. Apparently the land north of Arica is slowly rotating counterclockwise, and the land south of Arica is rotating clockwise, resulting in the bent coastline (and the entire Andes chain, for that matter):  http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0040195198000584

11 November, 2016

Over the Pacific and Approaching Chile

Island Girl is beginning her end-of-migration sprint to the finish line, as she usually does over the last few days of each migration. Yesterday she flew 371 km (231 mi) as she passed the city of Ica, Peru, and then Nazca (site of the famous Nazca geoglyphs), before roosting for the night in the foothills above a narrow coastal strip of the Atacama desert.  Although she was only 5 kilometers from the ocean, her roost site was at an elevation of 967 meters (3174 ft), as the Andes rise quite abruptly from the coast in this area.

She was approaching the “bend” in the western coast of South America where the coastline turns abruptly from a southeastern to a slightly western direction, and interestingly, this morning Island Girl headed out over the Pacific to fly a shortcut route across that stretch of open water directly toward southern Peru or northern Chile; if she continues on her current heading she will possibly make landfall in the vicinity of Arica, or even Iquique.  At her latest GPS signal this morning she was 64 km (40 mi) offshore.

10 November, 2016

Halfway Through Peru

Island Girl has followed the western foothills of the Andes through Peru for the past four days, which is typical for this stage of her migration.  She passed Lima, roosted last night east of the coastal city of Chincha Alta, and is now about 800 kilometers (500 miles) from Chile.

06 November, 2016

Approaching Peru

Over the past three days Island Girl has moved from the higher ground of the western foothills and fringes of the Andes down into the coastal lowlands of Ecuador, still a few hundred meters (1000 feet, more or less) above sea level and some distance inland.  She has been roosting overnight in mixed agricultural/forested areas and generally staying close to rivers, at least overnight. She spent last night in the southwestern corner of Ecuador, not far from the border of Peru which, at this location, is both west and south of her.

This is close to the spot where Island Girl roosted last year on 01 November, so she's now about 5 days behind last year's schedule, which is a typical variation from year to year.

03 November, 2016

Island Girl At The Equator (Almost)

Island Girl has completed her passage through Colombia, and is now following the western foothills of the Andes Mountains as she normally does at this stage of her migration. Yesterday she reached Ecuador and flew to within 1.1 kilometer (3,609 feet) of the Equator, where she spent the night overlooking a river valley (typical for her travels through South America) at an elevation of 1038 meters (3407 feet). She is currently 212 km (132 mi) from the Pacific Ocean.

31 October, 2016

Island Girl Has Reached South America

After spending a couple of easy days crossing Panama to the tip of the Azuero Peninsula, Island Girl crossed the Gulf of Panama yesterday. She flew over open water for 412 km (256 mi), and made landfall in South America about a third of the way down the Pacific Coast of Colombia.  In the seven previous southern migrations for which we have tracked Island Girl, she just reached the southeastern tip of Panama or the northwestern tip of Colombia when she made this crossing, so this is easily her longest flight over the Gulf of Panama.

Last night she roosted in the coastal rainforest about 14 km (9 mi) from the Pacific Ocean.

28 October, 2016

Continuing South Again

Island Girl departed Limón yesterday afternoon after spending 6 nights in that city; she flew southeast for 164 km (102 mi), crossed the border into Panama, and roosted last night in the forest about 7 kilometers south of Chiriqui Lagoon.

27 October, 2016

Still in Limón

Island Girl spent her sixth night in Limon, Costa Rica last night. Some folks from the Ornithological Society of Costa Rica were in Limón two days ago and reported seeing Island Girl, identified by her antenna wire. One photo of her flying was posted on their Facebook page, but in the photo she was too distant to see any details.

23 October, 2016

Pausing in Limón, Costa Rica

Island Girl reached Limón, Costa Rica on the evening of 21 October, and is temporarily remaining in or near the city as she normally does at this stage in her migration. Presumably there's a lot of prey in this Caribbean seaport city, and the city has several large cell towers on which she likes to perch. Yesterday (22 Oct) she left the city for a few hours (to a forested area about 5 kilometers south), which is also typical, and then returned again to spend the night.

Members of the Asociacion Ornitologica de Costa Rica enjoy tracking Island Girl's progress as she visits their country every year, and for those interested, their Facebook page is updated daily with many professional quality photos taken by their members of beautiful and exotic birds. With over 840 species of birds, Costa Rica is one of the world's top destinations for avid birders.

21 October, 2016

Island Girl in Central America

Island Girl reached Guatemala on 17 October, and by late afternoon of 20 October had flown another 973 km (605 mi) as she passed through Guatemala, Honduras, the northeastern tip of El Salvador, and most of Nicaragua.  She had been following her usual route through the interior highlands of those countries, and her latest GPS signal on the 20th shows her veering more easterly back toward the Caribbean coastline in southeast Nicaragua.  She will typically stay with the Caribbean coast through Costa Rica and part of Panama before crossing over to the Pacific side for the remainder of her journey.

17 October, 2016

Island Girl is in Southern Mexico and Headed for Guatemala

After following the Gulf Coast of Mexico until just past Veracruz, Island Girl has now moved inland, and to higher ground, as she continues southeast through the state of Chiapas, Mexico toward Guatemala. 
She traveled 322 km (200 mi) on Sunday, remaining north of the Sierra Madres, and roosted in a forested area last night at an elevation of 1198 m (3931 ft). She was 200 km (124 mi) from the Guatemala border.

This is her usual and most direct route through southern Mexico and Central America, which she will probably follow through Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua before reaching the Caribbean Coast in Costa Rica.