13 May, 2008

Chamiza Nears the Caribbean

Chamiza continued flying to the NW yesterday. She migrated 157 km (98 miles) towards the Caribbean and eventually roosted about 15 km (9 miles) inland near the city of Lorica. Panama is only 184 km (114 miles) to the west from her location last night.

She roosted in an area with good GE coverage. It looks like she must have slept in a tree in a large open field, no doubt on someone's finca or ranch. The area has been cleared for pasture and there is a dirt road near her roost.

If you look at the entire map of her journey so far, it is evident that she is following nearly the same routes as our other falcons except further to the east. She began by flying up the Andean front in Chile, moved into the highlands of the Altiplano into Argentina, stayed high through Bolivia and southern Peru and then did her drop down into the Amazon Basin. But from there, she has generally paralleled the classic coastline route, albeit on the backside of the Andes.

At the northern end of the South American continent, she seems to be trying to continue the track but will, of course, immediately run out of terra firma if she continues NW. So as she approaches the actual coastline today (the first time in 30 days of migration), she will be "making the decision" to proceed north along the seashore to Baranquilla or "counter-intuitively" to fly SW towards Panama.

I am using the preceeding words in quotations figuratively of course. I do not mean to imply that she is sitting there actually making a rational decision. But again, it does beg the common question of what is driving her and how does she "select" a particular route?

Is it strictly instinct honed by centuries of natural selection? If she has flown this route before, is there any type of memory, perhaps even of specific landmarks, involved? Is there some sort of rudimentary thought process going on? Do migrant peregrines make choices at all? Are they capable of making choices concerning their migratory routes? Does a peregrine have some sort of consciousness and if so, what is it like inside their brains? Difficult questions to answer.