I returned to Island Girls area today in hopes of catching her and changing out her transmitter. As you can see from the maps, she likes this little strip of beach/dunes situated between the Pacific and the Mataquito River which flows NW behind the sand spit she favors. This is exactly where Kathy Gunther caught her twice over two seasons.
Island Girls Range, Mataquito River on Right
What you can't see is just how amazingly rich it is in birdlife. Peruvian Pelicans, Black Skimmers, Sanderlings, Southern Lapwings, American Oystercatchers, Austral Thrushes, and my favorite, Chilean Flamingoes, this always unexpected flash of brilliant pink spread out across the light green marshy edge of the river.
So the place is loaded with food which is why she is there and why she returns every year.
Don McCall has just returned from a vacation to the Southwest and updated the satellite locations for both Island Girl and Felipe today. You should all have dates in the right column of the tracking maps up to 10 April now. If not, please refresh the site.
And here is what I am noticing. Both of these adult peregrines are pretty much doing the same, sort of unexpected, thing. They are sitting tight in a very small area and not moving much. So much for migratory restlessness.
This reminds me of another adult male we had one fall season on Baffin Island. I think it was Sparrow King. He remained at the eyrie well into October and did not appear to be moving for over a week. In fact, I got an e-mail from another biologist at the time telling me that I had to accept the fact that he was dead. No peregrine stayed in the Arctic that long. The very next day he flew all the way across Baffin Strait.
The point is that he stayed really, really tight within a small geographic area and showed no appreciable movement. Just like our two birds now.
So today, I rode out to see what was happening with Island Girl. To see if she was even still there.
Got to the beach, headed up the coastline and found one adult, again sitting on a branch coming out of the sand (much of this stuff is from the tsunami from two years ago). Another adult was also sitting on a dead branch another couple of hundred yards north. Where they always are right now. Almost predictable.
Island Girl (center in distance) Perched On Tsunami Debris Log
Once again they were both perching near the beach, which I think is significant. I suspect that they are hunting the many flocks of birds that we see flying offshore and between the waves. Both falcons were looking intently out to sea. Could be this is their specialty right now. No place to hide over water, a favorite peregrine trick.
I also noticed that one bird kept looking up several times over time at some things in the sky that I could not find. Was it looking at other migrant peregrines? Who knows. But I thought that there are so many factors impacting when they leave, e.g. photoperiod, temperature, weather...but I hadn't really thought that part of it could also be that they simply see alot of other falcons heading north too. And there are MANY tundra peregrines down here.
Suffice it to say that I tried for Island Girl once again but she only did a high pass to check things out and returned to her perch, totally unimpressed. I think she remembers being caught twice before.
But then one of those really great things happened. She saw me looking at her and she "chupped" or vocalized at me three times. To me, this is usually a call associated with food. Pretty sure it was meant for me as I keep giving her food.
I did a "San Juan" for her and she responded beautifully.
She flew out over the ocean and caught her prey in two beautifully timed stoops, performed like the true professional that she is. It looked effortless for her.
I waited for her to finish eating (usually about 22 minutes or so) before driving in to look for her and find the pluck site. Located it easily from all the feathers blowing around and the Turkey Vultures and Chimango Caracaras vying for scraps. Unfortunately I startled the falcon away although she had finished eating by then. But artless on my part.
The other adult had a full crop and was preening in the sun, sure signs of the futility of trying to trap it. It had also ignored the throw earlier.
Second Adult Peregrine on Tsunami Log
Spent the afternoon driving another beach further north at Iloca but no falcons. Hundreds of Whimbrels and guys exercising their Salukis by running them down the beach in their trucks. Coursing rabbits with Salukis is a big sport here.