27 April, 2012

Another Roost Site by Pisco

Yes, that Pisco. Where they invented the drink. On the coast by the famous Paracas Reserve. Check out Inca Terns on the web. One of my favorite birds.

Here is what we are doing. Staying in a hotel each night. Too dangerous to camp out here. Up early. Try to find our best way into the roost site. Directions are often difficult. Get there. Miles of bumpy dirt roads. Park. Hike into site. Document it. Photos. Hike out. Eat. Fuel up the vehicles. Get in some miles on the highway towards the next roost. Contend with really slow trucks on hills and valleys on a two lane highway. Stop at next city before dark. Search for hotel (thank goodness for Luis here). Struggle with getting a really big, crew cab American pick-up truck into some guarded parking in a lot built for teeny little cars.  Haul in our stuff, Check in. Shower. E-mail. Blog. Sleep. Oh yeah, sometimes go out and eat dinner.

Trying to catch up with Island Girl but it aint gonna happen. We are finding that it takes a full day to check a roost site. She is far quicker than we are. No traffic for her.

If I have gained anything on this trip, it is an immensely expanded respect for a bird that I have studied  most of my adult life. This is really something else. The distances, the terrain, the danger at roost sites, the pure ultra-athleticism of the migration. What they do is almost beyond belief and understanding.

We can all think about bird migration and put the subject in a tiny little box  in our brains thinking that we understand it. I know I have in the past. But their daily lives over this immense undertaking are hard, complex, determined, dangerous, gifted, unforgiving, with blue-green oceans, tan deserts, red rocky mountain slopes and solitude at night under the sparkling stars and the blackest skies I have ever seen.

Yesterday we went about 25 miles inland, crossed a flooding river, wound our way through cotton fields and surprised farmers and eventually got to the site by noon.

Island Girls Roosting Ridge in Distance

 Luis and I walked up the basin past Smooth-billed Anis and a young Variable Hawk carrying a rodent in its foot. As usual, she had roosted above a rich agricultural area on the river with abundant birdlife (Long-tailed Mockingbirds, Vermillion Flyatchers and a huge Swift we can't identify). But well away from people.

Hiked about a mile up into a sun-baked basin of broken rock, past a cemetary and up to the base of one of several ridges.

Luis Heading Up The Ridge

It was hot. It was dry. And there was no wind. This is where one becomes aware, regrettably, that one is now 66 years old.

Luis took the GPS and the camera and shot up the ridge like a mountain goat. In sandals no less. This kid is 30 and at the prime of his Peruvian life. He usually works in the jungle and heat and hard miles do not deter him at all. We are so lucky to have him along. He went up and found the coordinates and thankfully took the following pictures for all of us.

View North Into The Valley From The Roost Site

No castings this time but it looks like he may have gotten her rock. Lots of mutes this time. Can't be 100% certain it was her unless we do DNA samples.

            Fresh Mutes on a Rock Within the GPS Circle. From Island Girl?

He also found fox scat or droppings with bird feathers inside indicating that there are peregrine predators in the area.

                      Bromeliads Onsite Attracted An Oasis Hummingbird

           Looking Back Up the Roosting Ridge, Top Center

I have always thought that once a peregrine comes in to roost, that they stay there all night. But the lack of accumulated mutes under a single perch within the GPS 20 meter circle leads me to believe they may move around far more than we think. After all, a GPS coordinate is just a microsecond snapshot in time.

I think that when they roost on the ground in the desert and not on a high cliff or tower for the night, that they may move more often and be more vigilant at night. They are certainly more vulnerable there. And how long might it take a hungry fox to home in on the scent of a roosting bird at night? an hour? More? Less?  And that is the point. A peregrine roosting on the ground under most circumstances is constantly at risk.

OK. Out the door to have a quick look a tthe next site......

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