24 April, 2012

Checking Island Girls 21 April Roosting Site

We left Arequipa early and fought our way out of the morning traffic, no small achievement I must say.

Motored over to the town of Majes about 50 miles NW of Arequipa to locate her roost.

In this region of Peru, you have the Pacific coastline which borders the broad, flat coastal terrace, an expanse of terrain that will always eventually slope up into the Andean foothills. This is an extreme oversimplification but if you imagine a sloping plain leading to higher elevations you'll have the idea.

Cutting across the plains and the foothills are the many deep valleys that have been cut by the rivers coming from the glaciers, snowfields, lakes and streams of the highlands for hundreds of thousands of years.

These canyons can be magnificent. The Colca just north of Arequipa is considered by some to be the deepest canyon in the world.

One canyon, Camarones, in the northernmost part of Chile has a 17 mile road just to get to the bottom of the canyon. Took us almost an hour to traverse this single canyon.

Most of these valleys have flowing water which provides the basis for the agriculture of the Peruvian coast. We saw farms growing corn, beans, sugar cane, onions, squash and rice. Also saw quite a few dairy cows.

                       Peruvian Agricultural Valley

I also saw for the first time several cactus farms. The farmers raise Opuntia cactus to support an interesting crop.

                                Opuntia Cactus Farm

                                       Cochineal Larva

Luis stopped and showed us that these farms are actually growing  the cochineal, an insect which produces carmine dye used for food coloring and lipstick.

                               Squished Bug Equals Carmine Dye

From the town, we found a dozer track that lead out into the desert towards Island Girls roost.

           En Route to Island Girls Roost, Full-On Atacama Desert

We drove as far as we could on a really bad "road" and stopped.I got out the bike and followed my GPS for 7 miles across the desert to her site.

Had to drive about 5 miles up a broad alluvial fan to get there.

                            The Route In, Using Sand Lanes

Walked the final mile in as the cuts were to deep to drive the  bike.

              View of the Alluvial Fan From Near the Roost Ridge

Based on the GPS lat/longs, she slept out in a random area of the desert, but as usual for her, not too far from all the agricultural fields that support a variety of potential prey, including the Rock Pigeons, House sparrows, doves and passerine that we saw.

Ridge Above Alluvial Fan, She Slept Just Beyond This Shot

The roosting area was on a long, low rocky ridge heading down (west) from the foothills above. It was one of a series of three ridges. The first is shown above.

 I walked the area for about 20 minutes, looking for mutes under a rock but did not find anything.
Here are some photos of the area.

                           Roost Area Looking North

          Roost Area Looking West (white volcanic ash visible in distance)

                      Roost Area Looking East

The satellite location is generally within about 20 meters of the signal which means a circle of 120' under ideal conditions. Big area. No luck. Returned to the cars around 2 PM and headed for the next roost site.Staying in the coastal town of Camana tonight.

                            Back Safely-Good To Have A Reliable Bike


Anonymous said...

My Dad is awesome!!!! I love this blog! Keep it up Dad. And cool squishy red bugs

Sue Hindman said...

I agree, your dad is awesome!