This morning, we got up in Puno on the shores of Lake Titicaca after some torrential downpours during the night.
Outskirts of Puno on Lake Titicaca
Really weird since we haven't see a hint of rain in over three weeks in the Atacama. Saddled up (still a bit sick, Shirley too) and drove to Juliaca and then took the highway (a very appropriate name in this instance) west for three hours across the altiplano at 14,000'.
Highway Outside Juliaca
I wish everyone could see this place. It is so beautiful. And incredibly vast. It just goes on and on.
And there are always new surprises....
We had lots more rain and even some hail during the drive but it was great to see more new country.
Flamingoes in Lake at 14,000'
We did not get Felipes roosting data last night, in fact, it is after dark here now and we still don't have it. We have no idea where he might be. Most likely still up in the highlands.
We do know that it is just not possible to track a bird that high unless you had a team already acclimated to 15,000'. Even then, access is pretty limited. Probably need a small airplane and that is about as high as some go. So we learn.
I finally realized that the habitat up there reminded me of northern Scotland. Rolling hills, crags, streams, beautiful lakes.
But that was not quite right.
Then the big, glowing light bulb went off. The high Puna looks extremely similar to Bill Mattox's arctic peregrine study area in West Greenland where I was lucky enough to be a team member for four seasons in my younger days.
West Greenland or Peru?
So, at 15,000', the altiplano qualifies for "alpine habitat" status. Clearly.
And then I remembered the term "Arctic/Alpine". I suddenly realized that this place is a close equivalent to where Felipe is going in the arctic to breed.
Both areas have low, open rolling hills and valleys, both have short grasslands, both have lots of water and both support an abundance of small passerines.
Felipe is a specialist in this type of habitiat. It is just like home to him. It is similar to where he was raised and where he learned to hunt. And not just him. I think that all tundra-inhabiting peregrines would be at home here.
I remember that the Greenland peregrines preyed primarily on small passerines, Lapland Longspurs, Snow Buntings, Wheatears and Common Redpolls. We saw many examples of passerines of the same size as we drove across the Puna today. Lots of birds on the whole route.
The altiplano region of southern Peru is an ecological equivalent to the North American arctic but located at a surprising 15 degrees latitude south.
And I think that is why we are seeing many of our falcons utilizing this area every year on their way north.
Written Monday night in Arequipa, Peru