15 October, 2012

Crossing Nicaragua

She decided to take the inland route yesterday, avoiding the Pacific coastline for a bit longer. She is not moving too fast and flew only 161 km (100 miles) through the countryside, apparently taking it easy.

She was headed towards Lake Nicaragua, the main geographic feature of this country, but put in for the night in a large tree in an open pasture. This is classic farmland and I remember driving through here several years ago en route to Panama.

She roosted about 2 miles from the Pan American Highway, 6 miles from Lake Managua and only 18 miles from the capitol city of Managua. There is little doubt that she could have seen the lights from the city last night.

One of our discoveries on this project is that peregrines don't necessarily follow the same migration path each season. In general, they have to fly north or south but the variation of each specific route is fascinating.

For me, I think about the evolutionary advantages of varying a route every year. A falcon can become familiar with more terrain and geographic features along the way. They may find new food resources to exploit, new species to catch and more varied situations for hunting. It must build their experience and expertise. Sort of like finding new stores or restaurants or motels during a road trip.

Should make them more fit. But it can also place them in new situations with many unknown dangers too. New predators, more vulnerablility, potential death.

So this is a constant shifting of possibilities and balance. And how well they fit into it all. What shaping, what mastery, what skills.

Is it any wonder that we are all enamored of them?

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