Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Joe's Hag Heads South

Joe's Hag left her breeding cliff in the 3rd week of September and started south for a yet-to-be-determined wintering location somewhere on the South American continent...maybe through Padre Island in the middle of October again as she did last year.

Southward, first stop South Hampton Island

If success is measured in terms of life-time reproduction, 2010 was a pretty good year for Joe's Hag and the male (24 C) with which she raised 4 young. Some pairs fledge a chick or two...for many breeding aged adults the long journey north is just a long journey north...

For some, one storm interrupts a breeding attempt completely

However, if prey is abundant and the weather cooperates, providing for and producing 4 well-fed offspring is routine for an experienced pair of breeders...and from the relative safety of an eyrie that overlooks any prey-rich landscape, hatch year birds need only to eat whatever is brought to the nest ledge to roll the dice in their favor.

The landscape below Joe's Hag's cliff (photo B. Robinson)


Saturday, September 11, 2010


Margins for Peregrines breeding in the Arctic are narrow…in some years, certain individuals are too narrowly restricted and some of what’s supposed to happen just doesn’t.

Partially hatched chick at abandoned site

This breeding season is all but over; day length and sub-zero temperatures will soon urge breeding birds and, in some cases, their fledged young to leave the Arctic and fly south to their Austral wintering ranges throughout South America.

Future recruit?

Every spring our field crews arrive on the Arctic breeding grounds and try to follow every circumstance as each pair of breeding birds tries to replace themselves and more. We use every voyeuristic tool and trick we can think of to sneak a peak…bands, blood, cameras, satellite tags, feathers, rulers, scales, pencils, paper, rain gauges. But bands don’t go on and wings can’t be measured nor migratory routes traced without snow machines, quads, boats, snow pants, sunglasses, hot tea, rain gear, wrenches, twine, a place to sleep and help when things just won’t go your way. Once in every while, we actually do get a glimpse and gain a little insight, but it’s of no consequence if not summarized, written down and dispensed in ways that are useful.

None of this happens without good people.

The Rankin Crew: Frankie, Poisey, and Alex

Steensby Inlet (Baffin Island) Crew: Theo (AF missing)

Igloolik Crew: Matt, Barry and Mike (missing)

Mark Prostor (Rankin and Igloolik)


Saturday, September 4, 2010

Joe's "Hag"

In anticipation of the start of outward migration in a week or two, I thought I'd kick things off by telling you about Joe's "Hag". Hatch year Peregrines on migration are raw, unruly and almost always looking for a meal...they’ll take a run at anything that has a meal or might be one. Haggard birds are elusive and discriminating…each potential meal, it seems, is cautiously assessed before it becomes one.

Dowitcher remains on the flats of Padre Island

At the eyrie, with young to protect, the demeanor of an old “Hag” is best described as "in-your-face" – literally on occasion. So it was without much surprise that this summer Mark Prostor was able to trap a resident female defending 3 young at her nest ledge on the Melville Peninsular near Igloolik in the High Arctic.

Unlike our study area near Rankin Inlet (550 miles to the south), there had been no previous effort made to trap and band adult peregrines in the Igloolik study area, so it was with excitement that Mark found the bird already marked with a USFW band…someone had already trapped this female elsewhere. But who…and where?

An "Old Hag"

Unbelievably, Mark recognized the number series on the band – he’d used the same series the previous fall while trapping migrants staging on the Gulf of Mexico at Padre Island, Texas. We wondered if the answers t0 “who” and “where” would be found in Mark’s field book – his field notes showed that the bands he had used were close (within 5), but he’d not been the one to trap the Hag on Padre…at least we now knew “the where”.

We e-mailed the band ID to Gregg Doney who directs the fall peregrine survey on Padre Island to let him know another Padre bird had been recaptured in the Canadian Arctic – he replied;

Great job, the connections between Nunavut and Padre are growing!

Actually, this was Joe Snyder’s first Padre bird. I remember the scenario very well, because it was Joe’s introduction to the flats (15-OCT-09) and he experienced the “black and white” of behaviors often seen.

We (Joe, Bud, myself) were just south of the silver well-head, after spending about an hour on a Hatch Year male that would never close the 10 foot gap on the trap. We finally called it quits and were in a group, picking up and going over landmarks when an adult female bumped from the flats 250 yards downwind.

I was skeptical, because the Hag seemed skittish and had probably watched our entire routine with the male…but even with 3 ATVs in the area, she came right in and bound.

Joe then worked her to hand.

Joe and 1947-00531 on Padre 2009-10-15

1947-00531 and nestlings on the Melville Peninsular, NU 2010-08-09