Saturday, December 11, 2010

More than a glimpse...

Bird banders generally expect the rewards from band returns to be few, far between and more "vignette" than "mini-series", but within months of receiving a band on South Padre Island (SPI) in Fall of 2009, Joe's Hag began sharing more of her story than could be told from that first encounter.

That day, her weight and size told us she was a "she"; her plumage indicated that she was at minimum in her third year of life...and the long history of banding peregrines on SPI suggested strongly that she was a tundra peregrine. But from where exactly had she come? And where was she going? Had she bred successfully the previous summer? Would she survive the remainder of her migration, that winter and the subsequent return trip to the breeding grounds.

She did survive, produced 4 young, and we confirmed our suspicion that she is a tundra peregrine. In July 2010, she was captured again - this time in the Canadian High Arctic on the Melville Peninsular. She was fitted with a GPS satellite transmitter, and we "watched" as she foraged up to 40 miles from her eyrie, and on occasion remained more than 20 miles away from her nestlings for as many as 36 hours, except for brief visits presumably to deliver prey.

The male paired with Joe's Hag feeds a Lapland Longspur to 4 nestlings

In the latter half of September, we watched further as she left her breeding territory traversing Southampton Island and much of the Hudson Bay, presumably intent on reaching the Texas Gulf Coast where she'd been captured 11 months earlier. But Joe's Hag, it seems, had other ideas in mind...bearing SE from the Churchill shelf, she made decisively for Florida never coming closer than 1000 miles from Padre resulting in 2 entirely different migratory routes south in as many years.

Via Florida rather than Texas

Five weeks and over 5100 miles after leaving her breeding territory, Joe's Hag arrived on her wintering territory in northern Colombia. With a little luck, we'll watch her fly north and see her once again at the cliff on which she breeds.

Alastair