Sunday, May 1, 2011

The "Hag" is coming...

Time, technology and luck have broadened our view of the "Hag's" life in ways that the critically important, but brief encounter with her on the beaches of South Padre Island in mid-October 2009 could never do.

The "Flats" of Padre (photo: P. Andreano)

For those unfamiliar with the Hag’s history, she was re-captured in 2010 breeding in the high Arctic, and spent last winter in northern Colombia. But with the Austral summer now over, she and thousands of other Arctic-nesting peregrines are focused northward intent on raising the maximum number of offspring they can. For that to happen, they must first fly several thousand miles, contend with uncertain weather, evade predators and capture sufficient numbers of prey to ensure they arrive in the high Arctic well nourished and ready to lay a full clutch of eggs.

One of the "Hag's" neighbors on a full clutch of eggs

The most recent data for the "Hag" indicate that she flew a little more than 700 miles in 5 days from her wintering territory through Panama and Costa Rica, and settled in southern Nicaragua for at least 36 hours.

Looking north from Colombia to Panama and Costa Rica

Although her current location is obviously tropical, it won't be long before she and and other Arctic-nesting migrants reach the still snow-covered landscapes of the sub-Arctic. They'll press onward leaving the snow-free zone far behind them.

MODIS (May 7, 2011) image of Churchill, MB (red dot), and snow and ice in blue, open water in black, vegetation in green.

All things being equal, the "Hag" will arrive at her nesting cliff to find many potential nest ledges drifted in with hard-packed snow, ponds and bays frozen solid and prey will be more scarce than at any other time of the year.

Still frozen spring conditions (Photo:B.Robinson)

Soon thereafter, with the sun positioned higher on the horizon and 24 hours of daylight, conditions become generally mild, which combined with prey-rich landscapes can turn the Arctic into a peregrine factory.

(Photo:B.Robinson)

More soon on the Hag's progress.

Alastair