Nov 15 2011
Actually, she got home last Saturday.
Island Girl is an arctic peregrine who nests every summer on Baffin Island, Canada. Then, at the autumn equinox on almost the same day in September every year, she leaves for her winter home at Putu on the Chilean coast.
We know she makes this journey because in 2009 the Falcon Research Group’s Southern Cross Peregrine Project outfitted her with a satellite transmitter. Since then they’ve followed her travels via satellite and plotted them on the web, a trip of 8,628 miles.
This year Island Girl changed her southbound route from an East Coast trajectory via Florida and the Yucatan to a slightly westward path over Lake Superior to the Gulf Coast at Mississippi. When she encountered headwinds over the Gulf of Mexico she roosted on offshore oil rigs, then flew west to Texas and continued south. Some days she rested, especially during bad weather. On other days she pressed homeward, covering more than 200 miles. From start to finish Island Girl traveled for 53 days — and this is considered a leisurely pace!
Now she’s back in Putu surveying her domain. Her favorite sandspit island is still gone, destroyed by the February 2010 tsunami, but she has many other options. Her satellite GPS unit is so accurate that SCPP is able to tell where she roosts.
Island Girl is the last peregrine in the project with a working transmitter. In February 2012 the Falcon Research Group will travel to Chile to capture two more arctic peregrines and outfit them with tracking devices.
I wish I’d remembered to check their website earlier so I could have followed her en route!
(photo of Island Girl from the Southern Cross Peregrine Project)