2009 maps for Penelope
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Travels so far.
13 Nov 08.
Penelope was our first bird
to make it to South America this year. It took her only 13 days to cover a little over
2,700 mi. (4,400 km). She did not take a single day off, which is unusual.
She seems to have had perfect weather the whole way down.
She left Massachusetts on the 9th, passed over North Carolina's Outer Banks
on the 13th, and arrived in the Bahamas 26.5 hours later.
On the 19th she was flying south from the Dominican Republic,
heading out over 490 mi. (790 km) of the Caribbean Sea. She landed on Islas
de Aves-- Islands of the Birds--east of Bonaire on the 20th.
She made landfall in Venezuela on the 21st and kept
right on moving southeast. On the 29th she was in Suriname.
After settling down for a week in south-central French
Guiana, Penelope made a big loop, east, south, and then back northwest to
On October 29th she was on the Atlantic coast and a day later on the north bank of the Amazon River in
Brazil. From there she returned to the river she was fishing in French Guiana.
Trip details below, chronologically.
Penelope's first week of
wandering with her new GPS transmitter.
The little yellow donuts are other active Osprey nests
in the area. The great ponds on the Vineyard's south shore are ideal fishing
holes for Osprey--lots of fish and relatively shallow water.
5-12 Aug 08.
Penelope has made one trip to the north end of the Island. At the uppermost
point on this map she was heading NW, so she was probably going to the
Lagoon. This is a good lesson in interpreting satellite data and connecting
points with lines. Each point just tells us where the bird was at that
moment. The lines imply that the birds flew directly from one point to the
next on the map, which may or may not be the case. On this map, her
direction at that northernmost point tells us that she prior to that GPS
fix, she was southeast of that point, maybe Edgartown Great Pond, and was
heading to the Lagoon or even the north shore when her GPS recorded her
location, speed, and direction.
Some of my colleagues won't connect the points on their maps with lines. I
do it to keep the sequence of points clear and remind myself to interpret the lines
||13-20 Aug 08.
Nothing much going on here.
Penelope is staying pretty close to home. She's making forays out to the
north shore, but only in one case did she spend much more than an
hour in the area before heading back to home base.
||20-27 Aug 08.
Penelope is this year's wallflower. We saw similar
behavior with Tasha back in '04. Tasha explored so little that I was
concerned she wouldn't start migrating.
In fact, when she did start she made it to Hispaniola
in 15 days--the first of her cohort to get through Cuba.
||9 Sep 08.
Sometime around 10:00, the instinctive urge to
migrate surpassed any other urges on her mind, so Penelope
packed her bags and headed west.
Naturally she passed through the Westport River Osprey
colony before heading across Narragansett Bay and passing into
Connecticut, where she spent the night at a couple of small ponds just
across the RI border.
||9 Sep 08.
She roosted by a couple of ponds in Pawcatuck, CT.
Nice place to grab a fish before heading off on the next leg of the
||10 Sep 08. (Looking
south now) Penelope took off probably before 08:00, passed right over Gardiners
Island, once home to the densest known colony of Ospreys, heading
southwest on a course that would have taken her to North Carolina's
Sometime around 14:00 she turned west (right in this
south-facing view) and made landfall
in Maryland just after 17:00. She settled down at a couple of small
ponds near Germantown, MD, just north of Chincoteague Bay.
||10 Sep 08.
Her roost on the 10th in eastern Maryland.
||10-13 Sep 08.
After her unusual junket out over the ocean which bypassed New York and
New Jersey, Penelope headed down the DelMarVa Peninsula, crossed the mouth of Chesapeake Bay in the afternoon
of the 11th, and settled down to roost in North Carolina.
She moved just about 80 mi. (125 km) southwest during
the 12th and then headed south on the next leg of her migration. She
took off just before 09:00, passed over Bald Head Island Island around
11:30, and then headed out over the Atlantic.
Most of the birds we've seen come down the east coast
pass right over Bald Head and wind up down in Florida somewhere. It
looks like Penelope will hit the Bahamas.
The last point on the map was at 20:00 on the
||11 & 12 Sep 08
On the 11th, she was on the north shore of Albemarle Sound. On
the 12th, she was on Broad Creek, which feeds into Pamlico Sound.
||13-16 Sep 08
On the 13th, she passed over Bald Head Island just before noon.
Her initial course would have taken her over 1,000 mi (1,600 km) to
Hispaniola. Around 18:00 or so, she turned a bit to the west and was
heading about due south for 3 hours. At that point her GPS turned off,
so we don't know when she made the correction in course that got her to
the northernmost of the Bahamas--Little Abaco Island.
She was out over the Atlantic for just over 25 hours,
covering 565 mi. (909 km), at an average speed of 22 mph (35 kph). This
is about the slowest speed I can remember for a bird over the water.
||14-16 Sep 08
After resting up on the evening of the 14th, Penelope continued
island hopping southeast through the Bahamas. She moved 192 mi. (209 km)
on the 15th and 160 mi (203 km) on the 16th.
She spent the night on the very last bit of land in the
Bahamas on Acklins Island.
Next on the horizon are Turks and Caicos Islands, and
||14 and 16 Sep Roosts
Penelope arrived in the Bahamas around noon and must have helped herself
to a fish or two in the bay between Grand Bahama Island and the Abaco
Her roost on the 16th was at the very tip of the
||17-18 Sep Penelope
left the southernmost island in the Bahamas (Acklins) around noon on the
17th and spent the next night on Great Inagua Island. I put Luke's path
from '07 on this map. This was where Luke finished his marathon, 50+
hour crossing of the western Atlantic last November.
Penelope hopped down to Hispaniola, only 70 mi. (110
km) southeast and made it into the Dominican Republic before roosting on
||17-19 Sep Penelope
blew through Hispaniola in 29 hours. This is a bird on a mission. She
got a pretty late start for her Caribbean crossing, leaving the D.R.
right around 17:00 on the 19th.
About 25 hours later, she alit on a tiny island just
east of Bonaire.
||19-22 Sep The
indefatigable Penelope arrived and spent the night, appropriately
enough, on the Islas de Aves (Island of Birds!)
around 25 hrs after leaving Hispaniola in the afternoon of the 20th.
Shortly after 08:00 (a couple of hours after sunrise) she took off over
open water again, with Venezuela just 97 mi. (105 km) away.
She arrived on the South American coast just after noon
and climbed the coastal mountains, which lurch up out of the Caribbean
along Venezuela's northern shore.
She carried on another 3 hours before settling down in
a river valley for the evening of the 21st.
She knocked off another 129 mil (206 km) on the 22nd.
2,877 mi. (4,630 km) on the Osprey-ometer so far in 14
Penelope arrived on the Venezuelan coast about 8 miles east of Caracas'
airport at Maiquetia. She probably worked her way up the valley below
the orange line, and crossed the mountain ridge at 13:00.
In our last overview map we had Penelope roosting on the 22nd after her
first full day in Venezuela. Over the next 6 days she covered 656 mi.
(1056 km), bringing the total migration distance to 3,527 mi (5,676 km)
in 20 days. This is about the average distance our adults migrated.
On the 23rd she stopped on the north bank of the
Orinoco River. The blue lines left of her points are the tracks one of
our first adults (HX) took to his wintering area on the delta of the
Orinoco. On the 24th Penelope only moved about 60 mi. and spent the
night in the delta region. She pushed on into Guyana (formerly British
Guiana) on the 25th and then kept on going for the next 3 days. She
roosted on the 28th in Suriname (formerly Dutch Guiana). This would be a
pretty safe spot for her to stop and spend the winter. This is about as
unihabited (by our species) a spot as you can find on the planet.
Oct It looks like Penelope may
have settled down. She is on a small river running through hilly
rainforest about 40 mi (63 km) into Suriname.
She arrived here on the
28th of September and has been moving up and down about 2 mi (3.2 km) of
the river for two weeks.
If this really is the end
of her migration, we sure don't have to worry about fish farms around
One of these days I'll stop
making predictions about what our birds will do next.
Penelope left her base in
Suriname on 13 Oct, heading southeast. She was tempted by a spot on the
15th, but made a short junket due east, returning that day to her roost
from the night before. On a small scale, this is the behavior we see
when a bird is settling down.
She kept moving southeast on the 17th, and after a
couple of nights on the French Guianan border, she moved into Brazil on
the 21st, reversing direction, returning to a new spot in French Guiana
on the 22nd.
She spent a week on a small river (hidden under cloud
cover in this Google image) in southern French Guiana.
On the 28th she flew due east into the Brazilian state
of Amapa. On the 29th she was on the Atlantic coast and the next day on
the banks of the Amazon River. She then turned around and headed back to
French Guiana. On 5 Nov she returned to the river where she must have
found good fishing about a week before. This loop covered 607 mi (977
km) and fits a pattern we've seen in a number of juvenile Ospreys--they
find a good spot, settle down for a while, and then make exploratory
trips into the surrounding countryside, navigating back to a spot that
has proven fruitful (fishful?).
13-31 Nov 08
Penelope finally seems to have settled down here
in the middle of southern French Guiana. She is working up and down a 35
miles (55 km) stretch of a small river deep in undisturbed
Unfortunately, there was fairly heavy cloud cover here
when the photos that Google Earth is using were taken, so we can't
discern much detail.
I contacted my colleage Jean-Marc Thiollay, a world
renowned raptor biologist to ask him about this part of French Guiana.
Jean-Marc worked for many years deep in the heart of French Guiana,
which is a département of
France (roughly equivalent to a county in the US). His insights
accompany the next map.
1-31 Dec 08
Jean-Marc Thiollay e-mailed the following:
The stopover site of your Osprey (Penelope) in Southern French
Guiana is interesting. The species
is abundant in winter months in that country, but most birds
are concentrated along the
(northern) coast which is mostly marshes, estuaries, mangroves and
Nevertheless, some birds (few) are
regularly seen on the rivers of the interior, but fewer
and fewer as one goes southward. Your bird is
in the central part of the 3-million hectares
[7.5 million acres] National Park that covers most
of the southern Guiana and is entirely covered with primary rain forest.
Your bird is far from even the smallest human
settlement. Of course, fish are
plentiful but there are
also many natural resident
fish predators (from birds to
which may compete
with overwintering Ospreys. Rivers are often loaded by
sediments but the October-December period has indeed the lowest rainfall
and hence the clearest waters.
1-31 Jan 09.
Link to 2009 maps.
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