4 Oct - 19 Dec 2011:
Snowy left Oyster Bay, where he spent about 7
weeks, in Northwestern Long Island and 12 days
later was in the Dominican Republic.
He took the standard route that all adults and some
juveniles follow down the east coast and over
the Georgia Bight to Florida.
The weather was fine all the way, so it was all
migration with no breaks.
After almost a month in the D.R. (making us very
nervous) he took off on Nov 12th and sometime on
the morning of the 14th he arrived on the
Guajira Peninsula in eastern Colombia, where so
many of our other tagged birds have made
landfall in South America.
Without delay, Snowy crossed the Gulf of
Venezuela and pushed southeast through
He seems to have settled down, at least for the time
being. He's now doing the teenaged Osprey
thing--working out of a good fishing area, he's
making forays out across the countryside and
coming back to a spot that has provided good
Scroll down for all his maps, or...
Skip to the start of his fall migration.
16-19 July 2011:
Snowy was probably a few
days past 8 weeks when we tagged him on 16 July.
He was already flying, but still seems to be
hanging close to his nest.
This nest has not been a
very productive one over the years, but this
year they fledged two young.
22 July-4 Aug 2011:
Snowy's beginning to explore. Looks like he
perched on the Edgartown Lighthouse!
25 July-7 Aug 2011:
Snowy discovered the Vineyard Haven Lagoon,
where we see lots of Ospreys hunting.
7-10 Aug 2011:
Snowy spent most of this time around the Lagoon
and his nest. He did find James' Pond on the
North Shore. This is another spot lots of our
birds go to fish.
22 July-4 Aug 2011:
A close up of the apparently very fishy
upper lagoon. There is a dike (visible) and
herring run (not) that separates the "Upper
Lagoon" from the rest of it. Obviously the
fishing is better above the dike.
11-15 Aug 2011:
Snowy took off on the 11th. Given the northern
direction, this looks like pre-migration
dispersal or wandering, to put a less
pretentious name to it. His first roost off
island was south of Plymouth.
He continued to explore on the 12th, roosting that
night between Webster and Worcester, not far
from Lake Chaubunagungamaug, now renamed by the
linguistic cowards who live there as Lake
The next three day were spent in northwestern Rhode
Island. This area (northeast CT and northwest
RI) is a magnetic area for our Ospreys. Many of
our birds have stopped here, and adults with
failed nests will commute from the Vineyard to
here prior to migrating south.
11-15 Aug 2011:
Snowy fished at the Smith and Sayles Reservoirs
on the 13th and 14th and then moved down to the
Scituate Reservoir on the 15.
16-18 Aug 2011:
Snowy left bright and early on the 16th. He was
already on the move at 7AM--early for an Osprey
to start moving. They usually don't get going
until 8-9 or even later. He covered 123 mil (198
km) over the course of the day. It wasn't all
moving, as is evident from the proximity of some
of the hourly fixes.
It seems that the migration urge is kicking in, but
he's getting distracted. Just like a teenager.
16-18 Aug 2011:
Snowy spent a couple of days around Great South
Bay, in Islip.
16-19 Aug 2011:
On the 19th, he was off again for a short hop
(27 mi/44 km)northwest to Hempstead Harbor.
19 Aug-6 Sep 2011:
After 2 days in Hempstead Harbor, Snowy moved
over to Oyster Bay, where he seems to be having
a good time. Most of the time he's been in this
corner of Long Island, the weather has been
dreadful, with Irene and Lee pummeling the area
7 Sep-4 Oct 2011:
Snowy spent another month around Oyster Bay. He
made a quick trip to LaGuardia Airport (Flushing
Bay)--maybe he was checking for flights to
Venezuela?--but quickly retreated to Oyster Bay.
He took off for "Points South" (an old friend used to
think "Points North" was a town in Maine) around
11:something on the 4th.
7 Sep-4 Oct 2011:
Snowy had it pretty easy, apparently, around
Oyster Bay. He didn't have to go far to catch
his daily quota for most of the month of
4-5 Oct 2011:
Snowy's off on migration. He spent the night of
the 4th near Bass River, NJ. He was almost
certainly one of the 88 Ospreys counted at Cape
May on the 5th.
He made it to Keller, VA, on the 5th.
5-7 Oct 2011:
Snowy started migrating on the 5th around 8 AM.
He crossed the mouth of Chesapeake Bay just
after 10 AM, passed through Newport News, VA,
and kept right on pushing south.
He left the NC coast around 4:30 PM a bit west of
Beaufort, NC. He had a good tailwind,
apparently, as he was averaging 31 mph (50 kph)
for the last 5 hours his GPS was collecting data
on the 6th.
He landed in Florida near Jacksonville around 6 AM
(assuming he continued the 30 mph pace). He
rested just a few hours before continuing south.
He only moved about 100 miles south on the 7th after
making landfall, but after his all-nighter on
the 6th-7th, he covered 750 miles (1.195 km) in
7-11 Oct 2011:
Snowy moseyed down Florida on the 8th and 9th,
leaving the Keys around 6 PM. He flew through
the night, landing in Cuba probably around 1 AM.
He was off on his way around 11 AM, probably after a
morning fishing somewhere near the coast.
On the 11th he moved a modest 150 miles and settled
down southwest of Siboney, about halfway through
the Cuba section of the Ospreys' Highway to the
12-15 Oct 2011:
He's still on the move. He flew over Guantanamo
Bay on the 13th and kept right on going.
He left Cuba around 4:30 PM and covered the 55 miles
(90 km) to Haiti in about two and a half hours.
On the 14th he moved another 130 miles and spent the
night just across the border in the Dominican
On the 15th he moved just 44 miles south to Lago (Lake)
Enriquillo, where he has settled down for 10
15-27 Oct 2011:
Snowy seems to have settled down just below Lago
Lake Enriquillo is a 102 square miles (265 km²)
lake and is the largest lake and lowest point in
the Caribbean and the lowest point on any ocean
island (129 feet (39 m) below sea level).
It has no
outlet. It is one of only a few saltwater
lakes in the world inhabited by crocodiles. Lake
Enriquillo is located in a rift valley formed by
the Enriquillo-Plantain Garden fault that
extends 79 miles (127 km) from Port-au-Prince
Bay in Haiti in the west, to near Neiba Bay in
the D. R. in the east. This fault was
responsible for the catastrophic 2010 Haiti
More on the lake on
15-27 Oct 2011:
Snowy seems to be finding all the fish he needs
right in this small area.
We don't like our birds settling down in the D.R.--all
4 birds that tried to overwinter in the country
If he stays right here, he would probably be safe, but
most youngsters tend to wander around, and that
almost inevitably puts them in contact with
Dominicans, many of whom are afraid that Ospreys
will eat their chickens or, for those better
informed about Osprey ecology, don't want to
share their fish.
23 Oct-7 Nov 2011:
Snowy spent another couple of weeks around Lake
Enriquillo. Around midday on the 30th he made a
three-hour trip to the south that looks like a
restart or his migration. Something changed his
mind and he retreated to his spot at the shore
of the lake.
8-14 Nov 2011: After almost a month in the
D.R., where it looked like he was going to spend
the winter, Snowy started migrating again. He had clear sailing for
his crossing of the Caribbean. It looks like he
had some shifting winds, but somehow managed to
find the shortest distance from Hispaniola to
the Guajira Peninsula in Colombia.
Don't forget that he didn't necessarily follow that
ruler-straight path from his last fix on the
13th to his landfall in Colombia. He probably
wandered a bit, but finally did find the very
northernmost bit of South America.
In the first 12 hours over the water he covered 205
miles (331 km) at a rather pokey speed of 17 mph
(28 kph). If he kept that pace up and really did
follow that straight line, he would have made
landfall about 6 AM, 22 hours after leaving the
15-27 Oct 2011:
Snowy spent a few hours around Bahia Hondita,
where Jaws, our first juvenile to make it to
South America, spent his 18-month "gap year."
Apparently, he wasn't very impressed and kept on
He spent the night of the 14th in the desert and then
continued west until he ran out of land. He then
turned south east and crossed the Gulf of
15-17 Nov 2011:
Migration continues. Snowy is cruising right
along, pushing southeast through Venezuela.
17-22 Nov 2011:
Snowy kept on moving and got to the Meta River
on the Colombian border. He spent only a night
there before heading back north across the strange
sand-dune filled area in the Venezuelan state of
On the 22nd he crossed the Rio Apure and settled down
for a week.
1-3 Dec 2011: Snowy made a 2-day, 144 mi.
trip down into the dunes of Apure and back
This is the kind of behavior we see in juveniles when
they are beginning to settle down. They find a
spot and then make forays out and back,
exploring the countryside in search of better
1 Dec 2011: Snowy spent just a few hours and
the night here along a small river that bisects
the dunes of Apure. Several of our birds have
either passed through this area or spent some
time. From Wikipedia: A large part of the state
of Apure is constituted by an extensive field of
dunes (occupying some 30,000 km²), which has the
peculiarity of not being a desert climate but a
savannah, with natural grasslands alternating
with corridors of jungle and voluminous rivers
with sand dunes of more than 100 km in length
and 20 m in height.
30 Nov - 5 Dec 2011: Snowy is back from his brief
Will this be the place he settles down for a year and a
The resolution is poor on these Google Earth images, so
it's hard to tell what kind of landscape he's
5-13 Dec 2011: Not much going on. He seems
to like it here.
13-19 Dec 2011:
Road trip! Snowy went out exploring the
countryside but apparently didn't find anyplace
better than his currently favorite spot just
north of the Apure River.
The other white tracks show his first explorations of
this part of Venezuela. He arrived in the area
on the 17th of November and made it down to the
Meta River on the Colombia/Venezuela Border
without lingering more than two nights anywhere.
On the 21st he backtracked for the first time since his
migration began on 4 Oct. He returned to the
general area of his Nov. 18th and 19th roosts,
where he settled down for 11 days. He made a
brief foray south in early December and then
spent another week at his favorite (so far)
On the 13th he started another trip across the
Venezuelan countryside. This six-day trip was
about 375 miles.
By December, most young have pretty much settled down.
The next few months may see more exploration,
but it's a good bet that this will be where he
spends the next year and a half.
Unless he doesn't!
30 Nov 2011-5 Jan 2012:
Three road trips! Snowy explored to the
south on 1 Dec, then made a big swing east in
the middle of the month, and then went southwest
at the very end of the month. We can expect more wandering, especially
as the llanos habitat dries out as the dry
season progresses. The distance between the farthers points on this map is 445 miles (716
At the beginning of the month, Snowy
moved north about 50 miles. Except for a brief
sortie on the 9th and 10th, he didn't move much.
1-29 Feb 2012:
Snowy settled down and didn't move much
These are some of the locations for
Snowy. He's found a small river that seems to be
providing good fishing. This is the good news.
Turns out what I thought was bad news is,
isn't bad news after all. All those strange
rectangular ponds looked like fish ponds to me,
and that, of course made me very nervous.
So, it turns out that these ponds are called "prestamos,"
which in Spanish (and Portuguese) means
"borrows." The road construction crews took dirt
from along the road to get the roads high enough
to stay dry in the rainy season when much of
these llanos flood. Most of them probably don't
have any sizable fish in them, but some, like
the ones where Snowy spent some time on this
image, are connected to streams or canals, so I
suspect there's some tasty Osprey food in some
Thanks to our Venezuelan colleague Daniella Deardem for
the info (and the picture below). My blood pressure just went down a few
(Scroll down to see a photo of this habitat.)
Here's the Venezuelan llanos and part of one of
the "prestamos" ponds that had me fretting about
fish farm ponds.