16 Oct-14 Dec 2010. Belle got off to a late-ish start for her migration,
but made up for the delay by rocketing down to Venezeula in only 7 days.
A quick check of the records suggests this is the record for any of our
After a couple of weeks on the shores of Lake Maracaibo
in Venezuela, just an hour's flight north of Buck's wintering grounds,
Belle took off on the 9th of November and 8 days later was south of the
Amazon in northwestern Brazil.
After 18 days there, she took off again and is now the furthest south of any of
our birds ever, in the Brazilian state of Rondonia.
Belle survived her 18 months and, as of fall 2013, is our longest
surviving tagged juvenile. She has now completed three trips south.
Scroll down for detailed maps of Belle's summer movements or-
The start of migration.
South of the Amazon
The first few days: 28 July-1 Aug 2010. Belle's mostly sticking
near her nest, but she has made a couple of forays out to James Pond, where we
see lots of Ospreys go to fish in the mid-to-late summer.
28 July-15 Aug 2010. Belle is beginning to explore the world around
her. She flew over to "America," as the mainland is known on Martha's
Vineyard, on the 13th and spent two nights at Long Pond just north of
Falmouth. She flew back home early on the 15th.
9-19 Aug 2010. Belle continues to explore. She spent quite a bit of
time at Long Pond, north of Falmouth, and did some fishing over on the
Elizabeth Islands. She's back on the
Vineyard now (19 Aug).
19 Aug-2 Sept 2010. Like her sister Meadow ('08), Belle's first
major move off Martha's Vineyard was in the "wrong" direction (Meadow
followed this general route all the way to Lake Superior!). This is only
the wrong direction if we consider this movement migration. In fact,
this movement is more appropriately termed dispersal. About half of our
young Ospreys have moved away from their natal areas prior to beginning
their true migration. These trips add to the bird's knowledge of their
world, especially where the good fishing spots are.
2-6 Sept 2010. Belle's trip north was just a bluff. She continued a
bit further north into New Hampshire and then hustled back to Martha's
6-11 Sept 2010. Belle is still basing her operations at her nest.
She made a 4-hour junket over to the Elizabeth Islands and Cape Cod around
mid-day on the 7th, stopping at Long Pond north of Falmouth,
where she has done a lot of fishing. On the Vineyard, she's been down to
the great ponds along the south shore and spent a lot of time at Sengekontacket Pond.
11-23 Sept 2010. Belle is no longer basing her operations at her
nest, but she does check in up there every once in a while.
1 Sept 2010. Belle is no longer visiting her nest on the shores of
Lake Tashmoo. The Head of the Lagoon is sure getting a lot of attention
from her. Anyone on the Vineyard know what's keeping her busy up there?
8-16 Oct 2010. Belle had four main fishing areas while she was
fueling up for the long trip ahead--the Head of the Lagoon, Major's
Cove, Edgartown Great Pond, and upper Katama Bay.
She took off pretty early in the day (by Osprey
migration standards) on the 16th, probably leaving South Beach behind
around 7:45 AM.
16-18 Oct 2010. Belle started her first
migration a little after 7 AM on the 16 and was rocketing south at about
40 miles (64 km)/hour, which is really fast. She obviously had a very
strong tailwind. In fact, the wind was so strong on the 16th that they
closed the Martha's Vineyard Airport. With tongue firmly in beak, I'm
not sure she actually meant to start migrating--she might have just
gotten up in the air and all of a sudden found herself out over the
Atlantic. This sort of thing does get many young Ospreys on their first
flight, when they hover over the nest and a gust of wind blows them to
one side so they can not just hover back down to the nest, they are
suddenly put to the test. The first flight always looks great. The first
landing is often rather comical.
This is a little late to be starting a migration.
Most of our juveniles leave in the first two weeks of September.
However, she's nowhere near the record (15 November) set by her sister
Meadow back in 2008. Runner up in the "Last one out turn off the lights"
contest was Luke, another Lake Tashmoo bird, who left the Boston area on
7 November a few years back.
While Belle was heading south across the Atlantic,
reliable sources report lots of Ospreys hanging around Woods Hole, just
north of the Vineyard. These are probably birds from the area as well as
some coming in from up north.
Once she got going, she just missed Bermuda (by 200
miles) some time in the wee hours of the 17th.
At some point in her travels (around Bermuda's
latitude) she would have run into the trade winds, which would have
nudged her west towards the Bahamas.
Her GPS was shut down while she was sending her data up
to the satellites during the night of the 17th. Fortunately, while the
satellite is uploading her GPS data, it does the Doppler shift thing and
figures out where the transmitter is. The colored dots are these Doppler
She lost those strong tailwinds somewhere along the
way. Her overall average speed was a still very respectable 32 miles (51
I hate to map my Ospreys before they've landed, but...
assuming she was two hours short of landfall, she should have landed
around 8AM, about 49 hours after taking off from Martha's Vineyard on
About all those other lines--those are tracks of all
the other young we've tagged over the years (since 2004). Belle
certainly pushed the eastern envelope.
18 Oct 2010. In a very macho move, Belle didn't even stop to rest at
her first opportunity, which would have been the rather presumptuously
named Grand Turk Island. So after 49 hours of non-stop flying, she
easily had another couple of hours in the tank. She did finally haul up
and settle on a tiny island (too small to get a name that Google knows
about). She landed there around 1PM, presumably did some fishing, and
then took off around 10AM the next day.
18 Oct 2010. Belle took a well-deserved rest here.
18-19 Oct 2010. Belle made landfall on Haiti around 3 PM on the
19th. She pushed on for another four hours and then roosted in the hills
northeast of Dessalines in Haiti. She was on the move again around 9 AM,
heading southeast by south towards the Caribbean.
When she got to the southern coast of Haiti, she
applied the "but stay over land" clause to her instinctive urge to go
south, and headed down towards Cabo Beata (which I have misnamed in
these maps a few hundred times "Cabo Beato").
She roosted in the Dominican Republic and, according to
our latest Doppler locations, she was off on her way to Venezuela out
over the Caribbean around 11 AM.
This is only her 5th day of migration. Pretty
Scroll down for the weather report.
(The blue locations are Neale's wanderings.)
21 Oct 2010. It looks like she should have clear sailing as she
pushes on with her migration today. You can just see her roost spot
below the "79," just west of the storm system. She has clear skies
between Hispaniola and South America.
18-23 Oct 2010. Piece of cake! Belle left her roost in the southern Dominican
Republic around 9 AM on the 21st. She was out over the water about 2
hours later and 27 hours later crossed into Colombia.
Her zig-zaggy flight suggests that winds were changing
as she crossed the Caribbean.
Judging by the distances between hourly fixes, if she
stopped to rest at all when she got to the shores of South America, it
was only for a few minutes. She seems to have just kept on going for
another 3 hours, finally settling down between Valledupar and La Paz on
16-20 Oct 2010. Here's the whole trip so far. She was farther east
any of our youngsters have been.
23 Oct 2010. Around 10 AM on the 22nd she was off again, this time heading east
over the Cordillera Oriental, the eastern branch of the Andes mountains, and down
into the Táchira Basin (more on this below) almost to Lake Maracaibo. Another hour and a
half on that flight path and she would have run into our 2009 juvenile
Buck (the hot pink balloons), who is biding his time down there waiting to head home next
23 Oct-10 Nov 2010. Belle spent 17 days on the western shore of Lake
Maracaibo, in northwestern Venezuela, just 40 mi (67 km) north of Buck's
I thought she might stay there, but she took off on Nov
10th, bound for more southerly latitudes.
[This has nothing to do with our Ospreys, but it's
pretty cool: In this Google Earth map, satellite imagery from NASA has
been overlain on Lake Maracaibo showing the extent of an enormous bloom
of duckweed back in 2004. The Venezuelan government was spending $2
million/month dealing with it. Not sure what the outcome was, but there
seem to be no links after 2004, so I guess they cleared it up.]
Below is the Wikipedia entry for Lake Maracaibo.
is a large brackish
in Venezuela. It
is connected to the Gulf of Venezuela by Tablazo Strait (55km) at the
northern end, and fed by numerous rivers, the largest being the
Catatumbo. It is
commonly considered a lake rather than a bay or lagoon, and at 13,210
km² it would be the largest lake in South America. The geological record
shows that it has been a true lake in the past, and as such is one of
the oldest lakes on Earth, it's 20-36 million years old.
9-11 Nov 2010. Lake Maracaibo lies in a basin flanked to the west by
the Cordillera Oriental (the Eastern Range) of the Andes, and to the
south by the Cordillera de Merida.
To get further south on the continent, an Osprey has to cross over two
mountain ranges, as described in the Wikipedia entry below:
The Cordillera de
Mérida is a series of
mountain ranges, or massif, in northwestern Venezuela. The Cordillera de
Merida is a northeastern extension of the Andes Mountains. The ranges
run southwest-northeast between the Venezuelan-Colombian border and the
Venezuelan coastal range.
separates the Cordillera de Merida from the
which forms the Colombia-Venezuela border.
The ranges runs from southwest to northeast.
The southeastern slopes are drained by tributaries of the Orinoco River,
while the streams that drain the northwestern slopes empty into Lake
Maracaibo. At the northeast tip of the massif lies the town of
Barquisimeto and the headwaters of the River Cojedes.
In the centre of the massif is
the city of Mérida. Two ranges of peaks lie on either side of the city,
the Sierra de la Culata
to the north and Sierra Nevada de Merida to the south. Pico Bolívar, at
4,981 meters elevation (16,342 feet), is the highest peak in Venezuela.
11 Nov 2010. Belle spent the night and early morning at this
reservoir high in the middle of the Cordillera de Merida.
She probably arrived around 6 PM and was on the wing around 8 AM on the
12th. She would have had time to do some fishing before heading up over
the Sierra Nevada de Merida.
South of those mountains lie the Venezuelan llanos and
then the vast Amazonian rainforests of central South America.
9-13 Nov 2010. Belle was over the mountains by 10 AM and heading
south. She got to the Arauca River, which forms the border between
Colombia and Venezuela around 1 PM and probably did a bit of fishing. A
couple of hours later she was on the wing again, heading into Colombia.
Her roost on the 12th was covered by pretty thick
clouds when the satellite images for the area were taken, so we'll skip
13-14 Nov 2010.
Here's a close up of the Rio Meta valley, with open
llanos laced by riparian forests to the southeast and another strange
dune-striated habitat north of the river.
She was off to the races just after 9 AM. She'll
probably be in the Amazonian forests by early afternoon. Unless she gets
distracted, but she seems to be a bird on a mission these days.
14 Nov 2010. (looking south)
On the 14th Belle was heading south after a night
on the Rio Meta when we got our last GPS fix. She has about 80 miles
(130 km) to go before she hits the Amazonian rainforest in southern
The intervening land has lots of water-both standing
water and rivers lined by narrow forests, interspersed with open land,
which I guess is mostly cattle land. The human population looks to be
very sparse, but it's there.
So far, over 29 calendar days, of which she's been
migrating only 12, she has covered 2,910 miles (4683 km).
13-17 Nov 2010. (looking south)
On the 14th Belle indeed crossed into the enormous
Amazonian rainforest. In these four days she covered 604 miles (1000 km)
and reached the Japura River, just north of the Amazon River, deep in
the heart of the Brazilian Amazon.
17 Nov 2010. (looking north)
Same trip as the last map, but back to our
more conventional view, looking north.
The hot pink track is Mr. Hannah's trip south a year
14 Nov 2010.
Scattered around the Amazon are all sorts of
strange geological formations, like these rocky outcrops close to
Belle's 14 Nov. roost in Colombian Amazonia.
15 Nov 2010. (looking south)
Now we're in the northwestern Brazilian Amazon and
Belle's flying through a very strange landscape.
Soils in this region tend to be really sandy, which
explains the black (negro) water in the Rio Negro. Rivers that drain
sandy areas (closer to home, the New Jersey Pine Barrens are a classic
example) are black because the water is rich with tannic acids. Tannic
acids are compounds that plants create to keep bugs from eating them.
Why so much tannic acid in sandy soil areas? Either the soil doesn't
hold the molecules of tannic acid well (everything just leaches through
really sandy soil) or plants growing in nutrient-poor sandy soils invest
more of their available energy into defending their leaves by creating
lots of tannic acid because it's so expensive to replace leaves eaten by
17 Nov 2010.
The landscape of Amazonia is infinitely
A few words here on these satellite images are
worthwhile. Satellite photography comes in as a bunch of 1s and 0s (it's
digital) representing different wavelengths of light picked up by the
cameras. These binary data have to be interpreted and turned into
colors. Typically, the data coming in from forests are set to green, and
other colors can wind up being really different from what they really
should be. The apparently blue water in the Rio Japura here is a case in
point. The water in this river is actually 'cafe-au-lait' colored. The
river carries a lot of sediment, so in reality, it's a silt-laden very
light brown color.
Flying over this patch of forest looking out the window
of a jet, you wouldn't see such dramatic differences in the green of the
forest. It would all look green. Differences in wavelengths of light
that we can't see affect the digital image. So subtle differences in
forest structure are accentuated in these satellite images.
Cut and paste these coordinates into Google Earth and browse around.
Look closely for evidence of how the rivers have meandered around the
landscape creating what we see here: -1.85367N 66.88900W
17-20 Nov 2010
Belle crossed the Amazon (Brazilians call it the
Solimoes around here) on the 19th. She's now
farther south than any of our juveniles. She's 72 miles (117 km) west by
northwest of Mr. Hannah's wintering grounds.
19-20 Nov 2010
Now this looks like a good spot to spend the next
Rivers that show up blue on these maps have their
headwaters in higher elevations. This means they build up a head of
steam as they flow and thus pick up a sediment load, which makes them
"white water" rivers, even though at this point there isn't a rapid to
be found for hundreds of miles. The darker rivers have their headwaters
in the lowlands, so they never build up enough speed to pick up any
sediments. Instead, they tend to be dark, rich with tannins. Either way,
it's hard for an Osprey to see far into the water, which makes fishing
not as easy as one might suppose.
19 Nov- 6 Dec 2010
After 17 days on this lake, it looked like she was
going to stay here. However, true to form, on Dec 6th, she took off and
headed south again!
19 Nov-14 Dec 2010
Over an 8-day period, Belle pushed southeast
through the southern state of Amazonas and on into the Brazilian state
of Rondonia. At the same time, Thatch, our 2010 juvenile from Delaware
also made a move from his spot on the Rio Tefe.
6 Dec 2010
Not surprisingly, Belle stops at the end of each
leg of migration at one of the big rivers that feed into the Amazon.
The change of course is interesting here. Most likely,
at some point she got high enough and close enough to the Jurua that she
could see the river and diverted over to it.
She arrived at the Rio Jurua around 5PM local time on
the 6th and settled down for the night.
8 Dec 2010
After flying 175 miles (282 km) during the day
Belle spent the night of the 7th on a tributary of the Purus and kept
moving the next morning. She crossed the Rio Purus around 12:00PM and
settled down on another small tributary after a short daily move of only
52 miles (83 km).
9 Dec 2010
She arrived at this strange area just west of the
Rio Madeira around 5 PM after a flight of 125 miles (202 km).
10-11 Dec 2010
Belle crossed the Rio Madeira and entered the
Brazilian state of Rondonia on the 10th. She moved a bit farther south
on the 11th, discovering the Samuel Hydroelectric Reservoir.
Apparently not impressed, she pushed on around noon the
11-14 Dec 2010
This is the first time Belle has spent a few days
exploring and looping back to someplace she'd been before.
This is the farthest south any of our birds have been
and the longest migration we've seen. Belle left home 60 days ago. Of
those, she has spent only 25 actually migrating and 35 resting or
exploring the local possibilities. Since she left home, she has flown
about 4,275 miles (6.878 km), averaging 171 miles (275 km)/day of
14 Dec 2010
Belle is back to a place she saw a few days before
on the small river that feeds the Samuel Hydroelectric Reservoir.
A few words on the landscape here in Rondonia.
This was one of the first areas in the Brazilian Amazon where
deforestation really took hold. While not this extensive, the clearing
we see here was well under way when I moved to the Amazon way back in
1979. It was a government sponsored colonization project, spurred by the
creation of a network of roads, which gave colonists access to a vast
area of virgin rainforest.
In case you've been wondering why the maps we've
seen across the Amazon have a checkerboard appearance, here's what's
going on. The images we see are composites of many images. Early images
were pretty low resolution. Gradually, as higher resolution images
become available, they are pasted into the composite image we see on
Google Earth. This image shows the seam between an old image (on the
right) and a new one (on the left). Notice that the large clearing north
of the river had not been opened when the first picture was taken.
15-31 Dec 2010
Belle is back to a place s
15-31 Dec 2010
Belle is back to a place s
15-31 Dec 2010
Belle is back to a place s