Jan 2010. Same stretch of the river for 3 months now. Sometime
this spring, she will head north.
Feb 2010. She got bored and made a 2-day trip all the way up to
the cataracts on the Itani River, where she's spent a lot of time.
Apparently, she wasn't impressed, as she flew back to the Ouagui River
in French Guiana the next day.
For all of 2009 and the beginning of 2010, she has
moved up and down 110 miles (178 km) of the Ouagui and Itani Rivers.
Mar 2010. Another month in this same area.
As her second winter proceeds down here, the day length
is increasing, just as it did a year ago. This time, however, the change
in day length (presumably--we don't know what else it could be) is going
to trigger migratory behavior.
Migration is a whole suite of behaviors, all
genetically determined. The first step is to fatten up, so birds
preparing to migrate will put on weight. Then they experience migratory
restlessness, or zugunruhe--a term borrowed from our German colleagues.
This restlessness is what drives the birds to move. Some other set of
genes tell them what direction to follow.
Among the many mysteries of migration we witness
following these young Ospreys is the question of why did they not
respond to this lengthening of the day a year ago? The stimulus is
exactly the same, but last year it did not move her (literally), this
year it did.
They must have some internal calendar that keeps them
from responding to the increasing day length in their first spring on
the wintering grounds.
2-7 Apr 2010. Penelope is off to the races.
On the 4th she got to the coast of Suriname. It's clear
that her internal, innate flight plan is telling her to go northwest.
But, remarkably, when she got to the coast, she knew it was not yet time
to head out over open water. She's did not make this decision based on
remembering landmarks from her fall migration back in '08. She is
nowhere near the ground she covered back then (the orange line).
So, she made an adjustment following the coast
southwest a bit and then hugged the shore for another day and a half.
On the 6th she crossed into Guyana.
Depending on the route she takes, she has about 3,500 miles (5,600 km)
to go before she gets back to the Vineyard.
6-10 Apr 2010. Penelope continues to head northwest, crossing
twice the route she took coming south 19 months before.
She crossed the Orinoco River on the 10th.
HX, one of
the first birds we tagged, way back in 2000, spent his winters on the
delta of the Orinoco.
10 Apr 2010. Penelope is about to come to a very interesting
point in her migration. She's likely to hit the north coast of Venezuela
on the11th. Will she push off and cross the Caribbean here, or will she
make another course adjustment to the southwest to stay over land, as
she did back on the 4th?
10-24 Apr 2010. So much for my prediction that Penelope would
continue northwest to the Venezuelan coast! I think she checks my
predictions on her iPhone and then just goes the other way.
She has holed up on the shores of the Gulf of Paria and
shows no signs of moving.
Mark Martell had young stop migrating before reaching
their natal areas, but never this far south. His birds were headed for
Minnesota and quit migrating in the southern U.S.
Alan Poole remembers young showing up at the Westport
River colony as late as June--teenagers are never on time for
anything--so she still may make it home.
I do predict that Penelope will move again, but I'm not
saying in which direction!
10-24 Apr 2010. Penelope has settled down, at least for the
time being, at the edge of a pretty vast expanse of mangroves. This
would appear to be an area where she's not likely to run into any
If and when she does decide to continue north, she
still has to run the gauntlet of Hispaniola and Cuba.
24-26 Apr 2010. Penelope is finally on the road again. She got
going around noon on the 25th and headed northwest for only about 3
hours. She wandered around a bit before backtracking a bit and settling
down near Rio Casanay.
On the 26th she got an earlier start, leaving around
09:00. She passed over Isla de Margarita, heading northwest towards
Around noon she apparently caught sight of the tiny island of
Isla la Blanquilla and flew over there to spend the night. She must have
26-28 Apr 2010. Penelope left her roost on Isla la Blanquilla
between 8 and 9 AM. 13 hours later she was about 160 mi (260 km)
southeast of the Dominican Republic.
She settled down in northern Hispaniola that evening.
28 Apr-11 May 2010. Penelope spent two weeks in northeastern
Hispaniola, making us all pretty nervous. After her two-week layover in
the D.R., she headed west sometime in the morning of the 11th and moved
only 92 miles (148 km) before settling down for the evening near the
north shore of the island.
28 Apr-10 May 2010.
This, apparently, is how to survive in the D.R., if
you are an Osprey: Find a relatively uninhabited part of the country,
fish only rivers, staying away from farms, and hide deep in the woods
when you're not fishing!
28 Apr-12 May 2010. After her warm-up trip on the 11th, she
took off around 09:00, heading due west, following the what appears to
be a simple genetic set of instructions: stay over land if at all
possible as long as you can go pretty much in the direction you want.
About 14:00 she left Haiti behind (lead-free!), heading
northwest. As the afternoon progressed, she caught sight of Great Inagua
Island, where she'd spent the night 602 days before (17 Sep '08) and
camped out there again.
12-14 May 2010. Penelope shows us here that she is not
following landmarks that she remembers from her first migration. Were
that the case, she'd have island-hopped through the eastern Bahamas.
Instead, she found Andros Island for a night's sleep and then pushed on
to Florida on the 14th.
The crossing from Andros Island to West Palm Beach took
14-16 May 2010. Penelope seems to be in the mood to travel.
After spending the night in West Palm Beach, she move north and spent
some time fishing on the St. John's River in northeastern Florida. This
is a favorite spot for our migrating birds. If I wanted to see a lot of
Ospreys in Florida (not a hard thing to do) I'd hang out along the St.
On the 16th, she pushed northeast. She was in South
Carolina by 14:00. Not sure where she set up camp. We'll find that out when
we next download data.
Penelope left her winter haunts 46 days ago. Of those 46 days, she
has been migrating only 18. Her distance traveled so far is 2,823 mi.
(4,543 km). She has averaged 157 miles/day (241 km/day) of actual
She has about 900 miles (1,450 km) to go if she's going
to return to Martha's Vineyard.
16-17 May 2010. Penelope spent
the night of the 16th on the shore of Lake Moultrie in South Carolina's
low country. The next morning she moved a few miles to the Santee River
and spent the day there.
It has been interesting to watch where Penelope has
stopped to feed as she heads north--almost always at rivers. This makes
sense, given that she spent her 18 months in South America hunting up
and down a couple of rivers.
16-20 May 2010. Penelope moved to the Pee Dee River in South
Carolina where she spent the night of the 18th.
On the 19th she moved 119 mi. (192 km) up into North
Carolina, where she spent the night along the Neuse River.
On the 20th, she made a big move-- 172 mi (277 km) to
the eastern short of Virginia. At around 16:00h she crossed the path she
had followed in the fall of '08 for the fourth time.
21 May 2010. Penelope really seems to have momentum on her side
now. On the 21st she crossed the mouth of Chesapeake Bay and moved up the
"Delmarva" peninsula. She crossed her fall '08 route for the 5th time in
Virginia, took just over an hour to knock of the Maryland part of the
peninsula, and about the same for Delaware. Around 16:00 she was in New
She continued north for 3 more hours, finally settling
down near Atlantic City.
Depending on her route, she has about 230 mi. (370 km)
to go before we hang up the balloons for her welcome-home party on
I wouldn't be surprised if she's already there (as of
20-25 May 2010. Penelope has thrown another curve ball at us.
She was moving up the Jersey shore and was only two days short of
arriving on Martha's Vineyard, if only she'd stayed on her northeastern
heading. But, no, she decided to turn northwest and settle down for a
few days in central New Jersey.
22-23 May 2010. On the 22nd, Penelope just plunked down on
Island Beach State Park around midday. After the 13:00 location, all
fixes for her were at one spot for 22 hours. This doesn't mean she
didn't move, of course, it just means that every time her GPS unit took
a reading (on the hours), she was perched on whatever it was she was
sitting on. She probably was flying around, doing some fishing nearby,
but she sure didn't go far.
23-29 May 2010. After her somewhat surprising turn to the
west on the 23rd, Penelope once again put migration on hold for a couple
of days just west of West Freehold, NJ. She's just moving around in a
small area working some small ponds for a change. Guess she couldn't
find a river.
She spent a week here.
29-30 May 2010. After her somewhat
perplexing week in central New Jersey, Penelope
went on an 80-mi tour of the central coast around Barnegut Bay, and then
headed north (again).
30 May-6 June 2010. On the 31st, Penelope
made it to Connecticut. The next day she took about 5 hours to cross the
state. A couple of hours later she had Rhode Island in her rear-view
mirror as she passed through the heart of the Westport River Osprey
colony. At this point she could see Martha's Vineyard about 16 mi (27
km) away, and was 22 mi (42 km) from the nest where she was born. She
was apparently not overwhelmed with homesickness, and rather than cross
Vineyard Sound, she turned nortwest and is now in central MA.
This behavior fits in with what we know about dispersal
in young Ospreys. Males rarely nest more than 15 mi ( km) from where
they were born. Females are the wandering sex. This difference in the
dispersal behavior of the two sexes helps keep the gene pool mixed up.
Back in the early 70s I banded an Osprey on Martha's
Vineyard that was recovered years later up in Maine where it was surely
nesting. Odds are that this was a female.
6-13 June 2010. Penelope continues to explore southern New
England. At the end of this week, she settled down in northeastern
Connecticut, which seems to contain a giant Osprey magnet. Two of the
adult Ospreys we tagged on Martha's Vineyard in the early 2000s commuted
between this area and their home territories after their nests failed.
Three of the young tagged on the Vineyard also spent time in this area,
which is full of small ponds--and apparently lots of fish!
14-19 June 2010. One can see in this image why the area is
popular among southeastern New England's Ospreys.
20-26 June 2010. On the 21st, Penelope decided it was time for
some more exploring. She moved 91 miles (148 km), passing through, or at
least over, Boston before heading northwest and settling down just south
of the New Hampshire border. On the 22nd she moved up to Concord, NH,
where she settled down for a week on the Merrimack River.
In this map I've included locations for our five adult
males tagged in Rhode Island and SE Mass.
22-30 June 2010. Penelope spent her year and a half in South
America working up and down a couple of rivers in French Guiana and
Suriname, so it's not surprising to see her work rivers like the
31 June - 5 July 2010. Penelope is on the move again! She left
the Merrimack River north of Concord, NH, on the 30th of June and spent
that night in northern MA. She settled down on the Ware River, just east
of Quabbin Reservoir for a couple of days before a big move all the way
down to Block Island. She by late afternoon, she was in southern Rhode
Will she ever wander back to Martha's Vineyard?
2 - 5 July 2010. Penelope worked this stretch of the Ware River
on the 3rd and 4th. The last point on the map was at 10:00 on the 5th,
when she took off for points south.
2 - 5 July 2010. Penelope can't make up her mind. She made a
3-day junket down to Block Island, visiting the Pawtucket River in RI
for a couple of days. The Pawtucket and Wood River basin was the last
toe- (talon?) hold of Ospreys in RI when the species was decimated by
DDT in the late 60s and early 70s.
From there, she went back to the Ware River area and then
back up to the Merrimack in NH.
5-8 July 2010. After a quick stop on Block Island, Penelope
flew back to mainland Rhode Island, where she stopped and fished the
Pawtucket River for a couple of days. She left this area around 10:30 on
8-13 July 2010. Penelope came back to an area she's visited
before. She stopped at Brookhaven Lake, and somewhat
uncharacteristically, for her--river rat that she is--did some fishing
in the lake. She went up to the Ware River on the 9th (leaving around
10:00), then 24 hours later came back on the 10th. She only spent a
couple of hours at the lake before going north to the Ware River again.
On the 11th she flew down late in the afternoon to spend the night at
what appears to be a big beaver pond only to return in the morning of
the 12th back to the Ware River. She was at this beaver pond back in
early June. She left the Ware River about noon on the 13th, heading
13-17 July 2010. Penelope made the 50 mile trip from the Ware
to the Merrimack in a little over 2 hours, arriving a little after 14:00
on the 13th. She spent the next 4 days working about 2 miles of the
river upstream of East Merrimack. She's 23 miles (37 km) south of
Concord, where she spent some time fishing this same river during the
last week of June. She has never been here before, so she did not
navigate back here, but is rather still exploring, adding to her
ever-growing data base of good fishing spots.
A return to Martha's Vineyard is looking less and less
likely. Laddbrokes is giving 100-1 against.
18 July-5 Aug 2010. I hope someone took the 100-1 bet! I should
know better--as soon as I predict something that this bird is going to
do, it does the opposite. Penelope, after 7 weeks of denying her
heritage, left her river hangout in New Hampshire and flew more or less
directly, over about 5 hours, back to the ponds where she learned to
fish. She spent a day and a half there and zipped right back up to the
Merrimack River. Why, after all this time, did some set of neurons fire
in that Osprey brain, triggering this cameo appearance in her old 'hood?
Some things we're able to figure out by following these juveniles, some
things will remain forever mysteries.
22-24 July 2010. Penelope made a cameo appearance back in her
old backyard. Green balloons and orange lines trace her movements 2
years ago when she fledged from a nest between Long Cove and Homer Pond
along the south shore of Martha's Vineyard. Lots of orange tracks show
how often she flew from her nest up to the head of Deep Bottom "back in
the day." This year, she apparently decided that nostalgia is not all
it's cracked up to be, and flew back to New Hampshire after less than 48
hours on the Vineyard. She left Deep Bottom about 09:00, did a bit of
fishing perhaps in Oak Bluffs or Vineyard Haven, and was back on the
Merrimack River about 12 hours after leaving Tisbury Great Pond.
22 June-5 Aug 2010. Penelope has been up in New Hampshire on
three separate visits. I've color coded her balloons to the three stays
here. She was on the Merrimack near Concord in the last week of June
(orange), then about the third week in July (pink), and now, after her
junket down to the Vineyard, she's back (green). Most of her time on
this most recent visit has
been spent near Manchester on of the Piscataquog River, a tributary of
1 June-5 Aug 2010. No one will be able to accuse Penelope of
making a snap decision when she finally decides where to nest!
The orange track was her route south in 2008. White is
where she's been this summer.
4-14 Aug 2010. Penelope is
hanging out just west of Manchester, NH.
8-19 Aug 2010.
Tirrell Pond must have a lot of
fish in it. This is the first place that has caught Penelope's attention
to this degree. After arriving on the 8th, she only left twice for short
(about 1 mile) forays down to the Piscataquog River. She stayed here
until the morning of the 20th, when she began her second migration
20-29 Aug 2010.
Penelope is off on her second
migration south! I've included her paths on her first trip south back in
'08 and her first trip north this spring. While we already knew this,
her travels provide ample evidence that Ospreys do not follow a
memorized route relying on known landmarks.
She covered 663 miles in 10 days, which included 4 days
of actual migration and 6 fueling up, probably waiting for favorable
20-26 Aug 2010.
Penelope began her migration
around 10:00 with a modest 139 mile trip down to Danbury CT, where she
stopped first on the Lillinonah Reservoir (part of the Housatonic River)
and then Lake Candlewood, a few miles west. This was about the
time a wicked Nor'easter hit New England, so she was biding time here
waiting for the weather to turn.
28-29 Aug 2010.
Our favorite river-rat Penelope
settled down for a couple of days on the Neuse River, southeast of
Raleigh, NC. I don't think we've ever had a bird so tied in to rivers.
Hurricane Earl is on its way north, expected to
approach the North Carolina coast on 2 September. It looks like Penelope
is going to neatly sidestep out of its way. She's on a route that looks
to take her to Florida along the coast, and she'll probably be way
south of the Carolinas before Earl gets there. But then we remember how
my predictions for Penelope have not been exactly the stuff of oracles.
20-31 Aug 2010.
Well, another prediction holds
up! Penelope is safely in Florida and will miss all the fun that Earl
I've included her other trip routes on this map. It
will be very interesting to see if she goes through the Bahamas--her
path north this spring, or winds up going through Cuba.
It will also be really interesting to see how Earl stirs up
all the birds that are on the runway, waiting to head south. Approaching
hurricanes, because of the counter-clockwise flow of wind around them,
provide ideal conditions (northeast winds) for fall migration. We saw
this dramatically with Jaws and 2 other migrating birds back in '04 as
Hurricane Jeanne sat right about where Earl is now.
(I wish I'd figured out 3 years ago that you can drop
current weather conditions onto Google Maps!)
31 Aug 2010.
Penelope did not retrace her
route through the Bahamas. We have come to understand that young Ospreys
learn the general route south when they fly north on their first return
trip. Penelope's route here shows us again that routes are very general,
and not reliant on landmarks. It also indicates that the overriding
principle of migration (either north or southbound) is to stay over land
as long as you can.
3 Sep 2010.
This is a familiar view.
Penelope spent the night along a very small river somewhere in the
middle of Cuba. This habit should be a pretty safe one for her as she
moves through Cuba and Hispaniola as it reduces the chance that she'll
find herself at a fish farm.
3-7 Sep 2010.
Penelope is working her way
southeast through terra incognita. Unlike most Ospreys
on their third trip through the Caribbean, she has never been on Cuba.
6-10 Sep 2010.
Traveling through Haiti this
fall, Penelope was pretty much, but not exactly, retracing her route
through the country from two years before. When she crossed into the
Dominican Republic, she left the beaten path.
Given our track record of no young surviving attempts
to overwinter in the D.R. we're always nervous as birds go through the
very Osprey-unfriendly land. Once again, we hope that her very strong
penchant for hunting rivers will keep her away from fish ponds.
10 Sep 2010.
This is what we like to see
Penelope doing--roosting near little rivers far from humans.
9-12 Sep 2010.
There seems to be no end of
really interesting things that Penelope does. Here, we see her break out
of the south-bound migration mode to visit a river in the northern
Dominican Republic where she spent a couple of weeks back in May on her
She was about 45 mi (78 km) south of this favorite
fishing spot when she decided to head up there to refuel. Good
fisherwomen have good memories, know where the fish are, and are willing
to go a bit out of their way to visit a productive site.
What we don't know is how she found her way up there.
She probably could have seen some landmarks if she got up on soar.
Alternatively, she might have used some other navigational sense, which
we know birds possess but have no clue as to how it works.
11-26 Sep 2010.
Penelope spent 15 days on these
small rivers in the northern Dominican Republic. She resumed her
migration around 10AM on the 26th.
26-28 Sep 2010.
This makes me really, really
nervous. Penelope headed off to South America around 12 PM on the 27th.
Around 3 hours later she changed course and started flying southwest,
and then shifted to a westerly direction. Around 7 PM I believe she
landed on a ship. The 8 PM location is only about 10 miles (16 km) from
the 7 PM location, and that's pretty much too slow for an Osprey to fly.
At that point the GPS stopped recording, but fortunately, this was when
the transmitter was due to upload the GPS data, so we have some location
data for her, based on the old Doppler location system. Over the rest of
the night her signal was moving northeast, at about 10 mph. Our last
signal was at 05:52 on the 28th.
We have not had good luck with birds landing on ships.
I think we've had 4 birds land on ships, and 2 of them were never heard
from again. But, looking at the glass half full view, 2 birds have
hitched rides for a while and taken off in the morning.
Talons seriously crossed on this one! We have to wait 3
more days for her next data upload. Let's hope this is an unarmed crew!
9-29 Sep 2010.
OK, she got off the boat or
ship--let's just call it her floating ride--sometime after 6AM on the
28th and flew to Puerto Rico, where she bunked down for the evening. On
the 29th she island hopped her way through the Virgin Islands, and once
she'd seen all of them she decided to make the big push south to
Venezuela. She probably started this trip around 7AM. We don't know if
she stopped on St. Croix or not. (Remember that the lines connecting
locations do not mean she necessarily took that route. We're safe to
assume that when points are about 25 mi and an hour apart, but when
there's 12 hours between GPS locations, we really don't know where she
was between those points and times.)
9 Sep-1 Oct 2010.
Relieved to see that she made it
across the Caribbena. It seems that at some point in this leg of her
journey she remembered stopping on Isla Blanquilla and set her
navigational system for it. She spent part of a day resting there on her
way north in late April (the green track), and probably stopped there
for a bit on this journey, although the data are not clear. I can't
imagine she wouldn't stop to catch her breath after 430 mi. (700 km) of
9 Sep-3 Oct 2010.
Now I'm really, really nervous
again. These points are from the morning download on 3 Oct. and are
missing a whole day's points (2 Oct).
I was a bit premature in printing this map, because it
often takes several passes of the satellites to download all the data.
Looking at these points, I wondered if she didn't
backtrack towards Isla Blanquilla on the 1st and spend the 2nd there. We
still have worrisome points at the end of the track here.
||This is a little better, but
still very perplexing. With another satellite pass or two, we got the
full data set from her GPS.
Why would she go back to Los Hermanos when Isla de
Margarita was so close? And then what's with the erratic path? Is she on
a boat again? The track ends at 5PM with three points (i.e. 2 hours of
time) where she only moves a mile. I really don't like that.
Scroll down for the probably answer.
4 Oct 2010.
This weather image probably
explains what's going on. This image is from the 4th, a day after the
last points on the previous map, so Penelope may have flown into this
"area of tropical instability" which has the potential to develop into a
tropical depression or hurricane.
Another 3-day cliff-hanger, and I don't have much hope