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The Falcon Research Group (FRG) is a non-profit organization dedicated to the support of field research, public education, and the conservation of raptors.


2012 Southern Cross Peregrine Project (SCPP)

Thanks to the kind and generous support of the Falcon Research Group members, we are continuing the project in South America for another year.

The FRG volunteer team will be arriving once again in Santiago in late February to rendezvous with our friends in Chile and head for the coastal city of Valparaiso to meet the container carrying our two research vehicles to that Port.

We plan to spend the following three weeks in Chile. During the first segment of the study, we will be concentrating on capturing and satellite tagging two more adult female Peregrine Falcons with solar powered, GPS-enabled Microwave Telemetry transmitters. We are happy to report that the units weigh a third less this year, only 22 grams.

We’ll be working the dune field at Putu once again, revisiting the site of the 2010 tsunami and seeing our friends there. If there are not two new birds there, we’ll continue south until we find others. Chiloe has been mentioned.

After this goal is accomplished, the team will return to the US for three weeks.

Then, for the first time ever, two of us (Anderson/Vanderveen) will return to Putu in the first week of April to await the northbound departure of the two newly tagged falcons. We hope to also be joined by Christian Gonzalez, SCPP team member and leading authority on peregrines in Chile.

The falcons generally began migrating north between 7-14 April and so will we. Our objective is to travel with them as they migrate through the Atacama Desert of Chile and Peru and try to stay with them through the tropical forests of Ecuador.

Our main objective is to learn more about the conditions and habitats they experience as they fly north each day. We now know quite a bit about their routes, departure dates, distance travelled per day and roosting locations but we also want to learn more about the actual conditions they encounter during these epic flights.

We are hoping that Island Girl will also be joining us somewhere along the route, i.e. if her transmitter lasts for another record-breaking year.

Since no one has ever attempted this before, we cannot predict exactly what is going to happen. When we say “follow the falcons”, we anticipate that we will closely approximate their route as much as possible. What this means is anyone’s guess.

Will we be able to observe either falcon? Probably not but that is what we will try to do. We are going to be in touch with Don McCall at our “home base” in Seattle by satellite phone. So we will usually have three GPS locations per day (1000, 1600 and 2200), including roost sites. We’ll visit these spots as often as we can but it is likely that the birds will have left before we can get there. There is always a time delay in the transmission of these signals, sometimes substantially longer than others.

However, we have one new advantage this year. When we capture a bird, we will also be attaching a small 3 gram VHS transmitter to a single tail feather. This feather will ultimately be molted during the summer so they only last three months. With this tiny radio, and using handheld directional antennas, we can receive constant directional signals whenever we are close to a bird and within its line of sight. This will help us home in on their locations quite well. Supplementing the data from the satellite transmitter, we should be able to stay fairly close to a falcon.

Now we’ll see how reality enters the equation.

The ultimate, of course, would be to actually see the bird, perhaps even witness a successful hunt, allowing us to document her prey. Keep in mind that this is extremely unlikely to happen, but we can dream.

When we finally arrive in Ecuador, we’ll be shipping the vehicles back north. Unfortunately, due to the increased dangers that now exist in Colombia, Central America and Mexico, we are reluctantly and regretfully bypassing these lovely countries for our own safety. How very sad and we all hope for a change there soon.

Since Panama and Costa Rica are not in this category, we may have a try in each of those countries too on the way north.

Once we arrive back in the United States, it is our intention to drive to Texas/New Mexico and intercept one of these birds as they enter the US from Mexico. With luck, we will follow one north through the spring on the Great Plains and then continue into Canada until we reach the edge of the boreal forest and the end of the road.

From there, we’ll return back home in May.

Whenever possible, I will be writing a blog describing the trip here on the FRG website. We invite anyone with an interest in peregrines and migration to join us over the journey. In some locations it will obviously be difficult to reach the Internet but be patient and we’ll send when we can.

Team members this year include:

  1. Shirley Vanderveen and her 2003 Land Rover Discovery. First time in South America for both.
  2. Becky Rosencrans, who was enroute to Chile when the 2010 earthquake hit and was unable to complete her journey. Also first time in South America.
  3. Kathryn Gunther, queen of logistics, hawk trapper and longtime member of the project.
  4. Christian Gonzalez, leading expert on peregrines in Chile and another long-time member of the SCPP.
  5. An unknown Peruvian (TBA) who will be guiding us through Peru thanks to the suggestion and able help of Dr. Ursula Valdez.
  6. Nancy Hilgert de Benavides, long-time friend and leading peregrine expert in Ecuador to assist in that country.
  7. Bud Anderson, falcon trapper.

There are open seats on this trip.

Click here to go to the SCPP main page providing the project description, migration maps, BLOGs, etc.