Peregrine Falcon in Argentina
Linda S. Schueck
Location data analysis; Pelican movement
NPR/NGS Radio Expeditions
- Assateague Island; Assateague Beach Coast Guard Station
- 37.86389 -75.36667
Stereo=2: 1=L, 2=R; Split track; Stereo
NPR/NGS RADIO EXPEDITIONS
LOG OF DAT 4
JD = Jim Dayton
LS = Linda Schueck
AC = Alex Chadwick
...go find 5734. We had locations of birds locations stabilized, meaning she stopped on Dec. 15 at that area we watched for a while in that area to see if she was going to continue to move because this particular bird -Dec. 15 is pretty late for a bird to arrive on the wintering grounds, and so we watched for a while to see if she was going to stay there. and also the fact that dislocation was highly unusual -no one would have thought that a falcon would have gone to this location.
00:38,AC -What is unusual about this location.
That the valley floor of the 'Salar de Antofalla' is about 12,000 feet above sea level. You have to 90 over several 15,000 foot passes to get in there, and it is in the middle of the Alta Plano, which is the high plane -you go up to the Andes up the wall of the Andes, and then it is a very broad mtn. range that's -i wouldn't say it is flat at all, but relatively speaking you don't get a whole lot of -you could travel at the ,at about the same altitude for a while -north/south. There are 1'7,000 foot peaks and in fact when we got into the 'Salar de Antofalla' and in fact found the vayga (?) where this bird is located right across the valley floor was a 17,00 foot mtn. it is a volcanic peak with a side blown out, and all of the ash and pumice had come down in an alluvial fan type pattern out into the salar, and in fact we camped on that fan. and it was just perfectly smooth. the wind just scours everything. it is a very harsh environment. it is freezing at sun up, and 95 degrees and'40 mile an hour wind at noon. 1:58 so, quite a typical i expect of high altitude desert.
2:06 AC -so tell me, how did you find this bird? how did you know where to go?
2:12 We had a -essentially we had a latitude longitude, I had a GPS receiver. We had a operational navigational chart which had some roads on it. no one in Salta which is the nearest town where there would be English speakers and people with education and no one we could find was familiar with the area. so it was very difficult to rent a vehicle. everything was ... it's all a long story, but eventually we rented a vehicle, and we were able to drive up into the area with our one to a million map. it is like having a map east of the Mississippi with a few lines on it. and the first time that we went up we essentially circled the salar. we knew where we were using the GPS, using the GPS we knew we were on the right latitude and we knew that the map showed a little red line going in there, but there was no road. And so we went all around the east side of the salar, up and down, we were 200 miles from fuel and so we used more fuel -we got out past the point of no return and we had to barter -we went into a very small mining village and a campasino -a local happened to walking down the street and we talked him into siphoning some fuel out of some drums that were in an adobe building and into our tank, which was enough to get us back. that was very interesting. we also got stuck. we tried -in somewhat of a desperate attempt to get in, we went down a track that showed itself as a road on the map, but actually was just a two wheel track of ash and pumice and we got about 200 yards into it and sank to the frame and remained their for the next 2 days, jacking each tire up -putting it on a rock, making a little stone road for the tires that was about the length of a pick up, and pushing it and going like crazy for about 10 feet, dropping back down into the pumice, jacking it back up. this is at 12,000 feet. my partner had altitude sickness. half our water containers had broken because of the beating of the bad roads and we didn't have much water, and we had been driving for 2 days and had not seen a soul.. not a soul went by in the time. it was ¬you know very interesting. but eventually a mining truck came by with a large driver, and he helped us -with his assistance we were able to get out.
5:19 AC -Who were you there with?
5:20 I was with -the initial attempt was with Bud Anderson, who was a field biologist and has been associated with the survey and had been to Argentina, and in the past had surveyed Patagonia, and it was sort of our South American hand. He was going through a difficult personal time at that time, and because of that and because of the fact he was suffering from altitude sickness -i am sure was related to his personal troubles -had to get down -when you have altitude sickness you have to get down. so we got down. and for various reasons he had to leave. i stayed. we also had a young chilean who was our interpreter. bud knew spanish ¬enough to get us by. and on our first trip up when we hit the second of our military check points, where we had our biggest problem. when we got ready to leave and they had allowed us to get through -we had two vehicles -and we looked at christian's truck, and he had 2 flat tires, and that was the end of him.. there are no facilities, this is desolate country, and there are few -there are isolated shepherds out in the little vegas. you'll see you will be out driving around and you can see 50 miles in any direction. the air is perfectly clear, nothing but grays and browns and yellows. and you see a patch of green, and you drive for a few hours and you get to it to it and a campasino -an indian -i am not exactly sure how they wish to be called ¬campasino is what i have heard. with a bowler hat and a shawl ¬out there with a dozen sheep on a -on another vega which is a green essentially there will be year round water that's coming in from snow melt -or some source -and they will raise sheep. and they will be very isolated. they will be living in an little adobe building with a little adobe oven outside, and they will be
living their life there. 8:00 The way they operate is there will be people that come by on some semi-regular basis with flour and other essentials, and they will barter their wool and meat and mutton and lamb for those items, and they don't get a very good deal at all, and that person will leave, and they will have that, and that person will be able to survive. 8:29
8:30 AC -Tell me -you get up there and you are in this high valley and you have a fixed location for this bird from satellite telemetry, and you are just trying to hit this location yourself. Trying to find some road, some path, some way to get there.
Right, exactly, yes.
AC -And how did you finally get there?
8:56 Well, we got very lucky is how we got there. It happens that 2 young, German geologists were working in that general area, and had been since October -this is the end of January, the first of February when we were up there. And they had -they were working with a German mining firm -and they had a satellite photograph of the large area. And they said -we happened to meet, after Bud Anderson had left, and I started talking to them. And they said oh yeah, we know that area and we have a picture. And I said may I see it. And I said there it is because there was one green spot and it was pretty much right where the latt. longitude -because i knew the shape of the salar, and all of that -and i said there it is. and i said do you guys have any idea how to get in there, and they said, well, we got in there once by just going cross country. and it works out that we had been past heir track 2 times when we were up there before, but just didn't see it because it was 2 tire tracks -the roads up there are just a bulldozed, just a grated slot through the -along the mtn. side, with boulders -not boulders -soft ball sized rocks allover the place, and you have to be really be paying attention when you are driving. but they had a built a little cairn, and said go through the Salar de Hombre Muerto -'dead man's' salar -and when you get out of that one you go about 5 km and you start looking for a cairn and when you see that cairn turn right. and i did. and of course there is nothing there. when you are out there -you are up there. and i got to the cairn and i looked right and there we could barely discernable 2 tracks going out to the desert, and we turned right and followed them for 5 1/2 hours. low-range 4 wheel drive, grinding through pumice and ash, and around and up through the mtn., and finally breaking out of the plane there was this solar, and we looked down in and it was this glorious site. 11:35
11:36 AC -was it a green valley?
No, no, no. It is a salt plain with mud domes. it is an interesting geological formation. there is water below and I
guess it is raised sea floor, and as the -when the water evaporates salt precipitates out and makes a salt plain. but there is just a crust, and there is water flowing underneath of it. but it is not like Bonneville where it is just a purely flat area. there are these mud domes that stick right out of it. and it works out that by the time we saw that we had connected with another road that came in about a 100 miles south, and we got on that road, and that was a bulldozed track -your serpentined mtn. track, with very sharp switch backs, and dropped way down into the floor and then we were able to -the geologists said they had not been directly at that point, but their experience down there was to drive along side of the mtn., and not out on the floor, because you can break through that salt crust. and -but it is also very soft ash and pumice again. we let the air out of our tires from experience here, and we were able to follow that around, and eventually -were we came down into the valley the actual vega was about 30 miles north of there so we had about 30 miles of going just weaving around trying to find firm ground until we could eventually see that green patch. and as soon as you could see the green you knew that that was the spot and we got opposite it in the valley, and we were about 2 miles across the valley, and that is where we would camp and walk across from there to the vega.
13:43 AC -walk across the salt crust?
AC -any concern about breaking through?
Well, if I knew what I was doing I probably would have been concerned. But since I was had no idea, I figured, well it looks ok to me, and then we got about half way and saw this piece of crust broke and looked down, and saw water flowing underneath, and thought maybe we better get on the muddier areas, and get off this white crust. I mean it was purely just people had no idea just going out and doing it and we walked across and found the area and there were about 25 species of birds there. and the first day we went out and I tried to lure -I just lured the birds for a while. but it was late afternoon when we got there the first day. and we just walked around and looked at what was there. and then we walked back across, and this was with the young chilean and myself then. and walked back across the salar and spent the night, and I was just sleeping in a sleeping bag out among ash. and it was just glorious. it can't get any clearer than there. the southern cross was just gorgeous. it was about 85 after the sun had gone down in the evening, and I woke up, and it was well below freezing. so it is a pretty extreme climate. very -the sun -and we walked across before sun-up, and again lured the bird -essentially the bird came into the lure -came in from behind, and we didn't see the bird. so i had to basically drop what i was doing and run. there was no cover except 18 inch sparse grass. and we jumped into the grass and waited and watched her, and essentially she came back into the lure, but she did not -but ...the reason we were trying to capture the bird was because the battery was going down on the bird, and we wanted to fit a new transmitter on her. we tried to capture her, but she would not get noosed, and she eventually flew away. we have a video of it -... it is very disheartening. although she is a large bird.
16:38 AC -But you did find her.
Oh yes. and we have video of her with the transmitter on. she came into the lure and the remainder of that day then -I was starting to suffer from the altitude -dehydration. I am a marsh rat, and I dehydrate pretty easily.
17:01 AC -Where there other falcons around there?
We did see -we did observe an immature falcon. the first hour we were there. we were walking through the salt plain area, and on one of the mud mounds, sitting in the shade was an immature falcon. but that is the only siting of that bird that we had. so there were in fact 2 birds wintering there -and another interesting thing, just as far as technology is concerned, the way we locate -try to make a specific location of a bird we average -because of the error of the system, built into the system, plus the fact that this is a bird, they fly -that they move over a large areas, and you can be getting a location from them when they are in fact flying away from where they may be roosting. we average the location and so -what the location we had was an average -so i was at that vega where the birds where that this falcon was praying on and it was very obvious that it was the only life w/in miles. it was not specific location that i had. so i took the GPS and walked to that, which in fact unfortunately was about 500 feet in elevation up the side of the mtn. but i could see that most of the mtn. was just a scoured, smooth ash and pumice, very soft. it is like walking up a sand dune -if you can imagine that at 13,000 feet. Your wind fails you. At any rate we eventually got up there, and right at that spot -I walked right to that spot -and there were the mutes -which is the ?? of that falcon, I mean she had been roosting on, there was a little rock outcrop, there was very little of that available. Most of it was so smooth and it would not be a place were a falcon would roost. And she had been roosting right there -so it was dead on the average numbers. so it was very interesting. and in fact it looked -through our Greenland survey -the habitat where the falcons nest, this in fact did -there were some sparse sage planted right out in front of this area. and in fact resembled some areas of Greenland where they nest which is ???? or the tundra. 19:36 most of these birds are arctic birds, which is also interesting. but there were quite a few birds there which was also interesting. we did find 3 birds of neo-tropical species: the baird's sandpiper, barn swallows and burrowing owls. and our theory is if you follow migrating shore birds -or migrating birds into that area -because it is so far, so far out of the beaten path, that she must of followed something in there. our guess is the baird's sandpiper, however...
20:21 AC -Now you have not managed to recapture 5734?
No, we have not.
20:26 AC -So you could not put a -you do not know where she is now?
No, we do not.
20:32 AC -It would be interesting to see if she went back to that same -
It would. Well that is another thing that we would like to do. That is another bit of research that we would -there are lots of, with the new technology of course raise new questions, and of course that is one of the questions -is do they return to the same wintering ground. they are birds of habit so we would guess that they do. ???/the nesting ground ??? obviously there is reason to return. not obviously. but there is a better reason to return to the natal area. whereas w/wintering it is a matter of opportunity. they do habituate on their prey -birds will specialize on a particular bird species. so given all of those things, we think that there is a good chance that they do return, but we would like to find that out. i would certainly like to go back there, because it was a beautiful, beautiful place. 21:40
21:41 AC -Sounds like a very desolate place. Very difficult to get to.
Very difficult to get to. But beautiful. Absolutely beautiful. And I guess the difficulty in getting there and all it has some allure. But I love the Andes, the people -they are wonderful people. We didn't have much contact with them, but with the ones we did contact were very nice. And I have nothing but good to say about Argentina. So -that was definitely a wonderful trip, and it was 90% successful. We were not able to track that bird to its breeding grounds, and that is of course what we wanted to do is get the return track and find out where she was breeding ¬so...but that did not happen. However we have through the work in our Greenland study area, we have re-trapped birds that we have outfitted with new transmitters, and one in fact after 2 years having the transmitter, and she had migrated successfully to ?? with 2 broods of young, w/in those 2 years, and so we feel pretty confident...
22:56 AC -And where did she winter?
22:58 That particular bird wintered just below Oyster, VA inside the barrier -the Atlantic Barrier Islands along the Eastern Shore of Va. Maybe 10 miles north of the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay. And w/that particular bird in fact we found -we located her on her wintering grounds -got visual on her. We were also unable to trap that bird.....23:32
22:33 AC -Ok -eh... I guess thafis fine.
22:56 AC -How long did it take you to get out of there to go call Bill and tell we got 'em?
Ah...as fast as we could go. We had to sleep -we got out of there and we made it about half way, and just couldn't go any more. It was at night and we just pulled off the side of the road, pulled a bag down and slept until sun up and then drove until until we made it. we had a 55 gallon drum of fuel in the back of the truck that we had to siphen in -we took -i think we burned the regular truck tank plus about 30-35 gallons of fuel, we had about 15 gallons left when we got back. that was the other thing -to not get beyond your range. so, walking was really ¬
24:55 AC -So when yougot to this town there was a telephone you could use?
JD -Oh yeah. Well they have these telephones -the only way I could make an international call would be to wait until the -I don't know what you call them -telephone stores -.......1 called Bill, and told him that we had found him.
AC -Did you know where to find him?
AC -He was waiting for the call? ...What did you say?
JD -I said -I don't know what I said.... I said, I found her. She's there. That's the good news. the bad news is that we couldn't get her in hand and exchange the transmitters -the good news is that I'm alive ....quite often... [all about the Argentinean cars.... ]
NG 29:32 AMBI rain in bg, faint talking
OK 30:32 -33:07 AMBI rain in bg -room where interview took place w/door open
33:38 stereo AMBI -door closed, condition of room when interviews took place @ 22:59 interruptions....continues w/faint talking in bg through 36:09 -Linda trying to get people's voices off mike.....through 47:34
47:35-49:34 AMBI storm storm sounds from off side of house, too windy to go outside. dripping is water dripping off of house.
49:55 -59:20 AMBI on porch pointed at a whistle, rain in bg and talking, doors opening and closing
Linda Schueck (LS) -59:21 That is not what we expected this bird to be d01ng.
AC -That's because what did you find? ...so what you find is that these birds are hear and then they are hundreds and hundreds of miles.....
1:00:16 AC -When did you first start plotting the pelicans?
LS -we started plotting the pelicans just as soon as we started acquiring data which was early June, of this year -1996.
AC -Sorry, I made the key mistake -who are you?
LS -I am a biologist that works with the ..... a biologist with the Boise State University Raptor Research center on contract, doing location data analysis for the Legacy program. 1:01:12 The pelican started coming in in June, and by late June early July we started seeing these movements where one particular pelican was continuously going back and forth. It would spend a few days in the stillwater area and then it would go over to the SF bay in California -travel over 400 km, stay for a couple of days, maybe a week and travel back. So it was making regular jaunts across the Sierras.
1:01:48 AC -And how far is that -how far is it traveling in a day?
LS -It is hard for us to say how far it is traveling in a day because our radios -our transmitters come on and off. So we will be tracking for 8 hours and then they will go off, and we won't receive them again until the next day. So for me to say they are traveling X distance in a day we don't know if they stop traveling when our transmitters have stopped transmitting or if they had continued.
1:02:19 AC -I am sorry, I am asking the wrong question. It is the rate of speed that these birds are flying that you are finding.
LS: The rate of speed. I don't like to talk about the rate of speed because it is a ground based -well we can say is from one time that the satellite went over to the next time that the sat. went over it traveled ground distance a certain distance. And you can calculate the rate of speed, but because the bird could have been up in the air, a high distance, in theory -it might be misleading. So, I don't talk about travel rates -ask Mike ¬
1:03:07 AC -It is such a spectacular figure -that's why!! We don't care if it misleading or not! It's that Bill told me that you had tracked these birds and that your figures would indicate that
LS -that they are traveling -an average rate of speed, if calculated at ground level, and continuously maybe -that's
wrong....oh I hate this... [AC -it's those media jerks!] Facts vs. speculation....
AC -No, you have a fact that you have a bird that is here and there, and to get from there to there it must have been traveling of an average ground speed of 70 mph.
1:04:10 LS -It could have been traveling at an average ground speed of 70 mph. However, with the accuracy we know it was somewhere around here, and it was somewhere around here. If it was in the inside of the area lips maybe it was shorter, if it was on the outside maybe it was faster. The -it does appear that they are traveling at speeds better than 60 miles an hour. However if they are using thermals to get up and glides to the next thermal a lot of that time is spent in a downward motion and it's not a continuous flapping thing that they are likely doing it is likely that they are going soaring up on a thermal, gliding down. However we don't have behavior observations that would support that ¬
1:05:06 AC -But no matter what they are doing, however they are doing it they are doing stuff -you are finding out with this technology that they are doing stuff that you had no idea that they were doing -
LS -Definitely so. We knew that they were hitting thermals and we knew that pelicans had been documented to be flying at high altitudes and because of that we included an altitude sensor on this PTT. They are trying to get a handle on how high they might be flying. What we didn't expect is that pelicans use so much area. Different individuals -we had one individual that made continuous back and forth movements from stillwater to SF Bay. We had another pelican that went from stillwater, through Central California -the Malhuer area in Oregon continued to Cascade Lake in Idaho and then in the last month from beginning of Sept. that individual has come through Utah and is now down in Southern California -at Salt and Sea -a different indiv. went from the stillwater area and spent time at Salt Lake prior to going down to Salt and Sea as well. So from our sample of 7 pelican we had individuals who did the gamut to staying there at the stillwater area and remaining there to today -which is October 8 -while others traveled -they made the whole tour of the Northwest before going to where we presume they will winter in Southern California. 1:07:13
1:07:14 AC -And they travel -they appear to travel huge distances extremely