2013 Cell-tower Adults

Fall Migration: Adults with GSM transmitters. (15 Aug - 10 Oct)

See 2013 Winter page for subsequent data.

Move the rectangular slider at the bottom of the interactive map to follow recent movements.

Scroll down for updated commentary on each bird's movements.

DJ (light blue) Martha's Vineyard

Icarius (gray) Martha's Vineyard

Edwin (green) Fishers Island

Woody (pink) Chesapeake Bay

Nick (orange) Chesapeake Bay

Quin (red) Chesapeake Bay

Tango (white) Chesapeake Bay

Notes: I recently noticed that the colors can show up differently on different browsers.

Birds with links (underlined) now have individual map pages.

Hover the cursor over a dot to see which bird is which. Click on it for location details.

You can zoom in and out and move the map around. If you slide a birds marker along its path, you'll see where the other birds were when your bird was wherever you have the marker. You can also use the calendar to see where all the birds were on a given date.//

Go to Individual Bios

30 March - (updated) April 1

March Madness! Including cell-tower and satellite birds, seven are on the wing heading north, three are home or as good as home, and our teenager in Cuba (Snowy) is still thinking about waking up.

Edwin is in Connecticut after a weird 3-days when he fell off the radar screens after getting to Trenton. How he dodged cell towers between Trenton and Old Lyme is a real mystery. He's now gadding about in Connecticut where he spent most of last summer after his nest failed. He has still not been back to his nest on Fishers Island, which is plenty perplexing. I'm still trying to get some boots on the ground on Fishers to see what's going on at his nest.

Quin got back to Tangiers Island, where he nests, on the 27th at 6:40PM. He went right to his nest, but didn't spend any time there at all. At 10:40 the next morning he was heading north to the Delmarva Peninsula.He went up to Salisbury, MD. Late in the morning of the 31st he came back to Tangiers and spent some time on a nest platform that was active last year--but it was not his. We actually caught the female at this nest with our first trap set-up, but didn't get the male. On the morning of the 1st, he headed back up to Johnson's Pond in Salisbury. Maybe the fishing out in deep water in the Chesapeake isn't good yet.

Nick, Quin's neighbor on Tangiers Island, got to the western shore of the Chesapeake at the mouth of the Rappahannock River on the 28th. Just before 9AM on the 31st he headed home to Tangiers Island. He got there about 45 minutes later. If you zoom in on his track, you'll see he's spending a lot of time on a big antenna tower (where lots of tracks converge east of the beach). It also looks like he's spending time on a different platform than the one we trapped him on last year.

Our other Chesapeake Bay bird, Woody, FINALLY got his sorry tail in gear and left Venezuela on the 28th. This is really late for a breeding bird to start his migration north. On the 30th he was on Jamaica. He's now somewhere in Cuba, where cell towers are in short supply, so this is a bit of a black hole for our GSM birds. We trust he'll pop up again in Florida in a few days.

DJ last texted us from Hispaniola on the 25th. After that message he was "flying dark" for about a week--in Cuba, which is not overflowing with cell towers. He showed up again on the 31st just south of Naples, on Florida's west coast. Zoom in on his track in Cuba before he left the island and on his track across the Florida Straights. It's really fascinating. (I'm not sure it was tobacco in those Cuban cigars he's been smoking.) He was clearly doing some very dynamic soaring out over the open water.

(Older updates are in chronological order)

August 31

Edwin, our male from Fishers Island, gave us a big surprise by starting migration on August 16th. This is really early for males, but his nest had failed, so I guess he gets a hall pass. Surprisingly, he hadnt been back to his nest since sometime in June. Ten days later he was in southern Florida. That's the last we heard of him, which isn't surprising, given that he has a cell-tower transmitter and I suspect it's pretty easy to fly over Cuba without being within 15 miles of a cell-tower. We may not hear from him again until he comes north in the spring. And that, of course, assumes he makes it over the Caribbean in hurricane season.

The next surprise came from Tango, an adult male we tagged on Tangiers Island down in the Virginian section of Chesapeake Bay. Tango, whose nest had failed earlier in the summer, headed south on August 23rd. Three days later he was just west of Miami. That was the last we've heard from him. This just means that he's somewhere in Cuba or further south and not near a cell-tower.

September 7

Well, shiver me timbers! No sooner do I say that we probably won't hear from the cell-tower boys until next spring, when Tango checks in from the Dominican Republic! He made it through Cuba OK (meaning he did not have his last meal on Earth at a fish farm, as some of our birds have done) and is now poised to make his move across the Caribbean Sea. Once again, I thought that would be the last we heard from him for a while, but then he found another cell tower in northern Venezuela. Woody (red track) from the Annapolis portion of Chesapeake Bay, got a move on and is now in Florida. No news from Edwin, which we'll optimistically chalk up to his just being out of reach of cell towers.

13 September

Tango has settled down for a while at Lake Valencia in northern Venezuela. This is an area where lots of Ospreys are seen each fall, and probably a lot overwinter. Because this is our first time following Tango, we don't know if he'll stay here or continue south. We did get some remarkable data from him as he crossed the Gulf of Venezuela. It was 81 miles (129 km) which he covered in exactly 3 hours. His speed (about 27mph) was pretty typical. During most of that crossing we had minute-by-minute GPS fixes! We can see a couple of times where he actually found a thermal and rode some rising air to gain a bit of altitude.

Edwin and Woody are still flying below our radar screens. They're both probably in South America somewhere, so we now just keep our talons crossed that they fly by a cell tower somewhere. The other GSM birds are staying put, but some of them are likely to get moving with the cold front that's about to hit the northeast.

18 September

The flood gates have opened and I can't keep up with all the birds' movements! Every time I write something and go back to the map page to check on a detail, another bird has moved.

Last update had Edwin and Woody flying below our radar screens, i.e. not near any cell towers, and all the rest of the cell-tower birds were around their nests. In the past few days, we've gotten signals from both Woody and Edwin in the Dominican Republic, and just moments ago, Edwin checked in from Colombia, after making a safe trip across the Caribbean. It has been a very benign hurricane season so far.

Tango is still at Lake Valencia, checking in fairly regularly.

A big cold front hit the northeast over the past couple of days and that really got birds moving. Most remarkable were DJ and Icarius, who left Martha's Vineyard within minutes of each other around 7AM on the 17th. They took unusual routes over the Atlantic all the way to Virginia and North Carolina. They had a strong tailwind and were flying up to 40 mph out over the Ocean. (Go to the interactive map and drag DJ's dot along his track to see how they raced across the ocean.) Amazingly, DJ didn't stop to rest when he got to North Carolina but kept barreling on, out over open water just off the South Carolina and Georgia coasts. He got to FLorida at 10:45AM, about 27.5 hours after he left the Vineyard. He averaged a stunning 37 mph over that time. Pretty sure that's a record.

With the exception of Rammie up on the Westport River in SE Massachusetts, all the other GSM birds are moving.

20 September

The flood gates have opened and I can't keep up with all the birds' movements! Every time I write something and go back to the map page to check on a detail, another bird has moved. (That's the opening sentence of the last update and it still stands!)

Watch the race between Icarius (white) and DJ (orange). Put the cursor on one of their points and drag it back to Martha's Vineyard. Then slide it forward. Watch how they're neck and neck over the Atlantic, and then take different routes, but end up almost exactly in the same place at the same time down in Florida. While you're doing that, you'll see how the other birds responded to the perfect migration weather.

Bad news. Rammie, an adult male tagged last year on the Westport River, has dropped off the map. His last signal was over New Hope Bay. Very strange. Hard to come up with a scenario that makes sense. We'll watch his nest next year to see if he comes back without a radio or with one that's not functioning.

The rest of the news is good! Tango (Chesapeake) is still at Lake Valencia in Northern Venezuela, checking in fairly regularly.

Edwin (Fishers Island) made it to Colombia, as did Woody (Annapolis), who's now the farthest south of any of our birds. It's amazing that these guys keep finding cell towers!

All our other birds are in Florida. We haven't heard from Nick (Chesapeake) in four days, but that can happen with the cell-tower birds. He could be in Cuba by now (and probably is).

Zoom in on the birds tracks going down through Florida. They're all squiggly because the birds are riding thermals. They ride one up and then glide down south looking for the next, which won't always be right in front of them. This is really cool!

30 September

Our adult males carrying cell-tower transmitters continue to amaze me as they find cell towers and text home from remote areas in northern South America.

We lost the signal from Rammie (tagged last year in SE Massachusetts) under strange circumstances. He basically went off the air as he flew across New Hope Bay up in Rhode Island. I can't make up a plausible explanation for what happened there, so I won't rule out the optimistic idea that his transmitter malfunctioned. Certainly can't blame this one on Great-horned Owls! We'll be checking his nest next spring to see if he's still with us.

Six of the 7 birds tagged this year have arrived in South America. By the way, I would have lost a whole lot of money if anyone had bet me that we would be getting frequent data downloads from 6 out of our 7 newly tagged birds after they had crossed the Caribbean! Tango (Chesapeake Bay) seems to have found his winter home on Lake Valencia in northern Venezuela. If that really is his spot, we'll hear from him a lot, as this is a populated area and he doesn't miss too many of his daily downloads. Woody (Chesapeake Bay/Annapolis) also seems to have settled down. He's in a National Park in Colombia not far west of Lake Maracaibo. Buck, a juvenile tagged in South Carolina, wintered just a bit east of where Woody is now.

DJ and Icarius (both Martha's Vineyard) are working their ways eastward after making landfall on the Guajira Peninsula in northeastern Colombia.

All the adults had easy crossings of the Caribbean and they all did it "text-book" style--down to Cabo Beata in the southernmost tip of the Dominican Republic, and then 350-450 miles (560-725 km) to South America. Go to the website and drag one of their dots down its track to watch the race between these two, and to see what the other birds were doing while they were heading south.

Edwin (Fishers Island) is working his way east around Lake Maracaibo, and Nick (Chesapeake) is heading up to the Cauca or Magdalena Valley between the two main Andean Cordilleras (ranges). It's very interesting that there are many more returns of Osprey bands from the area where Nick is going than from the vast lowlands east of the Andes from Venezuela down through Brazil. This is almost certainly a correlate of the higher human population density in the valleys than east of the mountains, so birds are just more likely to be encountered. Our satellite data tell us that many more Ospreys winter east of the mountains, while the banding data (incorrectly) suggest that there are more wintering Ospreys west of the Ande's eastern range.

Quin (Chesapeake) was last heard from in Florida and could be anywhere from there to Argentina by now. Well, he probably couldn't have gotten to Argentia yet, but he might be headed there. We have to keep in mind that the two birds we tagged last year were pretty much out of contact for the whole winter, and we last heard from them on their way south all the way back up in Virginia.

7 October

The data from the cell-tower birds continues to amaze. From a purely technical point of view, it's astonishing how often these birds are finding cell towers and texting home. Based on the two birds we tagged last year, I wouldn't have been surprised had we only heard sporadically from one or two of the seven birds we tagged this spring. Instead, we've heard from six of our birds after they crossed the Caribbean and five of them are checking in regularly. From the more interesting biological perspective, the minute-by-minute tracks we get from these birds reveal fascinating details of how the birds are moving as they head to their wintering grounds. Zoom way in on Icarius' (Martha's Vineyard) track going across Venezuela. Most of those little squiggles show Icarius moving along from thermal to thermal, getting a free ride from warm rising air.

On 5 October, we can even see when Icarius catches a fish. He got to the Guyana coast and went out off the beach. After 13 or 14 minutes of hunting, he flew straight back to a tree along the shore and spent 45 minutes there. Pretty obviously eating the fish he just caught. Then it was back to the business at hand--migration! Our adult males carrying cell-tower transmitters continue to amaze me as they find cell towers and text home from remote areas in northern South America.

Nick (Chesapeake), Woody (Chesapeake/Annapolis), and Tango (Chesapeake) all seemed to have settled down into their winter hideouts. Then Nick started moving again. DJ (Martha's Vineyard) took three tries to get across the Gulf of Venezuela. DJ's neighbor Icarius is on a mission heading mostly east across northern South America. He is now in Guyana. I thought he would stop at the mouth of the Orinoco River, where a lot of Ospreys spend the winter. The first adult male we tagged back in 2000 spent his winters there.

We haven't heard from Edwin (Fishers Island) since he was south of Lake Maracaibo on 29 September, and Quin (Chesapeake) last texted home up in Florida on 19 Sepember. I'd be worried about these two if I didn't have the experience of our two GSP birds from last year--they dropped off the radar screen up in Virginia and we only heard back from one of them (Rammie) the following spring.

14 October

Not much change with our adult males wearing GSM (Cell-tower) transmitters. Nick and Tango (Chesapeake Bay) both seem to have settled down. The lines radiating out from Nick's location are just bad GPS fixes. DJ Martha's Vineyard) hasn't moved for a week and he's in a very good looking spot. Woody (Annapolis) hasn't moved since he arrived at his current location on the 16th of September. The last bird moving and still finding cell towers is Icarius (Martha's Vineyard). He may have arrived at his winter range, but I wouldn't bet on it. It's really interesting to follow his track along the coast of Venezuela and Guyana. One can see when he goes out fishing offshore.

Edwin (Fishers Island) and Quin (Chesapeake Bay) continue to fly under the cell-tower radar. If they're OK, we probably won't hear from them until spring.

24 October - 19 November

It looks like five of our GSM birds have settled down for the winter. It's now 19 November, so we can be pretty sure that this is it for this bunch of birds. Tango got to Lake Valencia in northern Venezuela on 7 September. He's been there ever since. After two attempts to cross the Gulf of Venezuela, DJ made it across on the 5 October. A day later he settled down in Venezuela, south of the island of Curacao. It looks like a great spot for an Osprey to spend the winter. DJ's Martha's Vineyard neighbor Icarius flew 1,300 miles (2,000 km) in a very directed path almost straight to a spot about 45 miles east of Paramaibo, the capital of Suriname. He arrived in South America on 27 September and got to his current location 13 days later. He seems to be our first "beach bum." He's on the coast and is fishing out in the Atlantic. We've never had a bird do this. (I suspect he may have a drink with a little umbrella in it every day as the sun goes down.)

Nick has been in a really fishy (in the good, Osprey sense) spot near the Magdalena River 100 miles SE of Cartagena, Colombia.

Woody has settled down in the Cienagas (swamp) de Juan Manuel National Park. He's just a few 10s of miles west of where our South Carolina juvenile Buck settled down.

Edwin (Fishers Island) and Quin (Chesapeake Bay) continue to fly under the cell-tower radar. If they're OK, we probably won't hear from them until spring.

3 March 2014

And then there were three. All winter we have been watching five GSM (cell-tower transmitter) birds, who remarkably settled down near cell towers in South America--some in very remote areas. In the past two weeks, two birds (Icarius and Tango) have dropped off the maps. Had this happened in January, I would have been worried and assumed that the birds had died. However, the "disappearance" coincided with the beginning of migration, so I am fairly optimistic that both birds are simply on their way home and haven't passed by a cell tower since they left their winter waters.

We are also waiting, with talons crossed, for Edwin (Fishers Island) and Quin (Tangiers Island) to show up again. We last heard from both in the fall. Quin last checked in from Florida. Edwin made it across the Caribbean and was last heard from south of Lake Maracaibo in Venezuela. In 2012, the first year we deployed GSM transmitters, both birds tagged "disappeared" in the fall in Virginia. We heard from one (Bridger) a month or so later way down in Colombia, again about 10 days later from Bolivia, and then didn't get a signal until the middle of March. His neighbor on the Westport River up in southeastern Massachusetts, Rammie, was "dark" all winter. We first heard from him in mid March as he passed through Colombia. When both birds checked in, we got most of the data that their transmitters had been recording, and so found out where they had spent the winter and the route Rammie took to get there (some of Bridger's fall data was missing).

11 March 2014

It was a pleasant surprise to see an email arrive with location data from a bird who had been "in hiding" (i.e. not near a cell tower) all winter. It had been so long since I'd seen this bird's ID that I had to look it up! It was Edwin, our Fishers Island, NY, bird on the move. He was heading up the Paraguana Peninsula in extreme northeastern Venzuela, ready to cross the Caribbean.

Another of our GSM birds has "gone dark." Woody, who's been wintering just southeast of Lake Maracaibo, dropped off the map on March 6th. As of the 11th, only DJ (Martha's Vineyard) and Nick (Chesapeake Bay) are still reporting in from their winter haunts.

19 March 2014

Heading home

Migration is picking up. The hawk-watching sites are reporting a trickle of Ospreys on the East Coast, a stronger flow down in Texas, and the first birds have appeared at nests in the still rather cold northeast. My guess is that these early arrivals are birds that did not migrate all the way to South America, but wintered in the southeastern US.

The first bird back to Florida was Edwin, a male from Fishers Island, NY, who is wearing a cell-tower (GSM) transmitter. He had disappeared in southern Venezuela on 29 Sept. With GSM birds that "disappear" we hope that they've just moved somewhere out of range of cell towers. This was the case with Edwin. We heard from him again on 8 March when he was close enough to a cell tower to download data. The first download suggested that he had wintered in the llanos of Venezuela. But as we got more data from him, we learned that he spent the winter on the Amazon River in Brazil. He started north on 17 Feb, the earliest we've ever had a tagged bird begin the spring migration.

Nick, another GSM bird, left his Colombian fishing grounds in the Magdalena River valley and started his migration back to the Chesapeake Bay on March 16th.

Woody (Chesapeake Bay) and DJ (Martha's Vineyard) have not started north yet. Tango (Chesapeake Bay) and Icarius (Martha's Vineyard) have been "dark" since mid-February (last signals 18 Feb and 8 Feb, respectively). I wasn't concerned at first, as I just hoped (and still do) that they're heading north but haven't found cell towers. Now I'm getting nervous about them. And there's Quin (Chesapeake Bay), who dropped out of contact back in the fall while still in FL. I'm not betting that we'll see him back, but it's possible. In 2012 we had two GSM birds stop transmitting in Virginia in September and only heard back from one of them in the middle of March the next year.

22 March

Another bird showed up after spending the winter in hiding. Quin (Chesapeake Bay) was last heard from on 19 Sept. up in northern Florida. Not a peep from him until today when I got a signal from him over the Everglades heading north in Florida. The data is incomplete. We don't know what happened to him between 19 Sept 2013 and 15 March 2014. Currently the data look like he wintered in Cuba, but I suspect we'll get more data with upcoming downloads that will show us he wintered further south.

Edwin (Fishers Island) continues to lead the pack. He's now in Virginia and should get home in the next 4 or 5 days.

Nick (Chesapeake) is also on the move and made it to Florida on the 22nd of March.

Woody (Chesapeake) and DJ (Martha's Vineyard) are both still on their wintering grounds. No word from Tango (Chesapeake) and Icarius (Martha's Vineyard) in over a month, so I suspect we lost them somehow.