Belle - 2014

Belle's 4th trip north is complete

Belle was serious about migration this spring. She flew north for 28 days without a day off. She covered 4,613 miles (7,424 km) for an average speed of 165 miles/day. Her route was as efficient as it could have been. She is now a seasoned veteran and has learned, through trial and error the "adult" route to and from South America.

She left 6 days earlier than she ever had and, without making her usual pit stop at Lake Azuei in eastern Haiti, she was through Cuba 10 days ahead of previous years. She dallied a bit in eastern CT and western RI, where she did some fishing.

She arrived on Cape Cod on the 4th, 6 days ahead of last year.

Now, she just has to find a male looking for a mate!


Scroll down for the Belle's travels since the fall of 2014.

Skip to the Fall 2014 maps

Skip ahead to Winter-Spring 2015

Belle's 4th southbound migration is done

Belle completed her record-setting (for a bird tagged as a juvenile) fourth migration on October 22nd.

Now a seasoned veteran, she has locked in on the "adult" route to South America.


Scroll down for the year's details.

Skip to the Fall 2014 maps

Belle's Winter 2013-14

Belle returned to the same spot on the Rio Madeira where she spent all last winter. This year she was in the area for five months. The points in the southeastern part of this map were all in late 2013. She spent all of 2014 on the banks of the Madeira or at Lagoa Grande. This area is about 6 square miles.

On her first trip north in 2012, she left on 13 April. In 2013, she left on 25 March. This year she left on 14 March, which is still a bit late to get back and nest, but she's getting closer.


Belle's 2014 Spring Migration

Belle flew roughly 4,400 miles (7,100 km) from her winter home in Brazil to Martha's Vineyard in 28 days. The only stop she made was at Lake Azuei in Haiti, where she spent about 5 days.

A Stop at Lake Azuei

Each year as Belle arrives in Haiti, she makes a detour to Lake Azuei--a below sea-level lake in eastern Haiti. This year she arrived on the 25th and left on the 30th.

Mad Dash for Home

Belle really put the afterburners on full throttle as she got close to home. She left her roost in northeastern North Carolina around 8 AM on the 9th. At 6PM she was crossing Chesapeake Bay. At that point her GPS unit shut down for the night, but she kept on flying. She probably stopped for a couple of hours somewhere in southern New Jersey, but it wasn't for long. By 6PM she was on the shores of Buzzards Bay when her GPS turned off for the day. My guess is she kept going and landed that night on Cape Cod.

In the 30 hours from taking off on the 9th to arriving at Buzzards Bay, she flew 600 miles (966 km). When she crossed Connecticut, she was averaging over 30mph, which is fast for a migrating Osprey.

Settled Down

In a 17 day period, Belle made 11 round trips from the Cape, which seems to be her base of operations, to Martha's Vineyard, where she was born in 2010.

Still Commuting

Belle made 5 round trips to the Vineyard in this 2-week period. She's spending most of her time around Long Pond, north of Falmouth, much as she did last year.


Eight trips to the Vineyard in this fortnight, along with a couple across Buzzards Bay to Marion and Mattapoisett.


One difference between this and last year is that Belle spent very little time at Deep Bottom on Tisbury Great Pond on the Vineyard's south shore.

Only 4 trips to the Vineyard and 3 to Mattapoisett.

More of the Same


Buzzards Bay

Late June to early July saw only 1 trip to the Vineyard and at least 5 to Mattapoisett and Marion.

July Home Range

The red area is where Belle spent 50% of her time, the orange area covers 95% of her GPS locations.

August Home Range

Not much difference here. These data would look just like last year's.

Belle's fourth trip south

Belle has got it figured out. She's now using the "official" adult route to South America, which maximizes the time spent travelling overland, which is to say that it minimizes the amount of time spent over water. Because Ospreys can't sit and float in the water like a duck or gull, they are always vulnerable if they shold fly into bad weather while far from land.

Belle learns the route

This is really cool. We can see here how Belle has learned the adult route over the course of her three previous migrations. The trick is that she discovered that there is an overland route she can use after her first wild trip out over the Atlantic.

On her first trip north she got to Haiti and then, seeing the Bahamas stretching out to the north, she realized she didn't have to retrace her path over the Atlantic. On the next trip south she followed the coast, but not all the way to the Florida Keys, where all the adult Ospreys know to go to get to South America while staying over land as much as possible.

Each trip north and then the next trip south has led her to the "adult" path.

Her favorite refueling stop

Belle always stops here on her way north. Lake Azuei and Lago Enriquillo are in a rift valley. They are both below sea level, and therefore salty. This year we had two other birds spend some time at these lates.

Across the Caribbean

Belle's crossing of the Caribbean was about as direct as it gets. She left her roost on the morning of the 7th before 9AM. Around 10:30 she left Cabo Beata behind and was off on a 420 mile (680 km) crossing. For the first 10 hours she averaged 26 mph (41 kph). After her last signal on the 7th at 9PM, she had 146 miles to go to get to Colombia. This would have taken her about 5.5 hours, so she probably made landfall around 2:30 AM on the 8th. After resting for the rest of the night, she was off again before 9 AM.

Around 1:30 PM she probably stopped at the Tule Reservoir, presumably for a bit of fishing. No way to tell if she caught anything, but she certainly spent some time (less than an hour) there.

By 6PM she was looking for a place to spend the night and roosted 32 miles (52km) SW of Maracaibo, Venezuela.

Into South America

Belle crossed Lake Maracaibo for the first time. In previous years she stayed west and south of the lake, as we'll see in the next map.

Once east of the lake, she found a pass through the Cordillera Oriental and moved quickly across the llanos of Venezuela, entering the northern limits of the South American rainforests on the 14th.

All Belle's tracks across Venezuela

Here we see all of Belle's tracks across Venezuela. (Fall tracks are in orange, spring in green.) She's getting into a bit of a pattern (more so as we'll see when she crosses the rainforests of Brazil) as her fall trips shift east each year to match up with her spring trips.

Note that she really has a routine down when she heads north. She always leaves from the same spot on the Guajira Peninsula (the green tracks).

Almost home

Belle is travelling a well-worn path (current track is marked by the red icons) and was only 190 miles from her winter waters on the Rio Madeira as of 20 October.

In this map fall tracks are in orange, spring in green. Note that after her first trip south in the fall of 2010 and her first return in spring of 2012, she knew the direction she had to take to get back to the Madeira and has kept to that route both in subsequent spring and fall travels across the Amazonian rainforest.

(Winter) Home again

Belle is back at her wintering area on the banks of the Rio Madeira. It took her 34 days (19 Sep-22 Oct), and her roost-to-roost distance traveled was 4,385 miles (7,087 km).

Last year she left on the 17th of September and arrived on the 17th of October, making the trip a bit more quickly, but she was helped in that process by an amazing start to her trip. Boosted by strong tailwinds leaving New England, she made it from Cape Cod to South America in 4 hours less than 6 days!

The last few days we were not getting as many GPS locations/day as normal, so her radio may be on the way out. It has been on her for five years, so we're pushing the limits.

Familiar waters

Belle spent January of 2015 bouncing back and forth between the south bank of the Rio Madeira and a sort of long cove off of Lagoa Grande.

Her maps for any month this winter, or the last would look almost identical to this. Belle has found a reliable fishing area and will almost certainly spend all her winters here for as long as she's alive.

Familiar waters

Here's the same map without all Belle's point obscuring the landscape. Most of her time is spent on the narrow extension of the lake towards the bottom of the map. She can probably perch hunt anywhere along that body of water. What a life. Hang out in a tree until you see a fish near the surface, swoop down and catch it. Back up to your perch for a good meal and then do it all again tomorrow!

Across Amazonia

Belle took off this year on the 8th of March, 6 days earlier than last year. Coincidentally, it was the same day our DC male, Ron, started his trip north. Bell was very closely following her path from last year (and the year before that) until the 10th. She took a bit of a detour, but was back on track by the 13th. At this point she was 5 days ahead of last year's trip.

It looks like another day or so and she'll be out of Amazonia and into the llanos of central Venezuela.

Full speed ahead!

Belle is all business. She got over the eastern cordillera or the Andes on the 17th, skirted the southern and western shores of the Gulf of Venezuela and then headed out over the Caribbean.

She was safely in Cuba on the 20th. The last part of this trip was not without drama at Osprey Map Central...

Safely in Cuba

Belle arrived in southwestern Haiti at 2 pm on the 19th, after a 20-hour, non-stop flight covering 423 miles (682 km). As we've seen so many times, such a crossing is obviously no big deal. When she got to Haiti, Belle scoffed at the chance to perch and rest and flew on for another 4 hours before stopping for a breather and a well-deserved night's rest.

These are the times that try...

...the souls of Osprey migration researchers.

Our first signals from Bell on the 20th of March spelled disaster. The first point, at 9 AM was in a densely populated area of western Haiti. The next location was less than a mile away, and also in the same neighborhood. This had all the markings of a bird that had been shot. We've seen this before, and it has never been good.

So we spent the rest of the day glued to our computers waiting for the next satellite uploads from her transmitter. Around mid-afternoon we had data, but there were no reliable, GPS points. The data were encouraging, but not definitive. Later in the evening, we had another data dump, once again with no GPS data, but this time the satellite indicated that Belle was on her way to Cuba. These locations are not very accurate, but the chances that a data mistake would put her right where we expected her to be were pretty slim. Finally, on the last satellite pass of the day, we saw that she was safely in Cuba. A bunch of emails and text messages flew around between the core group following our flock, and we went to bed for a worry-free night's sleep.

Not a problem!

Whatever was going on in Haiti, Belle is fine and took care of Cuba in a bit over 4 days. It looks like she stopped for some fishing early on the 23rd--a fair bit of movement, but not really directed along her path. But, zooming in on where she was, there's no obvious place to be fishing. Somethings we'll never be able to figure out.

The rest of the trip up the coast was very straightforward. We had virtually no signals on the 26th, which is perhaps a sign of a faltering transmitter. Another PTT from 2010 gave out after 3 years (the bird, Sr. Bones, is still around wearing the now silent transmitter), while yet another (on North Fork Bob) from 2010 is still going strong.

She arrived back at the Cape around noon on the 4th of April and settled right down in very familiar territory.


The weather was pretty wild this spring. When Belle blew over Virginia and southern Maryland she was flying just over 50 mph, more than twice the speed we normally see from our birds on migration. Donovan, heading home to NH, caught these same winds. They passed over one point just an hour apart. At least one other bird, on a different day, was riding southerly winds at a ground speed of over 40 mph.

Back in the 'hood.

Belle is home. She arrived around noon on the 4th and spent the rest of that day and the 5th at her regular ponds north of Falmouth. Sometime after 7 AM she popped over the the Vineyard, where she visited the Mass Audubon sanctuary at Felix Neck, but didn't stay long. Apparently not impressed, she flew back to the Cape and then crossed Buzzards Bay to Mattapoisset, where she has spent the latter parts of her summers in years past.

Whether she knows it yet or not, she is looking for a male with a nice nest, doing some serious skydancing in search of a mate.

We really, really really want this to be her year.

Talons crossed!

Our sleep.