Costa Rica is a fantastic place to watch Peregrines during migration. No doubt a lot of birders would respond with a shrug of the shoulders accompanied by a “So what? I see them on skyscrapers at home and if I go to Costa Rica, I’m going to be looking for Scarlet Macaws and Resplendent Quetzals, not for Peregrines.” If you feel that way, that’s alright, I understand but it wasn’t that long ago when seeing a Peregrine in North America was a pretty big deal. When I started birding back in the 70s and 80s, our only hope of seeing one of these master falcons was getting lucky with one that happened to migrate by a hawkwatch. That’s actually how I saw my first one and I can still picture the hooded, grayish adult as it flew towards us on a sunny day April day while hawkwatching at Braddock Bay, New York.
Since then, Peregrines seem to have bounced back all over the place thanks to the ban on DDT and lots of dedicated reintroduction programs. Apparently, a lot of the birds that migrate from the arctic cliffs and artificial canyons in the temperate zone wing past Costa Rica. If you spend any time on the Caribbean coast in Costa Rica during October, you can’t miss the Peregrines as they fly past one after another. In fact, the hawkwatch at Kekoldi set the seasonal record for Peregrine numbers when 3,219 birds were counted in 2004! Although that record might get broken this year by counters in Florida, maybe the Kekoldi counters will match it by the end of the season.
Some Peregrines pass the winter along both coasts in Costa Rica but most just keep going until they reach estuarine habitats and coastal areas in South America. Several Peregrines even fly all the way to Chile and the Falcon Research Group has put tracking devices on several females to study their migration routes as part of their Southern Cross Project. One of those birds was tracked to Limon, Costa Rica last year and was actually tracked again to Limon and photographed by Marco Saborio yesterday as she perched on a cell tower. He knew where to find Island Girl because the people at the Falcon research group gave him the GPS coordinates for her!
Since I am headed down to Manzanillo for the nest few days, who knows, maybe she will be one of the many Peregrines that we will see flying along the beach?
Thanks goes out to Gerardo Obando of the AOCR for giving me a heads up about Island Girl being tracked to Limon.