Peregrine Falcon Migration Update: October 30, 1998
Contributed by biologist Geoff Holroyd, Canadian Wildlife Service

Jason Duxbury reporting for Geoff Holroyd.

Greetings Peregrine Flight 5735 Enthusiasts!

Apparently Peregrine 5735 has lost interest in the sites of the southern coast of Haiti. As you remember from Geoff's last update, Hurricane Mitch's southerly winds blew our poor traveler back to Haiti on her attempt to cross the Caribbean Sea to South America. After being blown back towards Haiti on the 24th of October, her next transmission on October 27th indicated she had been seeking refuge from the storm on Pte-a-Gravois, an area of Haiti's southern coastline that juts out into the Caribbean Sea.

However, subsequent transmissions on the 27th indicate she was possibly trying the crossing once again. Three hours after her last transmission over land (at 3 am), she was approximately 70 miles south east of Pte-a-Gravois over the Caribbean Sea, apparently committed for South America again. But alas, her effort must have been thwarted once again, as her next
transmission on the 30th had her located on the island of Navassa.

Photo: USFWS

The uninhabited U.S. Territory of Navassa Island is located about seventy miles northeast of Morant Point, Jamaica, and about forty miles west of Anse d'Hainault on the southern peninsula of Haiti. The two square miles island was first discovered by crewmen of Christopher Columbus in 1504 and has been under U.S. jurisdiction since 1857. In that year, the island was claimed under the U.S. Guano Act of 1856, which provided that any uninhabited island containing guano could be claimed as a U.S. territory. Some of the buildings from the 19th century guano mining colony still stand.

Navassa has a narrow lower plateau (the lower flat) ringing it from the northeast to the southwest. The upper flat is covered with scrub trees and has a lighthouse in the northeast at the island's highest elevation (290 feet). Sharp cliffs surround the island and range in height from thirty to sixty feet. Grass, underbrush, and scrub trees cover the flat island.

Navassa's Plants and Animals
Navassa has a native biota that is relatively complex for an island of its size and includes a significant number of plants and animals that occur nowhere else. The macro-biota (vascular plants, vertebrates and more conspicuous invertebrates) consists of 82 known indigenous species. It is already known that at least 12 species are endangered or severely depleted.

Two endemic lizards Cyclura nigerrima and Leicocephlus erimitus have been considered extinct for many years. Numerous plant and animal species native to Navassa are endemic and occur nowhere other than this island. The small size of the island has resulted in a high rate of endemism in these organisms. Based on updated taxonomy. 15 terrestrial plant and animal
species (9 species, 4 subspecies, and 2 plant varieties) are known with certainty to be endemic to the island. Numerous other species are thought also to be unique to the island but are not included in these figures due to inadequate information.

Isn't it interesting that by following a migratory raptor, we can learn interesting things about places we have never heard of before?

This place seems certainly interesting to keep a falcon (and a graduate student) for a while. What ever is creating the guano on the 60 foot cliffs could be the possible reason why Peregrine 5735 was still located in the vacinity of Navassa on her latest transmission, on November 2.

Will Peregrine 5735 stay on Navassa for the winter? How would Jamaica appeal to her? Or does she desperately want to get to South America and attempt the crossing of the Caribbean Sea again? Start your pools and stay tuned!!!

Jason Duxbury
for Geoff Holroyd

Geoff Holroyd, Research Scientist
Canadian Wildlife Service
Environment Canada
Edmonton, Alberta

Read Geoff Holroyd's next report and see where #5735 is on November 8, 1998

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