Over the last couple of days VY has changed from migration mode into ‘looking for a good winter spot’ behaviour. And she is at least trying to catch fish. In this animation of 18 September by Paul the darker the fix the higher VY’s altitude so you can see well that she was low over water several times.
The topmost fixes are in the seasonal watercourse area. She was stationary for about 30 minutes but if she had caught a fish then she is very proficient for a juvenile – or lucky! She had only been at foraging height for a few minutes and most juveniles need several attempts before success. Once she was heading SW again she tracked low along the river itself – the bottom loop in the image – but gained elevation and carried on her journey.
Her next stop was mentioned in a previous post, when she was very near Rothiemurchus‘ wintering grounds. The link is to a post by Roy Dennis showing two areas Rothiemurchus was hunting over in October 2014. Here is a graphic by Paul of VY’s activity on and near the river.
Rothiemurchus’ roost and main fishing area is just to the left of the image above. VY was just below the other part of the river attractive to Rothiemurchus, which is off to the right. Chris Wood, Rutland Water volunteer and regular visitor to the Gambia and to Rothiemurchus’ area has kindly sent photos of the area. Our thanks to him.
Back to what VY did. Paul’s graphic shows the time of each fix. Initially on her approach from the north VY was too high to hunt but she turned and flew back along the river after the 13.25 UTC fix. She was stationary from 13.36-14.05 after being low as she went back north. But – as when she was at the Saloum – she was only over the river for a few minutes so could she have caught anything? She flew higher from 14.09-14.14 before another short foraging level spell up the loop but she turned and carried on her migration from 14.23.
The next spell of exploring by water was actually VY looking for a roost for the night.
VY was low in the area by the watercourse to the right of the image, but was more interested in the land than the water.
By the time she found her final roost she had flown 152 km in the day. On 16 September she had covered 189 km.
Yesterday VY started late again, about 10.15, and headed west crossing the Gambia River near the estuary. She flew past the southern end of Banjul Airport at over 850m above the terrain. And straight across land to the Atlantic Ocean.
VY headed south down the coast most of the time until she went inland to explore – without – stopping the Allahein River which is the southern border between The Gambia and Senegal. Blue XD, another of Roy Dennis’ tracked adults, had called there the previous day as he neared his winter home on the Casamance River.
The last fix at 15.35 yesterday was a couple of minutes after VY had landed in the wetlands of the Casamance. She was about 20 km from Blue XD’s winter area and about 38 km north of Loch Garten two year old Breagha’s winter grounds. He returned as far as his staging post in France this year.
There aren’t as many cell towers in this part of Senegal so it is possible we will lose contact with VY depending where she goes next.
To the last fix yesterday she had travelled 5952 km in 185 hours of flying time at an average speed of 32.1 kph. Now she is exploring for a base the overall average speed is less useful so we won’t post it in future.