The mystery journey we can now all watch

They are nearly here.

Just a couple thousand kilometres of hard flying to go and they will be back.

All they need to do is keep barrelling along that invisible highway in the sky that cuts continents and crosses the deep ocean.

Who they are, are three travellers and their names are Naga, Pangti and Wokha.

Naga picture by Peter Fehérvári

Naga
picture by Peter Fehérvári

They are three Amur falcons, a small raptor that is sleeker than a pigeon but about the same size.

Each carries a small satellite transmitter and it is this that is giving us a peek of their journey.

The birds were caught on November 7, in Nagaland India, close to the area where a year ago tens of thousands of their species were slaughtered as they passed over the Doyang reservoir.

Their trappers used fishing nets strung high from the trees, and sold the birds off as bush meat.

Pangti Photo by Nick P. Williams

Pangti
Photo by Nick P. Williams

This year, through the efforts of the Indian government, local authorities and conservation agencies, the killing has stopped.

The only birds recorded caught were the three and their capture was for the good of science.

Wokha Photo: Peter Fehérvári

Wokha
Photo: Peter Fehérvári

It is not the first time that satellite transmitters have been strapped to these amazing birds.

In 2010 ten Amurs were caught in Newcastle, in Kwa Zulu Natal.

This is what the satellite transmitters revealed-a journey of 14500 kilometres by a bird that weighs the same as a can of tuna

This is what the satellite transmitters revealed-a journey of 14500 kilometres by a bird that weighs the same as a can of tuna

For the first time bird enthusiasts were able to watch the migration route of these birds.

From the data streamed to a satellite orbiting high above the earth, they saw how each of these raptors travelled up East Africa, then shot across the ocean to India, flew through Burma and onto Mongolia to their breeding grounds.

Last year Amur falcons were kept and sold live. Picture by Ramki Sreenivasan of Conservation India.

Last year Amur falcons were kept and sold live. Picture by Ramki Sreenivasan of Conservation India.

But the problem with these ten birds is that the owner of the transmitters was not always forth coming with information. The progress of these birds had to come from second hand sources.

This time it is different. Log on to satellitetracking.eu and you can see where these birds are, updated on a daily basis.  As of yesterday Naga and Pangti were in Kenya, close to the Tanzanian border. Wokha is lagging behind, she is in Ethiopia.

In the next couple weeks they will continue heading south. What hand guides them on this journey, we still don’t know.

But one day we might just find out, as we watch more journeys along the invisible highway.

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About Shaun Smillie

Journalist, with a love of bones, fossils and other things dug up. Fisherman and occasional beer maker.
This entry was posted in science, Uncategorized and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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