Not the 10,000 hours but 10,000 km …. and all in 42 days

Researching the migration of European Honey Buzzards 

Cape Sparrow and Black collared barbet

Back in 2016 we had a guest stay from Novia University of Applied Sciences in Ekenäs, Finland. On his first morning at breakfast overlooking the birdfeeders in the garden, I saw his binoculars on his table and launched into an enthusiastic conversation (rather one-sided) about our local garden birds and what the activities and pecking order at the bird feeder were likely to be. Only then did I ask Patrick Byholm what brought him all the way from Finland. I was mortified to discover that he was doing serious bird research on the migration habits of the European Honey Buzzard.

European Honey Buzzard

When Patrick returned in 2020, I was more circumspect about talking about doves and sparrows to a senior international research scientist from a respected academic institution. 

I was reminded of this somewhat embarrassing 2016 encounter when I read a recent post from the very active birding community on the Delta Birding What’s App group. [Delta Park is a wonderful green lung space with an extraordinary bird variety, a few blocks from Liz at Lancaster.]

A female European Honey Buzzard Bird was fitted with a satellite tracking system in Finland [in 2015] and was of particular interest to locals because it spent the most recent austral summer around the town of Reitz in the Free State in South Africa. She left Reitz to start heading north on 20 April and on the 2nd of June, she finally reached Finland where she will probably spend the boreal summer before probably returning again next season for a visit  in South Africa.   Here is an image showing the data received from the tracker which plots out the route that she took to head north… so, in just 42 days, she covered over 10 000 km at an average of more than 230 km every single day! …?!” What is amazing is how she took a straight line north except for when she had to fly over water. (or Sudan)  Apparently she turned right at the source of the Nile and followed it. It is still fascinating that after that deviation she returned to the same longitudinal line she started on and continued until she reached her destination.  

The route that Pävia took migrating back from Reitz in the Free State to Finland.    See 2015 articles for more.

Forty Finnish honey buzzards have been harnessed with satellite transmitters in Western Finland starting in 2011.  When Patrick Byholm was here in 2016, he was focusing on tracking Päivi who was fitted with her transmitter at her nest in Vesilahti on August 13th 2013 and whose history of migration back to Finland can be tracked here.

 For more see Howes, Catherine  “The demography and ecology of the European Honey-buzzard (Pernis apivorus) in southern Africa” , a 2019 Science PhD conducted at Wits  

Liz at Lancaster is a birder-friendly establishment.  For more on Liz at Lancaster and birding nearby.  

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