Lookout, one of two peregrine falcons released at Rock City this summer, continues to show why peregrine means "wanderer" or "pilgrim."
The solar-powered satellite tracking device the falcon wears in a mesh backpack shows he has flown now to the Bay of Campeche just southwest of the Yucatan Peninsula -- clear across the Gulf of Mexico.
"He is completely impressing us," said Dale Kernahan, who with her falconer husband, John Stokes, raised and released Lookout. "He was in Texas for a few days and we got nervous because [Tropical Storm] Lee was moving in. Then he went south to the Gulf. Then three days later he was in the Yucatan. He flew 700 miles in three days across the Gulf of Mexico."
Now the 3-month-old raptor, who fledged on July 11 from a Rock City cliff, is right in the throes of Tropical Storm Nate.
"He's now entering a dangerous phase of his journey," Stokes said Friday. "Even without the storm, he's in a whole new area where other tropical birds could catch him or he could be shot. Go little guy, go."
In the first two weeks of August, Lookout made a clockwise loop through four states in the Southeast, then he stopped to spend a few days at Grenada Lake, about halfway between Memphis and Jackson, Miss.
"He went to Cloudland Canyon, then he turned to the north and went to Lawrence and Dickson, Tenn. He stayed a night near Cookeville, then he circled back to the hacking box and then took off toward Dalton and Rome, Ga. Then he flew to Gadsden in Alabama and then into Mississippi," Stokes said.
Not so much is known about the wanderings of Chatty, Lookout's sibling who was released with him on the same day, or another sibling -- Bruce -- released a week earlier from the roof of the First Tennessee building in downtown Chattanooga.
Chatty and Bruce were wearing regular radio transmitter tracking devices glued to their tail feathers.
And both, like another peregrine named Ted released here in years past, made short work of their long-tail antennas -- plucking them out, tail feather and all.
Stokes said some reported sightings indicate one of them, probably Bruce, still is flying around downtown Chattanooga eating pigeons and starlings.
Stokes and Kernahan keep track of Lookout's travels and post them regularly on their blogspot, http://soarsouth.blogspot.com/.
They can do that thanks to Lookout's $4,000 backpack gear, a transmitter equipped with a built-in global positioning system -- hour-by-hour GPS. The equipment was purchased with a grant from the Benwood Foundation.
Though it sounds heavy, it weighs just 22 grams, or less than a tenth of a pound.
"The instinctual drive of this bird is amazing," said Kernahan, noting that scientists believe his ancestors made the long trip south to Central and South America centuries ago when glaciers still covered central North America.