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Friday, August 26, 2011

Whimbrel flies through Hurricane Irene

Whimbrel, a large, long-billed shorebird who breeds in Alaska, Canada and the Arctic

Major storms like Hurricane Irene present serious problems for migrating birds, such as shorebirds, some of whom are at the height of their migration now. Many of our shorebirds breed in the Arctic and fly tremendous distances out over the ocean and down to their wintering areas in South America.

Evidently, at least one Whimbrel has made it through Hurricane Irene, according to Michael Wilson of the Center for Conservation Biology at the College of William and Mary, (as reported by Marshall Iliff on Mass Bird listserve, and also reported in USA Today.
"a whimbrel migrating from Canada to South America left Southampton Island 
in upper Hudson Bay on Saturday, flew out over the open ocean 
and appears to have encountered the outer bands of Irene on Tuesday.  
The bird named Chinquapin flew through the dangerous northeast quadrant 
of the storm during the day on Wednesday.  It is being tracked by a 
small satellite transmitter and is scheduled to transmit a new set of positions
 within the next day.  In 2010 this same bird flew around Tropical Storm Colin 
while a second bird flew into the storm and did not survive.  The long-term 
tracking study has documented several previous encounters between 
whimbrel and major storms."  


Updated tracking maps may be viewed online here.
The Whimbrel was wearing a tracking device and is part of a long-term tracking study on how migratory birds navigate through and survive major storms. 
The scientific tracking project is a collaborative effort between the The Center for Conservation Biology, Georgia Department of Natural Resources, The Nature Conservancy, The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Virginia Coastal Zone Management Program, and Manomet Center for Conservation Sciences.
This gives a whole new perspective on how difficult it is for many of these shorebirds and the challenges they face. They need protected breeding habitat and critical feeding habitat on migration, then must face challenges like hurricanes. 
Fingers crossed for all the birds who are in the path of Hurricane Irene and stay safe yourselves!

1 comment:

BLD in MT said...

That is super interesting! I hope everyone weathers the storm well!