**Note: Today's narrative reflects the most recent satellite data as of late last night, 11 March. The map shows movements only through 10 March.
MIA launched from the Northern Yucatan at about 1 p.m. on 4 March. When still 220 miles off the coast of Sarasota, Florida, he encountered headwinds and turned back toward the southwest. After a loop of almost 300 miles, he finally regained his northwesterly course and reached land near Tarpon Springs, Florida, around midnight on 7 March, where he roosted. MIA had been over water for 58 hours. After daybreak, he turned south, traveling to the Corkscrew Swamp area south of Lehigh Acres for the night. On 8 March, he arrived in the suburban area south of Miami, Florida, where he had nested in 2012 and 2013.
Pace is now crossing the Straits of Florida from Cuba toward southern Florida after an amazing trip over northern South America and the Caribbean. In the Colombian Andes, he passed between snow-covered, 17,000-foot peaks, some of the highest in the entire mountain chain, to eventually arrive at the Colombian coast southwest of Barranquilla. On 6 March at around 11 a.m., Pace started a 68-hour over-water journey following the coast of Central America to the western tip of Cuba. Like MIA, Pace landed to rest for the night. After taking a day to make his way northeast over Cuba, he departed for Florida on the morning of 10 March.
When Day reached Panama, she took an over-water shortcut and made good time to the coast of Nicaragua. From there, she flew out across the Bay Islands until making landfall near Belize City. Day moved quickly from there and was over the northern Gulf of Mexico approaching the Florida panhandle when her transmitter turned off at 2:00 p.m. on 11 March. If the southerly winds continue as expected, Day should have seen a beach pass under her wings before dawn of this morning, 12 March.
Gulf Hammock left the northern coast of Honduras sometime on 9 March while his solar-powered transmitter was recharging. By 8 p.m. on 11 March, he had flown downwind more than 900 miles over the western Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico to a point just seaward of his nesting territory in Gulf Hammock, Florida. As we write this late on 11 March, Gulf Hammock’s transmitter has turned off and he is making his way across the last 60 miles of the Gulf of Mexico. The tailwinds that brought him all the way from Honduras are forecast to continue for at least four hours – enough time for him to reach land and get some rest before starting his day where he has nested at least since 2011.
In mid-afternoon on 11 March, Suwannee had just flown out to sea from the northern coast of Honduras, very near the place from which Gulf Hammock departed two days before. The favorable winds that carried Gulf Hammock swiftly north are expected to persist through the 12th. However, before sunrise on the 13th, just about the time this kite will be passing between the eastern Yucatan Peninsula and the western tip of Cuba, the winds are forecast to reverse direction quickly, becoming strong from the north. This is the scenario that poses the greatest risk to Swallow-tailed Kites – and no doubt to many thousands of other migrating birds – at this time of year when they must navigate through the volatile and sometimes deadly weather of this region. Suwannee’s transmitter will be off to recharge until the afternoon of 13 March, so we will not know until then whether she made it safely to southern Florida, took refuge on the Yucatan or Cuba, or could fly no more and perished at sea.
Palmetto has picked up speed and should be crossing the Andes Mountains in southwestern Colombia by early 12 March. Pearl MS is not far behind, inching through the western fringe of the Amazon Basin toward the eastern foothills of the Andes. It is in this area where we received the last transmission on 25 February from Slidell, a bird tagged in Louisiana in 2011 by our collaborator, Dr. Jennifer Coulson. We are still hoping that the long lapse (it has now been two weeks) may be due to a temporary obstruction of the solar panels. However, at this point, based on how well the transmitter was performing prior to 25 February, we suspect that Slidell has died, perhaps killed by a predator.