ARCI’s 3/12/14 blog confirmed that one kite, MIA, had reached the US and was already back near his Miami nesting neighborhood. We also described oceanic flights-in-progress for four additional kites. We are glad to report that all had favorable outcomes, but not without very hard work and many dangerous hours for the birds.
MIA remains settled into the area where he nested in 2012 and 2013. As you can see on the map, it was a long and winding trip back. In mid-Gulf, MIA encountered strong headwinds and circled out to the west to save energy while awaiting better conditions. Riding on the continuously changing wind, his path soon brought him right back to his original pathway where he had begun his life-saving excursion. The winds had become more favorable by then, so he flew swiftly to the nearest shore, then turned immediately toward his south-Florida nesting territory.
After a rapid trip over the western Caribbean aided by consistent winds from the south, Pace crossed Cuba and the Florida Straits, passed 25 miles west of the Dry Tortugas, and reached the Florida Panhandle near Santa Rosa Beach on 11 March, a 15-hour over-water flight from Cuba. He quickly made his way to the area near Jacksonville, Florida, where he had nested the previous two years.
Our last report for Day had her over the Gulf of Mexico benefitting from tailwinds but due for a change in the weather. Fortunately, she beat the shift to strong northerly winds and came ashore just southeast of Panama City early on the morning of 12 March. Since leaving the northern coast of the Yucatan Peninsula, Day had endured 33 hours of over-water flight. The same day she reached the Florida coast, she began a long flight east to her previous nesting site, arriving 13 March. Soon after, local observers who had alerted us to Day’s nest in 2011, identified her by the short transmitter antenna above her back.
Gulf Hammock made a very long, downwind flight from Honduras northward along the western edge of the Caribbean, stopped briefly near the northeastern tip of the Yucatan, then pushed on for 34 hours across the Gulf to arrive before daybreak on 12 March in Levy Co., Florida. Rather than resting, Gulf Hammock continued through the dark another 25 miles to the area where she had previously nested.
In our previous blog, Suwannee was the bird we are most concerned about. She took off from northern Honduras and flew 18 hours in favorable winds before resting briefly on the northeastern Yucatan near Playa del Carmen on 10 March. She launched out over the Gulf of Mexico the next day and made good progress at first, but strong northerly winds soon pushed her southeast onto Cuba. Suwannee spent at most five hours over land, resumed her journey late on 13 March, and encountered strong headwinds. It seemed unlikely she would survive long enough to reach any shoreline (four days has been the maximum any kite has survived over water). However, sometime late on 15 March, 56 hours from the Yucatan and almost to the northern Gulf coast, Suwannee turned and flew hard to reach the west coast of Florida near her previous nesting area. As you can see on the map, her flight was both long and circuitous, at one point creating a long, looping extension far east to the coast of Cuba as she explored ways to exploit the rapidly changing winds that characterize this region.
Palmetto has crossed the Andes and flown the length of Central America to the northern coast of Honduras, where he has lingered during onshore winds. PearlMS made it to Panama before his radio turned off to recharge. Still no further signal on Slidell, last detected in northwestern South America two weeks ago.