Sunday, March 5, 2017

This most dangerous time of year

It seems that traversing the Andes Mountains lights a fire in northbound Swallow-tailed Kites. In just 8 days after this daunting crossing in southwestern Colombia, South America, MIA covered over 1,600 miles, including a circuitous path through all of Central America and the length of Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula.  He launched on 3 March from the region’s northeastern tip with a welcome tailwind and is now out over the Gulf of Mexico. However, northeast winds with gusts to 32 mph are forecast for the next 2 days. These powerful headwinds will pose a serious challenge to MIA’s passage. At the least, his path and hoped-for landfall will be very difficult to predict. We will keep you informed.

Bullfrog rested briefly after crossing the Andes, but has since covered Panama and is about to cross into Costa Rica.  

GPS-tracking data for six Swallow-tailed Kites showing their location as of 3/3/17.

Notice how quickly MIA and Bullfrog are now moving compared with the leisurely pace of the other swallow-tails we are tracking. Data from the last few weeks for the birds still in South America show a consistent pattern: remain in an area for a few days, travel northward a few hundred miles or less, and repeat. However, once they cross the Andes, they fly continuously each day until reaching the Gulf coast of the northeastern Yucatan Peninsula.

Lacombe, Palmetto, and Sawgrass have all edged northward toward their intersection with the Andes Mountains. Lacombe is currently in the Amazonian rainforest on the north end of Peru. Palmetto traveled roughly 400 miles since our previous blog and is now in Brazil, just west of where Lacombe had passed at that time. Sawgrass cruised into Bolivia over the same ground Palmetto had just traversed.  

Panther’s location depicted on the map was her last fix, which we received on 26 January 2017. She probably has been beyond cell-tower range since then. We are hoping to hear from her soon.