Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Three cheers for Sawgrass, Palmetto, and Lacombe

After 18 days of radio silence, Sawgrass reappeared – in Honduras! Her previous fixes were in Brazil, where she was slowly edging her way north through areas with little or no cell phone coverage. Sawgrass recently moved through the city of Los Leones, Honduras and, like most kites, will skip Guatemala in favor of a quick over-water flight to Belize. She will be the last of our tracked Swallow-tailed Kites to cross the Gulf of Mexico.
Locations of our GPS-tracked Swallow-tailed Kites as of 1 April 2017. 
MIA and Panther are both safely back home in South Florida. MIA has already found a mate and started nesting. We suspect Panther is doing the same. Here's how MIA crossed the gulf.

After losing Bullfrog in an arduous flight over the Gulf of Mexico, we worried over each next kite that followed. We were glad to see Panther make it despite ever-changing winds that zig-zagged her course and prolonged her crossing. The strong northerly winds that prevailed for Bullfrog, and probably countless other migrating Swallow-tailed Kites and birds, finally relented. On 22 March, Palmetto became the fourth of our six tagged kites to start the journey across the Gulf. She flew due north with ease thanks to widespread southerly winds, reaching Mississippi on 25 March. She then worked her way east, weaving through Alabama, Florida, Georgia, and South Carolina to settle within meters of her 2016 nesting area.

Lacombe reached the northeast coast of the Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula on 24 March, just two days behind Palmetto. The winds pushed him swiftly across to Louisiana in one day. After reaching land south of Morgan City, he wasted no time heading back to the east shore of Lake Pontchartrain near his namesake city of Lacombe, Louisiana.

Lacombe (green) and Palmetto (white) crossed the Gulf of Mexico with favorable winds. They returned home to their nesting areas in Louisiana and South Carolina, respectively.