Thursday, March 19, 2020

Sanibel’s trip to Florida

After a winter holiday in Campo Grande, Brazil, Sanibel, the male Swallow-tailed Kite with a GPS-GSM transmitter, started his journey back to Florida. Each day he made northbound progress, roosting at night in a safe place until the morning’s sunlight stirred rising thermals on which he could continue gliding northward with as little expenditure of energy as possible. Sanibel slowed down in the State of Amazonas, Brazil where, we can imagine, the diversity of insects and small prey were boosting his fat reserves for the long flight ahead.

His first major obstacle was the Andes Mountains, with their barren, high-altitude peaks and ridges that are devoid of the insects on which migrating kites rely. He managed to cross the mountains from February 21 to 23, soon reached coastal Colombia, and continued through Central America by hugging the Caribbean coast. 

Tailwinds apparently encouraged Sanibel to make an otherwise risky over-water crossing from northern Honduras to Cancun, Mexico, in just 10 hours! He spent the night there in a wooded area. At 10:00 the next morning, he resumed his fast ride on strong southerly winds, flying 24 hours across the Gulf of Mexico to the Big Bend region of northern Florida, thereby overshooting Sanibel Island, his 2019 breeding area on southwest Florida’s coast. However, on reaching shore, he immediately turned southward along the shoreline towards his former nest site. 

We now are waiting for the next data upload, with hopes it shows Sanibel settled back into his familiar neighborhood on Sanibel Island.

Our gratitude for Sanibel-Captiva Audubon Society, SCCF, and CROW - Clinic for the Rehabilitation of Wildlife, Inc. to make it possible to tag and track Sanibel.