Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Third Time is a Charm!

Third time is a charm! Apopka, a rehabilitated Swallow-tailed Kite tracked by GPS returns to Florida.

Apopka, like all our GPS-tracked Swallow-tailed Kites, has a wonderful story, but his is unique in that it began in the summer of 2017 after he was hit by a car, when he was skillfully rehabilitated by the Avian Reconditioning Center for Birds of Prey (ARC). The good folks at ARC asked if ARCI would be interested in fitting this doomed-but-turned-lucky bird with a tracking device. Given the kite’s excellent recovery, and knowing that we had little time (by then, southbound migration was already underway), we quickly got in gear. Simultaneously, an enormous amount of support began pouring forth from the greater ARC community, several Audubon Society chapters and other conservation organizations, and caring individuals. See the heart-warming thank-you list below, and view Apopka’s full story in our other blog: http://www.swallow-tailedkites.org/2017/09/a-swallow-tailed-kites-second-chance_1.html 

This year, Apopka wintered in Rondônia, Brazil, as he had the previous two years, and started northward on 16 January, 2020. He, like other GPS-tagged kites before him, slowed his pace in the Amazon region of Brazil and Colombia, most likely taking advantage of good feeding conditions to put on some body weight for the lengthy journey ahead.

Apopka’s northbound GPS track was the safest of all the Kites we’ve monitored this year, staying over land until reaching the north central shore of Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula. On 17 March, he set off over the Gulf of Mexico and arrived on shore thirty hours later near Mobil, Alabama. His was a very quick and direct flight. Most likely exhausted, he took four days to reach his former summer territory near Altamonte Springs, FL.

We were ecstatic to receive a message from Sam Mitcham, a birder from the area, who was in the right place at the right time. Sam was photographing Swallow-tailed Kites when he noted one with a transmitter on its back! We were quickly able to identify this as Apopka. It’s a rare treat when we get to see our known birds, but even better when the photographs are so good showing the transmitter in its safe position on a fine-looking kite!

**Note the photos above are of Apopka. Look for the "bump" transmitter on the back.

Apopka’s story would not be possible without the support and generosity of the following people and organizations:

Avian Reconditioning Center for Birds of Prey – Paula Ashby and Carol McKorckle
Audubon Center for Birds of Prey
City of Apopka- News, Events, & Info - Mayor Joe Kilsheimer
Halifax River Audubon - David Hartgrove
Oklawaha Valley Audubon Society - OVAS - Stacy Kelly
Seminole Audubon Society - Lewis Gray, Margaret Terwilliger, Sarah Donlan
Raptor Center of Tampa Bay - Barbara Walker
Clearwater Audubon Society - matching the challenge issued by Tampa Bay Raptor Rescue
West Volusia Audubon - Stephen Kintner
Deborah Green from Orange Audubon Society(personal donation)
Janet Marks from West Volusia Audubon (personal donation)
Eileen Tramontana, Director of Trout Lake Nature Center (personal donation)
Sandie Selman from West Volusia Audubon (personal donation)
Disney Volunteers from The Avian Reconditioning Center for Birds of Prey - Rebecca Grimm and Alyssa Karnitz