Audubon’s Lake Okeechobee Science Coordinator Dr. Paul Gray reports in with this sad news out of the Caribbean:
Machi was a Whimbrel that researchers at the College of William and Mary had affixed a satellite tracking radio upon. I met her in April of 2010 when they sent her coordinates from her landing in Florida on her return flight from Brazil. To my amazement, I found her in sugar cane fields by Lake Okeechobee and wrote a blog about it. See my photo above.
After that, she returned to the Chesapeake region where she was first captured, and then ventured to the Hudson Bay region for the breeding season. She returned to New Jersey from the arctic on a single 161-hour flight, covering 1850 miles. She fattened up and then took a 113-hour, 2,500 mile flight to Suriname in South America for the winter.
These unimaginable flying feats are probably even more difficult than they sound. Birds must get very fat and heavy, to carry enough fuel. They can’t sleep or drink water for days on end. They encounter head winds, rain, even hurricanes at sea.
This spring, Machi flew back to the Hudson Bay region for breeding, and back to the Chesapeake this fall for staging. She weathered Hurricane Irene there. She flew south across the Atlantic through tropical storm Maria and ended up on the Island of Guadaloupe, an overseas region of French Republic. Unlike in the United States, Canada and Mexico, on Guadaloupe, hunting shorebirds remains legal. To my great sadness, she was shot by a hunter on September 12.
When we at Audubon work to protect birds in an area, we aren’t just protecting our own birds, we are taking care of someone else’s birds too. The migrations of Machi was being followed on a daily basis not only by me, but by people from Canada to South America, who all shared her. Migrating birds remind us we are linked.
You can learn more of Machi and three, still-living radioed Whimbrels by clicking here.