Amazing feats of flying and navigation have also been recorded in the tracking study.
"We've seen birds flying for five or six days without stopping, covering 3,600 to 4,000 miles in a single flight," Watts said. Late this summer, four transmitter-equipped whimbrels added another surprise by using a previously unknown mid-Atlantic migration route to reach their over-wintering grounds along the mouth of the Amazon in Brazil.
"These birds were 2,000 miles out to sea, and at one point were closer to Africa than they were to the North American coast," Watts said.
Whimbrels are occasionally spotted along West Virginia waters, particularly following coastal storms.
"During all my time growing up there, I never saw one," Watts said. "But when we tracked some whimbrels moving out of Georgia last year, they flew directly over St. Albans, traveling at night."
On Monday, Watts will discuss the whimbrel study and the need to preserve key shorebird staging sites, breeding grounds and over-wintering areas during a 6:30 p.m. meeting of the Handlan Chapter of the Brooks Bird Club in the Kanawha County Public Library. The public is invited to attend.
"My interest in birds started by going out on all the birding trips with members of the Handlan Chapter, and it's stayed strong ever since," Watts said. "The older members were really nice to me and kept me involved in birding all through my years as a teenager. Now, I get to work with birds every day."
In another connection to West Virginia bird life, Watts, through the Center for Conservation Biology, has arranged for dozens of peregrine falcon chicks hatched in life-threatening urban locales in Virginia to be released in West Virginia's New River Gorge.
Reach Rick Steelhammer at rsteelham...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5169.