Birds that nest in northern Alaska fly across the continent to the northeast coast and then out over the Atlantic Ocean. Then they turn south and stop along the Delmarva Peninsula to refuel.
After a few weeks, they continue south through the Atlantic en route to the coast of South America. Along the way, they stop at Caribbean islands to rest and feed. Fletcher Smith, biologist in charge of the project says the distances these birds travel are, "simply staggering. However, their jaw-dropping feats involving storms are even more amazing."
In 2011, for example, a whimbrel named Hope, flew into a large tropical storm off the eastern shore of Canada. For 27 hours she flew nonstop, averaging just nine miles per hour to reach the center of the storm. On the backside of the storm, tailwinds grabbed her and she flew 92 mph for an hour-and-a-half to exit the storm. This is clearly an important way some migratory birds get through huge tropical storms during migration.
Unfortunately, if whimbrels make it to the Caribbean Islands en route to South America, they are often greeted by unregulated hunters. Several transmitter-equipped birds have been lost to wing shooters on these islands.
Learning about the migratory path of whimbrels highlights the importance of international cooperation to protect migratory birds. George Fenwick, president of the American Bird Conservancy (www.abcbirds.org) says, "These shooting parties are the antithesis of everything the hunting community stands for here in the U.S. They give nothing back in the way of permit fees to promote conservation efforts and sometimes don't even bother to collect the birds they shoot."
Fenwick hopes that, "Sometimes something good comes from something bad, and in this case, I believe the good that may emerge is that island conservation groups and regulators will begin to take a more critical view of how to more effectively manage hunting practices in their communities."
Send questions and comments to Dr. Scott Shalaway, 2222 Fish Ridge Road, Cameron, WV 26033 or email sshala...@aol.com.