Whimbrel tracked into Tropical Storm Erika
While most of us along the Atlantic Coast keep our eyes on Tropical Storm Erika churning in the Caribbean, Upinraaq (named for the Inuvialuktun word for summer) the whimbrel has already met with the storm in the middle of the open Atlantic. Upinraaq, wearing a tiny tracking device, was migrating south from Newfoundland to South America when she crossed paths with Erika nearly 1,000 miles east of the West Indies. Erika was a developing tropical storm with sustained winds of 46 miles per hour when the encounter occurred. Amazingly, Upinraaq had been flying non-stop for more than 3 days and 2,700 miles (4,300 kilometers) when she successfully flew directly through the heart of the storm and continued on to the coast of Suriname.
For generations, scientists have wondered how birds migrating from North America to South America during the height of the hurricane season. Do the birds fly around the storms? Do they die at sea? Do the birds have some way of predicting that storms are brewing and wait until the coast is clear? The rendezvous between Upinraaq and Erika represents the 9th such interaction between a migrating whimbrel and major storms that a tracking study has documented since 2007. Information from 31 flights over the Caribbean and Atlantic Ocean is beginning to reveal the migratory behavior of this large, migratory shorebird. Birds launching out over the Atlantic from the high latitudes of the Canadian Maritimes appear to have no inkling about storms forming in the lower sub-tropical latitudes. Despite flying out over the vast Atlantic with no place to hide, no birds have been lost at sea.
The full story, written by Bryan Watts, can be found here.