April 27, 2010

Pacific Flyway

These Ross's Geese winter in California, raise young in the Arctic. Thanks to groups like Ducks Unlimited, the species is thriving and extending its range. Photo by NDomer73 on Flickr: click for big.

Migration is so awesome. Arrivals, departures... I'm missing these handsome little souls, who wintered in the backyard brush pile, and these busy gents, who wintered here too and have also headed north. [As a wise woman said: "Remember that someone else is waiting for them, and will be happy to see them arrive."] Great photos by The Digiscoper, Mike McDowell. And look who just showed up! A heart bird:

Western Tanager, by Phae on Flickr. Click for bigger.

This coming weekend I'm planning to bird Big Morongo, which is Pacific Flyway Central at the moment. Migrants everywhere you look.


An extraordinarily moving report on an 18,000 mile migration:
“I just did a talk yesterday for some colleagues at the U.S. Geological Survey,” Gill told me not long after E7 had been tracked to New Zealand. “And I showed these graphics of E7’s flight and said, ‘Okay, the flight is nonstop, no food, no water, no sleep as we know it, flying for eight days,’ and there was just this silence in the room, and I could see their minds trying to wrap around this—as does mine. I try to be objective as a scientist, but this just . . .” Gill’s sentence trailed off as he seemed unable to summon up the right word to describe his reaction.

More about this amazing flight here, from the USGS Alaska Science Center Shorebirds Research website.
The last leg of E7's journey is the most extraordinary, entailing a non-stop flight of more than eight days and a distance of 7,200 miles [...]

Since they are land birds, godwits like E7 can't stop to eat or drink while flying over open-ocean. The constant flight speeds at which E7 was tracked by satellite indicate that she did not stop on land.

Godwits do not become adults until their 3rd or 4th year and many live beyond 20 years of age. If 18,000 miles is an average annual flight distance, then an adult godwit would fly some 288,000 miles in a lifetime. [Source.]

E7's tribe: Bar-Tailed Godwits, by nkenji on Flickr. Click for big.

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