News from the Caribbean, especially Puerto Rico, is horrific now that two Category 5 hurricanes have passed through the islands in just two weeks. Homes, infrastructure and habitat are all destroyed. Our hearts and help go out to everyone affected by these storms.
Images of the widespread damage also have made me wonder: Did birds survive these hurricanes?
Early this month one particular bird, a whimbrel named Hope, survived Hurricane Irma on St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands. Did she survive Hurricane Maria? We don’t know yet.
North American whimbrels (Numenius phaeopus) that breed in the tundra of northwest Canada make long migrations to their wintering grounds in the Caribbean and South America. To understand their migration The Center for Conservation Biology fitted a few of them with satellite transmitters when the birds made migration stopovers on Virginia’s eastern shore. One bird, nicknamed Hope, was tracked for three years beginning in 2009. Her transmitter was removed after it broke in 2012 but she still wears two colorful leg tags. Every year she returns in late August to St. Croix.
St. Thomas and St.John (purple pin markers) took a direct hit from Irma. Hope spends the fall and winter on St. Croix (blue pin) at Great Pond (yellow star). She was fortunate that Irma passed more than 45 miles north of her location. St. Thomas and St. John were so devastated by Irma that survivors were evacuated to Puerto Rico and St. Croix. (Click here to see a video of Hurricane Irma damage on the U.S. Virgin Islands, posted by the U.S. Navy.)
Then on the night of September 19 Hurricane Maria blew through the islands, passing only 10 miles south of St. Croix. Hurricane force winds scraped the island for 7.5 hours before slamming Puerto Rico. The southwestern corner of St. Croix was hardest hit.
As with Hurricane Irma it will take a while to find out what happened.
And I wonder: Did Hope make it through Maria, too?
We’re waiting for news … again.
Read more about Hope surviving Hurricane Irma — and see photos of her — in this article at The Center for Conservation Biology.
(photo of a whimbrel (this is not a photo of Hope) by Arturo Mann via Wikimedia Commons; click on the image to see the original)
p.s. For more news of the Virgin Islands see the Virgin Islands Daily News.