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I have been reading from afar (Wisconsin) about the casualties.  What I
haven't read yet was the simple fact of birds missing their mark.
Certainly, many neotrops leave the Yucatan, etc. without their full fat
loads or other nutritional deficiencies.  The over-water Gulf crossing is
just too much and the birds are unfortunately doomed.  Surely this must be a
biannual occurrence.

Here's hoping that the vast majority make it to my local birding spots!

Tom Schaefer
Hartford
Washington County
----- Original Message -----
From: "Jeff Bouton" <[log in to unmask]>
To: <[log in to unmask]>
Sent: Wednesday, April 28, 2010 10:50 AM
Subject: Re: [FLBIRDS] bird casualties


Bob,

Of course sheer conjecture here, but Dr. Evans has shown some pretty
interesting data from the surveys of nocturnally migrating Dickcissels in
the Rio Grande Valley of Texas. Using detections of nocturnal calls picked
up across the entire valley here is strong evidence suggesting these birds
will circle areas of light pollution. His data showed that all of the more
rural data collection sights across the broad front sampled had the same
rates of detection and peak timing of detections were the same. Yet over the
large population centers (e.g. well lit cities) detections were far greater.
At any rate, assuming there is something to this what if the birds were
drawn to the bright beacon and circled it over the otherwise dark gulf (much
like moths to a flame literally) and just perished out there simply because
they ran out of energy?!?...

It's a long shot and a stretch I know, and like you said we'll never know.
These incidents have occurred annually without any exploding oil rigs as
well, but it's always interesting to consider possibilities.

Best,

Jeff Bouton
Port Charlotte, FL
[log in to unmask]


--- On Mon, 4/26/10, Lucy and Bob Duncan <[log in to unmask]> wrote:


From: Lucy and Bob Duncan <[log in to unmask]>
Subject: [FLBIRDS] bird casualties
To: [log in to unmask]
Date: Monday, April 26, 2010, 4:54 PM


Hi all,

Lucy and I checked the beaches at Ft. Pickens, Escambia Co., extreme NW FL.
this morning and found no dead birds. A fisherman who fished the outer
beachs there every day last week said he saw none.

Checking the infrared satellite images last week (thanks to folks who put me
on the site) I found nothing that would indicate severe weather in the Gulf.
There was some disturbed weather off the west coast of the peninsula but
nothing to account for the deaths of pelagic birds that spend most of their
lives at sea including facing the severe weather of the southern oceans.
They would not be brought down by a strong thunderstorm. Perhaps these
deaths, pelagics and passerines, are not related. Maybe the necropsy (by
Florida FWC) will show a cause for the pelagic. Furthermore, I monitored
land radar stations along the northern Gulf Coast all last week (radar
reaching out 120 miles) for possible fallout conditions. There simply were
none. It was great weather, with fairly light and variable winds in the
northern Gulf. In summary, I do not think this was a weather-related
phenomenon.

If the two are related, pelagics and passerines, then it had to be trauma
that reached from the surface to 3000 - 5000 ft, the altitude at which
migrants approach the coast. Since the birds washed up on a very strong SE
wind, their origin, at least for one day or more, had to be to the SE of the
kill. Unless currents brought them to that point earlier from elsewhere.
Since the Eglin AFB Test Range extends well out into the Gulf south of
Okaloosa and Walton Counties, an explosion or concussion might cause such an
event, but I find that unlikely since it's never happened before and would
probably be detected on land.

That leaves the oil rig explosion. Unless birds were loafing on the rig at
the time (and passerines do this on their journey across the Gulf) and
pelagics were feeding around the rig, it is highly unlikely that was the
source. Were there any signs of burns on the carcasses? Oil? That was not
reported. It's also well to the SW of the wash-up. Surely, the birds would
have drifted to the LA. coast, not NW FL.

There is one other possibility. Some migrants originate their journey from
South America and southern Central America, making the journey in hops, with
stops in the Greater Antilles and Yucatan. Birds have been known to
overshoot their destinations. It is possible the casualties overshot Yucatan
overnight and found themselves in mid-Gulf, with light winds, no tail winds
to assist them on, they simply used their fat reserves and crashed. Did
anyone check for fat content on these birds?

I think this is a mystery which will never be solved.

Bob Duncan
Gulf Breeze, in the western Panhandle


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