Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Hurricane Irma and the impacts on warblers

Hurricane Irma striking Barbuda (island within the eye in this shot), Sep 5, 2017
Hurricane Irma projected path as of 8AM, Sep 6, 2017
Hurricane Irma strengthened further yesterday becoming a very dangerous high end Category 5 hurricane with winds that reached 185 MPH sustained with higher gusts (only one other storm in the Atlantic, Hurricane Allen in 1980, had stronger winds at 190 MPH).  Hurricane Irma is also the second strongest Atlantic storm to ever make landfall.  The impact on any of the islands that get hit will be catastrophic for the people of the island as well as the flora and fauna.  Several islands in the northern Lesser Antilles have already sustained direct hits and the storm may yet make a few more landfalls in the Greater and Lesser Antilles before continuing further off to the northwest.  One of the islands hit directly was the small island of Barbuda which contains an endemic warbler, the Barbuda Warbler.  This is one warbler I have not seen and hope to one day get to the island to see it.  Hopefully the species makes it though but the population will certainly take a big hit.  The birds of the islands have evolved with the existence of hurricanes but this storm is the most powerful to ever hit the islands of the area.  Time will tell how much damage has been done in the coming days,weeks, months and years.  There are a number of other range restricted warbler species in the potential path including the Elfin Wood Warbler and Adelaide's Warbler in Puerto Rico (Puerto Rico 2016 trip), Bahama Yellowthroat, Bahama Warbler in the Bahamas and Olive capped Warbler in the Bahamas and Cuba (Bahamas trip 2017).  The birds in the Bahamas took a big hit last year with Hurricane Matthew in October so another major hurricane is not what is welcome there at all.  There is also a number of migrant warbler that are either on the islands now or on their way including the endangered Kirtland's Warbler..hopefully these species avoid the worst of the storm.
Yellow Warbler, Arcadia, Northampton, MA, Sep 4, 2017
Common Yellowthroat, Arcadia, Northampton, MA, Sep 4, 2017
Meanwhile migration continues to plug along here and I suspect there will be a big push migrants from Friday through the weekend as conditions for migration improve substantially.  Even without optimal conditions warblers continue to move through and I added one more warbler for the fall with my first Bay breasted Warbler along the Jabish Canal on Labor Day. 

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