Hurricane Sandy and unusual birds

This video says about itself:

A visit to the tropical island of Saba to study the rare and beautiful Red-Billed Tropicbird.

From Reuters:

Besides destruction, Sandy brought lots of unusual birds

By Sinead Carew

NEW YORK | Fri Nov 2, 2012 8:25pm EDT

While superstorm Sandy sent most people running for shelter wherever they could find it, bird enthusiasts rushed outdoors as soon as possible to scan the skies for birds that usually don’t visit these parts.

A powerful storm can take birds far from home or thousands of miles off their migratory course if they are swept up in the center of a storm and carried along until they reach the first spot where it is safe to land.

To greet them, there are often groups of intrepid bird watchers, or birders, eager to spot an extremely rare out-of-town visitor like the Leach’s Storm-Petrel.

Birders were quick to say on Friday that they were very upset by the devastation caused by Sandy, which killed scores of people, ruined homes and left many without power. But they also view dangerous storms as an opportunity.

Because the storm that ravaged the U.S. Northeast this week combined a hurricane from the south and winter winds from the north, it brought in a more peculiar group of birds than usual when it made landfall in New Jersey on Monday night.

“This was a storm that mixed species groups you don’t ever usually see together,” said Andrew Farnsworth, a New York-based researcher for Cornell University’s Lab of Ornithology.

One birder discovered a Red-billed Tropicbird in New Jersey – more typically seen in the Caribbean – and brought it to a wild-life rehabilitator, according to Farnsworth, who studies reports on the online forum

Near Ithaca in Upstate New York, one visitor reported seeing an arctic bird, the Ross’s Gull, while another reported a sighting of the same bird near Lake Ontario, Canada.

“The same storm that brought this arctic bird also brought this Caribbean bird,” said Farnsworth, 39.

On Tuesday, as soon as they decided it was safe to go outside, several Manhattan birders headed to the banks of the Hudson River. They were delighted to catch sight of Jaegers, which are typically only found out at sea.

“It’s just exciting to be on the Hudson and see these birds that you’d normally only see out on a fishing boat,” said Dale Dancis, a retired teacher who declined to disclose her age.

Starr Saphir, 73, who leads bird tours in Central Park and appeared in a HBO birding documentary, “The Central Park Effect,” said she saw Forster’s Tern on Tuesday. “They had already migrated south so they got blown back,” she said.

Peter Post, 73, a retired social services worker who has been a birder for 62 years, said he spotted an American Oyster Catcher on the Hudson, far from its coastal habitat.

Post was disappointed he missed the Leach’s Storm-Petrel Farnsworth spotted on Tuesday. “It would’ve been nice,” he said.

Joseph DiCostanzo, 60, an ornithologist who works at the American Museum of Natural History, was lucky enough to see a Red Phalarope, usually an ocean bird, near the river through the window of his Manhattan home before he was able to go outside.

“My wife and I did try to go out. The problem was that they were closing all the parks,” DiCostanzo said.

(Reporting By Sinead Carew; editing by Todd Eastham)

While Hurricane Sandy has ravaged cities and communities across the east coast of the United States, its effect has been equally devastating on wild birds: here.

Hurricane Sandy and the Storm’s Effects on Bird Migration: here.

Where do the birds go for protection during severe weather such as blizzards, hurricanes, and tornadoes? Here.

Response of Tidal Marsh Birds and Plants to Hurricane Sandy: here.

After Sandy, Staten Island Helps Its Own, but More Relief Still Needed: here.

VIDEO: In Staten Island, hordes of volunteers armed with shovels came out to help those who lost their homes: here.

How Natural Disasters Help Birds: here.

14 thoughts on “Hurricane Sandy and unusual birds

  1. November 3, 2012

    Hurricane Sandy blew many birds off course

    WORDS ON BIRDS Steve Grinley Newburyport Daily News

    Thousands of homes in Massachusetts had their power knocked out this week by Hurricane Sandy, with the utilities promising to restore everyone by this weekend. That’s not the case for the tens of thousands in New York and New Jersey, who took the brunt of the storm. Our thoughts are with those people who have lost so much and we are certainly thankful that we were spared such devastation.

    People ask me what happens to the birds during such violent storms. No doubt the birds take a toll as well, especially those close to the devastated areas. Birds seek shelter, much like humans do, and though some successfully find refuge in tree cavities, dense evergreens and man-made structures, including bird houses and roosting boxes, many don’t survive the worst of storms. For migrating birds, those that do survive sometimes get blown off course. Water birds, and seabirds especially, often show up out of their ocean environment. Such was the case with this past week’s storm.

    A Salisbury Beach resident came into the store on Tuesday, the day after the storm, with photographs of a bird that was “trapped” in the stairwell to his cellar. The small, black-and-white bird had very short wings and wasn’t able to fly out.

    It was a dovekie, a member of the alcid family of birds, which includes puffins. I called local wildlife rehabilitator David Taylor, who went to Salisbury to rescue the bird. He reported that the bird was fine, but the waters of Salisbury were too rough to release it there. Instead, he took the bird to Plum Island, where the ocean waters were calmer and successfully released it there.

    A short time later, David stopped by the store with another bird in hand. He wasn’t sure of its identification. It was a Leach’s Storm Petrel, a bird of the open ocean. Usually we have to go out on a pelagic trip miles offshore to see these birds. A few had been spotted from land during the storm, the strong easterly winds pushing them closer the coast of New Hampshire and Massachusetts.

    This Storm Petrel was pushed all the way to downtown Newburyport, where David retrieved it from Interlocks Salon and Day Spa. When I posted its appearance on the Massbird list serve, a fellow birder commented that it must have stopped for a massage after fighting the winds of Sandy. Come to think of it, the bird did look well groomed.

    That same evening, I received an email form Magill Weber, a visiting birder from Arizona, who had spent the afternoon sea watching from Salisbury Beach State Reservation. He reported, “There has been a huge movement of scoters out of the Merrimack River. Highlight was a puffin flying past about 20 yards off the seawall. Tons of Red-throated Loons coming up out of the river, tons of Northern Gannets.”

    So, not only had “tons” of gannets, loons and scoters collected in Newburyport harbor during the storm, so did an Atlantic Puffin, the cousin of that dovekie. Sandy’s strong easterly winds drove these birds into Newburyport harbor where they were able to find less-trying conditions. The harbor afforded them the same protection of the breakwaters and the barrier beach that all Newburyport residents appreciate in a nor’easter. As the winds subsided on Tuesday, they were able to return to the open sea.

    The local birds came back to the feeders on Tuesday and are feeding more ravenously that ever. The storm may have blown away much of the little natural food supply that they had before the storm. The feeders need to be refilled almost every day, and as the temperatures continue to drop over the next week, the birds will continue to seek the seed and suet that we provide in order to survive the season ahead and whatever storms it brings.

    Steve Grinley is the owner of Bird Watcher’s Supply & Gift in Newburyport.


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