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.

Hurricane Sandy floods New York Aquarium

This video from the USA is called Flooded New York Aquarium May Evacuate Animals.

From the Wildlife Conservation Society in the USA:

We hope that this message finds you and your family safe in the wake of Hurricane Sandy. Our thoughts are with those who sustained losses.

The Wildlife Conservation Society’s New York Aquarium weathered the storm. But I can’t mince words about its condition: critical damage.

I hope you’ll consider making an emergency gift to the Aquarium Restoration Fund to bring us back into operation as soon as possible.

Located just off the beach at Coney Island, the 14-acre aquarium was completely overtaken by water. At this moment, we are working on restoring life support systems and have restored power to two exhibits. Water is still being pumped out of areas that house crucial operating systems.

Our primary concern remains the health of the thousands of animals, including Mitik, the orphaned walrus – many of whom will be relocated to other aquariums if power cannot be restored within a safe timeframe. Next comes the long process of repairing and rebuilding.

During Sandy, 18 aquarium staff remained on duty throughout the storm, working nonstop to protect and care for the animals as the waters rose and the winds battered the coast. This was especially crucial for the safety of Mitik, the orphaned walrus calf who only recently arrived and whose pre-existing health issues require constant attention.

That same staff has continued to work around the clock to restore our operating systems critical to thousands of animals in our care. We’ve established temporary life support for the aquatic systems, are pumping flood waters out of basements and mechanical areas, and are working to restore filtration and other life support essentials for the exhibit and holding tanks.

It will be months before we can reopen the doors of the New York Aquarium. We need your help for immediate repairs and rebuilding.

Every dollar will aid in the recovery of an institution that serves as a beacon to the storm-battered Coney Island community.

We wish everyone as quick and full a recovery as possible from the effects of this historic storm. And we look forward to welcoming you to the reopening of a restored New York Aquarium in the months to come.


Bertina Ceccarelli
Executive Vice President, Global Resources
Wildlife Conservation Society

P.S. Many have also asked about the state of the Wildlife Conservation Society’s four zoos. We’re pleased to report that none experienced serious damage. The Prospect Park Zoo, Central Park Zoo and Queens Zoo have re-opened and the Bronx Zoo will re-open tomorrow.

Laura Flanders, The Nation: Laura Flanders and her cousin Chloe report on hurricane Sandy’s effects in New York and Occupy Wall Street’s support in relief efforts: here.

In Sandy’s Wake, New York’s Landscape of Inequity Revealed: here.

Birds and hurricanes like Sandy

This video from the USA says about itself:

Bird’s Nest Survives Hurricane Winds

Oct 30, 2012

As the winds from Hurricane Sandy begin to pick up, hundred foot trees bend in the wind, but the large bird’s nest is not affected. An engineering wonder of nature. Taken in East Northport, NY.

From eNature in the USA:

How Do Birds Deal With Hurricanes Like Sandy?

Posted on Monday, October 29, 2012 by eNature

Hurricane Sandy has, rightfully, dominated the news the past week or so, even pushing the election to the back pages.

While Sandy’s wind, rain and storm surge have certainly affected many people, some folks are also wondering about the effects its had on birds in the places the hurricane passed through.

Numbers are hard to come by, but it’s clear that many birds are killed outright by hurricanes. This is especially true of seabirds, which have nowhere in which to seek shelter from these storms. Beaches may be littered with seabird carcasses following major storm events. Most Atlantic hurricanes occur in late summer and early fall—and fall storms coincide with bird migration and may disrupt migration patterns severely.

Many birds get caught up in storm systems and are blown far off course, often landing in inhospitable places or simply arriving too battered and weakened to survive. Others, while not killed or displaced by storms, may starve to death because they are unable to forage while the weather is poor. The number of birds that die as a result of a major hurricanes may run into the hundreds of thousands.

Healthy bird populations are able to withstand such losses and have done so for eons. However, hurricanes can have severe impacts on endangered species, many of which occur on tropical islands, often among the places hardest hit by hurricanes. For example, Hurricane Hugo in 1989 killed half of the wild Puerto Rican Parrots existing at that time. The Cozumel Thrasher, found only on Mexico’s Isla Cozumel, was pushed to the edge of extinction by Hurricane Gilbert in 1988. Hurricane Iniki may have wiped out the last survivors of as many as three bird species when it hit Hawaii in 1992.

Apart from the direct, physical effects hurricanes may have on birds, they also can have detrimental effects on bird habitats. Cavity-nesting species can be especially hard hit because the trees in which they nest often are blown down or snapped off at the cavity. Hurricane Hugo, which hit the Carolinas in 1989, destroyed most of the area’s nest trees of the endangered Red-cockaded Woodpecker; one forest lost 87 percent of its nest trees and 67 percent of its woodpeckers. Only through the installation of artificial nest boxes have these populations been restored to pre-storm levels.

Although birds blown out of their normal haunts by storms often don’t survive, bird-watchers by the hundreds may flock to see them. Usually, such sightings involve seabirds blown inland and appearing on lakes and reservoirs. First state records of many species have been obtained in this way. Some birders even head into hurricanes to see lost birds.* Others raptly study weather maps to try to predict where hurricane-swept birds will wind up. A few years back, during Isabel, birders were staked out in an organized fashion around New York’s Cayuga Lake to see what showed up. Land birds blown out to sea typically perish unnoticed.

It’s important to remember that the long-term effects of hurricanes on birds aren’t necessarily negative. Every disturbance event is bad for some species but good for others. For instance, hurricanes create gaps in forests, creating habitat for species that require a brushy understory. Birds blown off course occasionally establish entirely new populations; such events may be responsible for much, if not most, colonization of remote islands by birds. Furthermore, hurricanes have been around for a long time and are part of the system in which birds evolved. It is only when they have impacts on species already pushed to the brink by humans, or if hurricane activity is increased by global climate change, that there is cause for concern.

*Epitaph for a hurricane-chasing birder (not original):
Here he lies
A little wet
But he got
His lifelist met.

Have you noticed changes in bird or other animal populations in the wake of hurricanes or other disturbances?

We’re always interested to hearing (or read) your experiences and stories.

Arthur Kill Oil Spill: Hurricane Sandy’s Surge Dumps Diesel Into New Jersey Waterway: here.

AS New Scientist goes to press, north-east North America is reeling in the aftermath of superstorm Sandy. People are dead, millions are without electricity and damage estimates top $20 billion. And that is far from the full impact. Over the next few weeks, the true extent will become clear to millions of people who must now clean up. Whether the implications are clear to their leaders is another question: here.

Sarah Seltzer, AlterNet: Income inequality runs rampant in New York, and – as Hurricane Sandy demonstrated – storms are always more dangerous for the poor: here.

Mass social events that impact tens of millions of people, especially those such as Hurricane Sandy that leave devastation in their wake, inevitably expose fundamental economic and social contradictions at the very heart of American society: here.