Bird-watching in the Northeastern U.S. has never been better, thanks to Hurricane Sandy blowing many exotic birds off course and into places like New York and New England.
The BirdCast project this week reports that the massive high pressure that blocked Sandy's path into the Atlantic is bringing some amazing vagrants, including Ross’s gull and the Northern lapwing, into the Northeast.
People are also seeing large concentrations of more common species along shores, in rivers, and in open areas like ball fields and parking lots.
"Unseen vagrants may still be lurking, so birders (especially along the immediate coast but inland as far as the Appalachians) should keep a watchful eye for additional Eurasian waterfowl, shorebirds, and gulls," the BirdCast report continued.
NEWS: How Animals Deal With Downpours Andrew Farnsworth, a New York City-based research scientist at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and project leader of BirdCast, says that "there will definitely be some out-of-range and unusual birds found" post Sandy. "We could be seeing birds that have been traveling with Sandy for hundreds of miles and are just looking for a break from the weather."
He explained that birds avoid a hurricane's devastating winds either by flying away from the storm or by getting trapped inside the eye of the storm. Ocean-going seabirds like petrels and frigatebirds are usually the ones that get trapped inside the eye. Coastal birds such as gulls and terns, on the other hand, tend to get pushed northward and take shelter along the coast, sometimes in large concentrations.
According to Farnsworth, last year's Tropical Storm Irene produced an unprecedented number of rare sightings -- made possible by networks of smartphone-connected bird watchers -- including White-tailed Tropicbirds found in decidedly non-tropical New York and New England and Sooty and Bridled Terns from the Caribbean sprinkled all along the Eastern seaboard.
At present, large numbers of birds are also now resuming their southward flights. Bird experts are tracking these movements via radar.
The BirdCast project is live updating with storm-track forecasts and projections for bird sightings. You can follow them at http://birdcast.info.
The eBird project has more information about hurricanes and birding strategies, and bird watchers everywhere are encouraged to send in sightings related to this post Sandy period.
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