American Birding Podcast



#ABArare – Hurricane Sandy report 1 – Northern Lapwing, Ross’s Gull, and more

Now that Hurricane Sandy has made landfall and moved inland, birders are heading out today to see what the storm brought. Interestingly, the best birds (so far) are arguably only indirectly related to the hurricane.

Hurricane Sandy

Three (or possibly two) Northern Lapwings (Code 4) have been found in Massachusetts. The first two were found by Vern Laux at Barlett’s Farm on Nantucket. After 20 minutes, the birds flew off to the east. The other was found at First Encounter Beach at Eastham by Mark Faherty. These locations are relatively close, raising the possibility that one bird was seen at both locations, but given the timing of the reports, this seems unlikely. There was a report of a Northern Lapwing at Mundy Pond in St. John’s, NL on Oct 27 before the hurricane, and Jared Clarke of St. John’s mentioned that conditions over the Atlantic were perfect for bringing in European vagrants. Given that lapwings would be coming from areas unaffected by Hurricane Sandy, their occurrence may be completely unrelated to the storm.

Chris Wood, while searching Cayuga Lake in New York for hurricane birds, found a Ross’s Gull (Code 3). Like the lapwings, Ross’s Gulls are normally from areas completely unaffected by Hurricane Sandy, so how this one ended up in NY is open to discussion.

After what seemed to be a slow start, reports are now starting to come in throughout PA, NY, and DE. New Jersey has been quiet, but I suspect that’s due to widespread power outages and unsafe conditions rather than a lack of birds. Reports of Pomarine Jaegers are widespread from coastal location all the way to western PA, though as you get closer to the Great Lakes, reports could involve birds that were not blown in from the Atlantic. Speaking of the Great Lakes, Ohio birders are reporting Sabine’s Gull, several Little Gulls (Code 3), a Black-headed Gull (Code 3), and Pomarine Jaeger from the Lake Erie shore over the past 24 hours.

Connecticut birders appear to be having a field day with reports of Great and Cory Shearwaters, Leach’s Storm-Petrel, Sooty/Bridled Terns, Red Phalaropes, and more, but only short messages (e.g., one line in the message body or subject line-only reports) are being submitted from the field, so it will take me awhile to make sense of it all.

Moving back to PA, a Black-legged Kittiwake was just reported from Kahle Lake in western PA, and the President (the ABA’s president Jeff Gordon, that is), after being stranded by the hurricane, has seen at least eight Leach’s Storm-Petrels, including two that have been caught by Peregrine Falcons, on the Delaware River at the Commodore Barry Bridge. He reports that many birds are still flying north up the river. Brad Walker spotted a Leach’s Storm-Petrel on Cayuga Lake in NY but not at the same location as the Ross’s Gull.

Interestingly, many reports from PA are showing up on the PA Birds Facebook group before the state listserv. Could this be a foreshadowing of a shift of how birders report sightings or is it due more to birders reporting from the field (with Facebook presenting a more convenient mobile interface?) or some other reason?