Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Post-Irene Birds

Brooklyn survived Hurricane Irene with much less damage than anticipated. Some neighborhoods lost more trees than others and, according to my friend Peter (who works in landscape management) Prospect Park had about 100 downed trees. The good news for birdwatchers was that the huge storm system carried an amazing array of rare birds into New York City and surrounding area.

I never actually even heard the storm as I slept and awoke thinking that it had somehow managed to detour around Brooklyn. Heydi texted me early that Doug, Shane and her were at Floyd Bennett Field looking at some incredible birds. Large numbers of seabirds had taken refuge along the pavement at the old airfield, as well as, a flock of 10 Hudsonian Godwits (I've never seen more than one Hudsonian Godwit at a time). The list of terns at Floyd Bennett included Gull-billed Tern, Black Tern, Royal Tern and Sandwich Tern! The Sandwich Tern is a bird of the southeastern United States and the Caribbean. I've only seen this species in Florida.

All public transportation in New York City had been suspended, so my only option for traveling to coastal Brooklyn was by bicycle or walking. I guess I'm getting a little wiser with age, because I decided not to make the 10 mile bike trip through potentially downed trees and deteriorating conditions once the back end of the storm swung around. By around 9:30am on Sunday it was apparent that the worst of the storm was over, so Robin and I put on our rubber boots and walked up to Prospect Park.

The park was quiet and relatively empty of people when we arrived. We heard the distant drone of wood chippers. As we walked through the Ravine, the normally slow moving, sedate body of water to our right sounded more like a raging mountain stream. Here's a video of the waterfall at the outflow of the Ambergill:



The waterways all eventually flow into Prospect Lake, so I expected that the entire lake would be overflowing it's banks.

Several large trees had come down in the Peninsula Woods. A large willow was resting on the rustic shelter at the end of the point. A Bald Cypress near the Peninsula "Thumb" snapped off at the base and blocked the two footpaths to the lake's edge. We climbed through the maze of branches to get a better look at some terns and swallows flying around the lake. I was glad we did as one bird turned out to be a Black Tern. These small seabirds are rarely seen around Brooklyn outside of the coastal beaches, and even then they are uncommon. Among the Barn Swallows zipping low over the water was a single Purple Martin. We ran into Peter who was also scanning the birds over the lake. I told him about Heydi's early morning text message and he volunteered to drive his car to Floyd Bennett Field. Mary and Donna would be joining us.

When we arrived at Floyd Bennett Field we were notified by a ranger at the main entrance that the park was closed to the public. Undaunted, Peter parked the car on Flatbush Avenue, near the marina, and we walked in at an open gate near the Ryan Visitor's Center. A few dozen gulls and terns were roosting on the empty parking lot in front of Aviator Sports. Among them were several Royal Terns and a single Caspian Tern. A small flock of shorebirds foraged in a puddle at the north edge of the pavement. Within the mix of Semipalmated Sandpipers, Least Sandpipers and Lesser Yellowlegs was a lone Baird's Sandpiper. Over the next 2 hours we walked the runways, cut through the campgrounds and scanned the shore at the end of Archery Road for any other unusual birds pushed in by the storm. By 3:30pm the skies darkened, rain started to come down and a strong northwest wind kicked up. Mary had already returned to the car, but Donna, Peter and I had to walk back 1.5 miles into the driving rain. By the time we got into the car I had a better idea what it felt like to be one of those terns roosting in the parking lot.



During a 48 hours period incredible reports from birders around New York City and the surrounding area were coming into the regional discussion groups. Uncommon and rare seabirds were being seen from Long Island, throughout the city's 5 boroughs and the Hudson Valley. Perhaps the most bizarre sighting was of a White-tailed Tropic Bird along Manhattan's Hudson River. This bird (and two more reported) were far from the tropics.

Just for laughs (and to enjoy some of these birds vicariously as I only managed a small portion of the total), I scanned the postings and created a "Storm Bird" list for NY. I omitted songbirds from the list as I didn't read about anything unusual. For the shorebirds I only included the uncommon and rare species that were reported around the area. I did, however, included ALL the tern species that were reported, primarily, because the combined list looks so ridiculous. It is nearly a complete list of all the eastern terns of North America.

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Albatrosses, Petrels, and Shearwaters
Black-Capped Petrel
Cory's Shearwater
Great Shearwater
Audubon's Shearwater


Storm-Petrels
Wilson's Storm-Petrel
Leach's Storm-Petrel
Band-rumped Storm-petrel


Tropicbirds
White-tailed Tropicbird


Frigatebirds, Boobies, and Gannets
Magnificent Frigatebird


Cormorants, Anhingas, and Pelicans
Brown Pelican


Shorebirds
American Golden-Plover
Black-necked Stilt
American Avocet
Whimbrel
Hudsonian Godwit
Marbled Godwit
Baird's Sandpiper
Buff-breasted Sandpiper
Wilson's Phalarope
Red-necked Phalarope


Gulls, Terns, and Skimmers
Lesser Black-backed Gull
Sooty Tern
Bridled Tern
Least Tern
Gull-billed Tern
Caspian Tern
Black Tern
Roseate Tern
Common Tern
Arctic Tern
Forster's Tern
Royal Tern
Sandwich Tern
Black Skimmer


Skuas and Jaegers
South Polar Skua
Pomarine Jaeger
Parasitic Jaeger
Long-tailed Jaeger

1 comment:

Chicken Underwear said...

That's is a lot of brown water in the water fall. I hope there was not too much erosion.

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