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Hurricane Sandy's Silver Lining: Unusual Birds In Westchester

Among the few silver linings of Hurricane Sandy, is the opportunity to see some unusual birds in the area.
Among the few silver linings of Hurricane Sandy, is the opportunity to see some unusual birds in the area. Photo Credit: Flickr user RDDjr

WESTCHESTER COUNTY, N.Y. – Like everyone else, I’ve been struggling with power and Internet. But as a birder, the hurricane had a tiny silver lining. Amidst storm cleanup I’ve enjoyed getting a look at some unusual birds blown here by the storm.

Birds treat storms in one of three ways. On land they may simply hunker down on a tree limb and wait the worst of it out. Over water or in migration, a bird, especially an experienced adult, might try to head into the storm knowing it could get a push in the right direction. Other times, the bird will spread its wings and go wherever the winds are blowing. For bird watchers, that is when post-storm life gets interesting.

The past two weeks have brought some fine species to our shores that are rarely seen here, spotted in up and down the Hudson River. In the Sound, the list includes red phalaropes, dovekies, Leach’s storm petrel, pomarine jaegers, and sooty and bridled terns. Up the Hudson, you can see northern gannets diving into the water from great heights, and waterfowl such as white-winged scoters, black scoters and surf scoters.

While the hurricane brought seabirds, storms from the north have driven late flocks of migrating songbirds into our trees. Massive movements of grackles and flocks of mixed warblers such as magnolia, palm, yellow rumped and blackpoll are winging their way through. They are accompanied by even rarer northern visitors, such as evening grosbeaks and redpolls.

So if you’d like to forget about storm cleanup for a few hours, grab a pair of binoculars, a bird guidebook and the kids. Head to the Sound, the Hudson or even to your local park and start looking at the birds. I bet you will find several new species that you have never seen before. It’s the hurricane’s only reward.

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