Saturday, July 7, 2018

Hurricane Birding Season to Open Next Week?!

I was just perusing the weather maps for the Eastern Atlantic like I do on a regular basis and found there is strong potential for a Tropical Storm to impact southern Newfoundland next week! Now of course, this subject it not to be taken lightly, major storms can cause property damage and threaten peoples lives. However, they are also a cause of excitement for birders, since birds can be displaced long distances in such storms and many normally pelagic species can also be pushed close to land, often in sheltered coves. You may want to have a look a previous discussion I had about hurricane birding in Newfoundland- available here ( Review of NL Hurricanes and birding)

Below is the a snapshot of the storm in question that may develop into Tropical Storm Chris in a couple days.

This is a bit of an unusual storm. Most Atlantic hurricanes and tropical storms develop off the coast of Africa or in the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico. This storm is different in that it's forming off the coast of the Carolinas and is expected to sit there for a bit, then start to move NE strengthening to a topical storm, then a category 1 hurricane, before it's expected to make landfall in SE Newfoundland as a topical storm or tropical depression.

Hurricane Birding
Track for Tropical Disturbance 3, soon to become Tropical Storm Chris
It's hard to say what the birding potential of a storm with a track such as this is. The storms that have the most potential to bring birds to Newfoundland are the ones that are already strong when they skirt the Cape Hatteras. This storm is forming in a fairly bird rich area and right in the middle of the breeding season as well. This is also different, since most tropical storms we get arrive in August-October, when most southern terns and Gulls would have already finished breeding. I wonder if this storm holds potential to displace recently fledged birds or parents they may be out to sea feeding.

The vast majority of the time these storms turn out to be total duds from a birding perspective, though the potential is always there and the anticipation and pondering is half the fun. If this track played out exactly as shown we'd be hoping to have a chance to see southern Tern species such as Sooty Tern, Bridled Tern, Royal Tern, Sandwich Tern, Least Tern and Black Skimmer. There would probably also be potential for Laughing Gulls. Then there is absolute dream of possibly seeing a rare petrel from the south such as Audubons, Black-capped or Feas. Maybe even something equally exotic for Newfoundland waters such a Red-billed or White-tailed Tropicbird, the latter of which has occurred once already, following the passage of a hurricane.

There really is no way to predict what will happen. Chances are the winds produced by this storm will not be strong enough to displace many birds, but if the track was right they could coerce some birds closer to Newfoundland, that then may find their way into feeding flocks and tern colonies.

I will be sure to update the progress and track of this storm and the potential it may have for birding next week.!

If you have an interest in how weather influences birds, migration, vagrancy etc and would like to learn more, I am offering a thorough discussion of the topic. This will likely be offered as an online webinar via facebook. More details about that can be found here!

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