Thursday, September 04, 2008

Weather: Hanna

Short-billed Dowitcher
Over the weekend, Tropical Storm (currently) Hanna will be tracking through our area. Though the exact track is yet to be seen, Hanna has the potential to be a "bird storm" here in NJ. There are currently discussions about Hanna's birding potential on JerseyBirds and MDOsprey, at least; I'm sure others are happening on other states' lists as well. Just to make things more interesting, Hanna is being followed by Hurricane Ike (already Category 4, yikes!) and Tropical Storm Josephine.

NJ bird storms tend to track to the west of the Delaware River (but not always). Here are tracks of some past NJ bird storms courtesy of the UNISYS historical hurricane data site:

Connie (1955)
Donna (1960)
David (1979)
Bertha (1996)
Floyd (1999)
Isabel (2003)
Ernesto (2006)

Mention "hurricane" and "birds" in the same breath, and one probably thinks of tropical species like Sooty and Bridled terns. But the (blurry) photo that accompanies this post is of a Short-billed Dowitcher I found in a local farm field the day after Ernesto passed in 2006 (not long after I'd gotten my brand-new Canon A620 digital camera, not coincidentally). That puddle also hosted Semipalmated Sandpiper, Wilson's Snipe and Solitary Sandpiper. I probably would've found something really special if I'd checked that puddle during the height of the storm the day before. But, the point I'm trying to make is that while the rarities brought by a passing hurricane may be nice, the grounded migrants may provide equally good birding.

When I was chatting with my hurricane guru Rob Hilton last night, he mentioned Weather Underground's section on tropical weather. This site has such wonderful toys as a display of multiple models for a storm, and historic storm tracks that are (in the case of this one for Hanna) "1851-2006 tracks of all September tropical storms passing within 200 miles of Tropical Storm Hanna." Plus much more. It's a great resource for birders intrigued by weather (which is probably every birder who has a hurricane with the potential to dump good birds on them).

Good birding all, and let's be careful out there.


Rob Hilton said...

Here's another post, about the potential for Hanna to bring birds to Virginia:

Jennifer Hanson said...

Thanks Rob! It'll be interesting to see what birds the storm drops on all of us through the mid-Atlantic region.

Jennifer Hanson said...

Posted for Chris Vogel:


You make an exceelent point! Even though hurricanes may bring full- blown rarities (so to speak...), they also bring other waifs which are subtler, and may not be readily apparent as strays.

Shorebirds in odd places are one example, as are earlier migrants which may get blown back north by the strong southerlies. "Good" or out of place records of other birds such as Least Terns, Orchard Orioles, Prothonotaries, Wormeatings, or other primarliy late summer migrants may be just as much a result of hurricaine activity as, say Sooty Terns, or Frigates. Trouble is they are not often appreciated as such.

Glad to see you've hit on such an intersting and overlooked migration topic.

(Also, love the blog, glad to see you're sticking with it!)

All the best