The BIRDLINE and NATURELINE by ARMAS HILL
Unusual Birds with an Unusual Storm, Hurricane Sandy
Armas Hill has presented the "Birdline", originally from
Philadelphia, on the phone and internet for over 3 decades, and on the radio
in Delaware for about 10 years.
List & Photo Gallery of North American Birds, in 6 Parts
List & Photo Gallery of North American Mammals
List of Upcoming FONT Tours Other
Photos here of two
species referred to in this November 5, 2012 edition of the Birdline &
Above: Pomarine Jaeger & Red Phalarope,
two bird species seen
throughout the path of Hurricane Sandy
(upper photo by Alan Brady)
Below: an immature Red-billed Tropicbird,
blown to shore during the storm,
to southern New Jersey
(photo courtesy of the
Cedar Run Wildlife Refuge)
Birdline & Natureline for November 5, 2012:
In the Birdline, here, nearly all the BIRDS are those related to
the storm known as Sandy
that came ashore in eastern North America
on October 29, 2012, in New Jersey, and
continued west across Pennsylvania, and
The NATURE in the Natureline is the storm, the large
and forceful storm that it was. Nature, with it, had
a big affect on people, the environment, and to birders,
it had an obvious affect on BIRDS.
The Birdline & Natureline was had been prepared for
this time will be sent out in a few days. Now, this one
refers almost exclusively to the STORM and its affects.
It is an unusual edition of the Birdline, and it was an
unusual storm. It came north, out over the Atlantic Ocean, along
the eastern coast of the United States, and instead of
going east, out to sea, as most storms do, with the
west to east flow of the Jet Stream, it instead went
west, as it was blocked by another weather system, and
SANDY was a big storm. it was 1,000 miles across.
Its highest storm surge was 14.6 feet at Bergen Point, New
The number of US states with intense effects of the storm
The number of human deaths was about 100.
The damage of estimated property losses is at about 20
billion US dollars, making the storm among the most
expensive US disasters.
The top wind gusts on land were 90 miles per hour at Islip
(on Long Island), New York, and Robbins Reef, New Jersey.
Power outages at their peak were more than 8.5 million.
Canceled airline flights were about 20,000.
The most rainfall was 12.55 inches at Easton, Maryland.
The most snow was 34 inches at Gatlinburg, Tennessee.
The evacuation zone included communities along 400 miles
of coastline from Ocean city, Maryland to Dartmouth,
In Connecticut, there was widespread damage by the
Long Island Sound. Power outages peaked at more than
In Delaware, southern coastal areas were under
water. Power outages peaked at more than 45,000.
In Illinois, there was flooding and high waves on
the Lake Michigan shore.
In Kentucky, there was as much as a foot of snow in
the higher Appalachians.
In Maine, ocean conditions were dangerous with high
winds. Power outages were more than 90,000.
in Maryland, in the east there was the storm surge
from the ocean; in the west there was 29 inches of snow.
Power outages peaked at 290,000.
In Massachusetts, there were fallen trees and power
outages to 400,000.
In Michigan, waves on the Great Lakes were up to 20
feet. Power outages were up to 154,000.
In New Hampshire, a construction worker was killed
in a landslide. Power outages were up to 210,000.
In parts of New Jersey, there was simply put,
devastation. More than 20 people died. Power outages
peaked at 2,700,000.
In parts of New York, also devastation. New York
City came to a halt. Places were flooded with the surge
from the sea. Nearly 50 people died. Power outages peaked
Off the coast of North Carolina, a tall ship (that
was in the movie "Pirates of the Caribbean")
sank; the captain died. Onshore there were 2 human deaths.
Power outages peaked at 126,000.
In Ohio, high winds uprooted trees. There were 2
deaths. Power outages peaked at more than 250,000.
In Pennsylvania, the core of Sandy went west across
the southern part of the state to western PA and then
north toward western New York State. There was wind,
flooding, road closures, and 9 people died. Power outages
peaked at 1,200,000.
Most of the displaced birds noted in the Birdline that
follows were in Pennsylvania.
In Rhode Island, power outages were more than
In part of Tennessee, heavy snow (as noted above)
In Vermont, damage was not as severe as that from
last year's storm Irene, but power outages peaked at
in Virginia, power outages from wind and snow were
up to 180,000. In Washington DC, up to 25,000.
In West Virginia, there was heavy snow that
collapsed buildings. In that state, 5 people died. Power
outages peaked at over 270,000.
I'm repeating here now what I wrote in a Birdline last
year (on September 5), referring that time to the storm
Irene, and this time to Sandy:
"Please know that presenting this report of birds in
no way minimizes the bad effects of the recent storm in
the eastern US, that is the loss of lives as well as the
hurt and damage for many people.
It is nonetheless interesting to have this composite of
various birds so affected by the severe weather."
And if I might take a moment to express thanks and
appreciation to those, from far-away, who expressed
concern to us during and after the storm.
The center of the storm came very close to us here in
northern Delaware, but we are fine. Our condolences to
those in nearby states who are not.
Now, the BIRDS, nearly all displaced by Sandy:
A juvenile RED-BILLED TROPICBIRD was found, exhausted, on
the New Jersey side of the Delaware
River on October 30. It was taken from
there, the Carney's Point area, to a rehab center in
southern New Jersey, where the bird did well, before being
taken to the Tri-State Bird Rescue center in
Actually where the bird came ashore, the land is New
Jersey, but the water is Delaware. So, the bird was taken
back to a state where it must have been.
To see a photo of this RED-BILLED TROPICBIRD:
It's said to be the second RED-BILLED TROPICBIRD that's
been in New Jersey. I remember apparently
the first, also a juvenile, years ago, in May 1983, taken
to a bird rehab center on Long Beach Island, by the ocean.
A TRINDADE PETREL, a pterodroma of the Atlantic
Ocean, nesting well off the coast of Brazil, apparently
was brought with the storm into Pennsylvania.
One was found in Holidaysburg, south of Altoona,
in Blair County, after the storm. It was found by a
mailbox, and not near water. When such a petrel gets
grounded, it can not lift up into flight.
The bird was not well. It was weak, and taken to a
bird rehab center in State College, PA, where it was
measured and weighed.
Subsequently it died, and will be a specimen in a
Years ago, in the 1960s, an all-dark petrel was seen in
flight at a hawk watch along the Kittatinny Ridge in
Pennsylvania. It was said to be, oddly, a KERMADEC
PETREL, but it may have been a dark-morph TRINDADE
The TRINDADE PETREL is a bird of the Atlantic Ocean,
while the HERALD PETREL, with which it has been
conspecific, is a bird of the tropical Pacific.
And the word is "Trindade", not Trinidad. The
Trindade Islands, where the bird breeds, are off
A CORY'S SHEARWATER, very much alive, was along the
Susquehanna River in Pennsylvania, near Harrisburg, on
October 30. It was observed hovering above the river for 10
to 15 minutes before it went north.
The rest of this "Birdline" will be nearly
entirely devoted to birds in relation to Sandy in
Pennsylvania and some other nearby places.
Among such storm-related birds that were out-of-place
at a number of locations were these: RED PHALAROPES,
POMARINE JAEGERS, LEACH'S STORM-PETRELS, BLACK SKIMMERS,
PIPING PLOVERS, AMERICAN OYSTERCATCHERS, SABINE'S GULLS,
BLACK-LEGGED KITTIWAKES, NORTHERN GANNET, SOOTY TERN and
more - with many of some of these, and other species
too as you will read.
The center of the storm traveled west across southern
Pennsylvania. In the central part of the state,
many miles from the sea, these birds were found on farm
ponds on October 30, in Franklin County,
west of Chambersburg:
That day, at one pond after the other:
Pond 1 at Keefer Road: 2 RED PHALAROPES, 3 BLACK
SCOTERS, BLACK-BELLIED PLOVERS, 40 GREATER YELLOWLEGS,
HORNED GREBE, and many, many ducks, coots, and grebes
Pond 2 at Long Lane: 11 RED PHALAROPES, SURF SCOTER,
and many, many ducks, coots, grebes.
Pond 3 at Mountain Brook Road: 2 BRANT, 12 RED PHALAROPES,
41 BLACK SCOTERS, 4 SURF SCOTERS, 5 WHITE-WINGED SCOTERS,
2 LONG-TAILED DUCKS, and many, many ducks, coots, grebes.
3 RED-THROATED LOONS flew overhead.
Bear in mind that these birds (and those that follow)
are not normally seen in Franklin County, in south-central
Pond 4, Loudon Pond: RED-NECKED GREBE, HORNED GREBE,
SPOTTED SANDPIPER, DUNLIN, and many, many ducks, coots,
Pond 5 at the Bender's Farm fields: 13 DOUBLE-CRESTED
CORMORANTS, 2 RED PHALAROPES, 1 WILSON'S PHALAROPE, 21 BLACK
SCOTERS, 4 SURF SCOTERS, 75 BLACK-BELLIED PLOVERS,
300 GREATER YELLOWLEGS, 100 DUNLIN, 10 BONAPARTE'S
GULLS, 4 LAUGHING GULLS, other more expected gulls and
many, many ducks, coots, grebes.
Pond 6 (actually a lake, Fannettsburg): 5
DOUBLE-CRESTED CORMORANTS, 5 RED PHALAROPES, 9
BLACK SCOTERS, 8 SURF SCOTERS, and many, many other ducks,
Pond 7, Rockwell: 2 RED-NECKED PHALAROPES, BLACK SCOTERS,
Late October is late for RED-NECKED PHALAROPE.
Site 8, a flooded field by Back Creek: 2 PIPING PLOVERS, 2
HUDSONIAN GODWITS, 2 BLACK SKIMMERS, and
thousands of shorebirds.
It is likely that at least 2 of these 3 species, the
plover and skimmer, have never been seen previously in
Franklin County, Pennsylvania.
Further east in Pennsylvania, on October
30, these birds were seen along the lower Delaware
River, in the area of Philadelphia:
20-plus LEACH'S STORM-PETRELS, a POMARINE JAEGER and
a PARASITIC JAEGER (a subadult floating down the river),
an immature SOOTY TERN, and an immature SABINE'S GULL,
along with 4 ROYAL TERNS, nearly 120 COMMON TERNS
(with 1 flock of 80), 20 FORSTER'S TERNS, and 8
Also: over 230 BRANT, and all 3 SCOTER species, 16 COMMON
LOONS, 2 RED-THROATED LOONS, a HORNED GREBE, a RED
PHALAROPE, and over 75 DUNLIN.
Along the Delaware River, by the Commodore Barry
Bridge, south of Philadelphia, early in the am on October
30, among the 8 LEACH'S STORM-PETRELS that were seen, 2
were observed, in an extended aerial bout, being
caught by PEREGRINE FALCONS that reside at the bridge.
Nearby, later in the day, a PHALAROPE (probably a RED) was
also seen being snatched by a PEREGRINE.
Observers were looking at birds along the lower Delaware
River from both the Pennsylvania and
the New Jersey sides of the river. The
species just mentioned were seen from New Jersey as well
as from PA.
Also quite unusual, seen from the NJ side along that
stretch of the Delaware River, were 2 AMERICAN
Another LEACH'S STORM PETREL along the river was seen
being pursued and caught by a NORTHERN HARRIER.
On October 31, on the Pennsylvania side of the Delaware
River, a LEACH'S STORM-PETREL was seen flying along the
river near the Philadelphia Airport.
Also, two large flocks of RED PHALAROPES were seen there,
totaling around 50 birds. Both BLACK and SURF SCOTERS
were present. And a PARASITIC JAEGER was seen chasing
a RING-BILLED GULL.
Downriver, at Marcus Hook, again, as there were the
previous day along that stretch of the river (but on
the NJ side), 2 AMERICAN OYSTERCATCHERS were present.
Some people along the lower Delaware River, on October 30, were
at the right place at the right time to see large numbers
of POMARINE JAEGERS. One set of observers on the NJ
side saw 2 flocks of POMARINES, 1 with 8 birds, and the
other 11. The JAEGERS flew downriver, put down on the
water for a bit, and then continued flying on their way.
Some had long tail streamers, while many did not.
Further south along the Delaware River, in the state of
Delaware, where the river widens at Delaware City
(and where there's not much originality with the river,
city, and state all having the same name), some observers
saw as many as 80 POMARINE JAEGERS. There were over 50 in
Another large flock of POMARINE JAEGERS along the lower
Susquehanna River in Pennsylvania will be noted in a
All this begs a question. Why SO MANY JAEGERS
together? It's very unusual anywhere to see 50
or so JAEGERS at once.
South of Delaware City, Delaware, on October 30, from
9:30am to 1:30pm, 68 JAEGERS were tallied, mostly POMARINE,
some thought to be PARASITIC. There was a large group of
41 JAEGERS at once. Also seen there were some COMMON TERNS
Also near Delaware City, a SANDWICH TERN was seen with a
All of the birds that follow were on October 30
unless noted otherwise.
Along the Delaware River, at New Castle, one observer
saw a LEACH'S STORM-PETREL and another STORM-PETREL
that appeared to be a WILSON'S. It would have been late
for a WILSON'S but the bird did not look or act like a
LEACH'S. Other WILSON'S STORM-PETRELS were identified as
such in Pennsylvania, as you will read below.
Further south in Delaware, along the coast of the Delaware
Bay, from Delaware City to Cedar Swamp, birds
a CAVE SWALLOW, a NORTHERN GANNET, a
"dark-winged" TERN, and POMARINE JAEGERS.
Yet more POMARINE JAEGERS were seen reported at
Fowler's Beach by the Delaware Bay.
On October 31, in northern Delaware, away from the river,
a POMARINE JAEGER was seen flying by the Ashland Hawk
Watch, heading south.
Shifting now back to Pennsylvania, to the
lower Susquehanna River (still east of
where our narrative began in Franklin County), these birds
were seen during the afternoon on October 30:
a NORTHERN GANNET near Harrisburg, flying north along the
a RED PHALAROPE flying downriver, and then at least 2
flocks of RED PHALAROPES containing 20 birds,
and a BLACK-LEGGED KITTIWAKE seen on the water and in
flight with a BONAPARTE'S GULL before it lifted up into a
low cloud and disappeared.
More along that part of the Susquehanna River near
2 PARASITIC JAEGERS, both adults,
and as many as 58 POMARINE JAEGERS, including
one flock of 47 birds sitting on the water.
An immature BLACK SKIMMER flew upriver. 3 AMERICAN
OYSTERCATCHERS flew upriver, together.
Also, but flying downriver: almost 200 RED KNOTS, in
And 1 flock of SANDERLINGS, several flocks of other peeps, 2
HUDSONIAN GODWITS, and at least 3 CAVE SWALLOWS.
Tallies of other species included:
about 550 BRANT, 680 PINTAIL, 400 SCAUP (both
species), one CATTLE EGRET, about 700 DUNLIN, 50 LAUGHING
GULLS, over 50 COMMON TERNS, 4,000 TREE SWALLOWS, 1 CLIFF
And yes the SCOTERS again, all 3 species, numbering about
In the city of Harrisburg, a WHITE-WINGED DOVE was seen on October
More SWALLOWS along the Susquehanna lately have been
between the Route 30 & Route 462 bridges:
numerous TREE, a BARN ot two, ROUGH-WINGED, and
both CLIFF and CAVE. These were all after Sandy, on
Further south along the Susquehanna River, a the
Conejohela Flats in Lancaster County, on October 31, after
Sandy, an immature BLACK SKIMMER was found, and 4 RED
PHALAROPES were seen.
The BLACK SKIMMER continued at the Conejohela Flats until
at least November 4.
Further south yet along the Susquehanna River, in
Pennsylvania just north of Maryland, on
October 30, during a 5-hour period, there were:
almost 220 BRANT, 9 BLACK SCOTERS, 23 RED PHALAROPES (in 2
flocks of 12 & 11 flying downriver), and 8 POMARINE
JAEGERS that sometimes harassed gulls and terns.
Let's go now to some various places elsewhere throughout
In Carbon County, in northeastern
PA, at the Beltsville Reservoir, on October 30:
a RED PHALAROPE, 2 late RED-NECKED PHALAROPES, 3
POMARINE JAEGERS, 1 probable PARASITIC JAEGER, hundreds of
DUNLIN, a single SANDERLING (an unusual bird there), 1
RUDDY TURNSTONE (an unusal bird there), over 100 BRANT
(unusual there), all 3 SCOTER species, and a CAVE SWALLOW.
The following day (October 31), all of those birds
were gone, except 1 SANDERLING, 4 BLACK SCOTERS, and 1
RED-NECKED GREBE not seen the previous day.
In Bucks County, in eastern PA, at Peace
Valley, there was a RED-NECKED GREBE on November 1
& 2, and a SURF SCOTER on November 2.
Back on October 30, 4 LEACH'S STORM-PETRELS were seen, 1
at Lake Nockamixon and 3 in Lower Bucks.
AMERICAN OYSTERCATCHERS were seen at both places, one of
each. Amazingly, the one at Lake Nockamixon was the 3rd
record of one there, we understand, since 2003!
2 RED PHALAROPES were at Lake Nockamixon, as were 2
WHITE-WINGED SCOTERS and 2 HORNED GREBES. Also, over 160
BRANT, and 2 or 3 CAVE SWALLOWS.
2 POMARINE JAEGERS were in Lower Bucks, as were all 3
SCOTER species, 2 or 3 CAVE SWALLOWS, and a late
CHIMNEY SWIFT and BARN SWALLOW.
On October 31, at Lake Nockamixon, there was a ROYAL TERN
and CAVE SWALLOW.
CAVE SWALLOWS were also in Philadelphia
on October 30 at the FDR Park and along the Delaware
At the John Heinz Refuge, along the Philadelphia-Delaware
County PA border, on October 31, there was a CAVE
SWALLOW, a RED PHALAROPE, and a NORTHERN SHRIKE (the first
of these in that area this season).
In Chester County, in southeastern PA, at
Chambers Lake, on October 30, there were 20 SURF
SCOTERS, with other ducks.
In Berks County, in east-central PA, at
Lake Ontelaunee, on October 30, there were 4 RED
PHALAROPES, and BLACK and SURF SCOTERS, seen within 30
minutes. The next day, there was still 1 RED
In Lancaster County, in south-central PA,
a JAEGER (possibly PARASITIC) was seen at the Middle
Creek Wildlife Management Area on October 30.
The next day, further south in the county, 2 RED
PHALAROPES were seen in a flooded field, near a town
called Gap. The birds were actively feeding and very tame,
close to a road.
In York County, in south-central PA, at
the Pinchot State Park, on October 30, there were 20
COMMON LOONS, and at least 50 BUFFLEHEAD.
In Lebanon County, in south-central PA, on
November 4, a few days after Sandy, there were as many as
5 species of GREBES on one lake.
On Memorial Lake: a WESTERN GREBE, RED-NECKED GREBE,
EARED GREBE, HORNED GREBE, and PIED-BILLED GREBE.
Having those 5 on 1 body of water in PA is unprecedented.
Now, let's go still in Pennsylvania
to west of where this narrative
began (in Franklin County):
In Somerset and Bedford Counties, in
southwestern & south-central PA, these birds on
At Somerset Lake, in Somerset County there were: many
flocks of BRANT flying about, a single BLACK-BELLIED
PLOVER, and a large flock of DUNLIN (sounds like the New
Jersey shore, but it wasn't).
At the nearby Shawnee State Park, in Bedford County,
also in the remnants of Hurricane Sandy's eye:
There were large numbers of BRANT on the water, where
there also was an adult BLACK-LEGGED KITTIWAKE.
2 AMERICAN OYSTERCATCHERS were on the ground close to the
birders' car (hundreds of miles from the seacoast).
A WILSON'S STORM-PETREL was flying around. I don't know if
that bird were photographed, but it was said (when
reported) to be the first ever in Pennsylvania.
Also, at Shawnee that day: the call of a WILLET could be
heard as it flew, and there were many sizable flocks of
DUNLIN. Also both COMMON and FORSTER'S TERNS. (Of course,
the COMMON TERN is not common in Bedford County, PA).
Also there, JAEGERS. At first 3 POMARINES, the 5 other
JAEGERS came in, so that in all there were 6 POMARINE
and 2 PARASITIC.
Then, as at so many other places in Pennsylvania on
October 30, there was a RED PHALAROPE. It flew by.
An immature LAUGHING GULL (unusual, of course) was
with RING-BILLED GULLS (usual, of course).
In Huntington County, in south-central
PA, at Lake Raystown, on October 30, there were 11 RED
PHALAROPES, and a POMARINE JAEGER.
The next day, there was a WILSON'S STORM-PETREL, seen
well, a LAUGHING GULL (far from where one would
normally be), and even better, a juvenile SABINE'S
GULL. Also, a CAVE SWALLOW, and a few RED-THROATED LOONS
in a large raft of COMMON LOONS.
At one point, both the WILSON'S STORM-PETREL and the
SABINE'S GULL were close together, a combo never seen
previously in Pennsylvania.
In Centre County, in the center of PA, at
the Bald Eagle State Park, on October 30, nearly 2,200
DUNLIN and over 460 BRANT were counted. COMMON
LOONS were very common, and there were 17 species of
WATERFOWL, in addition to 1, and then 2 POMARINE JAEGERS.
In Fayette County, in southwestern PA, at
the Greenlick Run Lake, on October 30, there was a flock
of almost 30 POMARINE JAEGERS, and some BRANT.
In Indiana County, in west-central PA, at
the Yellow Creek State Park, on October 30:
a POMARINE JAEGER (a new bird for the county), 1,500
DUNLIN, all 3 species of SCOTERS, a RED-THROATED LOON, and
over 100 COMMON LOONS.
Also: 1200 RUDDY DUCKS, 240 GADWALL, 100 BUFFLEHEADS, 2
REDHEADS, 15 HORNED GREBES, 10 GREATER YELLOWLEGS, 8
LESSER YELLOWLEGS, 3 PECTORAL SANDPIPERS, and 2 CASPIAN
On October 31 at Yellow Creek, there were 2 RED
PHALAROPES, and some BLACK and WHITE-WINGED SCOTERS. The 2
RED PHALAROPES were still there the am of Nov 1, on the
water by the reeds in the cove.
Still on November 1, the lake was said to be "full of
In Clearfield County, in north-central
PA, at the Dubois Reservoir, on October 30, there
were 4 BLACK SCOTERS. At Bimini Lake, BRANT.
In the Venango/Clarion County area of
northwestern PA, at Kahle Lake, on October 30, there was a
At that lake on October 31, there were 4 RED PHALAROPES,
140 DUNLIN, 7 BLACK-BELLIED PLOVERS, and an OSPREY.
In Allegheny County, in southwest
Pennsylvania, there was a POMARINE JAEGER along the Ohio
River, at the Dashfields Dam, said to be the first
POMARINE JAEGER ever in that county.
It is in Allegheny County that Pittsburgh is located.
There was a PHALAROPE (presumably RED) there on October 30
along the Allegheny River.
Along the Ohio River, on November 4 & 5, two juvenile
BLACK SKIMMERS were at the McKees Rock Marina. Who
would have thought? Two SKIMMERS along the Ohio
In Mercer County, in far-western PA, on
October 30, 9 BRANT were at Lake Wilhelm, and a BLACK
SCOTER was at Stonesboro Lake.
In nearby eastern Ohio, last week
there were 2 WESTERN GREBES.
They of course came from the opposite direction of Sandy,
but, as noted earlier, a WESTERN GREBE in
Pennsylvania this week, is not as much of a
"westerner", that is it is even further east (as
noted in Lebanon County).
From western Pennsylvania, Sandy turned north toward
western New York State and Ontario.
On October 30, a LEACH'S STORM-PETREL was seen over Lake
Ontario, flying west past the Fort Niagara State
Park in New York. It was a new species
for that region.
BRANT were noted moving along the Lake Ontario
shoreline in hundreds to thousands, with also high numbers
of COMMON LOONS, BLACK SCOTERS, and RED-BREASTED
At Fort Erie, in Ontario, on November 1,
there were 3 POMARINE JAEGERS, a BLACK-LEGGED KITTIWAKE,
a SABINE'S GULL, along with, oh yes, a ROSS' GULL.
Certainly a LEACH'S STORM-PETREL at Lake Ontario, and
maybe JAEGERS, the KITTIWAKE, and the SABINE's were due to
After a big storm, where do displaced birds go? How
often do the individual birds recover? And how much
is a particular species impacted? These are all questions
for another time, another Birdline.
The Birdline & Natureline are
affiliates of Focus On Nature Tours.
Armas Hill has presented the Birdline, originally
from Philadelphia, on the phone and the internet for over
3 decades, and on the radio in Delaware for 10
For an archive of some previous Birdlines
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