Last week I wrote briefly about the effects of unsettled weather on bird movements and promised an update on the effects of then-Tropical Storm Isaac on birding in our area.
At the time, the storm was projected on a more easterly path that suggested a landfall along the Florida Panhandle or slightly west, with inland movement just west of the mountains. This was a track that would have been similar to a storm in 2004 that brought some unusual birds into Mecklenburg County.
Tropical storms and hurricanes are known for sucking seabirds and shorebirds into the eye. These birds move with the storm within the relative calm of the eye.
As the storms move inland and begin to dissipate, the birds are able to exit the cyclone, but only after a trip of potentially hundreds of miles inland. As a result many species that would not normally be found at inland sites, or over land at all, turn up after a storm’s passage. Birders have long known this, and if safe and practical, they get out and look for these wind-blown rarities.
Birding is best on the east side of a storm closer to the center of passage. Though the storm in 2004 was well to our west, I was able to locate a bridled tern, a tropical species, at Lake Wylie. A couple of days later a parasitic jaeger was seen at Lake Norman. Jaegers are rare inland, and bridled terns occur only as the result of storms.
When the center of Hugo passed over Cleveland County to our west in 1989, a spectacular fallout of birds occurred, resulting in many first or only records for Mecklenburg County.
So I was hoping for a little bit more wind and rain from Isaac. I have heard of a magnificent frigatebird that was seen at Jordan Lake near the Triangle earlier this week, but that is the only species that might have been a storm-blown rarity.