Monday, August 29, 2011

Birding after the Storm

The worst parts of Hurricane Irene passed through New Jersey in the early morning hours. The eye made landfall in the state around 6 am near Little Egg Inlet, the waterway between Atlantic City and Long Beach Island, very close to the Brigantine portion of Forsythe NWR. It was only the third storm to make landfall in New Jersey as a hurricane and the first since the Vagabond Hurricane of 1903. It continued up the coast and degraded into a tropical storm as it reached New York City.

Donaldson Park was flooded by the surging Raritan
As the eye was passing Central New Jersey, I took a walk down to Donaldson Park, my local patch, to see if any unusual birds were around. As I expected, the park was completely flooded. There were about 150 Laughing Gulls, as well as flocks of swallows (mostly Tree Swallows), taking advantage of the newly flooded fields. As I mentioned in yesterday's post, that many Laughing Gulls is very unusual for the site. I looked for terns but saw none. Even something common like a Forster's Tern would have been a nice sighting for the location.

There was not too much damage in my neighborhood, just some limbs down and one fallen tree, as far as I could see. The carpenter bee above was apparently killed by the storm, either by drowning or by being slammed into the ground by a gust of wind. A baby squirrel must have been knocked out of its nest by the wind.

In the afternoon, I went out again, this time across the Albany Street Bridge into New Brunswick. The bridge is closed because of flooding on the New Brunswick end, and Route 18 is closed because of flooding in multiple places. The river is very high right now, and it is expected to get worse before it gets better. The Delaware and Raritan Canal, its towpath, and Boyd Park have disappeared under the flood waters.

As I walked across the bridge and along Route 18's deserted northbound lanes, I kept an eye out for interesting birds. There were a lot of swallows around; I identified both Barn Swallows and Tree Swallows, but not any others. About 100 Laughing Gulls were in the air. Beyond that, I did not see anything out of the ordinary.