Birders Flock to the Hudson the Morning After Hurricane Sandy

“It’s amazing how variable the experiences can be. We were basically fine. No power loss and yet 8 million people are apparently without power.”

That was how a passerby summed it up for me when our respective paths came to a halt before a downed tree in Riverside Park. It was one of dozens of majestic tress struck down by the massive storm.

Famished animals, many left homeless by the hurricane, forraged for food among the litter of leaves and branches.

In the course of a walk by the river I saw feeding squirrels and starlings, some ducks and even a red-tailed hawk. A group of birders gathered at the 79th Street Boat Basin Cafe to watch storm-tossed ocean birds make their way up the Hudson toward New York Harbor, and ultimately back to the sea.

“Storm Petrels and jaegers are things that we wouldn’t ordinarily see here but after hurricanes they often turn up,” said Dr. Richard Fried a veterinarian and local birder.

“A lot of birds that get blown off course never make it back to where they’re supposed to go because they’re exhausted or injured or they’re in the wrong habitat to get food or they’re preyed upon by predators they don’t normally have to defend themselves against.”

According to Fried, The Ornithology Department for the Museum of Natural History has put out a call asking birders to bring the bodies of rare species they might come across to the museum to be added to their collections.

POSTSCRIPT: 1/5/13 Columbia University Journalism School students Matthew Claiborne and Salima Koroma produced this great piece on post-Sandy birding using some of the above footage shot along the Hudson River during and after Sandy.

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Hudson River Winter

The Hudson froze over last week. The river ice didn’t last for more than 24 hours, but during that time, it completely transformed everything around it.

Postscript: A number of people expressed concern for the cat huddled on the river bank in the above video. Our paths crossed again recently and with the worst of the winter behind her–I understand calico coats are exclusive to females– she seemed content to continue watching the river from her perch.

Score: “Testing the Jammer” by Freescha

Rocky Revisited

I recently spotted a yellow bird while biking along the Hudson River. The little fella really stood out against the rocks where he seemed to be contemplating a flyover to New Jersey. I was part of a small group that gathered to watch him. After about 20 minutes, I decided to climb over the rocks to try and grab him, figuring that if I didn’t, he’d either drown or be eaten by a hawk. It took a couple of swats to get a hold of him. He put up an impressive struggle–distressed animals, no matter how small, can be surprisingly strong –and tried to take the tip off my thumb. I managed to cover him with a scarf, put him in the basket on my bike and to take him to a local bird clinic.

Rescuing a bird is something that stays with you and I thought about him a lot during the following week, even going so far as to name him Rocky. When I went back to the clinic to check on him, I found out Rocky was a female peach-faced Lutino lovebird, only a couple of months old. After a few tests, she was deemed to be healthy and put up for adoption. True to her name, Rocky got off to a rough start. The initial adopter couldn’t keep her and she subsequently spent a solitary stretch in a holding area at the bird clinic. The vets grew concerned when her appetite began to wane and she stopped grooming herself. Then she was paired with another lovebird. Before long they hit it off and Rocky was on the road to recovery.

Postscript 8/20/2010: Thanks to Rocky’s wonderful vet for forwarding this recent snapshot of the happy pair at home. She was right about the bright red forehead…