Variously known as “Frankenstorm” and “Megastorm,” Hurricane Sandy made her way toward NYC this afternoon. With mass transit service suspended and school closings across the city, many New Yorkers were treating the approaching Category -1 storm like a snow day. Everyone seemed much less uptight than they did around this time last year when Hurricane Irene loomed just off shore. The fact that Sandy is a storm roughly twice the size of Irene doesn’t really sink in until you see it on paper.
“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.