Hurricane Irene swept seabirds inland

Aug. 30, 2011 at 1:08 PM
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PHILADELPHIA, Aug. 30 (UPI) -- Hurricane Irene brought a bonus for Philadelphia-area birders with species usually found far out to sea or in the tropics showing up in the city's suburbs.

In Cape May, N.J., one of the world's top birding spots even in normal weather, some people hit the beach at daybreak Sunday as wind and high waves still lashed the area, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported. Vince Elia, a researcher with the New Jersey Audubon Society, said hurricanes are his favorite times because of the birds blown in by storm winds from the tropics and the ocean.

"I always say, it's the most exciting birding that there is," he said. "If I'm in Costa Rica, I know the birds I'm expecting to see. The thing with a hurricane is, you just don't know the next thing that's going to come around the corner."

Birders have spotted a number of exotic species closer to the city. One birder used a cellphone to capture a photo of a tropical frigate bird in the parking lot at the Plymouth Meeting Mall, while another spotted a jaeger, normally found 50 miles or more at sea, in a Bucks County park.

Frank Windfielder of the Pennsylvania Audubon Society said at least 10 species of tern were spotted in Philadelphia. There were also many shorebirds that nest in the mid-Atlantic states.

By Monday, most of the unusual birds were gone.

"These birds are pushed inland," Windfelder said. "Once they find water, they know to head downriver."

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