Monday, September 5, 2011

Irene birds #2 - Sooty Terns

The Sooty Tern was the defining bird of Hurricane then Tropical Storm Irene. They are frequently carried north by tropical cyclones. Other even more rare species may have been the headline, but the spread of the Sooty Tern was magnificent. Check out this eBird map of reported sightings from during and shortly after the storm.

Our friend Charlie Barnard found a group of probably 8 Sooty Terns Sunday morning as Irene was right on top of us. They were with Black, Forster's, Common Tern and more at the Washington Bridge that connects Stratford and Milford on the Housatonic River. Several others were able to make it there as the Sooty Terns literally flew feet over our heads, battling the ferocious wind and turbulent river. It was spectacular, though the photography conditions were as atrocious as could be. Frank Mantlik somehow took these great photos.

When it was not raining too hard and I was not staring in shock, I shot the following very rough HD video. It gives you a sense of what we and the birds were dealing with.

Sooty Terns - Hurricane Irene from Connecticut Audubon Society.

You can see several Sooty Tern flying about, sometimes way too close to me to focus on, especially when I was being blown over. Also note two Sooty Tern perching on a piece of floating debris in the river, something they are noted to do only rarely in many publications. One has to think that rule applies to more calm conditions and these birds needed a momentary break. As conditions eased a bit, as can be seen at the end of the video, they moved south down the river as fast as they could.

Scott Kruitbosch
Conservation Technician

Photos © Frank Mantlik; video © Scott Kruitbosch

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