Saturday, October 24, 2015

Will Patricia bring us any storm waifs?

Tropical Storms and Hurricanes are well known for displacing seabirds to places outside their normal geographical ranges, sometimes even depositing truly pelagic species well inland.  This is a predictable enough phenomenon that experienced birders are out scouring bodies of water and lawns after every storm.

What about Patricia?  Conventional wisdom is that the best tropical-weather birding is near the track of the storm, or on its east side- so far, so good.  However, Patricia's unusual path across the highlands of Mexico makes it hard to believe that any birds will be displaced from the Pacific all the way to here.  Could it displace something to us from the southwestern Gulf of Mexico?  Maybe- we don't have much precedent to judge by, given this storm's unusual track.  However, since winds will not be particularly strong in the Gulf, it seems unlikely.

The species most readily displaced by tropical weather in our area is the Magnificent Frigatebird.  This species occurs normally on the Gulf Coast of Louisiana, and nearly every tropical system that comes our way pushes a few inland as far as New Orleans and Lake Pontchartrain.  So, keep your eyes open for frigates in the sky- maybe Patricia will have enough punch left to send some inland to us.   

The rain produced by Patricia may also produce some good birding- causing water birds that would pass over to pause in our area.  Hurricane Opal in 1995 deposited a Sabine's Gull at Southshore Harbor on the Lake- still the only one I have seen in Louisiana. 

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