Since my initial post on the storm, Irene has picked up some speed and should arrive sooner than we had thought. Rather than a Sunday into early Monday event, this looks like late Saturday through Sunday. We should see the first rain bands, but minimal winds, this afternoon. Things will really get cranking overnight and it seems certain that we'll be waking up to tropical storm-like conditions on Sunday morning. The center of circulation should reach our latitude around midday on Sunday, perhaps still a Cat 1 hurricane. This is not good timing for potential storm surge, as high tide is during the late morning in western Long Island Sound. During the worst of it, coastal birding does NOT look like an option at this point. Low-lying areas in particular should be 100% avoided as these will be the most deadly locations.
Exact track is still unknown, with CT remaining in the crosshairs. Since we're right in the projected path, the slightest shift in position would make a big impact on where I decide to look for birds. As long as landfall isn't east of CT, I know I'll spend my time at or east of the center of circulation.
There's a chance that the storm could be clearing out of here before dark on Sunday. If this is so, Sunday afternoon-evening (which also happens to be around low tide) may provide a window of opportunity to get out and look for birds that the brunt of the storm has dropped off. Look for such birds at inland bodies of water and, if a safe option, river mouths (Connecticut and Housatonic in particular). Or even clearing out of Long Island Sound, heading back east with a tailwind at that point.
As always, safety comes first.