Incredible Early Snow Event

29 Oct 2011, Norwalk, CT

An unusually cold and intense nor'easter has arrived in New England. Autumn nor'easters are not rare, but those delivering measurable snowfall in October sure are! Here are some quick thoughts on how it may affect the local birding world.

- The strong NE winds may result in a few birds being blown into Long Island Sound. Expect a pulse of Northern Gannets, probably a scoter/loon movement, plus a shot at something rare (an alcid or jaeger perhaps? Parasitic is the default jaeger in CT waters, but we're entering into the time of year when Pomarine Jaeger should be looked for.)

- Check inland bodies of water, especially during Saturday's inclement weather. Waterfowl should be migrating on the northerly winds and will be knocked down when they run into the precip approaching from the SW. Could be a fallout at the reservoirs on Saturday or first-thing Sunday.

- Sunday should produce a nice diurnal migration as birds move south to vacate the cold and snowy inland areas. Hawks will be on the move (if it's quite windy, coastal spots like Lighthouse should be best...if lighter winds, Boothe Park and Quaker Ridge might rule). Geese could/should be flying if there's enough snow to cover their favorite feeding fields to the north. Check those flocks for rarer species like Cackling, Barnacle, Pink-footed, Snow, Ross's, Greater White-fronted and Graylag.

- Lingering passerines will be cold. Check sheltered and sunny locations. Insectivores normally found in the canopy may be found on/near the ground searching for insects. Check sewage treatment plants for birds drawn to the abundant insects. Scour swallow flocks for Cave Swallow or better. (Note: this is far from the classic Cave Swallow pattern, but we're at that time of year when the first one or two are sometimes reported). The swallows will be lower to the ground and more concentrated in this weather.

- Fill your hummingbird feeders, even if you've taken them in for the season. There are certainly a few lingering hummers still around, and they will be drawn to any food source. Consider rare species as well.

The above photo was taken this morning in Norwalk Harbor. The forecast had called for rain all day on the coast, mixing and changing to snow around dusk, with snow continuing through the night. Well, as you can see from that photo, so much for that! The snow is piling up on every surface and the roads are a mess. It looks like we're in for more than the few inches that had been forecast, which, by the way, would have been rather amazing anyway.

- Nick


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