Jen's parents live right on the coast and would have to deal with the triad of Hurricane handouts: wind, tidal surge and crushing waves. All three elements meant two things: flooding and damage! Jen's parents also have a beach cottage in front of their home that is right on the beach just above the high tide line. Irene nearly devastated their cottage, but it managed to survive. The cottage was engulfed in heavy surf with waves breaking over the roof. Although sustaining major damage, it was repaired and restored in great shape. It was hard to believe that it was still standing! Sandy however was being called a "Superstorm" and was predicted to be worse than the Hurricane of '38! Everyone feared that the cottage would not be able to withstand this storm. Jen's parent's house is fourteen feet above the high water line. The National Weather Service was predicting a tidal surge of eleven to sixteen feet caused by the Force 12 easterly winds occurring right at the highest tide of the year. Everyone on the coast would be in great danger!
Sandy came and went, and the coast from Mass. to New Jersey was devastated. We were unable to get out (again) because of trees down over the roads. Sandy was a more intense triple storm. Although Irene seemed to hand out more inland tree damage. Our street was only blocked by a single fallen tree (which of course) took the lines down with it! My mother in Meriden still had power and was doing fine. Jen's parents were out of power, and although the tidal surge was nearly knocking on their front door, it never made it! The water came within a few feet from the house. Even while being severely engulfed by the raging sea, the cottage made it again; we can't believe it! We managed to get out of our area by driving west on our street and getting to Jen's parents house with a few side street maneuvers and detours.
The wind had changed to Southwest and was blowing hard at forty-five to fifty. The Sound was violently churned-up like I hadn't seen it but only a few times in my life. Just like with Irene, Madison, wasn't spared! After a quick inspection of the cottage, I decided to do a little "Sound-watching" knowing that there would be many seabirds leaving the Sound after being pushed in by Sandy. My vantage point was at sea level so it made scoping difficult. I knew that most of the birds would be out in the distance and hard to spot from my low vantage point. I ducked in just behind the corner of the cottage to escape the wind which would make the seawatching a little easier....(and of course so I didn't get soaked from the constant sea spray)!
My main landmark area that I would be focusing my attention on would be Faulkner's Island. There are many reefs and ledges throughout the area from the beach all the way to the Island. There is also a deep drop-off near Faulkners that has always been a good area for birds. This is the area that I figured the birds would be using to escape the Sound.
Sandy may have left, but her hold on the Sound was clear!-
Tunxis Island off West Wharf, Madison-
My view through my scope-
This small jetty is always out of the water......
Just as I was ready to start "watching", a few small flocks of Brant came flying along the shore heading East. The flocks were very close flying near or right over the cottages and houses on the beach-
I set the scope to the water just East of Faulkner's and immediately I spotted birds flying just over the surface of the Sound. As I looked close I saw Gulls, Gannets and SHEARWATERS!! The Shearwaters came in a continual stream from around Faulkners. They were all heading Southeast, and would appear for only a few seconds, disappearing in and out of the troughs of the huge waves! Unfortunately, the birds were very far out in the Sound, coupled by my low vantage point, and adding the quick views, it was almost impossible to photograph them. The image below illustrates this. Can you find the bird?.......
An enlarged view......
Because of my very low vantage point, it was almost impossible to photograph any birds out in the distance. What I ended up doing was from time to time to focus on the distance and take a rapid succession of images and hopefully I would capture something in the images. That wasn't too successful! After downloading nearly seven hundred fifty images, I didn't find too many birds in the images. But I did find a few.
Many flocks of migrating Double-crested Cormorants-
(In the background- more migrating Cormorants)-
While my eyes grew tired looking through a scope into the sun's broken glare, this Great Egret flew over highlighted beautifully by the blue sky-
The last few Gannets-
3 Kittiwakes seen together and 1 later as I was leaving at 1:30. . Gannets throughout the time 35 to 50 total many plunging by Charles Reef due east of half acre reef. Many W W Scoter, Common Loon and Brant. Large flocks of D C Cormorants heading west.
5 Common Terns heading east, 5 Laughing Gulls and two large very dark Terns heading west
Because I was taking damage shots, I only had my camera with the 50mm lens. As I walked around the cottage, I looked up and spotted four Swallows (three Barn and a single Tree) flying past heading west. I instinctively raised my camera and took two quick shots of the departing birds. As you can see the images are horrible, but I thought they would apply here. A few minutes later an alert came over my Blackberry that four Swallows (three Barn and one Tree) were spotted in Old Saybrook heading West-
Post Sandy sky-
The same small jetty from the image above showing excessive sand pile-up-
While we were there, Mark spotted a hen Gadwall mixed in with the Mallards-
.....two small flocks of Snow Buntings that came and went.....
.....and this single dark billed first winter Ring-billed Gull-
The peacfully feeding birds suddenly burst out of the grass and took flight.......
The majority of the Gannets were adults, with a handful of second and third winter, and three in first winter plumage.
GANNETS- over 350 in the time period I was there
Red-throated Loon- 7
Common Loon- 3
Horned Grebe- 1 (swimming at the end of the jetty)
Common Terns- 7
Forster's Terns- 6
Laughing Gulls- 3
KITTIWAKE- 1 (Very probable) seen well off shore following the Gannets displaying typical flight behaviour. Just too far with binoculars to get a positive look, but it apperaed to be a first winter with black 'M' visible on wings.
SNOW GEESE- 5 (2 adults- 3 juvenile) The first birds that I saw when I arrived at Meigs. The five Geese came from over the Sound heading North. They dropped their wings and appeared to be wanting to land in the marsh outside of Cedar Island. They circled the marsh once and then continued towards Clinton where they dropped down near Kelsey's Point.
Scoters (dark winged) 17 (too far to ID)
Red-breasted Mergansers- 7
Black Ducks- 65
Scaup- 125 (three flocks appeared to be mostly Greater)
Greater Yellowlegs- 3
Semi-palmated Plover- 3
Black-bellied Plover- 5
American Oystercatcher- 2
Purple Sandpiper- 1
Ruddy Turnstone- 2
Red-tailed Hawk- 2
Coopers Hawk- 3
Sharp-shinned Hawk- 2
Peregrine- 1 (harassing a female Redtail)
Snow Buntings- 13 (started in the Nature Center parking lot, than flew to Meigs Beach)
Horned Larks- 9
Yellow-rumped Warblers- 11 (on the beach getting out of the wind)