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Preparing for the Storm

12:40 pm

Hurricane Hillary is currently intensifying along the coast as a Category 4 storm. According to the Windy App, the current projection suggests that it will closely follow the coastline. The eye of the hurricane is anticipated to dissipate just south of San Diego over the ocean when the storm will progress onto shore in the US as a tropical storm.

Prioritize Safety: The impending weather system will usher in substantial rainfall and powerful winds to our region. Your primary concern should be your personal safety. It is imperative to steer clear of low-lying areas prone to flooding, as well as unstable hills and canyons that may be susceptible to landslides. Exercise caution while traversing, as there is a possibility of tall trees and live electrical wires being brought down by the strong winds. Additionally, it’s worth noting that significant rainfall has previously wrecked inadequately protected cameras back East. To safeguard your camera equipment, ensure you come well-prepared.

Shifting our focus to the birds! Seasoned East Coast birders are no strangers to the effects of such storms. These weather events have a propensity to bring a diverse array of deep-sea birds inland. These avian species typically find themselves displaced along the trajectory of the storm’s eye. It’s advisable to diligently monitor the Windy App to ascertain the bodies of water that the storm closely tracks over. At present, Cabrillo Point and La Jolla provide secure and sheltered locations, offering ease of access for birding from your vehicle along the storm’s path. However, it’s important to note that these conditions could evolve as we approach the anticipated arrival window spanning Sunday night to Monday morning, and travel could become hazardous. Complicating matters, the storm’s passage is projected to occur during nighttime hours, potentially resulting in birds passing unnoticed. The early hours of Monday morning are likely to present the optimal opportunity for observing any lingering bird species. Kindly expedite reports of rare birds to the WhatsApp group.

In preparation, I have compiled a list of seabirds based on the prevalent breeding species of Isla Socorro and the neighboring regions where the storm originated. This compilation aims to aid enthusiasts in studying pertinent identification marks beforehand. Notably, Isla Socorro is home to a substantial population of Great Frigatebirds, outnumbering the Magnificent Frigatebirds by a factor of 10 to 1. Consequently, exercise thorough study and photographic documentation of any Frigatebirds encountered.

Other common breeders include Red-billed Tropicbird, Laysan Albatross, Masked/ Brown/ Red-footed Booby, Brown Noody, and Sooty Tern. Blue-footed Booby is more abundant closer to shore, but may also be displaced.

Townsend’s Shearwater is an endangered species that breed on the island, but their remaining numbers are very low. Other, more numerous, shearwaters in this area include in order Pink-footed, Sooty, Black-vented, Wedge-tailed, Galapagos, and Christmas Shearwater.
Storm-Petrels that seem most likely to be displaced by the storm in this area are in order; Leach’s, Least, Wedge-rumped, and Black Storm-Petrel.

Cook’s and Juan Fernandez are the most abundant Petrel species from the storm’s origin.

It’s also a strong El Nino, so who knows what else could show up. Relevant bar charts here:
https://ebird.org/barchart?byr=1900&eyr=2023&bmo=1&emo=10&r=MX-BCS,MX-COL,MX-JAL,MX-MIC,MX-NAY
Stay safe and good birding,
Tom Ford-Hutchinson
San Diego, CA