Hurricane Fiona was a remarkably long-lived hurricane that battered Guadeloupe, Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, and Turks and Caicos before swerving north, skimming Bermuda, and advancing over water all the way to Canada. At one point a powerful Category 4 hurricane, it weakened briefly and became a post-tropical cyclone before making landfall at Whitehead, Nova Scotia on 24 Sep 2022. The storm then intensified as it headed north over Nova Scotia that day, whipping up hurricane-strength wind speeds of 99−111 mph (159−179 km/h) across the northern part of the province. Intrepid storm birders documented several displaced tropical and pelagic species in Nova Scotia, most notably Canada’s first Trindade Petrels.
Almost all the storm birds associated with Fiona were reported from Nova Scotia, and most of those were at Bras d’Or Lake, a 424 sq. mi. (1,099 sq. km) body of water in Cape Breton Island. Unless otherwise noted, locations mentioned below are in Nova Scotia. Many areas were still without power and communications up to two weeks after the storm, and as of this writing, Prince Edward Island is still in the dark; more reports may be forthcoming.
Sooty Tern is frequently whisked northward or inland on hurricane winds, and at least two were seen on Bras d’Or Lake on 24 Sep. An adult and a juvenile were at Iona, Victoria Co, and one was seen further east on the lake in Pipers Cove, Cape Breton Co. A Bridled Tern also turned up at Bras d’Or Lake, Iona, Victoria Co, on 24 Sep. Fiona barreled through those species’ usual ranges in the Western Atlantic, which extends north to offshore North Carolina during migration. A juvenile Least Tern was out of range post-storm at Dominion Beach Provincial Park 26 Sep and nearby Margret Boone Memorial Park 27 Sep on Cape Breton Island’s northeastern shore at Dominion, Cape Breton Co. Least Tern can be found far offshore in migration.
Half a dozen White-tailed Tropicbirds appeared in Nova Scotia in the wake of the storm. Two graced Bras d’Or Lake, Iona, Victoria Co on 24 Sep. Another was stranded at Port Hawkesbury, Inverness Co on 24 Sep and was subsequently delivered to a wildlife rehabber. Two were found in Reserve Mines, Cape Breton Co, in northeastern Cape Breton Island: one moribund individual was found there on 24 Sep and died the following day; the other was transported to a wildlife rehabber on 25 Sep. A sixth was recovered deceased at East Bay, Bras d’Or Lake, Cape Breton Co on 26 Sep. Fiona passed over White-tailed Tropicbird breeding sites at Puerto Rico and Bermuda, and the species is regular well offshore in the western Atlantic north to North Carolina.
White-faced Storm-Petrels were blown inland to Bras d’Or Lake, where they were documented from Iona to East Bay. As many as six individuals were kangaroo-hopping on East Bay in Cape Breton Co 24−27 Sep. Singles showed up at Iona, Victoria Co and Pipers Cove, Cape Breton Co on 24 Sep. Another was stranded under a patio in Ben Eoin, Cape Breton Co on 25 Sep, and there were multiple reports of the species around Castle Bay Park Reserve and Castle Bay Beach in Cape Breton Co on 26 Sep. Although the species’s usual fall range in the western Atlantic extends offshore from North Carolina to Nova Scotia, there are few inland records of hurricane-stranded White-faced Storm-Petrels. A Band-rumped Storm-Petrel was likewise noteworthy at East Bay, Bras d’Or Lake, Cape Breton Co on 24 Sep; under usual circumstances, the species is found in the western Atlantic exclusively in deep water off the continental shelf. A smattering of storm-related records come from locales as far inland as Missouri and Indiana.
Canada’s first Trindade Petrel, a light morph, was photographed on Bras d’Or Lake at Iona, Victoria Co, on 24 Sep. Later the same day, two were seen together (a light morph and a dark morph) by the same observers on East Bay, Bras d’Or Lake, Cape Breton Co.
The ABA Area’s first Trindade Petrel (“Trinidad Petrel”) was found in Tompkins Co, New York following a hurricane in 1933. Other out-of-range records, mostly storm related, come from Mecklenburg Co in inland North Carolina during Hurricane Fran in 1996; Blair Co, Pennsylvania during Hurricane Sandy in 2012; York Co in coastal Maine in 2014; and Wilson Co in inland North Carolina during Hurricane Florence in 2018. There is also a 2015 pelagic record from international waters well off Newfoundland southeast of the Grand Banks. Long considered a population of Herald Petrel, it was split off by AOS in 2015.
A Black-capped Petrel was reported from Poor Island on Bras d’Or Lake, Richmond Co on 25 Sep. Previous records of the species from Canada are―unsurprisingly―storm-related and come from Ontario on Lakes Erie and Ontario, and date back to 1893.
An Audubon’s Shearwater was notable on Bras d’Or Lake at Poor Island, Richmond Co on 25 Sep. This species is rare in Nova Scotia’s pelagic waters.
Finally, no account of hurricane birding would be complete without Magnificent Frigatebirds, and sure enough, one was seen from a boat in both Québec and New Brunswick waters on 23 Sep, hours before the storm hit the region. Post-Fiona, one appeared over the St. Lawrence River off Sept-Îles, Québec on 28 Sep, and another turned up far offshore over Flemish Pass in international waters well off Newfoundland 30 Sep. Magnificent Frigatebird can be found throughout the tropical Atlantic and is scarce north to North Carolina.
No stranger to ABA publications, Amy Davis has served as Sightings department editor at Birding and technical reviewer at Birder’s Guide. She was also photo editor for Pennsylvania Birds. Amy loves citizen science and volunteered extensively for breeding bird atlases in Pennsylvania, Delaware, and West Virginia. She resides in Forked River, NJ, and recently broke her home county’s big year record. When she’s not birding the Barnegat Bay, Amy studies nursing and plays classical piano.
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