“Are you lost?” is probably what the herons, ducks and geese are asking some very conspicuous long-legged, bright pink visitors in the Bay region this fall.
Flamingos have been spotted in at least two parts of our watershed in recent weeks, surprising locals and delighting tourists. Bay Bulletin was among the first to report a pair of flamingos all the way up in Pennsylvania where the Potomac and Susquehanna river basins meet. Contributing photojournalist Mark Hendricks caught striking photos of the flamingo couple with the Appalachian Mountains in the background.
Now, at least two flamingos have taken up residence in the waters between Chincoteague and Wallops islands on Virginia’s Eastern Shore. And they’re becoming very popular.
The Maryland Zoo in Baltimore says it’s likely that Hurricane Idalia caused the flamingos to be blown way off course as they attempted to migrate from the Yucatan peninsula to Cuba. Flamingos are native to the tropical Americas from the West Indies to northern South America, but only a handful are usually spotted in Florida.
Now they’re being found all over the Eastern Seaboard, including in Chincoteague. The Chincoteague Chamber of Commerce and Certified Visitor Center shared photos and video from Billy and Maranda Reed showing a flamingo in flight on Oct. 2. Boat tour company Up the Bay Pony Tours says they’ve been seeing the flamingos for nearly two weeks.
Operator Captain Mike Gellis tells us that just this week, guests have been requesting flamingo viewing on their cruises. Daisey’s Island Cruises and Captain Dan’s Around the Island Tours have also had luck spotting the flamingos.
Residents are getting in on the flamingo fever along with the tourists. The Chamber of Commerce tells us that Lisa William Kambarn put lighted plastic flamingos in her yard hoping to attract them.
Volunteers for the Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge were conducing a bird survey when they, too, found a flamingo. Laurel Wilkerson, Visitor Services Manager at the refuge, relayed that two flamingos were found in different parts of Chincoteague at the same time, proving that there are at least two birds.
Wasting no time in jumping in on the flamingo excitement, local travel blog Chincoteague Traveler began advertising a tongue-in-cheek t-shirt design. It reads “Chincoteague Flamingo Swim 2023” with striking artwork of a brilliant pink bird. Move over ponies, there’s some new wildlife to spot around the island.
-Meg Walburn Viviano