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Flamingos flock to Port Washington beach: 'I had tears in my eyes'

Experts say the flamingos were diverted by Hurricane Idalia
Flamingos in Port Washington
Posted at 9:23 AM, Sep 25, 2023
and last updated 2023-09-25 10:23:23-04

PORT WASHINGTON, Wis. — Flamingos were spotted at a Port Washington beach on Friday, bringing dozens of people to catch a glimpse.

The birds, normally suited for a warmer place like South Beach in Miami, were spotted at South Beach in Port Washington around 2:30 p.m. Experts say the flamingos were flying between Cuba and Mexico when they were diverted by Hurricane Idalia, a Category 4 hurricane formed in late August.

No matter the reason, it was a once-in-a-lifetime experience for the folks in Port Washington Friday afternoon.

"I heard it this afternoon," Beth Lambright said. "It's a zoo down here."

"We just came," Angela Figueroa said. "We had no idea there would be this many people."

For this type of rare experience, one man drove up from Oak Forest, Ill.

"This is what we call a lifer, in the birding community," Ian Sarmiento said. "I've never seen one in my life so I got to go get it. It's what, two and a half hours? It's a lifer."

Birders flock to Port Washington for flamingos
Birders referred to this opportunity as a "lifer." Something they'd be able to capture on camera once in a lifetime.

Sarmiento was one of the many people who were snapping very professional photos. Their rigs look like they'd be better suited on a football sideline for the Super Bowl. Lengthy lenses that can pick up the finest details of these fluorescent phoenicopteriformes (Click here, because we know you want to know).

"You get the butterflies," Steven Thompson, a birder said. "You can see the people who just showed up and how jittery they are at first when they show up."

The jitters extended farther than just amateur ornithologists (Again, here's the definition). This type of experience was an emotional one for Dawn Ritter.

"It's just shocking," Ritter said. "And of all places! I had tears in my eyes."

Ritter absolutely adores flamingos. She says from a young age, they've been her favorite. Drawn to their bright, pink hue was the start, but her love grew from there.

Dawn Ritter loves flamingos
For Dawn Ritter, she was ready for the flamingos in Port Washington.

"I love flamingos," She said. "I have everything flamingo. My favorite color is pink and I like feathers and that kind of stuff. They're just so majestic."

Ritter was probably the second most photographed thing at the beach Friday. She was sporting her own flamingo outfit. She became more popular around 5:30 when the flamingos flew away.

It was a brief amount of time the five feathered friends hung out in Port Washington, but it was a day the people here will never forget.

Flamingos flying away

It is expected that the flamingos will return to their habitats after temperatures drop, according to experts.