Mark Faherty

Mark Faherty writes the Weekly Bird Report.

Mark has been the Science Coordinator at Mass Audubon’s Wellfleet Bay Wildlife Sanctuary since August 2007 and has led birding trips for Mass Audubon since 2002. While his current projects involve everything from oysters and horseshoe crabs to bats and butterflies, he has studied primarily bird ecology for the last 20 years, working on research projects in Kenya, Florida, Texas, California, Arizona, Mexico, and the Pacific Northwest. He was a counter for the famous River of Raptors hawk watch in Veracruz, Mexico, and has birded Africa, Panama, Belize, and both Eastern and Western Europe. Mark is an emcee and trip leader for multiple birding festivals and leads workshops on birding by ear, eBird, birding apps, and general bird identification. He is past president of the Cape Cod Bird Club and current member of the Massachusetts Avian Records Committee.

 

There’s a sneaky bird in our midst. A bird so devious, so duplicitous that even this bird guy was recently fooled. To make matters worse, the tragedy I will now describe happened in my own backyard, just a few feet from my door. The innocent victims in this story are a pair of Carolina Wrens. The villain is a bird obscure to most but infamous to some: the Brown-headed Cowbird.

Jonathan Blithe / flickr / bit.ly/2L5cFOm

 

Monomoy National Wildlife Refuge includes a network of ever-shifting barrier beaches and islands dangling from the elbow of Cape Cod. Once home to a 19th-century fishing community complete with a school and, of course, a tavern, the island is now mostly designated as a federal wilderness area, so most of the eating and drinking is done by the wildlife these days. 

Joseph Cavanaugh

You may have noticed that the rotaries are choked with tentative, confused motorists, which must mean that July has occurred. And this year, the Bird Report falls squarely on Independence Day, that holiday that bottle-rockets us into the tourist season, so I feel more compelled than usual to address the most majestic of avian beasts, our national symbol, the Bald Eagle.

Mark Faherty

A couple of weeks ago, as I celebrated my first Father’s Day by sharing a loungy morning on the deck with my wife and four-month-old son, I thought about what it takes to be a great dad. Looking up at one point, I noticed that I wasn’t the only new dad at my house. 

Mark Faherty

It’s June on Cape Cod, which means that it’s time for people to start squawking a little louder about Piping Plovers. These small, sand-colored local residents have been nesting on our beaches for eons, but in modern times they have come into conflict with certain forms of human recreation, and as a result have become “fauna non grata” among some people. And for those us who work to monitor and protect these federally Threatened birds, this negative perception of plovers can make for some bad days at work.

Mark Faherty

 

Just offshore of Chatham there lies a seasonal village you may not be aware of. The residents arrive promptly and noisily each May, then leave for their winter homes again around October. During their stay, they create chaos, noise, and traffic - well, air traffic at least – in pursuit of beach space and local seafood. And summer wouldn’t be the same without them. Surprise! I’m actually talking about birds. What are the odds?

Jo Reeve / bit.ly/2JdxOcB

 

A couple of ace birders recently had a “Ruff” time in Chatham waters. By which I, of course, mean that they found a Ruff, an exceedingly rare old-world sandpiper – the waters were actually quite calm. Painfully obscure bird puns aside, this was indeed an excellent find, representing only the 5th ever spring record for the Cape and islands. The natural history of the Ruff is the stuff of old spy novels, full of far-flung old world locales, sex, deception, and even murder. Oh, and also cross-dressing – we’ll get to that in a minute.

Fiona Paton / flickr / Creative Commons / bit.ly/2xpn315

An obscure population of Cape Codders has tripled in recent years, and they may be coming to a neighborhood near you. With a history of persecution, these gruff but intelligent residents have been finding Cape Cod hospitable for the first time in centuries. They are Common Ravens.

skuarua / https://bit.ly/2s4uB3H

It’s the sweetest time of year for us songbird enthusiasts – the warbler wave has arrived. While at least some migrant warblers have been around since late April, starting on Friday, a swarm of at least 24 species of these colorful forest songbirds were reported by local birders over the subsequent four days.

ricmcarthur / flickr / https://bit.ly/2GfR3Md

This past weekend was Mass Audubon’s annual Bird-a-thon fundraiser, which meant that hordes of birders were scouring every corner of the state in search of birds that would put their team over the top. In hopes of winning the vaunted Brewster Cup, I sent forth birders from the Berkshires to Provincetown.

Claudine Lamothe / https://bit.ly/2K4tHv7

While April slapped us around and spit in our face, it looks like May is treating us a little better. Spring is fairly exploding all around us as leaves, flowers, and colorful birds suddenly grace gray, previously lifeless branches. It might even be safe to plant some summer annual seeds. It’s definitely safe to go birding.

Mark Faherty

With the welcome arrival of May and a little warm weather, bird migration should finally be kicking into high gear. And with that comes a change in our local soundscapes as locally nesting songbirds arrive and the males immediately get down to defending their territories.

CREDIT TOM MURRAY / HTTPS://BIT.LY/2VJTPTY

Birds do what they want. They have no time for “the man” and his rules about where and when they should be found. I never would have predicted that this would be a year we would see our migrant songbirds back early from the tropics, but that’s what makes birding so compelling – they always keep you guessing, and I guessed wrong on this one.

Mark Faherty

What has a forked tail and catches flies? In reality, there are several bird species that fit this description, but this week in this place there’s only one right answer - the super-rare Fork-tailed Flycatcher.

Chad Horwedel / https://bit.ly/2EAVGzq

As I’m sure you’ve noticed, bird song in your neighborhood has been steadily picking up over the last several weeks. Bird hormones are surging in response to the lengthening days, producing a variety of behavioral and physiological changes to prepare them for breeding season, including ever lustier singing. So I want to take this opportunity to offer an early spring tune-up for your birding ears, because once the long distance songbird migrants come flooding back next month, the degree of difficulty will be much higher.

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