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.

Counting Waterfowl

Nov 29, 2017
Rodney Campbell /


In early November of 1983, Cape birder and prototypical citizen scientist Blair Nikula organized members of the Cape Cod Bird Club to count waterfowl on the freshwater lakes and ponds of the Cape. They covered more than 200 ponds that first year, tallying 4,000 ducks, loons, and grebes of 22 species.

As I sat down to write this week’s bird report, I was prepared to talk about the latest mind-bogglingly rare bird to turn up on the Cape. But then I had one of those forehead-slapping realizations where the proper course of action becomes painfully obvious. I’ll get to that rare bird next time, but this week we obviously need to talk turkey.

Birding in Peru

Nov 15, 2017
Mark Faherty

Recently I was lucky enough to be invited on an intense birding trip to Southern Peru, whose purpose was to promote ecotourism and showcase the regions birding potential. Mission accomplished.

Brian Kushner/Audubon Photography Awards


I recently spent a few days at a cabin nestled in some dense boreal forest in downeast Maine, where I had a chance to spend some quality time with an underappreciated species: the Blue Jay. At one point, from inside the cabin I heard a clear and perfect Sharp-shinned Hawk call, causing me to look outside, just in time to see a Blue Jay making the call from the deck railing.


We all have our travel nightmare stories. Missed and cancelled flights, luggage that ends up in a different continent, or being trapped in a sardine can of a plane stalled on the tarmac for hours. But imagine if you took off from Miami, heading to, say, Costa Rica for a long, warm winter’s retreat, only to find yourself landing right back in Boston?

Sean Williams

In the mind of the birder, rarity imparts beauty the average person might not see. A skulking little bird recently discovered at Peterson Farm in Falmouth is a good example of this phenomenon, at least at first glance. 

Andy Morffew /

I had decided last week that this week’s bird report would be about how farms and community gardens are among the best places for October birding. As if to bolster my case, a stunning male Painted Bunting decided to show up at Cape Cod Organic Farm in Barnstable this past Sunday. Sporting Day-Glo colors that look downright obscene against our classic, understated fall color palette, this bird is both visually and geographically out of place for October in New England.



After days of high winds and rough water, the forecast on October 6 was finally for calm weather, but with 100% chance of clouds. Clouds of shorebirds, that is. You see, I was helping with the US Fish and Wildlife Service Red Knot trapping project that day at South Beach in Chatham, home to the biggest shorebird roosts in the state. 

Washington Post

Within an hour of submitting my bird report for last week, in which I confidently declared that Hurricane Jose had brought no storm-blown tropical birds to Massachusetts, I received a text message that would prove me wrong. A mysterious and apparently sick bird had been called in from LeCount’s Hollow Beach in Wellfleet.

Eric Ellingson /

With Hurricane/Tropical Storm Jose finally in the rear view mirror, it’s time to assess how birds were impacted by this strange, lingering storm. When hurricanes approach us from the south, there are a few things that can happen. As I mentioned last week, if the storm remains strong and hits us directly, it can pick up all kinds of Caribbean seabirds along the way, potentially carrying them well inland if the storm makes landfall and tracks west.

Brandon Trentler /

With a few days of stormy weather ahead of us, it’s time to talk about birds and hurricanes. Here in the northeast, hurricanes originating in the Caribbean typically weaken into tropical storm before we see them, sparing us most of the destruction, and setting up potentially exciting times for birders on the Cape.

Mark Faherty

With the summer nesting season behind us, it’s the time when bird researchers turn their collective gaze upon bird migration, and the many mysteries it holds. Right here on Cape Cod, scientists are studying bird migration using a variety of methods, from the high tech and cutting edge to good, old-fashioned, 19th century trapping and monitoring methods – and sometimes both at the same time.

Say what? Say’s Phoebe! That’s what birders were saying last week when an uber rare flycatcher from the west made an appearance at Mass Audubon’s Wellfleet Bay Wildlife Sanctuary.

Mark Faherty

A wonderful bird is the pelican,
His bill will hold more than his belican,
He can take in his beak
Enough food for a week
But I'm damned if I see how the helican!

So goes the most famous limerick that Ogden Nash never wrote. 

Mark Faherty

Shoreline swarms of seabirds known as shearwaters have long-time Cape birders searching their vocabularies for superlatives in recent weeks. If you’ve been on a whale watch recently, especially out of Provincetown, you may also have noticed the impressive shearwater flocks blanketing the in-shore waters along both Long Point and Race Point.