I always underestimate June. In my head, it marks the sad end of spring migration and all the giddy rediscovery that goes with it. Hearing the song of a warbler you haven’t heard in a year, seeing them and the Arctic nesting shorebirds in the full glory of their breeding plumage for just a few short weeks, and new local breeding birds arriving every day.
Such are the joys of May. I think of June as the doldrums between the spring and fall migrations. And June always proves me wrong.
This month always holds a few surprises for the optimistic and vigilant birder to discover, as evidenced by several nice sightings this week. One of the expected rarities, to coin an oxymoron, is the Mississippi Kite. Each June a few of these southern hawks turn up, typically in Truro and Provincetown. In fact, three were noted soaring over Provincetown this past weekend, where one was even photographed snatching dragonflies from the air, as is their wont. Like huge swallows, these master flyers among the hawks do nearly everything while airborne, including eat.
Also in Provincetown, the always productive Race Point to Hatches Harbor stretch of beach produced an uber-rare Franklin’s Gull, a standout among an already star-studded cast of gulls seen there in recent days. An amazing eleven different species of gulls were identified in Provincetown over the weekend, something that wouldn’t be possible anywhere else in the eastern US right now. Consider that only three species nest here in Massachusetts, meaning nine of these were essentially vagrants at this season. Among them are Little Gull, Black-headed Gull, and Lesser Black-backed Gull, all of which are mostly European and Asian nesting species whose presence here at this time of year is puzzling at best.
Maybe gulls aren’t your thing. In fact, I’m pretty sure gulls aren’t your thing. In that case, I submit for your approval the gorgeous male Hooded Warbler just discovered singing in Beebe Woods in Falmouth. Another real June surprise, this sweet-singing, glowing yellow southern warbler does not generally breed this far north, so any appearance is a treat for local birders – a little sweet tea for the eyes and ears.
And then there are all of the interesting breeding birds to be discovered during June. Several new breeding species for the Cape and Islands have been discovered by enterprising birders in recent years, like Alder and Acadian Flycatchers, Barred Owls, Peregrine Falcons, Merlins, and Common Ravens. And June is a great time to find them – traffic is not peaking yet and you can even go to the beaches without paying for a little while longer.
But we’ll need to work fast to find those breeding birds – believe it or not, we only have about a month to catch our breath before the first trickle of southbound migrant shorebirds begin to arrive on our mud flats, and by mid-July the floodgates will have fully opened. Even a few local songbirds will be starting their southward migrations in a little over a month. So enjoy these so-called doldrums while you can, the southbound migrating birds will be all around us before you know it. And so will the tourists – don’t forget about the tourists.