Weekly Bird Report

Ed Dunens bit.ly/2e6bGR6 / bit.ly/1mhaR6e

Already one of the great seabird watching locations in the world, Cape Cod recently produced yet another staggering record. Following last weekend’s storm, a Yellow-nosed Albatross was spotted doing what albatrosses do, casually gliding around in the wicked winds off First Encounter Beach in Eastham.

Len Blumin bit.ly/2dl8AYe / bit.ly/OJZNiI

October, the season of asters and goldenrods, of sparrows and seabirds, is perhaps my favorite month in New England, and not just because I look better in pants than shorts. October is a time of many significant transitions in the bird world, and I’m going to try to cover as many of them as I can this week, so buckle your seat belts.

Mark Faherty

The Cape is currently under siege by pirates – over a thousand have been seen in the last week alone. Robberies at sea have skyrocketed, and you can see the high-speed chases for yourself at places like Race Point in Provincetown. 

Mark Faherty

It’s a late summer afternoon on Lieutenant Island in Wellfleet, and some suspicious characters are hanging around by the bridge. Some are crouching behind the railings, and others are peering through high powered optics.

Mark Faherty

Recently, a saltmarsh in Sandwich was visited by an inconspicuous little bird with an incredible migration story to tell. The Northern Wheatear is a rare and obscure visitor to the lower 48 states, despite the fact that it breeds on Arctic tundra from Eastern Canada to Alaska.

Patty McGann bit.ly/2cH8QiM / bit.ly/1jNlqZo

There’s a jaw-dropping bird migration spectacle that only happens in September, and I’m afraid you’ll have to cross the bridge to catch a glimpse of it. The problem is, Broad-winged Hawks hate to fly over water, and there are no winds strong enough to coax them across the bay to Cape Cod on their southbound flight each September.

Mark Faherty

The next couple of months provide the absolute best birding on the Cape and Islands. 

Birds all over North America are on the move, and, beyond the embarrassment of riches that is our normal flood of migrants, the potential for rarities is very high now. Take, for example, the two Yellow-headed Blackbirds that were discovered walking tamely around Kalmus Beach in Hyannis over the weekend. These striking blackbirds are a strictly western species during the breeding season, but one or two misguided migrants can be expected each fall on the Cape by a sharp-eyed birder.

Ed Dunens bit.ly/2bQRhuL / bit.ly/OJZNiI

There’s still a mysterious ornithological frontier in Massachusetts, lying at the ragged fringe of both the state’s boundaries and our knowledge of bird distributions. To get there, you need a mariners constitution and a big boat. And, ideally, a strong stomach. 

Mark Faherty

Last week we talked about Black Skimmers, one of the southern waterbird species that seem to be on the rise in Massachusetts, as evidenced by an all-time high count recently recorded on the Vineyard. But there’s a second bird of more southerly affinities that has been quietly on the increase in these parts – the Yellow-crowned Night-Heron. 


While the rest of us are barely surviving the heat, humidity, and drought, a couple of southern waterbird species had a banner year on the Cape and islands, where their populations seem to be on the rise.