Weekly Bird Report

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.

Kelly Colgan Azar bit.ly/2bdmU6n / bit.ly/1dGcPd3

In the bird world, it’s always a time of transition. Whether it’s mid-December or mid-August, some bird somewhere is on the move, or molting from one plumage to another, or changing their behavior in response to cues from the environment, like day length.


The boom of four iron cannons broke the relative silence of North Beach Island in Chatham on Sunday, heralding the start of another season of Red Knot trapping. 

Gregory Breese/USFWS bit.ly/2as1Hne / bit.ly/OJZNiI

It may not feel like fall, but if you ask a migratory shorebird, they’ll tell you summer is over and it’s time to pack your bags and head south. Since early July, adults of the many species of Arctic nesting shorebirds that pass through our area have been massing on local beaches, mud flats, and salt marshes.

Mark Faherty

Even though you’re taking your life into your hands just by getting on route 6, July is nevertheless one of my favorite times of year, because it’s the beginning of shorebird migration. Arctic nesting sandpipers and plovers are already heading south and turning up on Cape beaches and mud flats. 

Mark Faherty

It’s summer seabird time, and there’s no better place to be than the Cape and Islands. The regulars are in place, and you can expect them on any whale watch – four species of shearwaters, Wilson’s and occasionally Leach’s storm-petrels, and multiple species of terns are basically guaranteed, and even the neighborhood bullies, the jaegers, are in town to steal fish from the other seabirds.

David Schenfeld bit.ly/29wJUcN / bit.ly/OJZNiI

If you live in one of the areas subject to this year’s biblical plague of gypsy moth caterpillars, then you might be interested in this week’s bird report. Many parts of southeastern Massachusetts are getting hit hard by another major outbreak of this invasive species, originally introduced from Europe in the 1860s.

Mark Faherty

The king of the swallows is invading the Cape. Purple Martins, huge and muscular brutes among the swallows, have been making inroads into some new territory this spring. As of last week, two Mass Audubon sanctuaries – Long Pasture in Barnstable and Wellfleet Bay in Wellfleet – now have nesting Purple Martins for the first time in memory.

Mark Faherty

What do 10 thousand angry birds sound like? I recently learned the answer in Chatham. On Friday I helped the biologists at Monomoy National Wildlife Refuge conduct the annual census of their huge Common Tern colony on the south island.