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.


Have you heard of “bird feeder fight club”? If not, that’s probably because I just made it up. But it totally could be a real thing, according to scientists using Cornell’s vast Project FeederWatch data set.

Superb Owl

Jan 31, 2018

Are you ready for the Superb Owl? While you Stephen Colbert fans and meme-savvy denizens of Facebook are already rolling your eyes, and saying things like “that’s so four years ago”, you may be surprised to know how many people are unfamiliar with the Superb Owl. 

A Goose by Many Names

Jan 24, 2018
Mark Faherty

If I asked you how many species of geese were on the Cape and Islands right now, what would you say? One, maybe two? The actual number this week is five, with seven species on the all-time list. This may surprise those only familiar with that perceived scourge of golf course and ballfield, the Canada Goose. I’ll get to the obscure species in a minute, but I want to start with the Canada. 

Mathew Schwartz

Normally, this is when we would be settling in for the coldest, darkest depths of winter, and going into our post-holiday cocoons. January and February are the months of snowstorms and of binge-watching Netflix. But having just survived the equivalent of five winters worth of cold over two weeks, temps in the 30s and 40s now feel like shorts weather, and you may be looking to get outside. 

Birds and Deep Freezes

Jan 10, 2018
budgora /


The Truro Christmas Bird Count was held on a frigid January 2, when more than 30 hardy birders braved subzero wind chills to find even hardier birds among the thickets, fields, beaches, and marshes of Wellfleet and Truro. A handful of us were foolish enough to venture out in the deepest predawn cold in search of owls, finding a bare minimum of Northern Saw-whet, Eastern Screech, and Great Horned Owls, barely audible above the wind gusts at times. 


Mark Faherty


Last week I promised the results of the Mid-Cape Christmas Bird Count, so we’ll start there. This count, which covers an area from Sandwich to Dennis, was held back on the 23rd, on a relatively balmy, rainy day, before we had gotten used to single-digit morning temperatures as the new normal.

Juan Zamora Photography

With three of the Cape Cod area Christmas Bird Counts in the books, it’s time to check in on the results. Based on what people were seeing in the weeks leading up to the count period, I was expecting a lot of late lingering southern birds and hopefully some high species totals. But an early deep freeze, some high winds, and then a day of steady rain conspired against the counts, putting a damper on the species totals, if not the spirits of the counters.

When the howling winter wind is piling snow drifts across your driveway, you might find it therapeutic to think about that iconic sign of the eventual change of seasons, the first robin of spring. In that case, I have some good news for you - the robins are already here! 

The truth is, the “first robin of spring” is a bit of a myth, and has more to do with a seasonal change in robin feeding behavior than with migration.

It’s indeed the most wonderful time of the year – Christmas Bird Count season is upon us! Binoculars have been hung by the window with care, in hopes that rare birds soon will be there! It’s all because this weekend starts the 118th annual Christmas Bird Count, a massive, continent-wide citizen science effort with humble, turn of the century beginnings.

Doug Greenberg /


These are strange times indeed for birding on Cape Cod. Seasonally confused times. While the expected winter fowl have arrived on schedule with December, and Snowy Owls are setting up shop on our increasingly chilly beaches, it’s still possible to find Neotropical warblers, tanagers, and grosbeaks that should have departed for Central and South America two months ago.

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?