Weekly Bird Report


The Weekly Bird Report with Mark Faherty can be heard every Wednesday morning at 8:45am and afternoon at 5:45pm.

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. He is past president of the Cape Cod Bird Club and current member of the Massachusetts Avian Records Committee.

russimages / bit.ly/2MsqkPK / bit.ly/1mhaR6e

September is a time of transitions, especially here on the Cape. Summer visitors have transitioned back over the bridge. Our kids transition back to school, our beaches and parks transition back to local ownership. And perhaps more than in any other month, transitions in the bird world are everywhere evident, from the exodus of northern songbirds to the arrival of the first winter sea ducks. But few transitions are sadder than the loss of our hummingbirds, those kinetic clowns of flowery suburban backyards.

Mark Faherty

 

Most of you would agree that shorebirds are inherently beautiful – these graceful and delicate, long-winged beach sprites arrayed in subtly beautiful earth tones, often splashed with brighter orange or red, are not in need of further adornment. 

Mike's Birds / bit.ly/2Nrj9bC / bit.ly/1dsePQq

 

With summer winding down, and back to school time upon us, I thought we should check in on the kids of the bird world and see what they are facing this fall. With more than “pencils, books, and teacher’s dirty looks” to worry about, they may help put your kids’ or grandkids’ annual Labor Day malaise in perspective.

Papchinskaya / flickr / bit.ly/2w2tKmz

 

Late August often brings periods of unsettled weather, as if the engine of summer has begun to sputter a little. As a kid summering at White Horse Beach in Plymouth, I always enjoyed these August cold fronts because they cleared the beaches of people, leaving just me and the birds. 

Scott Heron / bit.ly/2P7sPcx / bit.ly/1dsePQq

 

A dragger steaming into Menemsha Harbor on Martha’s Vineyard back on August 6th was harboring a stowaway. This unauthorized passenger from the Caribbean had awkwardly boarded the boat about 5 miles south of Gay Head before settling calmly on the cooler to hitch a ride back to the harbor. The stowaway was a seabird known as the Brown Booby, the first of his kind ever seen on the Vineyard, and he brought birders from all over the island to get a peek.

RICHARD BONNETT GOO.GL/P63BNQ / GOO.GL/CEFU8

 

Are there monsters in your barn? For property owners on the Outer Cape, the answer in recent years has increasingly been “yes.” I’m talking about categorically ugly, hissing, projectile vomiting monsters. But don’t call the Ghostbusters just yet, because these monsters have an important role to play in our ecosystem. They are Turkey Vultures, and they are nature’s morticians.

Mark Faherty

 

Astronomically speaking, we are only a third of the way through summer. But once August arrives, the term “late summer” starts to creep into our speech, and, to the dismay of school kids everywhere, back to school ads appear in the papers.

Mark Faherty

 

It’s late July, which means it’s peak time for some of my favorite flying critters. They include many of our most beautiful species and one of our most impressive long-distance migrants. They can often be found gracefully winging their way through your yard on their four wings. That’s right – four wings – because it’s time to talk butterflies.

 

There’s a sneaky bird in our midst. A bird so devious, so duplicitous that even this bird guy was recently fooled. To make matters worse, the tragedy I will now describe happened in my own backyard, just a few feet from my door. The innocent victims in this story are a pair of Carolina Wrens. The villain is a bird obscure to most but infamous to some: the Brown-headed Cowbird.

Jonathan Blithe / flickr / bit.ly/2L5cFOm

 

Monomoy National Wildlife Refuge includes a network of ever-shifting barrier beaches and islands dangling from the elbow of Cape Cod. Once home to a 19th-century fishing community complete with a school and, of course, a tavern, the island is now mostly designated as a federal wilderness area, so most of the eating and drinking is done by the wildlife these days. 

Joseph Cavanaugh

You may have noticed that the rotaries are choked with tentative, confused motorists, which must mean that July has occurred. And this year, the Bird Report falls squarely on Independence Day, that holiday that bottle-rockets us into the tourist season, so I feel more compelled than usual to address the most majestic of avian beasts, our national symbol, the Bald Eagle.

Mark Faherty

A couple of weeks ago, as I celebrated my first Father’s Day by sharing a loungy morning on the deck with my wife and four-month-old son, I thought about what it takes to be a great dad. Looking up at one point, I noticed that I wasn’t the only new dad at my house. 

Mark Faherty

It’s June on Cape Cod, which means that it’s time for people to start squawking a little louder about Piping Plovers. These small, sand-colored local residents have been nesting on our beaches for eons, but in modern times they have come into conflict with certain forms of human recreation, and as a result have become “fauna non grata” among some people. And for those us who work to monitor and protect these federally Threatened birds, this negative perception of plovers can make for some bad days at work.

Mark Faherty

 

Just offshore of Chatham there lies a seasonal village you may not be aware of. The residents arrive promptly and noisily each May, then leave for their winter homes again around October. During their stay, they create chaos, noise, and traffic - well, air traffic at least – in pursuit of beach space and local seafood. And summer wouldn’t be the same without them. Surprise! I’m actually talking about birds. What are the odds?

Jo Reeve / bit.ly/2JdxOcB

 

A couple of ace birders recently had a “Ruff” time in Chatham waters. By which I, of course, mean that they found a Ruff, an exceedingly rare old-world sandpiper – the waters were actually quite calm. Painfully obscure bird puns aside, this was indeed an excellent find, representing only the 5th ever spring record for the Cape and islands. The natural history of the Ruff is the stuff of old spy novels, full of far-flung old world locales, sex, deception, and even murder. Oh, and also cross-dressing – we’ll get to that in a minute.

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