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In This Place

Nantucket Birding Festival Highlights Include Rare View of a Hudsonian Godwit

Dave Inman / flickr

What a fabulous weekend we experienced on the Cape and Islands this past weekend. Ideal weather for almost any activity with mild temperatures and lots of sun but little in the way of northwesterly winds to aid in bringing birds to our region. Nonetheless there were birders out all over and Nantucket Island enjoyed its 4th annual Nantucket Birding Festival which saw that island birded extensively. There were lots of birds and lots of happy birders viewing them.

While nothing earth shaking was discovered this year in terms of extreme birds a long way from home all agreed that it was a wonderful festival at a relaxed pace with plenty of action. At the end of the festival on mid-day on October 19, all were ready to get on the ferry and savor the memories. Most impressive were great looks at lots of birds that are hard to find and see anywhere in New England.

The falcon show was most impressive with hunting Merlins and Peregrine Falcons putting on thrilling “airshows” as they strafed the bluff at Sconset or dive bombed  land birds at the west end. It was impossible not to get caught up in the excitement of these amazing birds as they go about their lives of catching and eating other birds on their way to the tropics for the winter. On several occasions they came by at eye-level at very close range giving views that will not soon be forgotten.

Participants delighted in fabulous views of Clay-colored Sparrows, Lincoln’s Sparrows, Dickcissels, Indigo Buntings, Lark Sparrow, American Pipits and some dozen species of warblers. In fact great looks at so many different species had people muttering to themselves about why they bothered birding elsewhere. The Outer Cape and Islands can be that good in the fall that it really does bring into question why you would waste time birding elsewhere.

One of the rarer shorebirds in the world and always a tough get on Nantucket was a Hudsonian Godwit that a group got great views of on the afternoon of October 18th. Afternoon trips to the northeast point of Nantucket, Great Point had terrific weather and lots of birds on October 17 and 18 including good views of 2 falcon-like seabirds called jaegers. Both Pomarine and Parasitic Jaegers were well seen as were dozens on Lesser Black-backed Gulls and a handful of Peregrine Falcons. The views from the Great Point Lighthouse were exceptional given the severe clear weather with unlimited visibility. All that went on these trips called them one of the best they had ever been on.

So after birding non-stop for 2 and a half days, reveling in the weather, the scenery and the birdlife, the only negative to be found was that the festival came to an end and pretty much everyone involved was tired and ready to sign up for next year’s event  from October 15 thru 18, 2015. On the evening of October 18, Norman Smith, a Snowy Owl expert and fabulous speaker gave a powerful talk to an enthralled audience at the historic Nantucket Atheneum. In the long and storied history of this fabulous building, this was one of the best lectures ever given as evidenced by the standing ovation of the packed house after a lecture that surely should have been too long if it had not kept the audience on the edge of their seats. For more information online check out Project Snowstorm.