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.

Tom Benson / flickr / bit.ly/2mn04Pj

 

It’s a global world. You hear that a lot these days, and while this statement has all the keen insight of the equally inane modern cliché “it is what it is”, there is a certain amount of truth in it. And at no time is the natural world more “global” than during bird migration, especially on the Cape and Islands. You could spend an entire middle school geography course studying the countries of origin of the birds that pass through here. 

Mark Faherty

 

September is a great time to add plants to the yard to benefit wildlife. Last week I covered some trees, shrubs, and hummingbird plants to liven up your property, and I promised to cover perennials this week. 

Jason Means / flickr / bit.ly/2lx0fqK

 

September is a great time to think about adding some good native plants to your yard for the benefit of wildlife, like fruiting shrubs and trees as well as perennials that attract insects and birds alike. Based on what I've learned from my own yards over the years, from researching the literature, and from managing the pollinator garden at Wellfleet Bay Sanctuary, I’m here offering some of my top plant recommendations in the categories of landscape trees and shrubs for both birds and bees, and hummingbirds plants. 

The Migration South

Aug 28, 2019
Don McCullough / bit.ly/2Zu02Hj

 

In the midst of this fall weather preview, it feels more natural to be talking about southbound bird migration. While the migration is sometimes subtle, with local birds like Orchard Orioles, Yellow Warblers, and Purple Martins quietly slipping away in the dark of night, shorebird migration is more obvious. 

Scott Heron / bit.ly/2P7sPcx

 

Almost exactly a year ago, the bird report was about a rare stowaway on a boat off the Cape and Islands, a Brown Booby that hitched a ride on a boat heading into Mnemsha on Martha’s Vineyard. Last weekend I received a text message from naturalist and local radio personality Dennis Minsky letting me know that history had repeated itself, sort of, when a Brown Booby landed on a whale watch boat somewhere off of Provincetown. This bird, perhaps a young adult, spent a half hour sitting atop this boat packed to the gills with people, providing an extra treat for the bird-oriented folks aboard.

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. 

Mark Faherty

In this time of tourists, the whale watch business is in full swing. And with good reason – the Cape offers some of the world’s best whale watching, with our close proximity to the perennial whale feeding grounds of Stellwagen Bank. 

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

 

I hate to bug you, but it’s that time of year when I turn my attention to some of our less appreciated winged neighbors. As with birds, this group includes beautifully colored, long-distance migrants and hard to identify little brown jobs that live their whole life in your neighborhood. Some are rare, others ubiquitous. All are interesting in their own way when you get to know them. These are the butterflies, and other bugs, of the Cape and Islands.

champagne for monkeys / flickr / bit.ly/2XA2jAo

 

Is there a bird in Massachusetts so obscure that even the bird guy hasn’t heard of it? No – don’t be ridiculous. But there is a species that nests on the Cape and Islands that is so rare, so poorly understood, and so mysterious in its habits that even ornithologists don’t know what their status is. And a tantalizing recent sighting, or, more correctly, “hearing” of this species has me wondering whether there may be more around than we realize.

Scott Heron / bit.ly/2YCscwd

 

You’re probably aware of the Endangered Species Act, that landmark piece of federal environmental legislation signed into law by that hippy environmentalist Richard Nixon back in 1973. It’s helped bring back species like the Bald Eagle, Whooping Crane, and Peregrine Falcon, not to mention that punching bag of the local press corps, the Piping Plover. 

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?

Andrew Weitzel / flickr / bit.ly/2WPi8Oz

 

In the past I’ve been known to refer to June as the birding doldrums. In a way, it is – the flashy, globe-trotting migrant songbirds and shorebirds have passed us by, and we’re a month away from seeing the first southbound shorebirds and peak numbers of offshore seabirds. But to call it the doldrums is a slap in the face to our local breeding birds. 

Mark Faherty

 

On a recent spring night, I was hustled through security at the gate of Camp Edwards, where I soon found myself embedded with an elite tactical squad. Armed with specialized gear and satellite-based technology unavailable just a few years ago, the team and I stalked through the moonlit woodlands. Our targets didn’t stand a chance. Yes, those Whip-poor-wills never saw us coming.

Jim Conrad / public domain

 

While bird migration is essentially happening year-round in some form or another, the start of June brings with it perhaps the most abrupt and definitive end to any migration season.

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