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.

Mark Faherty

While birds like robins, Yellow-rumped Warblers, and goldfinches are still on the move, for the most part, songbird migration is over, symbolically marked by the arrival of juncos. Here on the Cape, it’s the comings and goings of waterfowl and seabirds that defines November. From quiet ponds to raging surf, backshore to bay, the winter waterbirds are here, and they are hungry.

Andrew Reding / flickr /

This past weekend, an all-start cast of birders gathered in Nantucket, united in one purpose – to go all out birding the island in honor of the late legend himself, and the originator of these radio pieces, Vern Laux.  

Mark Faherty

A few weeks ago, my wife Emily and I packed up the toddler and the dog and headed to what has become a special place for us, Mt. Desert Island in Downeast Maine.

Credit Natural England / / Creative Commons 2.0

I want you to envision a 17th century, agrarian version of yourself. Superstitions are rampant and it’s generally accepted that ghosts live among us. You’re entering an old abandoned barn on some spooky fall night, when suddenly a white, spectral figure with dead, black eyes slips noiselessly past you, right before you hear this.

Nancy Ransom


As we head into the last days of October, change is evident in the bird world. Our backyard catbirds are mostly gone, headed for Central American forests. New ducks are arriving by the day on both pond and bay. Behaviors are also changing, as our resident woodpeckers, titmice, and chickadees are loading their winter larders by stashing sunflower seeds and acorns in holes and crevices. 

Mick Thompson / flickr /

After wearing out its welcome over several days, last week’s never-ending Nor’easter finally passed, leaving a handful of smiling birders in its wake. Why are they smiling? Are they storm-damage sadists who are really into coastal erosion? Maybe, but many birders welcome a good Nor’easter, or, as you weather nerds may call them, macro-scale extratropical cyclones. That’s because these storms often come bearing gifts. The initial strong northeast winds can load up Cape Cod Bay with all manner of offshore birds from the Gulf of Maine, many blown inshore against their will.

gman25 /


This is a time of year when it can be hard to imagine that birds are declining. With flocks of sometimes thousands of Tree Swallows swarming the dunes of Sandy Neck in Barnstable or High Head in Truro, marauding bands of over a thousand grackles storming through wooded neighborhoods, and massive flocks of sea ducks forming off Monomoy like smoke on the water, it can seem like all is fine. But a viral new study estimates that, in fact, we have lost nearly a third of the individual birds on the continent since 1970. So how can we reconcile what we see with what we read?

Mark Faherty

In my ever humble opinion, October is the best month to witness bird migration on the Cape and islands. While migration has been revving its metaphorical engine since July, October is when it starts to peel out and leave skid marks. Warblers and shorebirds are still on the move, and are now joined more and more by sparrows, seabirds, and assorted other migrants arriving from all directions. So what is it about this month that brings all the birds?

Peter R. Flood / flickr /

If you listen regularly, you know that I occasionally report on the so called Extreme Pelagic birding trips run by the vaunted Brookline Bird Club. Well, those wacky, ocean going birders were at it again this past weekend, when, on a quest for rare seabirds, they steamed out of Hyannis aboard the Helen H. 

Tom Benson / flickr /

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 /


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 /


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 /


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 /


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.