Mark Faherty | CAI

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

With the welcome arrival of May and a little warm weather, bird migration should finally be kicking into high gear. And with that comes a change in our local soundscapes as locally nesting songbirds arrive and the males immediately get down to defending their territories.

Mark Faherty

So many things happened in the local bird world this week, a head-spinning assortment of headline material, that I’m having a hard time zeroing in on a topic. A Yellow-billed Loon, only the second state record, was found at Race Point in Provincetown. 

Andrew Morffew /

Things have really been ramping up lately, and there’s been a lot of talk about when it will peak. Is it peaking now, will it peak in late April, or maybe May? And are we ready for it? I am of course talking about bird migration, which I assume everyone is as obsessed with as I am.

Ryan Schain

In the course of doing some solo field work to protect coastal waterbirds over the last week, one thing became clear – people are already out on the beaches, and in bigger numbers than usual for this time of the year. Many of them with big, galumphing, unresponsive dogs with little interest in social distancing, but that’s a topic for another day. Luckily for nature folk, some birds are also on the beaches. So let’s check in with your favorite, or maybe least favorite, local barrier beach birds and see what they’re up to. I’m of course talking about Piping Plovers.

Kelly Colgan Azar / flickr

While there is certainly much to see if you pay attention, even in your own yard, I won’t pretend that March is my favorite birding month. So I’m just fine with putting the doldrums of the past month in the rearview mirror and heading April-wards. For April brings hope of all sorts of newly arrived migrants, beginning with just a trickle. In that way, April allows us to get our bearings and refresh our memories before gently transitioning us into the hardcode and mentally demanding month of May, with its deluge of migrants, some singing songs we haven’t heard in a year.

Patrick Kavanagh / flickr

In this time of social distancing, I’ve been noticing some strange things in my neighborhood – my neighbors. People and dogs I’ve never seen before are now sauntering down the road, perhaps venturing further from their house on some nearby road than they ever before dared on foot. And though state decision makers seem to still be in a little bit of denial about how exponential growth curves work, we may be headed towards “stay at home” orders, rather than just advisories, soon, meaning we will continue to spending a lot of time in our neighborhoods.

Mark Faherty

If you are like me, then you are, several times a day, seeing a term that most of us hadn’t ever heard before – social distancing. In the effort to curb the viral scourge, all good people are being asked to keep at least six feet away from each other when practicable. 

2ndPeter / flickr

Early March can be a tough time in the birding calendar, because while we are more than ready for spring, spring is not quite ready for us. We seek flowers and songbirds, but March mainly offers mud. The first wave of migrants – the blackbirds, vultures, and woodcocks – have long-since settled in, and not much else is happening. While the coming weeks will bring the first real influx of Ospreys and Piping Plovers, migration for most birds doesn’t really get hopping again until late April. But there are still some critters to be on the lookout for in this time of mud, and many of them aren’t birds.

Judy Gallagher / flickr /

I began this unseasonably warm writing day enjoying a flock of amorous Eastern Bluebirds singing their way through my yard, battling for females and checking out bird boxes. Their perusal of my nest box real estate doesn’t mean much this early, but still served as a nice spring pick me up after some recent wintry weather. But there’s no question that this time of year, before the great greening brought by spring, before the songbirds return and nesting season breathes new life, literally, into the landscape, is still a time of death in the animal world. 

h.redpoll /

Though it’s been warmer than average, it’s still February. The nights are typically below freezing at my house, and the days are often cold and damp – it’s not exactly time to break out the beach towels. So even in this unusually warm winter, we need the early migrants to keep us going, to let us know that spring is indeed coming, eventually. These stalwart, hardy birds of February are already turning up every day, so my goal this week is to prepare you to receive their message of hope.

Peter Flood

What’s black and white and attracts birders from all over? It’s a special Arctic seabird wintering in Provincetown Harbor, one that’s maybe never been seen in Massachusetts before. This representative of an obscure subspecies known as “Mandt’s” Black Guillemot has been causing quite a stir, and providing a few ecotourism dollars to Provincetown during this otherwise sleepy time of year.

Mark Faherty

Hopefully you have been enjoying the increased daylight - I know I have. And boy, you can really feel it right in the pineal gland, right? Ok, maybe not. But more than you realize, this obscure gland buried deep inside your brain is changing you and the world around you every day in response to changing day length, otherwise known as photoperiod. One of the more obvious and fun examples of this is through increasing bird song.

Mark Faherty

What’s blue and orange and generates a lot of questions from listeners? The answer is the Eastern Bluebird, everyone’s favorite neighborhood songbird. Especially your grandmother. While it may not seem like the right time of year to talk bluebirds, they can be fairly common in winter, and some lucky folks even get them in their yards.

The Bird Grammys

Jan 29, 2020
David Cook Wildlife Photography

Did you catch the Grammys this weekend? Let’s face it, except when they exhumed the bones of Aerosmith and reassembled them on stage, you had no idea who the majority of those musicians were. Even I, culturally literate, perennially hip bird guy that I am, found myself Googling the nominees because I have never heard of Tyler, the Creator and was only vaguely aware of Billie Eilish. If you find yourself disoriented and puzzled by today’s music, fret not - I’m here to offer you an alternative, something real to cling to in these confusing times – the Bird Grammys.

Mark Faherty

One of the biggest bird stories this winter has been the record number of Painted Buntings on the Cape, of which there have been upwards of nine individuals. The common-sense guess for the number of Painted Buntings on Cape Cod is of course zero – this colorful southern species breeds north barely into North Carolina and winters in tropical climes. This is a bird that should live the entirety of its natural life without seeing so much as frost on the windshield, never mind snow and ice. 

Ian Preston

‘Tis the season for ducks - January is prime time to grab the mittens (or t-shirt and sunglasses, you never know anymore) and head to your local lakes and ponds to survey the waterfowl scene. At this point in the winter there has been sufficient time for ducks to arrive as ponds to our north and west freeze up. 

Liam Waters

It’s finally over – after a whirlwind three weeks of intense birding, of wind and rain, calm and cold, the 2019 Christmas Bird Count season came to a close this past Saturday with the Martha’s Vineyard count. My back of the envelope calculations put the total species seen on the Cape and Islands counts at somewhere north of 170 species – pretty good bird diversity for this windswept winter landscape.

Mark Faherty

Most of this year’s Christmas Bird Counts are in the book, with Truro and Martha’s Vineyard coming up later this week. While we wait for these last counts to be tallied, I thought I’d share some of my favorite moments from the counts I’ve done this year. You may be surprised to learn that they don’t all involve birds. / Michael Klotz

If you’re new to the concept of Christmas Bird Counts, you may think that today is the day that birders are fanning out across the landscape armed with clipboards and expensive optics, ready to tally every last chickadee and Mallard. While that was true back when ornithologist Frank Chapman organized the first count exactly 120 years ago today, the modern counts take place between December 14 and January 5. With around 2500 count circles across North America, we probably couldn’t muster the personnel to get those done all in one day, let alone Christmas day. So far this year we have four Cape and Islands counts plus Plymouth in the books, so let’s check in on the results.

Stan Lupo / flickr /

If you’re into bird-related citizen science, then this is your month. From the Cape Cod Waterfowl Census, to the Christmas Bird Counts, to Project FeederWatch, December offers several ways to contribute to long-term studies of bird populations on Cape Cod and beyond. You just need some binoculars and, depending on the project, some basic bird knowledge.

Carolyn Longworth

With the snow flying as I write, and a few wintry cold fronts already under our belt, it may not seem like prime time for finding rare birds from around the globe. But once again this week, feathered visitors from weird places have descended upon us, demanding my attention.

Mark Faherty

If a rare bird shows up, but no “birder” sees it, was it really there? This was the deep, metaphysical question I was pondering this week, thanks to the emergence of some shadowy reports and blurry photos depicting one of the rarest birds on the Cape in many years. 

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.