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.

Dan Pancamo / flickr /


Nearly a week of southerly winds has set the stage for migrants of all sorts to drop into the region, including a real jaw dropping species we’ll get to in a bit. This also includes those species we expect to arrive in mid-April, like Eastern Towhees. 

Michael Janke / flickr /


For those who know how to look, spring is arriving rapidly on the tired wings of migrating birds. Mid-April is an inflection point in the migration curve – the pace will only quicken from here on out. I suggest that you take this time to go out and refresh your identification skills on the smaller set of early songbird migrants, because in terms of the number of species coming through, things will be out of hand in a few short weeks.

Mark Faherty


I’m now several weeks removed from leading a birding safari to Tanzania, and now that I’m back here in reality-ville, it feels a world away. While I was gone, the first of the early migrants snuck in, like Common Grackles. Upon seeing some as I drove through Orleans shortly after returning, I said to myself – hey, Rüppell's Starlings. This was of course not correct - I left that grackle-like species back in the Serengeti. It took some time to adjust to the more pedestrian birds and mammals of home – as you know if you’ve been, even the starlings are spectacular in East Africa.

shell game / flickr /


When it comes to the Cape and Islands “birdscape”, which is the word I just made up for the collective avian sights and sounds at any given time, a lot has changed in the last month, and the influx of new birds will only accelerate from here on out. I can’t do much for you in terms of a visual identification review, this being radio and all, but with new birds arriving every week, I think it’s time for a spring bird sounds “tune up”, if you will.

Mark Faherty


We should all be jealous of ospreys. They’re way better at fishing than we are. They spend their winters on sun-drenched lagoons in Venezuela and they visit Cuba annually without violating US law. 

batwrangler / fickr / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Recently, one of our more flamboyant seasonal residents has been performing at a variety of obscure local venues, venues that you might describe as off-off-off Broadway. Performances generally take the form of a one man show, and they only work nights, so don’t even think about catching a matinee.

Feeding Birds, Part 2

Mar 13, 2019
L. Lerner


Last week I started an in-depth look at bird feeding including why we do it and whether it actually helps the birds. If you missed it, the results are mixed, but studies do show that, as you may have suspected, feeding birds can increase their health and survival. 

While it seemed like we might get away with leaving the shovels in the shed this year, it looks like winter finally caught up to us. I, for one, don’t mind a little snow on the ground, notwithstanding the 8-foot-wide plow ridge they inexplicably left in front of my mailbox. Snow means an opportunity to track wildlife, one of my favorite outdoors pursuits. And, more appropriately for our purposes, it means more birds at the feeder. So, let’s take a closer look at this curious and surprisingly recent American pastime: feeding the birds.

Some rights reserved / Wildreturn / flickr /


I’ve had the opportunity to spend time in northern New England a couple of times in recent weeks. I often feel drawn to the woodsy wildness of our northern states, even in winter. The big, girthy birches and huge hemlocks, the Christmas tree smell of Balsam fir, the crunch of snowshoes breaking the heavy, snowy silence of those north woods. 

Mark Faherty

When it comes to late winter on Cape Cod, and the knowledge that beach weather is still four months away, it’s the little signs of better things to come that keep you going. If you are paying attention to the birds around you every day, you should be brimming with hope, because they clearly are, too.

Nita J Y on flickr

Here we are knocking on the door of another Valentine’s Day, which means it’s time we had the talk… the talk about the birds and the bees. Before you relive any memories of teenage trauma and retreat to your happy place, I should point out that I’m talking about the actual birds and bees. In my never-ending quest to find romantic role models in the animal world, I’ve come up with some more examples of what to do, or not to do, this Valentine’s Day.

budgora / Creative Commons 2.0 /

I probably don’t talk about Falmouth enough. As an Outer Cape person, it seems about as close as Boston does, which keeps me from birding it very much. And Falmouth lacks the exciting seabirding and the history of rare birds of the Outer Cape. But a couple of very unusual sightings of seriously lost west coast birds has Falmouth on my mind.



Are you ready for the Superb Owl? While you Stephen Colbert fans and meme-savvy denizens of Facebook are already rolling your eyes, and saying things like “that’s so four years ago”, you may be surprised to know how many people are unfamiliar with the Superb Owl. 

Peter R. Flood

Last Thursday, intrepid Cape Cod Bird Club treasurer Mary Jo Foti was perusing the waterfowl on Long Pond, which straddles the Harwich-Brewster line. She noted the typical winter species for this often duck-rich pond – scaup, goldeneye, mergansers, Buffleheads. But one duck that crossed her view looked a little off, like a scaup that was having a bad hair day. It turned out she had found the punk rocker of ducks – the Tufted Duck.

Mick Thompson1 / flickr / Creative Commons 2.0 /

A couple of times this winter I’ve been lucky enough to hear one of our more obscure nocturnal residents in my neighborhood. This species is relatively quiet in winter compared to our more common owls, but, if you can whistle, they can be coaxed to reveal themselves. Everything about the species in question is adorable - their tiny, compact bodies; their huge staring, yellow eyes; and their array of stuffed toy sounds. But don’t be fooled – if you are a white-footed mouse, the Northern Saw-whet Owl is a stone-cold killer.

Mark Faherty


The final Christmas Bird Counts for the Cape and Islands were held over the last week – the Truro count on the 2nd and the Vineyard count on the 5th. The closer it gets to the end of the count period, the risker the weather gets, with higher chances of a deep freeze or storm in early January wrecking your count. I had rescheduled my Truro count from the 28th to the 2nd to avoid a day of wind-driven rain, and the gambit worked. The Vineyard count wasn’t so lucky.

gisela gerson lohman-braun / Creative Commons /


A couple of weeks ago as we were, let’s say “going to press”, a stranding event of a feathered kind was just getting underway. Tiny Arctic seabirds known as Dovekies were turning up in parking lots and roadways in Orleans and Brewster. The strandings followed a historic flight of Dovekies on Cape Ann and Cape Cod, respectively.

Mark Faherty

It’s the most wonderful time of the year – Christmas Bird Count season! Birders are digging out their warmest winter garb, polishing their optics, and marking their calendars to prepare for the all-out birding blitz that is the Christmas Bird Count season. It runs from December 14 to January 5, and I can guarantee there’s a count near you.

Silverleapers / Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0) /


This past weekend marked the start of the 119th Christmas Bird Count season, which means that on certain count days, bird-hungry teams of tallyers are combing local hotspots and seldom-visited backwaters alike.

Mark Faherty


As a lifelong birder, and thus someone who is constantly and obsessively monitoring the birds around me, I’ve had my share of rare avian visitors to my various yards. Last week brought the latest such bird, and though it’s a species that breeds right here in Massachusetts, it was by far the rarest “yard bird” I’ve ever had. When you factor in both habitat and time of year, the Bobolink that was hopping around in my front yard last Tuesday was probably one of the rarest birds currently being seen in North America.

Becky Matsubara /


While October provided a non-stop rare bird show on the Cape and Islands, November proved a little quieter, before going out with a bang last week. Two Sundays ago, a biking birder on Nantucket flushed a nondescript gray bird from a dune near Low Beach. This catbird-sized mystery bird with a spotted breast perched up just long enough to reveal that it was, in fact, a Sage Thrasher, representing the first ever record, not just for Nantucket, but for all of the Cape and Islands. Only three other records exist for Massachusetts, all on the North Shore.

Counting Waterfowl

Nov 28, 2018
Rodney Campbell /


In early November of 1983, Cape birder and prototypical citizen scientist Blair Nikula organized members of the Cape Cod Bird Club to count waterfowl on the freshwater lakes and ponds of the Cape. They covered more than 200 ponds that first year, tallying 4,000 ducks, loons, and grebes of 22 species.

As I sat down to write this week’s bird report, I was prepared to talk about the latest mind-bogglingly rare bird to turn up on the Cape. But then I had one of those forehead-slapping realizations where the proper course of action becomes painfully obvious. I’ll get to that rare bird next time, but this week we obviously need to talk turkey.

Photomatt28 / Creative Commons /

Another week of fall has brought another slate of wacky birds to the Cape and Islands. Whether late lingering landbirds are your thing, or southern seabirds are what tickles your fancy, as usual, we can accommodate you here on this birdy archipelago.

Mark Faherty

Fall on the Cape and Islands can be a head-spinning time, with interesting birds coming at us from literally all directions – migrants from the north and west, wind-blown vagrants from the south and southwest, and seabirds from the east. Our weather, and particularly the wind, have been all over the place of late, bringing interesting birds from all compass points.