Weekly Bird Report | CAI

Weekly Bird Report

The Weekly Bird Report with Mark Faherty can be heard every Wednesday morning at 8:45am and afternoon at 5:45pm.

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. He is past president of the Cape Cod Bird Club and current member of the Massachusetts Avian Records Committee.

Mark Faherty

On Thanksgiving morning, there was just one large, meaty bird on the minds of Cape Cod birders. I am of course referring to the rare Pink-footed Goose discovered that morning in Wellfleet. With just two prior records for the Cape and Islands, this was a bird to see. So it was that I loaded my son and all his toddlery accoutrements into the family car and headed to Wellfleet on Thanksgiving morning, leaving my poor wife behind with the baby, the parade on TV, and several side-dishes still to make.

Mark Faherty

You might have missed it, but the floodgates recently opened. The conditions must have set up just right, with east winds over the weekend, followed by very strong northwest winds through Tuesday morning. This brought big numbers of everyone’s favorite little winter seabird ever so briefly within reach of our binoculars. Thousands of Dovekies passed classic seabirding spots over the last few days, including over 1000 at Race Point and more than 4000 at First Encounter Beach in Eastham. Most birders are excited to see just one Dovekie, so this was hitting the jackpot.

A Fascinating Finch

Nov 18, 2020
Ryan Schain

2020 has been a year to forget in so many ways. But many of us have been given a glimmer of hope in recent weeks, a beacon of light in a dark year. Many voices were heard, and their message was resounding and clear. “We are the winter finches”, they said “and we are here in big numbers."

Adam Searcy / bit.ly/3neWh0q / CC BY-SA 2.0

The Ancient one has returned; the prophecy has been fulfilled. Ok, maybe there wasn’t a prophecy, but the Ancient one has indeed returned. For the first time in over 20 years, a mysterious bird known as the Ancient Murrelet has appeared in Massachusetts. And this odd, singing sea bird from the North Pacific may have an interesting story to tell—one that involves climate change and international shipping route wars.

Samuel Zhang

I almost always keep these reports to birds on the Cape and Islands. But in this otherwise slow news week, a certain bird from a neighboring state is just way too good to ignore. One of the world’s most interesting birds has landed at a place called Snake Den Farm in Johnston Rhode Island – it’s the not-so-common-around-here Common Cuckoo, just the third ever seen in the lower 48 states. This may seem far afield for the Cape and Islands Bird report, but note that from Falmouth, this farm is closer than Provincetown. And most Cape birders I know have already been to see this cuckoo, while the rest are on their way.

Tim Harding

Though the weather is finally cooling down, the birding continues to heat up. The past few days have brought some nice additions to the winter finch irruption, new rarities, and new expected winter arrivals. At feeders and in the field, birds that weren’t here yesterday are still turning up all the time.

Mark Faherty

At this birdiest time of year, the savvy birdwatcher knows the most efficient places to maximize their birding time. Places where you are just as likely to find an interesting warbler or sparrow, a rare shorebird, or an offshore seabird. A darting falcon or a furtive rail. These are places of sand, surf, and salt marsh, but also potentially productive patches of trees, fruit-laden thickets, and pocket marshes with fresh water. In fall, the savvy birders head to the big barrier beaches.

A Blizzard of Siskins

Oct 14, 2020
Mark Faherty

It was a birdy week at the Faherty household. Which is good, because I rarely leave the household. But the birding is so good this time of year, sometimes you don’t have to. A slightly tardy Scarlet Tanager visited my birdbath several times over two days, as did several Blackpoll Warblers and a Yellow-rumped Warbler. A Peregrine Falcon streaking by with prey last week became yard species number 140, while a sneaky Cooper’s Hawk stalked my birds more than once. But one flock of small, streaky birds I saw descend from the sky on Sunday is what I’d like to talk about. Because, folks, we are in the midst of a blizzard of siskins.

Mark Faherty

It seems like I say this several times a year, but right now is the peak-est of the peak of the birding year here on the Cape and lslands. And I really mean it this time. 

Mark Faherty

We are a weather-obsessed people – talking about the weather, prognosticating about the weather, complaining about the weather - so I assume you have checked the forecast for the next few days. But have you checked the BirdCast? Yes, there is such a thing, and it’s provided by your friends at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, as part of their quest to meet all of your birding needs. They are sort of becoming the Amazon.com of birding, but I digress.


Winter's Coming

Sep 23, 2020
Mark Faherty

Just like that, summer on the Cape is over - astronomically, meteorologically, economically, and emotionally. In my weirdly cold part of East Harwich, I’ve already had overnight temps in the 40s, and these relentless north winds seem to be blowing away the remains of this strange season. At the same time, they seem to be blowing in some early and ominous harbingers of winter in feathered form.

Red Brook Drawdown

Sep 16, 2020
Courtesy Mike Tucker of Falmouth

If you’re into bird migration—and why wouldn’t you be?—September is an intense month. Almost every bird that migrates is on the move, from hawks to seabirds, warblers to woodpeckers. At the backyard level, we wonder when our hummingbirds will disappear for good and where our Orioles suddenly went. 

Skyler Kardell

As a Cape Codder, you’ve seen your share of Great Blue Herons. Birders and non-birders alike can appreciate these big, charismatic wading birds found year-round here on the archipelago. You might even think you know them pretty well. 

Wildreturn / bit.ly/3gSHTrk / CC 2.0

For the birder set, late summer on the Cape and Islands is synonymous with an assortment of sought-after shorebirds and seabirds. This week was case-in-point, with the rarity parade including a continuing American Avocet at Seagull Beach in Yarmouth, a hyper-rare Common Ringed Plover in Truro, a Franklin’s Gull in Sandwich, and snazziest of all, a Pacific Golden-Plover picked out by unheralded good-birder Lee Dunn over on Nantucket, and representing just the 4th state record. 

Mark Faherty

Over the past week, a sudden influx of dizzying numbers of birds along with some big, colorful butterflies greatly enhanced the ambience of my neighborhood. The ebb and flow of bird activity at the scale of a yard or street is often puzzling, as mixed flocks come and go, leaving no clues when they suddenly disappear for a day or even weeks. 

Brad Winn/Manomet

A celebrity has returned to Wellfleet for their annual summer retreat. Tired after the long flight east, this luminary is relaxing on Lieutenant Island while dining on locally caught crabmeat. I am of course talking about a bird, and it’s Ahanu the Whimbrel. Ok, “celebrity” may be a strong word. But as the only satellite tagged Cape Cod Whimbrel to ever reveal the full annual migration from breeding grounds to wintering grounds and back, this bird is indeed a celebrity to a small handful of Manomet researchers and other bird fans, and has even been featured in a Boston Globe article, among other media appearances.

Peter R. Flood

Tropical Storm Isaias passed last Tuesday, delivering us a glancing blow on its way through western Massachusetts and New York. We saw big gusts, spotty outages, and not nearly enough rain. But for the astute and ambitious birder, the storm brought gifts as well, gifts hoovered up from Caribbean waters and deposited far from home - Sooty Terns made a series of appearances in the region, delighting some lucky birders who picked up a life bird normally requiring a trip to a remote tropical island.

wikimedia commons

August is flying by and so are many avian species. Recent stormy weather brought some unusual birds to the Cape and islands. Mark Faherty, wildlife biologist at Wellfleet Bay Wildlife Sanctuary, joins host Mindy Todd to update us on the latest bird news, along with listeners from throughout our region calling in or emailing questions and stories about birds, and other creatures too...

Mark Faherty

In this time of tourists, the whale watch business is in full swing. Or at least half-swing - boat capacity is reduced and masks are required, but people are flocking to the boats, nonetheless. 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

It’s nearly August, and shorebird migration is well underway. Small, delicate looking creatures that spent the month of June dodging Arctic foxes and Snowy Owls are now winging their way Cape-wards. Some may stay just a week or two before continuing on to the southern reaches of the hemisphere, perhaps as much as 10,000 miles from their breeding grounds. Shorebirds are such incredible migrators that species who fly almost 5000 miles one way to wintering grounds in the Caribbean Basin are classified as “short-distance migrants”. 

Mark Faherty

At this point in the summer, a coastal birder’s focus becomes clear. Seabirds and shorebirds are currently arriving from all corners of the hemisphere, and the same goes for birders hoping to see them. The need to see them is enough to compel otherwise sane people to head out into Cape traffic and toward major beach parking lots. 

Mark Faherty

One week each summer I set birds aside, ever so briefly, to talk bugs. Of course, I mean “bugs” in the colloquial sense, not “true bugs” in the order Hemiptera, but I bet you entomological sophisticates knew that already. 

Mark Faherty

If you spend any time around saltmarshes here on the Cape, there’s a special but underappreciated bird I bet you haven’t noticed. For one thing, it’s a sparrow – the birds everybody loves to ignore. They’re “little brown jobs”, too hard to identify, not pretty enough – they’ve heard it all, but they haven’t let it get them down. But one mighty force is starting to get to this particular sparrow, and it’s the reason they are the latest addition to the Massachusetts endangered species list. It’s the Saltmarsh Sparrow, and that bully climate change has them on the ropes.

flickr b0jangles / Creative Commons / bit.ly/2NJZENt

I don’t know about your neighborhood, but mine is getting more crowded by the day. The annual population explosion, and attendant noise, is right on schedule, just in time for the 4th of July. This year it seems like it will be particularly difficult to satisfy all of these new mouths to feed. In addition to the endless stream of renters at my neighbor’s place, I am of course talking about all the young birds that are suddenly everywhere. Baby birds abound, and they are really livening up the place just when things had started to get dull in neighborhood birding.

Mark Faherty

A couple of weeks ago, as I celebrated my first Father’s Day by sharing a loungy morning on the deck with my wife and four-month-old son, I thought about what it takes to be a great dad. Looking up at one point, I noticed that I wasn’t the only new dad at my house.