Weekly Bird Report | WCAI

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

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. 

Mark Faherty

We are now past the halfway point of June, and knocking on summer’s door. This means that your standard, work-a-day bird migration is over for the time being. Everyone that’s coming back is back, and those passing through are through. Even the late-comers are nesting now, like the Eastern Wood-Pewees that don’t arrive until early June. But that doesn’t mean that the bird finding fun is over, because the wandering weirdo birds are out in full force.

Ryan Schain / flickr / bit.ly/2Ykjxj1

For a couple of years, my wife, Emily, has been asking for a piece about a favorite bird of hers, one that we enjoy watching in our yard each summer, the high-spirited Great Crested Flycatcher. As week after week went by without a flycatcher piece, it became sort of a running joke. “What should I write about this week?”, I would say. “You know”, she’d reply. Well, at long last, the time has come. This week’s subject is, the Acadian Flycatcher. Oops – sorry Emily. Wrong flycatcher.

jerrygabby1 / flickr

After years of teases, of leads that didn’t pan out, failed attempts and clues gone cold, the news I’ve been waiting for has finally broken. At last, we have “smoking gun” evidence of a legitimate Bald Eagle nest here on Cape Cod, one with a real live baby eagle in it. The eagle has indeed landed. And if you want to know where the nest is, listen all the way to the end for the big reveal.

Sean M. Williams

On the night of May 15th, several of the state’s elite birders could hardly sleep. The forecast looked too good to be true – southwest winds over a broad area to our south, then rainstorms out of the west continuing into the predawn hours. This could be it, the big one. The fallout.

Mark Faherty

This past weekend, the fickle gods of bird migration finally smiled on the Cape. To our south, favorable tail winds got migrant songbirds up and flying our way on Friday night, while a front coming from the west brought rain and unfavorable winds. These forces conspired to guide, then ground those migrants along our coast. 

Mary Keleher

Every morning from April to August, Mary Keleher puts her hair up in a ponytail and heads out to a Mashpee golf course, where she uses a rope-and-pulley system to lower white plastic gourds from trees. Inside each gourd is a nesting pair of birds.

Ryan Schain / bit.ly/2Lrc9vY

Weather-wise, this has been a pretty good month, if that month were February. But hopefully, now that it’s mid-May, most of the snow and multi-day wind storms are behind us, so we can focus on what’s important right now. And what’s important right now is warblers.

astro/nature guy / flickr / bit.ly/3dxU2kj

If you’re like me, you had a lot of neighbors return over the weekend, and they don’t appear to be self-quarantining. Weirdly upbeat in these difficult times, these newly arrived locals can be heard whistling cheerful tunes as they settle back in to their routines in yards and gardens. Many are even visiting crowded food establishments and communal baths of suspect sanitary status. Obviously I am talking about your local orioles, catbirds, and hummingbirds, and they got here not a minute too soon in these stir-crazy times.

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 / bit.ly/2V7tPCs

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 / bit.ly/2VQ4GNH

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 / bit.ly/3c9yFWu

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.