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Birdwatching on the Cape & Islands

What in the world are scoders, grebes, eiders, yellowlegs, godwits, warblers, and plovers? They are just a few birds that can be found on Cape Cod and the Islands. You may also come across bald eagles, peregrine falcons, orioles, wrens, mallards, black ducks, northern harriers, and possibly a great horned or barred owl. Not only is the area home to countless birds, but its many marshes and ponds serve as rest stops for hundreds of other species heading south for the winter.

Blue Heron
Blue Heron

Rare bird sightings are exciting events, and the Cape and Islands have had their fair share. One of the most significant sightings was on Nantucket where a western reef heron was discovered. This bird normally calls Western Africa home, and it was the first sighting of this type in North America. In Wellfleet, a lazuli bunting was spotted. Although not a rare bird, its appearing on Cape Cod was thrilling to bird watchers as this species had never been spotted east of Kansas. Martha’s Vineyard’s claim to birding fame occurred when a cuckoo arrived on its shores. Cuckoos, which have rarely been seen in North America, live primarily in Europe and Asia and spend their winters in Central and Southern Africa.

Although some birding can be experienced by simply stepping out the door, you can view a wider range of birds at popular birding locations in the area including Wellfleet Bay Wildlife Sanctuary located in Wellfleet, Monomoy National Wildlife Refuge in Chatham, and Ashmut Holly in Falmouth. On the Islands, the Linda Loring Nature Center on Nantucket and Felix Neck Wildlife Sanctuary on Martha’s Vineyard are outstanding birding locales.

Beach duck
Beach duck

Birding is a hobby that appeals to all ages, requires very little cost or equipment, and can be done from just about anywhere - from the depths of Nickerson State Park or from the back deck of your Cape or Islands vacation rental. Basic supplies for the beginning birder include a field guide, binoculars, and, if you are heading into the woods, marshes, and ponds, using tick and mosquito repellent and a good pair of walking or hiking shoes (waterproof) is usually a good idea.

Interested in some guidance in the search for birds? Be sure to check out some of these “bird-centric” events.

About Joan Talmadge

About Joan Talmadge: My husband Jeff and I created in 1997, shortly after buying our Cape home. My background includes teaching fifth grade for 8 years and writing and editing educational publications for 15. I get great joy from helping fellow homeowners successfully rent their homes. Jeff and I are proud to have two of our three grown children working for, truly a family-run business. For me, the Cape and Islands are magical all times of the year -- whether it's walking on Nauset Beach, playing golf, or enjoying family and friends.