Birding on Cape Cod by Randolph Bartlett

The Cape Naturalist: Vol 1 No 1

June, 1972

The geographical uniqueness of Cape Cod makes it an exciting place for the summer visitor interested in bird watching. The Cape’s varied terrain and moderate maritime climate makes it a home or regular port-of-call for nearly 400 species and sub-species of land and shore birds.

The two best months to observe these assorted “goodies” (both quantitatively and qualitatively) are July and August, when the fall migration is in progress. Lasting from July through October, the migration reaches a peak of shorebirds in mid-August, and of landbirds in September when our beaches, marshlands, and woodlands furnish food and rest for thousands of weary feathered travelers. These birds may stay only a few hours, or they may remain for several weeks. In fact, it is not uncommon for some to double their body weight during this time in preparation for long, arduous, non-stop flights to Caribbean Islands or even South America.

Rule #1 for birding on Cape Cod is to keep the weather and tides in mind. In less than a few hours, a day which begins bright and calm can become overcast, cold, and stormy -particularly when the winds shift into the easterly quadrant of the compass. Although good Nor’easters may last three days or more, they can be a blessing to the hardy birder, since their strong winds frequently carry in unexpected species to the Cape. In this connection, First Encounter Beach in Eastham is an excellent spot to find sea birds after a storm.

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