This past June, my dad and I enjoyed a couple of nice days up in Cape Cod. During that time, we split our hours between overseeing the renovations that were going on at the new house, and doing some birding.
Our trip began on Wednesday, June 5th. On the way out of our Connecticut neighborhood, we checked the Yellow-crowned Night-Heron nest at the end of the street. The nest was coming along nicely, with one of the pair sitting on it as we pulled up, and the other bird preening on a nearby branch. It is likely that there were young in the nest at the time, although the foliage coupled with the bird on the nest, made it impossible to view any.
After spending some time with these awesome, and unique breeding birds, we continued on our way.
While on the drive up to the Cape, we stopped at Hammonasset Beach State Park in Madison in search of a few breeders and anything else that might be around.
Our coverage at the park was mostly limited to the Willard’s Island area. We missed our top year bird targets here (Seaside and Saltmarsh Sparrow), but still noted a number of great birds during our time on the island, including: Red-breasted Merganser, Glossy Ibis, Clapper Rail, American Oystercatcher, Black-bellied Plover, ‘Eastern’ Willet, Peregrine Falcon, Willow and Great Crested Flycatchers, Eastern Kingbird, Purple Martin, Marsh Wren, Brown Thrasher, Baltimore Oriole and others.
After our stop at Hammo, we continued on to our house in the Cape, spending the rest of the afternoon supervising the renovations and talking to the workers.
I had been excitedly working on building up the yard list for this location ever since my inaugural visit the week before. Although I knew this was a good location for birds, nothing would prepare me for this crazy afternoon, enjoyed while sitting on a lawn chair and reading a good book.
Over the next couple of hours, I would record thirty species, many of them new yard birds and all of them enjoyed from basically the same spot. This Big Sit of sorts yielded such highlights as Turkey Vulture, Cooper’s Hawk and Least Tern as well as one of the most exciting birds seen in the yard thus far, a gorgeous subadult Bald Eagle, spotted soaring over the marsh.
The eagle would’ve certainly been the bird of the day had it not been trumped by one extremely special visitor to the yard. While reading outdoors in the late afternoon, I began to hear a few light rustles in the brush to my right. Turning around, I noticed a female Northern Bobwhite making her way across the yard, keeping at the edge of protective cover. I ran back to the car in order to retrieve my camera, and was able to obtain a few quick record shots as the bird made its way out of the yard, and onto the neighbor’s seawall, eventually disappearing into the marsh.
Taking into account all of the properties my family has ever owned, this was likely the most unexpected and exciting yard bird I’ve ever had the privilege of seeing. This experience was made even more heartening by the fact that this species is undergoing huge declines across the entire Cape, and it was especially nice to see that Northern Bobwhites are still hanging on in my area (where a decent amount of habitat still remains), despite the possibility this bird might have been released.
After the awesome experience with the Northern Bobwhite, my dad and I moved on to the inn we were staying at, a short distance away from the house (the house was not yet livable).
Bright and early on the morning of Thursday, June 6th we visited the house for a couple of hours. Then it was off for a day of birding. Our first stop was the renowned Wellfleet Bay Wildlife Sanctuary late in the morning.
We ended up spending around two and a half hours at this beautiful spot, walking most of the main trails and noting nearly forty species, including: a female Mallard with six ducklings, Wild Turkey, Green Heron, Turkey Vulture, Broad-winged Hawk, Ruby-throated Hummingbird, Red-breasted Nuthatch, Eastern Bluebird, Pine Warbler, Eastern Towhee, Field Sparrow and Orchard and Baltimore Orioles.
It was then off to Head of the Meadow Beach in North Truro. Upon arrival, we noted our second Northern Bobwhite of the trip in the form of a calling bird somewhere on the hillside to the south of the parking lot. Pine and Prairie Warblers were also heard singing from the same vicinity as the bobwhite.
On the beach, we enjoyed watching the antics of the nesting Piping Plovers and Least Terns, the latter doing some impressive aerial acrobatics. Many of these birds were also participating in fish offerings.
After Head of the Meadow, we made our way to the beach at the end of Marconi Beach Road in the vicinity of the Marconi Station. Our highlights here included Common Loon, Northern Gannet, an alcid far offshore that avoided specific identification, Least Tern and Eastern Towhee.
After hitting the Marconi area we again moved north stopping at the MacMillan Wharf, which juts into Provincetown Harbor. This is one of my favorite winter birding locations that I had never visited in the summer. We netted our major target, Common Eider, with ease, and also enjoyed the antics of a few Brant and Bonaparte’s Gulls, that were foraging at the edge of the harbor.
Our last stop of the day was Prince Valley Road in Truro where we hoped to catch up with a calling Eastern Whip-poor-will or two.
Our two-hour dusk vigil at this location failed to provide a Whip, although we noted species such as Hairy Woodpecker, Red-breasted Nuthatch, Hermit Thrush, Ovenbird, Pine Warbler and Eastern Towhee, all singing or calling before dark.
The next morning (Friday, June 7th), we headed home following a brief stop at the house to check up on the renovation. It had been another incredibly successful trip to the Cape and the first time I had visited this awesome area at the end of the spring.