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End of Season Birdwatching Notes by John Conlon



John C. Conlon


The same autumn winds that accompanied gannets and scoters into our area have now brought us through the end of our 2008 field season. While both seabirds and whales are still here offshore, we are done with our boat trips. It is time to reflect on both our sentiments and our data. It is also time to look ahead.


During our last few days we were able to get looks at several shearwater species. Many trips produced 20 to 30 Greater Shearwaters and 20 to 30 Cory’s Shearwaters. Most trips produced one or two Manx Shearwaters as well. We were also still able to get the gulls, terns and attendant jaegers. You might still see any of these birds from local backside (oceanside) beaches.


Black scoters and white-winged scoters are now regularly seen. While we look toward the water for shearwaters, we look to the air to find the scoters. So far they have been in flocks of 10 to 20 and mostly seen in the distance.


The Dolphin Fleet has steadily expanded its pelagic birding opportunities to visitors over these past several years. More emphasis has been put into birding guides during the trips posted as open to birdwatchers. This has made for more rewarding opportunities for birdwatchers. The shearwaters and scoters that we have seen are not only described here in the birdwatching notes but will soon be posted in the seabirds section of this website We have expanded our seabird count days from one to two days per week and have also done those counts through the autumn in addition to the summer. Look for those counts in the reviews section of this website. And look for more BIRDWATCHING NOTES next season.


The biggest offshore surprise of this past week was a belted kingfisher on the 8th of October. It was a grey and breezy autumn day. This kingfisher winged past the bow of the boat as we sat whalewatching. Then off into the distance it flew. As it winged into the distance my mind winged into more distant time; looking to expand our birdwatching  program into the coming season; looking to sharing my time with birders on our trips in search of seabirds; helping birders to better understand those pelagic birds and their part in the greater Stellwagen ecosystem. And I’m looking foreward to doing this with the help of fellow Dolphin Fleet birdwatching guide Peter Trull. Peter also did bird counts this year. Both Peter and I were able to work as birding guides with the help and support of Steve Milliken and the Dolphin Fleet. So my great thanks to both Peter and Steve.


As birders come to lower Cape Cod during the winter, boat rides are scarcer and eventually not possible. The pelagic birds, however, are here none the less. Go to the beaches. As I’ve said before, bring a thermos of hot coffee or tea. Bring the hat and gloves and warm jackets and warm boots. Bring the binocs or the scope. Bring your Sibley or National Geographic guide books. Travel the bay-side or the back-side beaches. And spend some patient time. Look for increasing numbers of scoters and gannets that I’ve discussed here. Also look for mergansers, Brants, other ducks, loons and even alcids that are visible from shore during the winter though not during the summer. And when you have a spare moment, ponder the possibility of another whalewatching and birdwatching trip with us next year. In the meantime, THANK YOU for sharing this past year with us on the Dolphin Fleet.