Cape Trip

Just back from a few days on the Cape, pretty good, relaxing time. Late afternoon arrival Thursday, just enough time to eat and walk around a bit. Laughing Gulls are always nice but otherwise nothing interesting.

Friday started out extremely foggy, so we sat around and had a leisurely breakfast. It started clearing towards 8:30, so we headed out to Wellfleet Bay Wildlife Sanctuary. It was probably 15 years since I was last there and I didn’t remember a thing about it.

After checking out the exhibits (I’m always amazed at how small things look up close), we started on the Silver Spring Trail. Quiet there with some common stuff but nothing of any real interest. One huge robber fly didn’t want to be photographed.

We then headed out to the bird blind and Goose Pond. A surprise along the walk over was a flock of Oystercatchers overhead. Plenty of shorebirds around the pond and a few Green Herons as well. Lots of Yellowlegs, a Short-billed Dowitcher, many Least and Semipalmated Sandpipers, and a few Semipalmated Plovers. A couple bright red dragonflies buzzed by, I assume Needham’s Skimmers but I’m not familiar enough to be sure (and they’re not exactly identifiable on the wing anyway). A hummingbird flew through. There was one interesting sandpiper, looked potentially like a Baird’s, but it was a bit more distant and there were too many screaming kids to stick around.

Semi Plover

Least Sandpiper

Green Heron with Fish

Not sure why I didn’t pull out a Semi Sandpiper.

We then walked out to the boardwalk. On the way, a Whimbrel flew over. It took a few seconds to catch on to the calls and then wait until it turned to double check the bill. I need to spend more time on the coast to make these birds more routine. At the beach were lots of Yellowlegs and a few Black-bellied Plovers.

On the way back, we checked Try Island. It was quiet, a few Eastern Kingbirds calling around and not much else. Looking out, I saw a few Great Blue Herons and another Hummer. Another one of those robbers almost posed this time.

Robber Fly, presumed Proctacanthus

It was quite hot at this point, so we headed out and looked for lunch, ending up with eggplant subs. We then headed to Nickerson State Park. Walking in the from the parking lot at the entrance, we found a couple of very close Hairy Woodpeckers. Checking a few ponds and clearings didn’t find anything good and we headed back. Almost at the car, we had a nice flock of Pine Warbers, a Red-breasted Nuthatch, a few chickadees and titmice, and some Chipping Sparrows.


With Saturday being the pelagic, I wanted some simpler food for dinne. Hearth n Kettle wasn’t too bad, steak tips were all done right and fairly tasty. After that, we took a short walk and ended up at the used book store. They had an interesting selection, mostly textbooks, but I picked up a copy of Pettengill’s eastern guide for $5. Then off to bed.

2:45 and I was wide awake just ahead of the alarm. Left for the boat at 3:10 and was at the dock by 20 past. We milled around for awhile before they let everyone on. Given the way people checked in, looks like you could sneak right on as long as you could avoid Ida for the day. On the boat, I grabbed a seat at the table by the food and got ready to nap. The boat left the dock at 4:05 and was at full engines by 4:20.

Awake again a little after 6, it wasn’t that long before we had a few birds. Several gannets flew by and then we came across a Pomarine Jaeger sitting on the water. I jumped up for the Jaeger and got moderate views as it took off.

A bit more down time as everyone got breakfast but we eventually had a few shearwaters including my first Cory’s in Massachusetts. A couple flocks of phalaropes went by, none that I saw well. That was followed with more down time. And then…

“Manx Shearwater coming in” called over the loudspeaker. I took a quick look, saw the mob at the front of the boat and decided to stay back and look for other birds. A minute later, the call over the loudspeaker was that this bird was interesting. I grabbed the camera and started attempting pictures. Glad I did, as you can see.

Fifteen minutes later, we finally lost the bird. Everyone went running for books and to compare photos. Even then, it was pretty clear that the bird was a Little (we’d learn about the split of Macaronesian later). I worked my way to the upper deck to show the leaders my photos. While doing so, we finally realized that it might be a good idea to look for more birds.

Things stayed relatively slow. A couple Audubon’s Shearwaters came through, another state bird. Lots of Wilson’s Storm-Petrels around but we weren’t able to find anything better in them.

We moved through Veatch’s Canyon and headed to Hydrographer’s. Still not a lot. Somewhere along the way, a Band-rumped Storm-Petrel was found. I picked up the bird immediately, but didn’t get a good view. People around me weren’t on it, so I stopped looking and started pointing. They found it, but it disappeared pretty quickly. I saw it well enough to say not a Wilson’s, but needed more for a life bird.

We were heading back, getting a few more Greater Shearwaters and more petrels. Eventually we had 2 Sooty Shearwaters, which is shearwater species #6 on the day. I can’t find the results of the NC trip that found the Cape Verde Shearwater, but that would be the only other time this may have happened on the east coast.

On the way back, we had a few more highlights. A nice flock of Red Phalaropes was close enough to get good views before they flew. And shortly after, someone whistled and pointed. A large flock of large brown shorebirds was flying low over the water. They were announced as Hudsonian Godwits, which made a lot of sense when I thought about it. Beyond that, we didn’t have much in birds before it got dark.

I haven’t even mentioned the great mammal and fish show. We got good looks at several species of whale, including a Sperm Whale. Lots of dolphins as well. Fish included a Manta.

Some pictures below (and Macaronesian):

Sperm Whale spouting

Sperm Whale spout

Sperm Whale diving

and Dive

Audubon's Shearwater


Audubon's Shearwater

Note the dark undertail coverts.

Wilson's Storm-Petrel


Greater Shearwater with Storm-Petrels

Greater Shearwater with some company

Manx Shearwater

Manx Shearwater

After getting a good night’s sleep, it was time to head home. On the way, we stopped at Miles Standish State Forest. I was hoping to catch up with a few of those coastal plain dragonflies and anything else of interest. We started with a stop at the Torrey Pond Rd. trail. At the first pond, a spectacular Comet Darner was flying around. Unfortunately there wasn’t a big window to view, so the chance of getting a picture was pretty much none. But the Golden-winged Skimmers were cooperative:

Golden-winged Skimmer

As were some Martha’s Pennants:

Martha's Pennant

This Golden-winged was a little too friendly:

Spider with Golden-winged Skimmer

I think the spider is Araneus bicentenarius (also known as Giant Lichen Orbweaver). At least people on bugguide think so.

Also lots of spreadwings that I didn’t really try to identify and other stuff more typical of home. We checked the ponds by the road. One had lots of the things I’ve mentioned above, plus several Carolina Saddlebags, the other looked like a typical one from home.

We drove on looking for a couple other ponds. Unfortunately we couldn’t find them, so we headed to the headquarters. It was very quiet here, and since the trail was overgrown, we didn’t stay long.

Punctured Tiger Beetle

And that was the trip, which has taken me far too long to type up.