Three Western Kingbirds at Fort Hill, Massachusetts!

Alex LamoreauxBird Finding Tips, Bird Sightings, Birding, birds in flight, Chase, General News and Info, Migration, Photography, Rarities, Trip ReportsLeave a Comment

After a successful morning of chasing Rhode Island’s Mountain Bluebird and the Bridgewater, Massachusetts Northern Lapwing, my friends and I shot over towards Cape Cod. While crossing over the Bourne Bridge, we noticed noticed about 250 Common Eiders floating beneath it so we pulled down around for a better look – what a great way to kick off our time on Cape Cod! Our first plans upon arriving on Cape Cod were to visit Fort Hill and search for the previously-reported Western Kingbirds. At this point, we knew about two kingbirds but found out that there were now three present, all in the same small area! At 1:00pm, we pulled in to Fort Hill and began searching for the birds. A nice flock of Common Eiders passed over and the bird activity in the area was really great with many other waterfowl species around and flyover Greater Yellowlegs.

A flock of Common Eiders passing over Fort Hill. (Photo by Alex Lamoreaux)

A flock of Common Eiders passing over Fort Hill. (Photo by Alex Lamoreaux)

After a few minutes of searching, Josh spotted a Western Kingbird. We walked over to get a better look and then spotted the second and then third kingbirds! Holy crow – three Western Kingbirds all flying right around us, and in Massachusetts! To add to how awesome this sight was, a local birder pointed out a very distant white blob sitting among gulls WAY out on a sand spit. Despite being so far away, the bird was unmistakable – an American White Pelican! We had heard one had been seen off and on around Cape Cod, but hadn’t planned on looking for it since it was so sporadic and difficult to depend on so it was really a treat to end up running in to it by accident. While we were admiring the kingbirds and the distant pelican, I spotted another yellow-bellied bird foraging deep in a thicket of brush. The three of us fought to get a clear look at the bird, but soon it was clear that we were staring at a Yellow-breasted Chat! We had heard that one was in the area but never thought we would stumble into it! Two bonus species that we hadn’t ever planned on seeing!

One of three Western Kingbirds at Fort Hill. (Photo by Alex Lamoreaux)

One of three Western Kingbirds at Fort Hill. (Photo by Alex Lamoreaux)

Two of the kingbirds surveying their makeshift Massachusetts environment. (Photo by Alex Lamoreaux)

Two of the kingbirds surveying their makeshift Massachusetts environment. (Photo by Alex Lamoreaux)

After we had gotten some great looks at the three kingbirds, we decided to join some local birders in searching for various sparrows in the area. The habitat nearby looked great for the salty sparrows plus a LeConte’s Sparrow had been discovered recently. We all spent quite a bit of time searching the saltmarsh for sparrows, without any luck. But we had Ian with us. Ian Gardner is one of the best birders to have along when searching for salty sparrows – he is like a hunting dog searching for a pheasant, so I wasn’t too surprised to turn and see Ian way out in the marsh pointing towards a sparrow he had just flushed. We all ran over and were pleased to get incredibly good (although brief) looks at a Nelson’s Sparrow! We didn’t have any luck with the other salty sparrows or the Le Conte’s, but we really couldn’t complain since we had such great luck with other species. By the time we left Fort Hill at 2:50pm, we had found 34 species there.

Nelson's Sparrow (Atlantic Coast subspecies) at Fort Hill. (Photo by Alex Lamoreaux)

Nelson’s Sparrow (Atlantic Coast subspecies) at Fort Hill. (Photo by Alex Lamoreaux)

The three of us wanted to spend the last few hours of the day sea-watching. After some local birders gave Ian a tip on a nearby location called Nauset Beach, we shot over there and set up our scopes to search for waterfowl and whatever other sea birds we could find. Right away we picked up all three scoters plus many Red-breasted Mergansers and Common Eiders. While scanning through some scoters, I spotted two adult male Harlequin Ducks! Far offshore we could see adult Northern Gannets diving and there were quite a few Red-throated Loons floating offshore and flying past in small groups. We walked down to the edge of the ocean to get better looks at some of the nearby loons and saw Black-bellied Plovers, Sanderlings, and Dunlin along the beach. Before leaving to go grab some cheeseburgers and beer, we spotted three Razorbills floating out past the waves! A perfect end to a really amazing day of birding in New England!

Red-throated Loon floating past Nauset Beach. (Photo by Alex Lamoreaux)

Red-throated Loon floating past Nauset Beach. (Photo by Alex Lamoreaux)