Massachusetts Highlights

After spending a night in Vermont, Jacob and I headed to Cape Cod for five nights at parents' house. It rained a couple of the days but we were still able to get out and see lots of fun birds and things.  I was intrigued by the recent reports of a Kentucky Warbler and Worm-eating Warbler mingling at Santuit Pond in Mashpee so we went to check it out.

Pine Warbler

We managed to find the right spot, briefly heard the Kentucky singing, then nothing.  A Cooper's Hawk tore through and silence ensued.  A calling Fish Crow was a nice bonus but we gave up without the target warblers.

Painted turtle, trail hazard

That evening we drove out to a spot to listen for Chuck-will's-widow and Eastern Whip-poor-will.  It turned out to be very residential and awkward, so we headed over to Crane Wildlife Management Area where I'd heard woodcock last year.  Immediately we could hear several Eastern Whips calling.

 Lifer!  Initial recordings were drowned out by toads, like this puddle singer:

One morning my dad took us to Dowses Beach in hopes of seeing Jacob's lifer Piping Plovers.  Easy peasy!

There were a bunch of young plovers running around, looking adorable.

Bleh!  Then it went back and ate it.

 Least Terns nest at this beach also.

Willets can weirdly look like lady grouse.

On the way home my dad wanted to stop at the senior center so he pointed us towards the pond behind it.  It was mellow but this Great Crested Flycatcher gave us great views:

Back at my parents' house we saw the squirrel my mom has been sending me pictures of that is weirdly colored.

 Also, they have jelly feeders which Baltimore Orioles love.

Red-bellied Woodpeckers visit their regular feeders often.

Rain was predicted to dump most of one day, with a brief dry window early on.  We decided to make another go at the warbler dream team at Santuit Pond.  This time we power walked straight to the spot and heard the Kentucky sing, then start chipping.  We got eyes on the Worm-eating Warbler first, a warbler I had been wanting to see for a very long time.  Soon after we saw its odd companion, the Kentucky Warbler.  Amazing!  It was dark and dreary and they were moving quickly through dense brush.  The trail we were on loops around so Jacob went ahead to see if they moved all the way to the other side.  I caught up and indeed, the birds were now on the other side.

I paused at an opening in the trees thinking maybe they would use it as a path.  Then they both zoomed out, surprised to find me standing there.  The Worm-eating went one way and the Kentucky landed ten feet from me.  We were both shocked, then it zipped into darkness where I managed a few horrible shots. 

Massachusetts is a bit north of the Kentucky Warbler's normal breeding range.  The Worm-eating Warbler is relatively uncommon on the Cape as well.  The real weird part of these birds hanging out together is they seem to be trying to nest.  Several folks have seen them copulating and even collecting nest materials.  Crazy kids.

Our second to last morning we visited Crane WMA for a long loop around the area. 

 Grasshopper Sparrow

Field Sparrow

We made an afternoon trip to Skunknett River Wildlife Sanctuary because I had actually seen (not just heard) Ovenbirds here last year with my dad.  Again it proved to be a good spot for them and we managed some visuals. 

It's also a great spot for pink lady's slippers.

Our last day we went kayaking around the lake my parents live on where we enjoyed several kinds of turtles.  Painted turtles were easiest to spot, but I'm still not sure who their big friend is on the right.

I submitted a couple pics to iNaturalist and hopefully I will get a response.

My best guess is a Northern red-bellied cooter, but their population in Massachusetts is limited to a different county (Plymouth) according to Mass Audubon.  These turtles are listed as federally endangered and according to Wikipedia, "the Massachusetts wildlife preserve foundation has started to repopulate the turtles by placing them in many south-eastern Massachusetts ponds."  But they only list ponds in Plymouth County.  Maybe they are trying some ponds on the Cape also? 

Also lurking in the pond was a giant snapping turtle I could not manage to photograph.  On our way back the big red turtle had disappeared but this muddy creature was hanging out in the same area:

While we were visiting I convinced my dad to set up a light outside to attract moths and I had a couple cool ones.

Black-and-yellow lichen moth (pretty sure)

 Agreeable (or similiar) tiger moth

That's about it.  We had a great time visiting with all my family plus seeing lots of birds and wildlife.  I picked up three lifers and Jacob had fifteen!  Many thanks to parents for taking good care of us while we were there.  Good times!!!


  1. Those warblers are so weird and great! I hope they do nest successfully. I'm heading to PIPL territory this week, and your photos have me even more stoked to see them. Will be curious to know what turtle you've got.

    1. Several folks on iNaturalist agree it's a red-bellied cooter. I tried to contact the group that's been raising and releasing them in MA but haven't had a response. Pretty cool!

  2. Congrats on 3 lifers!! SO many good birds you saw!!! I have never seen a Kentucky Warbler, Supposedly they do come here... Other good stuff in this post too turtles, moths, and family. My family founders immigrated to Plymouth Mass back in 1624, and my sis and I hope to go up and see some graves that still exist up there at some point, and maybe get in some good birding too.

    1. Wow, 1624! Cool history, and definitely good birding there :)

  3. That KEWA-WEWA situation is very bizarre. I have neither seen nor heard Eastern Whip, much jealousy about that.

    Congrats on another super diverse post and lifers. What is the muddy creature?

  4. So many great sightings! Congrats on all the lifers and I'm glad you got to see the warblers, though it does sound like they're a bit confused!

    1. Thanks, Emma! Yes, a little confused... looking forward to hearing what happens with them.


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