Tag Archives: may

MAY IS THE MAGICAL MONTH FOR MIGRATION THROUGH MASSACHUSETTS – Featuring Laughing Gulls at Good Harbor Beach

Over the past several weeks we have been graced with a bevy of beauties arriving on our shores, some here to stay to nest for the summer, and for some, we are a stopover to their breeding grounds further north, a place to rest and refuel.

Last night a pair of Laughing Gulls was spotted foraging at the shoreline at Good Harbor Beach, earlier in the week a pair of Yellow Legs was at GHB in the early morning, and last week, a flock of Brant Geese, a trio of Black-bellied Plovers, and a Willet were observed. Our gardens, woodlands, meadows, and dunes have come alive with Ruby-throated Hummingbirds, Yellow Warblers, Eastern Phoebes, American Robins, Baltimore Orioles, Eastern Towhees, Bobolinks, Carolina Wrens, Brown Thrashers, Eastern Bluebirds, and dozens more species of songbirds.

The striking black-hooded Laughing Gull breeds in Massachusetts, but was nearly extirpated because of the plume and egg hunters of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. They began to make a comeback, only to be devastated again by larger gulls expanding their southward range. Laughing Gulls are adaptable and today their numbers are increasing.

I’ve seen single Laughing Gulls at Good Harbor, but this is the first pair. Perhaps they are breeding at Salt Island or Thacher Island. Wouldn’t that be wonderful 🙂

Laughing Gull breeding and wintering range

Beautiful few moments when the sun was trying to break through the bank of clouds.

Super high tides at Good Harbor Beach this week; notice how close to the dune’s edge is the line of seaweed left by the last tide.

Mama on the nest

The Magical Month of May for Migrations in Massachusetts

May is a magical month in Massachusetts for observing migrants traveling to our shores, wooded glens, meadows, and shrubby uplands. They come either to mate and to nest, or are passing through on their way to the Arctic tundra and forests of Canada and Alaska.

I am so excited to share about the many beautiful species of shorebirds, songbirds, and butterflies I have been recently filming and photographing for several projects. Mostly I shoot early in the morning, before setting off to work with my landscape design clients. I love, love my work, but sometimes it’s really hard to tear away from the beauty that surrounds here on Cape Ann. I feel so blessed that there is time to do both. If you, too, would like to see these beautiful creatures, the earliest hours of daylight are perhaps the best time of day to capture wildlife, I assume because they are very hungry first thing in the morning and less likely to be bothered by the presence of a human. Be very quiet and still, and observe from a distance far enough away so as not to disturb the animal’s activity.

Some species, like Great Blue Herons, Snowy Egrets, Black-crowned Night Herons, Great Egrets, Brant Geese, and Osprey, as well as Greater and Lesser Yellow Legs, are not included here because this post is about May’s migration and these species were seen in April.

Please note that several photos are not super great by photo skill standards, but are included so you can at least see the bird in a Cape Ann setting. I am often shooting something faraway, at dawn, or dusk, or along a shady tree-lined lane. As so often happens, I’ll get a better capture in better light, and will switch that out, for the purpose of record keeping, at a later date.

Happy Magical May Migration!

The male Eastern Towhee perches atop branches at daybreak and sings the sweetest ta-weet, ta-weet, while the female rustles about building a nest in the undergrowth. Some live year round in the southern part of the US, and others migrate to Massachusetts and parts further north to nest.

If these are Short-billed Dowitchers, I’d love to see a Long-billed Dowitcher! They are heading to swampy pine forests of high northern latitudes.

Black-bellied Plovers, much larger relatives of Piping Plovers, look like Plain Janes when we see them in the fall (see above).

Now look at his handsome crisp black and white breeding plumage; its hard to believe we are looking at the same bird! He is headed to breed in the Arctic tundra in his fancy new suit.

The Eastern Kingbird is a small yet feisty songbird; he’ll chase after much larger raptors and herons that dare to pass through his territory. Kingbirds spend the winter in the South American forests and nest in North America.

With our record of the state with the greatest Piping Plover recovery rate, no post about the magical Massachusetts May migration would be complete without including these tiniest of shorebirds. Female Piping Plover Good Harbor Beach.