Birds and More Birds in Winter


Mute Swans sail out of Flat Pond, adjacent to South Cape Beach in Mashpee

We headed to the Cape on a gorgeous winter’s day and found birds–lots of birds, each place we stopped along the coast in Falmouth and Mashpee. We focused on Waquoit Bay, and found several places to take in the shoreline. Each stop offered views of migrating birds, some soon ready to fly north, and others just arrived from the south, much sooner than usual.

DSC02885We are not bird experts. We have learned, however, to recognize some common visitors to the shoreline in New England. This visit offered us views of lots of hooded mergansers, scaups, buffleheads, mute swans, and canada geese.


Brandt Geese feeding just off shore, searching through the seaweed in the waves for food

Perhaps the most fun, since we got the best views, were the Brandt geese that fed in the seaweed just off shore at South Cape Beach in Mashpee.


Clear view of the narrow white neck collar that distinguishes Brandt Geese, Arctic visitors here for the winter

Our walk on South Cape beach also offered a great view of Flat Pond, which held flocks of migrating birds. The wind was brisk, but the birds seemed indifferent to the weather. As always, their focus was on food. We spent some time on a handy bench overlooking Flat Pond, next to the shoreline, which offered a much better view of the pond than the Flat Pond Trail, which we also visited.


Overview of Flat Pond from the woodland inland trail.

South Cape Beach is at the bottom of Waquoit Bay, but at the head of the bay sits a quite different view of the bay, from Waquoit Bay visitor center, just over the line from Mashpee in Falmouth.


Gently sloped path leads visitors from the visitor center down the dune to the shoreline

Set on a high dune, the visitor’s center overlooks the entire bay, and provides lots of educaitonal opportunities. It also features a gently sloped path across the dune down to the water’s edge at the top of the bay.


View from the head of Waquoit Bay, looking down toward the shoreline

Near dusk we stopped at the Shining Sea Bike trail in Falmouth, to see what birds we might find in the salt ponds just inland form the shoreline. These ponds shelter migrating herring and eels in springtime, but they had not yet arrived during our visit.


Red-winged blackbird singing for spring along the Shine Sea bikeway

We did however, hear a red-winged blackbird, and finally spotted the singer on the telephone wire overhead, his bright red wing patch clearly visitible as he sang.


Canada geese flying in formation, practicing their group flying skills, just off shore along the Shining Sea bike path, Martha’s Vineyard in the distance

Spring is coming, and warmer weather will bring more visitors, even as our winter bird visitors head back north to their nesting grounds. Regardless of the time of year, we always find something of interest along the shoreline. Happy trails!


Marjorie Turner Hollman is a writer who loves the outdoors, and is the author of Easy Walks in Massachusetts, 2nd editionMore Easy Walks in Massachusetts, 2nd editionEasy Walks and Paddles in the Ten Mile River Watershed, and Finding Easy Walks Wherever You Are. Her memoir, the backstory of Easy Walks, is My Liturgy of Easy Walks: Reclaiming hope in a world turned upside down.

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