Talking Birds: Birdwatching Around Cape Ann

January 13, 2020 / Good to Know, Outdoor Adventures, Things to Do & See

Cape Ann’s rocky peninsula juts 11 miles out into the North Atlantic and lies along the Atlantic Flyway, a major migratory bird pathway. Some of the best bird watching in North America can be found here, not just during migration, but throughout the year. The diversity of habitat from deep woods to open water means a spectacular variety of species.

In spring local woods are filled with the songs of warblers, vireos, orioles, tanagers, and a myriad of other colorful seasonal migrants. Near the marshes bufflehead ducks and mergansers head out to their summer homes and are replaced with herons, egrets and cormorants. Terns and plovers return to nest on the beaches. Some birds stay year round, of course, like loons and eiders in harbors, hawks and the occasional bald eagle near marsh or pond.

There’s plenty of great land birding to be had on Cape Ann, but from late spring to early fall the attention of many birders turns towards the abundance of ocean-going or “pelagic” birds that can be seen from boats leaving Cape Ann, from Gloucester’s Back Shore or Halibut Point State Park.

Which pelagics can you see? That depends on a variety of factors from water temperature to weather conditions and food availability. Some visitors are quite common, like the greater and sooty shearwaters, Wilson’s storm petrels, and northern gannets. Jaegers and kittiwakes stop by occasionally. With a little luck and patience you may be rewarded with some truly rare sightings.

All local whale watch boats have naturalists on board and local fishing charter captains can point out common species. Ask about specialized bird watching tours, and don’t forget your binoculars.

On land, check out Stacy Boulevard and Stage Fort Park downtown, at the beaches or on the marshes of the Annisquam River. Inland, visit Ravenswood Park or Dogtown. Good luck and good birding!