Winter Bird Watching on Cape Ann is an Off-Season Delight

January 05, 2021 / Outdoor Adventures, Things to Do & See

Blog written by Michelle Williams | Atlantic Vacation Homes

Did you know that Cape Ann is a bird watching paradise, especially in the off-season? Even the middle of winter is a wonderful time to catch sight of the wide variety of migrating waterfowl and coastline birds that visit our rugged shores each year.

What Birds You Might See

In addition to a variety of gulls, avid birders keep their eyes open for such species as Harlequin Duck, King Eider, Pacific Loon, Northern Gannet, Horned Grebe, Great Cormorant, Common Eider, Common and Red-throated Loons. As the seasons turn, as many as 27 species of shorebirds come through Cape Ann, either as their final destination or as a pit stop on their migratory paths north and then south again.

A Horned Grebe. Photo: Pixabay

A Horned Grebe. Photo: Pixabay












There are many beaches, parks and reservation lands along the North Shore that are considered “hot spots” for bird watching:

  • Rockport, MA: Halibut Point State Park has 2.5 miles of trails around the former Babson Farm Quarry and down to the rocky shore.
  • Gloucester, MA: Ravenswood Park has 10 miles of nature trails, crisscrossing 600 acres.
  • Gloucester, MA: Jodrey Fish Pier is a natural magnet for all types of shore birds, particularly gulls.
  • Gloucester, MA: The Bass Rocks area of the Back Shore is a good birding spot.
  • Newburyport, MA: Mass Audubon’s Joppa Flats Education Center offers a variety of birding programs, including the “Superbowl of Birding” and a “Birder’s Certificate” course.
  • Plum Island, MA: Parker River National Wildlife Refuge offers a checklist of refuge birds to find on your self-guided tour.
  • Ipswich, MA: Crane Beach has a nationally recognized shorebird protection program and is one of the world’s most important nesting sites for piping plovers.
An adult Northern Gannet at rest on the water. Photo: 7 Seas Whale Watch

An adult Northern Gannet at rest on the water. Photo: 7 Seas Whale Watch

The Winter Birding Boat Trip

In late winter each year, 7 Seas Whale Watch and the Cape Ann Chamber of Commerce co-host a Winter Birding Boat Trip. This four-hour excursion aboard 7 Seas’ flagship vessel, the Privateer IV, along with expert guides who will help identify the winter sea birds you will observe.

For information on the most recent bird activity in the area, the American Birding Association maintains a very active list of reported Bird Sightings in Massachusetts.

Where to Stay

If you are looking to extend your birding excursion, here is a list of accommodations to plan an overnight or longer stay in and around Gloucester.

Atlantic Vacation Homes
Beauport Hotel Gloucester
Blue Shutters Beachside Inn
Cape Ann’s Marina Resort
Harborview Inn
Cape Ann Motor Inn
Rockport Inn & Suites