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Pelagic Bird Watching From Gloucester, MA

Pelagic bird watching from gloucester.

7 Seas is proud of its reputation as being “the birder’s whale watch” in Gloucester.

While the whales are, of course, the main focus of our trips, many of our crew are also avid bird watchers and are always aware of any birds in the area. We make a special point to make sure that any birders on board don’t miss any rare (or common!) species that we encounter.

To learn more about the pelagic bird species we see on our while whale watching just select from the menu to the left to access all the various bird information pages contained within our site. All of the contents of these pages were written by 7 Seas Whale Watch naturalist (and birder!) S. Jay Frontierro.

Above photo: Beautiful pelagic birds that are seen in Spring and Fall in New England waters. Red-necked (formerly “Northern”) Phalaropes are by far the most common. Red Phalaropes are rare but always possible to see. Both species are shown in the photograph above (I’m sure you can figure out which species is which!) 

For birders who may be visiting from out of state (or country) and are hoping to do some bird watching around the Cape Ann/North Shore area, a couple of great resources to help guide you to some of the “birdiest” places in Massachusetts are:

Sue McGrath’s  NEWBURYPORT BIRDERS

Tom Wetmore’s  PLUM ISLAND BIRDS

And for the most recent bird sightings in all of Massachusetts you can also check-out the  MASSACHUSETTS BIRDING LIST .

Good luck and good birding!

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Welcome to WESTPORTSEABIRDS.COM!

 The entire Westport Seabirds crew had such a great time with our valued customers during our 2023 season. Thanks to all our for making this our 47th year such a memorable one!

Our 2024 schedule is now available – see 2024 schedule tab

 We  hope you will join us for one of our all day pelagic birdwatching trips to one of several deep water submarine canyons that are 30 nautical miles from the mouth of Grays Harbor, on the edge of the North American continental shelf. The outer half of the shelf and the Canyons support a vast array of marine life. In addition to regular species like Black-footed Albatross and Fork-tailed Storm-Petrel, our trips feature seasonal species such as Laysan Albatross, Flesh-footed, Short-tailed, and Buller’s Shearwaters, and South Polar Skua among many other offshore species. We are also looking for whales, dolphins, porpoises, fur seals and other marine life that populate this nutrient rich environment. 

About Westport Seabirds

Photograph, Monte Carlo Terry Wahl initiated trips offshore to Gray's Canyon in September of 1966 and began systematic censusing in September of 1971, which continues through the present. Westport Seabirds trips have produced the longest running database of birds counted at sea in the world and have provided the foundation for several papers on seabirds of the northeast Pacific, including m...

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Image gallery, 2024 schedule now available.

All of our trips go offshore to one of three deep water canyons approximately 28-35 miles offshore. These canyons are just beyond the edge of the continental shelf and reach water depths in excess of 2,500 feet.

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Birding Hotspots

Massachusetts pelagic birding.

pelagic birding trips massachusetts

Nantucket, Massachusetts, US

Tuckernuck Island (restricted access)

296 species

From The Water

Muskeget Island

196 species

As observed from kayak

Plymouth, Massachusetts, US

Kingston Bay

148 species

pelagic birding trips massachusetts

Barnstable, Massachusetts, US

Pleasant Bay (Outer Cape Cod)

141 species

pelagic birding trips massachusetts

Dukes, Massachusetts, US

Nomans Land Island NWR (restricted access)

140 species

Essex, Massachusetts, US

Stellwagen Bank--NW Corner

128 species

pelagic birding trips massachusetts

Pasque Island

118 species

East of Chatham

pelagic birding trips massachusetts

Stellwagen Bank NMS

Stellwagen bank--sw corner.

111 species

Stellwagen Bank--Race Point Waters

108 species

Nantucket Sound

105 species

About this Location

There are several different birding boat tours, whale watches, and pelagic trips that leave from Massachuestts ports. For pelagic trips, familiarize yourself with  eBird's pelagic protocol and use the appropriate personal locations or eBird hotspots

The eBird pelagic protocol applies to checklists that are made farther than two miles offshore on oceans, seas, or large lakes. Choose the Pelagic Protocol option from the ‘Other’ menu of Observation Types. Please note that we still have much to learn about seabird distribution, so we encourage you to  add photos and notes to document your sightings on your checklists! 

If you’re moving: Count for up to 60 minutes on each checklist; stopping at the 1-hour mark. Record the distance traveled (ideally with  eBird Mobile Tracks ), adjust the distance estimate for backtracking as you would a traveling checklist , and choose a location on the map for where you started that checklist period. Repeat this process throughout the trip until you return to within two miles of shore.

If you’re anchored: Keep a checklist for as long as you’re anchored, and then follow the above instructions once you start to move again.

Last updated March 27, 2024

></center></p><p>« All Events</p><ul><li>This event has passed.</li></ul><h2>Seabirds and Pelagic Birding Boat Trip in Cape Ann, MA</h2><p>March 18, 2022 @ 10:00 am - march 20, 2022 @ 3:00 pm.</p><p><center><img style=

Seabirds and Pelagic Birding Boat Trip in Cape Ann, MA March 18  (10 am) to March 20 (3 pm) [Rescheduled date] $550 ($125 single supplement) 7 participants maximum Program will be cancelled in the event of forecasted severe weather or high winds at sea Contact us to register

Cape Ann, Massachusetts, is a worldwide destination for winter birds and birders. This annual winter adventure is an outstanding opportunity to spend quality time with species rarely, if ever, seen inland. This trip is not only about discovering rare species by land and sea, but about watching, enjoying, and studying seabirds among a community of like-minded nature lovers under the leadership of a first-class guide and educator.

We’ll depart NBNC on Friday morning to head down to Gloucester, MA to search for coastal rarities such as Iceland and Glaucous Gulls, King Eiders, Northern Gannets, Harlequin Ducks, and more. On Saturday, we’ll head out on a pelagic boat trip to one of New England’s most productive marine habitats, the Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary. With expert pelagic guides, we’ll search for hard-to-find offshore regulars like Razorbills, Dovekies, Common and Thick-billed Murres, Black-legged Kittiwakes, Atlantic Puffins, Dovekies, Scoters, and Skuas.

Our search then continues from land on Sunday as we explore nearby hotspots such as Salisbury Beach or Plum Island for species like Snowy Owls, Rough-legged Hawks, and Purple Sandpipers. We arrive back in Montpelier on Sunday afternoon.

Led by birder and NBNC Director of Natural History Programs, Sean Beckett .

Includes: 2 nights lodging, all transportation, pelagic boat fees, shared spotting scopes, and expert bird guide. Cancellation Policy: NBNC will not be able to guarantee refunds within two weeks of this program, unless severe winter weather requires us to cancel this program. COVID-19 expectations:  Participants must be fully vaccinated to attend. Masks will be required indoors and inside the van. Participants should expect indoor meals in restaurants in the Gloucester area.

Contact Us to Register

2018 and 2019 cape ann pelagic seabirding highlights and species list.

pelagic birding trips massachusetts

Photos by Sean Beckett

Species List from Previous Cape Ann Trips

Canada Goose

American Black Duck

Green-winged Teal

Ring-necked Duck

Greater Scaup

Common Eider

Harlequin Duck

Surf Scoter

White-winged Scoter

Black Scoter

Long-tailed Duck

Common Goldeneye

Red-breasted Merganser

Wild Turkey

Common Loon

Red-throated Loon

Horned Grebe

Red-necked Grebe

Great Cormorant

Red-tailed Hawk

Cooper’s Hawk

Purple Sandpiper

Common Murre

Thick-billed Murre

Black Guillemot

Black-legged Kittiwake

Ring-billed Gull

Herring Gull

Iceland Gull

Glaucous Gull

Great Black-backed Gull

Northern Gannet

Rock Pigeon

Mourning Dove

Downy Woodpecker

Red-bellied Woodpecker

American Crow

Common Raven

Black-capped Chickadee

Tufted Titmouse

White-breasted Nuthatch

American Robin

European Starling

Carolina Wren

Yellow-rumped Warbler

Song Sparrow

White-crowned Sparrow

Northern Cardinal

Red-winged Blackbird

Common Grackle

House Finch

House Sparrow

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Cape Cod - pelagic trips & advice

  • Thread starter Eos9
  • Start date Jul 31, 2015

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Well-known member.

  • Jul 31, 2015

I am currently looking into planning a trip to Massachusetts / Cape Cod from mid to late Sept and would appreciate any advice to where to base myself and any short (i.e. 4-6 hr) pelagic trips that may be available to book at this time. I intend to take 2 or 3 Whale watching trips during my stay and although I expect to see various seabirds on these trips I would be grateful to hear about any trips specifically aimed at birds that may be available. I am open to advice on where to base myself during this time but am leaning towards a two stop itinerary such as Plymouth followed by a few days on Cape Cod although I'm completely open to suggestions. I've never visited Cape Cod itself so any advice on where to base myself to go on trips and visit the best birding areas would be of great help. I am more interested in bird & wildlife photography than counting species seen etc so area's or sites that allow good opportunities for photography would be of greatest interest. Many Thanks  

Member since 2007

It has been a few years since I was there, but since no one else has responded I'll tell you what I remember. First, whale watching trips are probably your best bet for short pelagics. Trips dedicated to pelagic birds generally head fairly far offshore, so they take longer. The Brookline Bird Club offers the best trips. They have one in late September, but it is an overnight trip, so probably not to your liking. Second, there is a significant potential for traffic bottlenecks getting on and off the Cape, especially on the weekends. So I would stay on the Cape for those days you are going to be visiting there. Also, you might consider hiring a boat to transport you to Monomoy Island, a National Wildlife Refuge. This is on the lower cape IIRC and is basically a long sandbar where you can walk for several hours watching the many shore and seabirds that roost/nest/feed on the island.  

  • Aug 3, 2015
Jim M. said: It has been a few years since I was there, but since no one else has responded I'll tell you what I remember. First, whale watching trips are probably your best bet for short pelagics. Trips dedicated to pelagic birds generally head fairly far offshore, so they take longer. The Brookline Bird Club offers the best trips. They have one in late September, but it is an overnight trip, so probably not to your liking. Second, there is a significant potential for traffic bottlenecks getting on and off the Cape, especially on the weekends. So I would stay on the Cape for those days you are going to be visiting there. Also, you might consider hiring a boat to transport you to Monomoy Island, a National Wildlife Refuge. This is on the lower cape IIRC and is basically a long sandbar where you can walk for several hours watching the many shore and seabirds that roost/nest/feed on the island. Click to expand...
  • Aug 5, 2015

A local birder organizes short pelagics from Chatham - but not to a fixed schedule - details here http://capecodbirds.org/chatham-pelagics/ I think he posts details of upcoming trips on MASSBIRD, but on short notice. Whale watching trips run from Barnstable Harbour (Hyannis Whale Watcher - note that they do NOT run from Hyannis) and Provincetown (Dolphin Fleet). Depending on when you will be there the Cape Cod Bird Festival is on 18-20 Sept http://www.capecodbirdclub.org/bird-festival/cape-cod-bird-festival/ and has a variety of organized trips, including Monomoy and a longer pelagic. These festivals and organized field trips aren't everyone's cup of tea but it would be a good way to see some local areas guided by top local birders. Chatham is a pretty town handy for most of the Cape and would make a good base, particularly for Monomoy but also Mass Audubon sites at Wellfleet and Long Pasture and not too bad for the Beech Forest at Provincetown which is a migration hotspot (although I think better in Spring). If you went to the Festival you might as well stay in Hyannis those days.  

  • Aug 6, 2015
Eos9 said: Thanks for the information Jim much appreciated. I will certainly look into visiting Monomoy island as you suggest and have just ordered the 'Birds of Cape Cod' which will also hopefully prove useful regarding best places to visit etc. Click to expand...
  • I understand this is an old thread, but want to reply anyway

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Birdist Rule #55: Go on a Pelagic Birding Trip

pelagic birding trips massachusetts

I’m going to start with the bad stuff, so we can push through and get to the good stuff. Pelagic birding—taking a boat way out into the ocean to find birds that can only be seen there—can be a real ordeal.  

a) You have to get up very early in the morning. Likely even earlier than regular birding *screams silently*.

b) There’s a chance you’ll get seasick.

c) You could be stuck on a boat from sunup to sundown. If that's the case, you’re going to get burned. Or more likely frozen (trips run year-round).

Okay, that’s all of it. Just six sentences worth of difficulties! But those six sentences—especially the one about possibly getting seasick—have kept lots of birders away from exciting and unique birding experiences.

Now here are 57 sentences about why you should go pelagic birding. You get to see birds that you can’t see anywhere else. You get to check out other cool stuff like whales and sharks and flying fish and sea turtles. There’s a higher-than-typical chance that you’ll find a very rare bird. You feel like you’re a pirate, or like you’re in Treasure Island . You get to hang out with really good birders. You’re never stuck in traffic. You get to eat ginger snaps.

For me, it’s the rare birds that clinch it. I’ve taken pelagic trips off Maine, Delaware, North Carolina, Louisiana, California, and Alaska, and have seen birds that elicit envious groans from even the most seasoned birders. On my first pelagic trip, near Maryland in 2006, someone pointed out a Cape Verde Shearwater—maybe the second-ever U.S. sighting. We hoisted a Bermuda flag after spotting an ultra-rare Bermuda Petrel last year off Cape Hatteras. 

It’s not just the rare ones either; all of the birds you see on the high seas are cool. There are lots of species that have evolved to spend nearly their entire lives on the open ocean, making landfall only to breed on remote island crags. These birds aren’t like their landlubber cousins: They’re built to fly long distances over endless miles of waves.  I’ll never forget the sight of a Black-footed Albatross whizzing in and out of the Pacific fog, dwarfing the gulls and shearwaters in the boat’s wake.

You’ve probably read about how albatross wings are perfectly tailored to soaring over the water with little effort, but they aren’t the only birds that can do that. Slightly smaller avians called shearwaters and petrels are commonly encountered offshore (depending where you are); with their elegant swooping and gliding, they’re just as dazzling as albatrosses. There are even adorable birds to be found offshore, like the storm-petrels, which sometimes feed by dancing on the surface of the water .

Albatross, shearwaters, petrels, storm-petrels—and I haven’t even mentioned the predatory jaegers and skuas, or cold-water divers like puffins, razorbills, and other alcids. The point is, it’s worth getting on a boat to see a ton of cool birds. Let me tell you how to do it.

pelagic birding trips massachusetts

Everyone’s worried about seasickness. I’m with you. I’ve been seasick on a pelagic trip before (though only once), and it’s really not fun. But it’s also avoidable. The first thing you need to know is that the bigger the boat, the less chance you have of getting seasick. Larger ships feel like they’re barely moving—even when they’re going a trillion knots. That’s why people on cruise ships aren’t constantly barfing over the railings.

Luckily, there are monster boats that will get you out to sea for a day only: whale watches. A whale watch is the perfect way to begin pelagic birding because a) the boats are big, b) lots of coastal cities have regularly scheduled trips, and c) you get to see some dang whales! When I lived in Portland, Maine, I would jump on the local whale watch boat again and again each summer because it was cheap and always gave me a shot at seeing some great birds (Maine’s first-ever Yellow-billed Loon was seen from that boat, if I’m not mistaken.)

There are some downsides to a whale watch cruise, though. For one, the goal of the boat isn’t to find birds, so you’re pretty much on your own for spotting and identifying species. Second, the boats are crowded with looky-loo tourists who will crowd the decks and generally do annoying tourist stuff. If you really want a birding experience, you have to upgrade to a birding-specific pelagic.

That’s where you have to do your research, because there are only a handful of companies that run regular pelagic trips. (The American Birding Association puts out a helpful directory each year.) Shearwater Journeys is the most famous outfitter on the Pacific side (Anjelica Huston played a thinly veiled homage to real-life trip leader Debi Shearwater in the 2011 film The Big Year , except her name was Annie Auklet). On the Atlantic, a trip to the Gulf Stream with Patteson Pelagics out of Cape Hatteras is a true adventure. They turn up rare species as much as anyone in the United States. I’ve also had great luck with See Life Paulagics , which runs out of Delaware, Maryland, New York, and New Jersey. Many local Audubon chapters will run once-a-year pelagics out of their regions, so check your local Internet listings for that info.

pelagic birding trips massachusetts

Trips generally run a couple hundred bucks, depending on the time of year and how long the boat plans to be out. The really hardcore ones run multiple days, ensuring plenty of time over weird undersea features—the Gulf Stream or seamounts or continental shelves—that draw good birds. They’re also pretty low-frills, because birds are the one and only priority. (Actually, there isn't a single frill.) Here’s another tip: Bring your binoculars and a camera, but don’t bring a scope. Even in calm seas there will be too much movement.

And speaking of movement, seasickness is slightly more of a concern on some of these smaller boats—but there are all kinds of medical and folkloric measures on how to avoid it. My advice: Do whatever you need to do. If it happens anyway, it’ll make for a funny story. Or just file it under “worst hangover ever.” In addition to the incredible birds you can see on a pelagic trip, part of the fun is that you can tell all your non-birding friends what a crazy person you are for jumping on a small boat and wandering out into the middle of the ocean. Pelagic trips are a unique part of the adventure of birding, and a little barf just makes it all the more memorable. 

A male Rufous Hummingbird in profile perched on the tip of a budding branch.

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  • Irenidae – Fairy-bluebirds
  • Laniidae – Shrikes
  • Leiothrichidae – Turdoides Babblers, Laughingthrushes, Barwings & Sibias
  • Locustellidae – Grassbirds & Allies
  • Machaerirhynchidae – Boatbills
  • Macrosphenidae – Crombecs, Longbills & African Warblers
  • Malaconotidae – Bushshrikes, Tchagras, Puffbacks & Boubous
  • Maluridae – Australasian Wrens
  • Melampittidae – Melampittas
  • Melanocharitidae – Berrypeckers & Longbills
  • Melanopareiidae – Crescent-chests
  • Meliphagidae – Honeyeaters
  • Menuridae – Lyrebirds
  • Mimidae – Mockingbirds, Thrashers & Allies
  • Mohoidae – O’os
  • Mohouidae – Whitehead, Yellowhead & Brown Creeper
  • Monarchidae – Monarchs, Paradise Flycatchers & Allies
  • Motacillidae – Longclaws, Pipits & Wagtails
  • Muscicapidae – Old World Flycatchers
  • Nectariniidae – Sunbirds & Spiderhunters
  • Neosittidae – Sitellas
  • Nicatoridae – Nicators
  • Notiomystidae – Stitchbird
  • Oreoicidae – Australasian Bellbirds
  • Oriolidae – Old World Orioles, Pitohuis & Figbirds
  • Orthonychidae – Logrunners & Chowchilla
  • Pachycephalidae – Whistlers & Allies
  • Panuridae – Bearded Reedling
  • Paradisaeidae – Birds-of-paradise
  • Paramythiidae – Painted Berrypeckers
  • Pardalotidae – Pardalotes
  • Paridae – Tits & Chickadees
  • Parulidae – New World Warblers
  • Passeridae – Old World Sparrows
  • Pellorneidae – Fulvettas, Ground Babblers & Allies
  • Petroicidae – Australasian Robins
  • Peucedramidae – Olive Warbler
  • Philepittidae – Asities
  • Phylloscopidae – Leaf Warblers & Allies
  • Picathartidae – Rockfowl
  • Pipridae – Manakins
  • Pittidae – Pittas
  • Pityriaseidae – Bristlehead
  • Platysteiridae – Wattle-eyes & Batises
  • Ploceidae – Weavers, Widowbirds & Allies
  • Pnoepygidae – Wren-babblers
  • Polioptilidae – Gnatcatchers
  • Pomatostomidae – Australasian Babblers
  • Prionopidae – Helmetshrikes
  • Promeropidae – Sugarbirds
  • Prunellidae – Accentors
  • Psophodidae – Whipbirds, Jewel-babblers & Quail-thrushes
  • Ptilogonatidae – Silky-flycatchers
  • Ptilonorhynchidae – Bowerbirds & Catbirds
  • Pycnonotidae – Bulbuls
  • Regulidae – Goldcrests & Kinglets
  • Remizidae – Penduline Tits
  • Rhagologidae – Mottled Berryhunter
  • Rhinocryptidae – Tapaculos
  • Rhipiduridae – Fantails
  • Sapayoidae -Sapayoa
  • Scotocercidae – Streaked Scrub Warbler
  • Sittidae – Nuthatches
  • Stenostiridae – Fairy Flycatchers
  • Sturnidae – Starlings, Mynas & Rhabdornis
  • Sylviidae – Sylviid Babblers, Parrotbills & Fulvettas
  • Tephrodornithidae – Woodshrikes & Allies
  • Thamnophilidae – Antbirds
  • Thraupidae – Tanagers & Allies
  • Tichodromidae – Wallcreeper
  • Timaliidae – Babblers
  • Tityridae – Tityras, Becards & Allies
  • Troglodytidae – Wrens
  • Turdidae – Thrushes
  • Tyrannidae – Tyrant Flycatchers
  • Urocynchramidae – Przevalski’s Finch
  • Vangidae – Vangas
  • Viduidae – Indigobirds & Whydahs
  • Vireonidae – Vireos, Greenlets & Shrike-babblers
  • Zosteropidae – White-eyes, Yuhinas & Allies
  • Accipitridae – Kites, Hawks & Eagles
  • Aegothelidae – Owlet-nightjars
  • Alcedinidae – Kingfishers
  • Alcidae – Auks
  • Anatidae – Swans, Geese & Ducks
  • Anhimidae – Screamers
  • Anhingidae – Darters
  • Anseranatidae – Magpie Goose
  • Apodidae – Swifts
  • Apterygidae – Kiwis
  • Aramidae – Limpkin
  • Ardeidae – Herons, Egrets & Bitterns
  • Balaenicipitidae – Shoebill
  • Brachypteraciidae – Ground Rollers
  • Bucconidae – Puffbirds
  • Bucerotidae – Hornbills
  • Bucorvidae – Ground Hornbills
  • Burhinidae – Thick-knees & Stone Curlews
  • Cacatuidae – Cockatoos
  • Capitonidae – New World Barbets
  • Caprimulgidae – Nightjars & Nighthawks
  • Cariamidae – Seriemas
  • Casuariidae – Cassowaries
  • Cathartidae – New World Vultures
  • Charadriidae – Plovers, Lapwings & Dotterels
  • Chionidae – Sheathbill
  • Ciconiidae – Storks
  • Coliidae – Mousebirds
  • Columbidae – Doves & Pigeons
  • Coraciidae – Rollers
  • Cracidae – Chachalacas, Curassows & Guans
  • Cuculidae – Old World Cuckoos
  • Diomedeidae – Albatrosses
  • Dromadidae – Crab Plover
  • Dromaiidae – Emu
  • Eurypygidae – Sunbittern
  • Falconidae – Falcons, Kestrels & Caracaras
  • Fregatidae – Frigatebirds
  • Galbulidae – Jacamars
  • Gaviidae – Divers or Loons
  • Glareolidae – Coursers & Pratincoles
  • Gruidae – Cranes
  • Haematopodidae – Oystercatchers
  • Heliornithidae – Finfoots & Sungrebe
  • Hemiprocnidae – Treeswifts
  • Hydrobatidae – Northern Storm Petrels
  • Ibidorhynchidae – Ibisbill
  • Indicatoridae – Honeyguides
  • Jacanidae – Jacanas
  • Laridae – Gulls, Terns & Skimmers
  • Leptosomatidae – Cuckoo Roller
  • Lybiidae – African Barbets
  • Megalimidae – Asian Barbets
  • Megapodiidae – Megapodes
  • Meropidae – Bee-eaters
  • Mesitornithidae – Mesites
  • Momotidae – Motmots
  • Musophagidae – Turacos, Plantain-eaters & Go-away-birds
  • Numididae – Guineafowl
  • Nyctibiidae – Potoos
  • Oceanitidae – Austral Storm Petrels
  • Odontophoridae – New World Quails
  • Opisthocomidae – Hoatzin
  • Otididae – Bustards, Floricans & Korhaans
  • Pandionidae – Ospreys
  • Pedionomidae – Plains Wanderer
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  • Pelecanoididae – Diving Petrels
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  • Phalacrocoracidae – Cormorants & Shags
  • Phasianidae – Pheasants, Grouse, Partridges & Allies
  • Phoenicopteridae – Flamingos
  • Phoeniculidae – Wood Hoopoes & Scimitarbills
  • Picidae – Woodpeckers
  • Pluvianellidae – Magellanic Plover
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  • Podargidae – Frogmouths
  • Podicipedidae – Grebes
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pelagic birding trips massachusetts

Commonwealth of Massachusetts

pelagic birding trips massachusetts

Birding Massachusetts

Massachusetts has a long and rich birding history. The Nuttall Ornithological Club – the oldest bird club in North America, and parent organisation to the American Ornithologists Union – was founded in Cambridge in 1873. In 1896, the protest of two Boston Brahmin women against the use of bird feathers in the millinery trade eventually lead to the establishment of the Massachusetts Audubon Society – the oldest such organisation in the country. Ludlow Griscom – Dean of Field Ornithology – held a research position at Harvard University from 1927 until his retirement in 1955. Griscom was the first to effectively demonstrate that birds need not be collected to be correctly identified. And in 1975, the discovery of a Ross’s Gull in Newburyport attracted hundreds of birders from around North America and once and for all showed the world that birding was not just a sport for little old ladies in tennis shoes.

Massachusetts is varied in both topography and biological diversity. The mountains of Berkshire County in western Massachusetts have the highest elevation in the state (3,491); and are home to a number of northern breeding species, such as Olive-sided Flycatcher, Blackpoll and Mourning warblers, and as recently as the 1970s, Bicknell’s Thrush. There are many fine locations in the Berkshires to watch migrating hawks in autumn, and irruptive northern finches are more likely to be found in Berkshire County than in any other part of the state.

The agricultural plains and neighbouring wooded hills of the Connecticut River Valley represent a highway for migratory songbirds in spring and fall. Snow Geese pass through the valley in spectacular numbers during migration, and in 1997, two Ross’s Geese were discovered among an enormous flock of Snow Geese – the first for Massachusetts. In late August, hundreds of migrating Common Nighthawks can often be seen hunting flying ants at dusk.

Quabbin Reservoir in central Massachusetts is the only consistent breeding location for Cerulean Warblers in the Commonwealth, and with nearby Wachusett Reservoir represents the southernmost breeding locale for Common Loons in the country. The greatest draw at Quabbin, however, is the Bald Eagle population, with several pairs breeding since 1989, and impressive concentrations of over-wintering birds every year. At Enfield lookout in Belchertown, one can almost be assured of finding a group of eagle watchers any day in the winter, all with scopes set up and engaged in lively conversation about eagle behaviour. In eastern Worcester County, Mount Wachusett and Mount Watatic are popular spring and fall hawk-watching locales.

The North Shore of Essex County features two of the best-known birding locations in the country. Parker River National Wildlife Refuge (i.e. Plum Island) and adjacent Newburyport are justifiably famous for vagrants, as well as shorebirds in migration, and both waterfowl and raptors during the winter. At Cape Ann, especially in winter, one can almost always encounter birders searching the offshore waters for loons, seabirds, ducks, and gulls. Following south-west winds in spring, both Plum Island and Cape Ann periodically collect impressive numbers of migrating songbirds.

The Greater Boston area offers birders a number of options. The Blue Hills Reservation south of the city is one of the more reliable areas in the state for finding breeding Worm-eating Warblers, and the region was the location of the first breeding Black Vulture in Massachusetts (1998). A short subway ride from Logan Airport is Belle Isle Marsh in East Boston, a locality productive for both herons and shorebirds. Winthrop Beach is a fairly reliable spot to look for Barrow’s Goldeneye, King Eider, and Black-headed Gull in winter, and Mew Gulls have been reported here almost annually in recent years. Marblehead Neck and the Nahant peninsula north of Boston are famous migrant traps for songbirds, but perhaps best known is Mount Auburn Cemetery in Cambridge. Every day during spring migration one can join dozens, if not hundreds, of other birders enjoying spring migration.

The south-eastern mainland of Massachusetts includes both Plymouth and Bristol counties. In the pine-oak barrens of Plymouth’s Miles Standish State Forest, Whip-poor-wills are a common evening sound, and the barrier spit at Plymouth regularly supports breeding Piping Plovers, Common and Least terns, a few Roseate and Arctic terns, and occasionally a pair of Black Skimmers. In Halifax, agricultural fields belonging to Cumberland Farms often support Rough-legged Hawks by day and Short-eared Owls in the evening during the winter. The Dartmouth/Westport area has the largest breeding concentration of Ospreys in the Commonwealth, and is one of the few breeding areas in Massachusetts for White-eyed Vireo. Almost anywhere along the extensive shoreline of south-eastern Massachusetts it is possible to find a pleasant variety of ducks and shorebirds in season.

Cape Cod and the Islands are considerably farther south than the rest of Massachusetts, and consequently are good locations to search for southern species, such as Blue Grosbeak and Summer Tanager, during migration. At the elbow of Cape Cod is Monomoy National Wildlife Refuge and South Beach, a constantly shifting series of sandbars and mud flats, that are virtually shorebird magnets. Practically every shorebird rarity ever recorded in Massachusetts has found its way to this remarkable area at one time or another. The Cape and Islands are also the breeding grounds of several species found nowhere else in the state, but access to these breeding specialities is extremely limited. Tiny Penikese Island in Buzzards Bay is home to a small colony of Leach’s Storm-Petrels, and Northern Harriers and Short-eared Owls – now rare or absent as breeders on the mainland – still regularly nest on Tuckernuck Island off Nantucket. And despite the fact that Chuck-will’s-widow has never been confirmed as a breeder in Massachusetts, indications are that the species has likely been breeding on Martha’s Vineyard for over a quarter of a century.

The popularity of whale-watching makes pelagic birding in Massachusetts more accessible than in many other coastal localities. Whale-watching boats leave daily in the summer from various ports, including Newburyport, Gloucester, Boston, Plymouth, & Provincetown, and occasionally there are dedicated birding trips sponsored by local birding clubs to offshore waters.

By Bird Observer Staff

| [email protected]

Number of bird species: 501

Igoterra checklist.

pelagic birding trips massachusetts

A Birder's Guide to Eastern Massachusetts

Aba field guide to birds of massachusetts, birds of massachusetts, massachusetts birds: an introduction to familiar species, massachusetts breeding bird atlas, cape cod bird festival, wing island bird banding station, cape cod museum of natural history, allen bird club, athol bird & nature club, audubon society in massachusetts, boxborough birders, brookline bird club, cape cod bird club, eastern massachusetts hawk watch, essex county greenbelt association, essex county ornithological club, forbush bird club, hampshire bird club, hoffmann bird club, manomet centre for conservation sciences, massbird.org, massachusetts audubon society, massachusetts avian records committee, massachusetts land trust coalition, menotomy bird club, merrimack valley bird club, millers river environmental center, nasketucket bird club, nature conservancy in massachusetts, paskamansett bird club, south shore bird club, sudbury valley trustees, trustees of reservations.

Abbreviations Key

IBA Sampsons Island

Massachusetts state forests and parks, nr fresh pond reservation, nwr mashpee, nwr monomoy, nwr parker river, nwr silvio o conte national fish and wildlife refuge, national wildlfe refuges in massachusetts, wma burrage pond, wma leadmine, wrf cape poge, wrf long point, ws broad meadow brook sanctuary, ws daniel webster wildlife sanctuary, ws ipswich river, ws moose hill, ws mount auburn cemetery, ws north river, ws stony brook, ws wachusett meadow, ws wellfleet bay wildlife sanctuary, arlington birds, essex river cruises, 2009 [05 may] - andrew birch, 2010 [01 january] - stephanie & jonathan hill, 2016 [10 october] - james p smith - new england, captain farris house, clark tavern inn b&b, inn at cape cod, isaiah hall b&b inn, isaiah jones homestead b&b - sandwich, nobnocket boutique inn - martha's vineyard, birds of new england, central massachusetts bird update, lisa shea's birding in massachusetts, marj rine's birding pages, alexander dunn - the daily bird new england, gregory billingham - forays into the world of birding, james smith - pioneer birding, tom pirro - birding north central massachusetts, artist - catherine mcclung, gallery - migration productions, photographer - jim fenton.

Fatbirder - linking birders worldwide... Wildlife Travellers see our sister site: WAND

Cape Cod Birds

 chatham mini-pelagics.

Close encounters of the pelagic kind aboard the “Kittiwake”

We are sad to report that the Chatham Mini-Pelagics have ended. Captain Kenny Eldredge has retired and put the “Kittiwake” up for sale. It was a great run and we thank everyone who participated – you contributed to our growing knowledge of the distribution and abundance of seabirds off of Chatham. Perhaps at some point in the future another option for pelagic trips will develop, but none is available presently. Thanks again and good birding!

Are you tired of seeing seabirds only as distant specks at the horizon, or fighting for elbow room at the railing of a crowded 100-foot whale-watching boat? Does your stomach rebel at the thought of a three-foot swell? Have you never done a pelagic trip before because you’re unsure how you may fare on an 8-10 hour trip? Then a “mini” pelagic trip off Chatham may be just what the pelagic doctor ordered! Why?

  • We only go when the weather is good — no need to worry about a rough ride. Your comfort and enjoyment are the top priorities.
  • We take a maximum of just 6 people, so there’s plenty of room for everyone.
  • We chum with fresh fish guts, bringing the birds into point blank range — on some trips the birds are literally close enough to touch! The photo-ops are unsurpassed!
  • No depost required and no payment until we’re safe and sound back at the dock. We trust you — if you sign up we trust you will show up!

The trips are run on an irregular basis from June — October. There is no schedule. We go on short notice (usually 3-4 days), when the Captain has an opening in his charter fishing schedule, when the weather looks favorable, and when we can round up at least five participants. If you’re interested in a trip, get in touch through the contact form below and let us know a general time frame. We’ll add you to our contact list and let you know when a trip is scheduled. If you have a group of 5-6 people and would like to schedule a trip, let us know.

Jaegers are seen on most trips, with Parasitic being by far the most numerous, peaking from late August into October, when they frequently put on spectacular aerial displays chasing terns and small gulls.  We also see Long-tailed and Pomarine jaegers on occasion, and have found South Polar Skuas twice, though they are quite rare in these relatively inshore waters.

A few non-breeding Common Loons are usually present during the summer and by September southbound migrants become numerous. And later in the fall strings of migrating scoters and eider can be a feature.

A photo gallery of images from past trips is here . And a spreadsheet (pdf format) of the trip lists from the 2011 – 2014 seasons can be downloaded here .

These trips are organized and lead by Blair Nikula , a native Cape Codder with over four decades of seabirding experience. He has no financial interest in these trips; his only interest is in getting offshore to see (and photograph) some birds!

Peter Flood, another local birder with over two decades of seabirding experience, also occasionally leads or otherwise assists on these trips, as does Peter Trull, a veteran of over 2,000 whale watch trips!

This site is sponsored by the Birdwatcher's General Store

pelagic birding trips massachusetts

Formerly 'Extinct' Bird Shows Up in Massachusetts Waters

pelagic birding trips massachusetts

If you listen regularly, you know that I occasionally report on the so called Extreme Pelagic birding trips run by the vaunted Brookline Bird Club. Well, those wacky, ocean going birders were at it again this past weekend, when, on a quest for rare seabirds, they steamed out of Hyannis aboard the Helen H. 

On their overnight tour of the continental shelf waters 140 miles southeast of Hyannis, these salty surveyors turned up some real doozies. But while sightings of Brown Booby, White-faced Storm-Petrel, Black-capped Petrels, and South Polar Skua were worth the price of admission, one bird put the other sightings to shame. Because until its rediscovery in 1951, the Bermuda Petrel had been presumed extinct for centuries.

First, while the name of this uber rarity is officially Bermuda Petrel, many, including even younger birders, still defer to the traditional Bermudian name of Cahow. I realize this is a hard to pronounce word, so let me use it in a sentence: “Having seen the world’s second rarest seabird in Massachusetts waters, I can’t help but wonder Ca-how the ca-hell those Brookline Bird Club birders got so lucky.” Hopefully that helps.

Given that this is among the world’s rarest birds, it’s reasonable to scrutinize the report. So how did they know it was a Bermuda Petrel – did photos reveal it to be wearing tiny pink shorts smartly paired with a blue blazer? More likely it was the neck, rump, and underwing pattern, which together distinguished this species from the more common but still very rare Black-capped Petrel that was also flying around the boat. Both species are what’s known as “gadfly petrels”, fast-flying, lone-wolf seabirds of deep offshore waters, all of which are very popular among the seabirding crowd.

The Bermuda Petrel was given up for extinct by the time the pilgrims landed in Massachusetts. While the species once apparently numbered in the hundreds of thousands across the Bermuda archipelago, the usual suspects when it comes to island extinction events – cats, rats, dogs, hogs, and humans - ate them into presumed extinction by the 17th century. A few sightings and specimens in the early 20th century were tantalizing hints that reports of their extinction were greatly exaggerated. But it wasn’t until 1951, when seven pairs were confirmed nesting on a few tiny Bermudan islets, that the Bermuda Petrel was officially exhumed from the extinction list and reanimated as a species.

The tiny remnant population has since survived nest site competition with other seabirds, egg shell thinning from DDT, and storm surges flooding their nesting burrows. A man named David Wingate almost singlehandedly brought the species back from extinction over the last five decades using a combination of artificial burrows, translocations, and hand feeding, as well as reforestation of one of the nesting islands. His successor, Jeremy Medeiros, has continued the recovery efforts, and has recently placed tracking devices on some birds. Results indicate that they range across most of the North Atlantic, and at least occasionally may visit the Gulf of Maine and Southern New England waters. Despite that, there is only one previous record for the state, in some far flung shelf waters that are, at best, sort of in Massachusetts, but also sort of in Nova Scotia.

Since there are only estimated to be a few hundred Bermuda Petrels in the world I suspect I am not going to see this bird anytime soon. But I take comfort in the simple fact that they still exist on the planet, something that is still not assured over the long term. But for now, at least, we can say that, whoever said “extinction is forever” didn’t ask the Bermuda Petrel.

Learn more about the Nonsuch Expeditions which includes the CahowCam project, here:  www.nonsuchisland.com  

pelagic birding trips massachusetts

BOOK ONLINE IN ADVANCE AND SAVE 15% ON ALL 2HR AND 3HR TRIPS WITH PROMO CODE WEB15

Cape May Whale Watch & Research Center

12Hr Marine Mammal & Pelagic Bird Watch

Quick Details

  • Hour Glass Duration: 12 Hours
  • User Ages: Ages 18+

Venture out 40-60 miles into the offshore waters of the Atlantic Ocean!

This marine mammal and birding tour in Cape May, New Jersey is led by our team of experienced marine mammal naturalists and researchers, as well as a pelagic bird naturalist. While offshore, we chum for pelagic birds to get that perfect photo opportunity! The American Star has a heated indoor cabin for you to relax while you scout out the beauty of our marine life. eBird checklists are created by our team of experts and shared after the trip.

Possible sightings include:

  • Marine Mammals: Humpback Whales, Fin Whales, Minke Whales, Right Whales, Pilot Whales, Bottlenose Dolphins, Common Dolphins, Risso’s Dolphins and more!
  • Pelagic Birds: Shearwaters, Jaegers, Northern Gannets, Fulmar, Phalaropes, Kittiwakes, Loons, (October-November: Razor Bills, Murres, and Dovekies, Winter: Puffins)
  • Other Species: Sharks (Hammerhead, Thresher, Great White), Sea turtles (Loggerhead, Leatherback, or Green), Oceanic Sunfish, False Albacore, Tuna, Jellyfish and more!

Please note, trips are subject to varying weather and sea conditions. Trips will only sail in favorable weather conditions. Captain will make the final decision if the trip is sailing 48hrs prior to the scheduled cruise.

Prepaid Reservations Only! Due to the special nature of this trip, we are not able to offer the marine mammal guarantee.

Trip summaries:

October 2021 , October 2022, November 2022, December 2021, February 2023, November 2023

  • Chevron down Frequently Asked Questions:

Is there parking available onsite? – Yes, we have free parking available onsite in our designated Whale Watch parking lot. An attendant will be there to guide you to the appropriate free parking lot.

Are there bathrooms on the boat? – Yes, the American Star is equipped with 4 restrooms onboard.

Are there food/drinks available onboard? – Yes, we do have a full galley, bar, and gift shop onboard that accepts cash or credit card. However, for this extended trip we do advise bringing any food/drink that you require for the day.

Do I need to wear a life-jacket onboard? – No. We have life-jackets for every passenger onboard and they are used for emergency purposes only. The United States Coast Guard annually inspects all safety equipment onboard the American Star, and your captain will give a detailed safety briefing as your cruise departs.

Is the boat wheelchair accessible? – Depending on tide conditions, there may be several steps to get onboard the American Star. Standard manual wheelchairs can be lifted onboard by mates, however, due to their weight, power wheelchairs cannot be accommodated.

Will I get seasick on this cruise? – The American Star is 100ft long and very stable in our Atlantic Ocean conditions. If you are susceptible to motion sickness, we recommend taking precautions with Dramamine, Bonine or Sea Bands. These are available at the dock.

Is there shade on the boat? – The American Star was custom built for sightseeing with passenger comfort in mind. There is a spacious inside cabin available to keep you out of the elements as well as numerous shaded areas outside on deck.

Will the boat be crowded? – The American Star is a 100ft long vessel custom built for sightseeing. It has seating for over 250 passengers. This cruise is drastically limited in capacity to allow plenty of room onboard!

Related Activities

  • User Ages 18+
  • Hour Glass 24 Hours

24hr Marine Mammal & Pelagic Bird Watch

This trip is led by our team of experienced marine mammal naturalists and researchers, as well as a pelagic bird naturalist. While offshore, we chum for pelagic birds to get that perfect photo opportunity!

  • User Ages 13+ , All ages
  • Hour Glass 6 Hours

6hr Mini Pelagic with Cape May Bird Observatory

Step aboard the American Star in partnership with the Cape May Bird Observatory for this half day (~6 hours) exploration of the inshore Pelagic Zone off Cape May, NJ for Pelagic Birds and Marine Mammals.

  • Most Popular
  • User All ages
  • Hour Glass 2 Hours

Dolphin & Bird Watch

Step aboard the American Star and start your day with a 2hr cruise featuring Cape May’s mascot, the Atlantic Bottlenose Dolphin.

Cap’n Fish’s Cruises

Special Pelagic Bird Cruise

With Expert Bird Guide Derek!

Quick Details

  • Hour Glass Duration: Approx. 4.5 hours

Calling all Birders!

Join us on these special cruises dedicated to off-shore birding: a collaboration with Freeport Wild Bird Supply offering half-day “mini-pelagics!” We’ll seek out the rare and common seabirds that occur in our nearshore waters, but we will always have the hope to expect the unexpected. Derek will team up with our expert naturalists to spot, identify, and point out pelagic seabirds. Chumming efforts will provide opportunities to attract the birds in for better photo ops and viewing! While we’ll stop to look at any whales and whatever other interesting sea life we encounter along the way, it is the feathered wildlife we’re searching for, and will be focused on.

June 2, 2023 8:00am Click here to Book this Date! This year’s edition of our early season “mini-pelagic” will be sponsored by Zeiss Sport Optics and tickets must be purchased through the external link provided. The trip will be lead and narrated by Derek, but this one-of-a-kind outing will also feature special guests, including Rich Moncrief, Nature and Observation Manager for Zeiss. Rich will be bringing a wide range of Zeiss products for everyone to try out, and offering a special discount if you just can’t put them down. You can read about more details on the booking link! Derek’s Trip Report June 2021 Derek’s Trip Report June 2022

July 10, 2023 1:30pm Click here to Book this Date!  In the heat of summer, Derek will be onboard for this special Whale Watch & Birding Buffs Combo Cruise. The itinerary will include a visit to Eastern Egg Rock as well as whale feeding grounds. Nesting colonies and pelagic sightings will be highlighted. Around EER at this time we can expect to find Atlantic Puffins, Common Terns, Arctic Terns, Roseate Terns, Laughing Gulls, Double-Crested Cormorants, Common Eiders, Black Guillemots, with a chance of Razorbill and Common Murre. Off-shore sightings will likely include Northern Gannets, up to 4 species of Shearwaters (Great, Sooty, Cory’s, and Manx), and Wilson’s Storm Petrels. Sorry, no chumming this time. Derek’s Trip Report July 2021 Derek’s Trip Report July 2022

October 16, 2023 9:00am Click here to Book this Date! This fall excursion gives a chance at some very sought after pelagic species, such as Great Skua. More likely species include Northern Fulmar; Black-legged Kittiwake; Pomarine and Parasitic Jaeger; Shearwaters – Great, Sooty, Cory’s, and possibly even Manx; Razorbill and Atlantic Puffin; Red and Red-necked Phalaropes, and much more. Other possible, if unlikely, species at this date include South Polar Skua, and maybe even an early Dovekie. Derek’s Trip Report October 2020 Derek’s Trip Report October 2021 Derek’s Trip Report October 2022

Good To Know

We’ll leave the dock promptly at departure time for a 4-5 hour trip. Snacks and beverages are available for purchase, but you are welcome to pack your own food and water. Be prepared for light rain or showers, and bring plenty of layers for staying comfortable outside. Likewise, with any boat trip, weather cancellations for wind or waves (especially in fall) are always possible.

Derek Lovitch, of Freeport Wild Bird Supply , guides extensively in Maine, and has led tours throughout North America from Alaska’s Pribilof Islands to Hawaii. His second book, – Birdwatching in Maine: A Site Guide – describes 201 birding sites in Maine including Cap’n Fish’s Cruises!

Related Cruises

  • Hour Glass 2.5 hours

AUDUBON PUFFIN & SCENIC CRUISE

See how the National Audubon Society has reestablished a puffin colony on Eastern Egg Rock, as well as lighthouses and other points of interest.

  • Hour Glass Approx. 3.5 hours

BOOTHBAY HARBOR WHALE WATCHING CRUISE

See whales, dolphins, sharks, seals, and more at Maine’s prime whale feeding grounds and enjoy a tour of the Boothbay Harbor region!

  • Hour Glass Approx. 4+ hours

WHALE WATCH & PUFFIN COMBO CRUISE

Spend an afternoon packed with the wonders of nature on this incredible tour. See puffins at Eastern Egg Rock and whales at the feeding grounds.

pelagic birding trips massachusetts

Welcome to Scilly Pelagics: pelagic trips operating out of St. Mary’s, Isles of Scilly. You'll find information about our pelagic trips and our studies of seabirds observed off Scilly and across the world. You can book pelagics and purchase our multimedia guides and clothing. 

Scilly Pelagics is managed by Bob Flood and Joe Pender. We provide expert knowledge about seabirds, seabirding, seamanship and where to find seabirds and ocean wildlife in Scillonian waters. We offer an unsurpassable service in the British Isles for pelagic birding. Scheduled trips and private charters are available.

In partnership with

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July/August 2024 Birder Special Pelagics

What we offer....

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Birder Special Pelagics

Scilly Pelagics was launched in 2006 to cater for the ever-growing interest in seabirds and other wildlife regularly found in Scillonian waters. Scilly Birder Special Pelagics are a long weekend – Friday to Monday inclusive – to see and photograph as many specialities as possible, in particular Cory's and Great Shearwaters and Wilson's Storm-petrel.

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Sapphire Pelagics

Operated by experienced seaman and skipper of  MV Sapphire  Joe Pender, Sapphire Pelagics offers short-range pelagic trips combining seabirding with a shark-tagging programme. A team of experienced local birders and shark taggers will be on board to help with spotting, identification and distributing chum, the key ingredient to attracting sharks and seabirds.

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Multimedia ID Guides

Multimedia Identification Guides to North Atlantic Seabirds is a unique series of books and DVDs covering the detailed identification of all Procellariiformes occurring in the North Atlantic. The series includes Storm-petrels & Bulwer's Petrel; Pterodroma Petrels; Albatrosses & Fulmarine Petrels; and Shearwaters. This groundbreaking collection is a vital addition to any seabirder's library.

Our new range of quality embroidered Scilly Pelagics clothing includes

caps, polos, and hoodies all available in grey and navy blue.

Polos (men's and women's) and hoodies available in various sizes. 

Scilly Pelagics clothing range 

pelagic birding trips massachusetts

Pelagic Customer Reviews

Quotes from twitter....

Just had the absolute best day, watching common dolphin bow-riding during the Scilly Pelagic. Also, the 19+ Wilson’s Storm-petrels were OK! SB

@scillypelagics thank you so much for the last two days. Great birding. Trips so well organised and call-outs and directions are superb. Great fun, tremendous views. Anyone reading this, go do it! BU

Superlative seabirding today with @scillypelagics. BD

Just the best of birding experiences. Wilson’s Storm-petrel, Great Shearwater, Cory’s Shearwater …just some of the highlights of the Scilly Pelagics weekend, enjoyed with my son. Brilliant @scillypelagics. ST

A fantastic 3 days with so many highlights. Thx for an unforgettable experience. SC

One of the best, if not the best birding trips I’ve been on. RK

You could nearly touch the shearwaters. Absolutely fantastic. Can’t wait for next year. GM

Had a brilliant day on Sunday. Life-ticked Wilson’s. Huge numbers of Great Shears, loads of Cory’s, all point-blank views. Thanks guys. MB

Trip of a lifetime. BP  

Genuinely the best birding experience of my life! Thank you so much. AT

Absolutely fabulous four days with Scilly Pelagics. Memories are made from trips like that. RH

My 1st trips with @scillypelagics for ca 10 years were excellent – e.g. on Saturday we spent ˃20 mins surrounded by Wilson’s Petrels. NW

Our trip was simply joy. GE Genuinely one of the best birding trips I’ve been on for a while, @scillypelagics were fantastic. SF

Isles of Scilly, United Kingdom

[email protected]

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'Sharks are here now.' Whale, seal shark bites prompt warning off Massachusetts coast

pelagic birding trips massachusetts

As another summer season begins on the beaches of Cape Cod and other coastal areas, researchers are reminding people to be on the lookout for Atlantic white sharks after recently observing two marine mammals with fresh bite marks off Chatham and Plymouth — one just this week.

Researchers with the New England Aquarium on Thursday issued an advisory ahead of Memorial Day for people returning to the shore to be aware of their surroundings, report white shark sightings, and review shark safety.

John Chisholm, an adjunct scientist with the aquarium’s  Anderson Cabot Center for Ocean Life , said he spotted two white sharks during an aerial survey on Wednesday off Nauset and Monomoy, one just a couple of hundred yards offshore and one about a mile out. On the same day, he also flew over a dead minke whale with fresh shark bites reported by Pythias Sportfishing .

"It shows that the sharks are here now," said Chisholm, who last month also observed a seal off Manomet Point in Plymouth with a fresh bite wound.

With beach weather returning, he said, "this is a good reminder for people to review shark safety guidelines and be shark smart."

How to be 'shark smart'

Being shark smart includes looking for seals — a favorite prey animal for white sharks — on the beach and in the water.

"Also look for big schools of fish," Chisholm said, as well as large groups of birds diving into the water that can indicate the presence of a lot of fish.

"A lot of people think the sharks only eat the seals," he said, but pointed out they will also go after fish, so "any signs of activity, especially in the zones where we know we get a lot of shark activity" should be noted.

It's also helpful to be aware of any drop-offs or trenches where seals and sharks may hunt, and to stay close to shore.

"A lot of the east-facing beaches on Cape Cod drop off very quickly or will have a trench between the beach and a sandbar where there's deeper water," Chisholm said. "Sharks do get in there."

Most white shark sightings have been off the Outer Cape from Provincetown to Monomoy, but awareness should apply to any beach since "these sharks travel the whole coast of Massachusetts," he said.

Just as people tend to check the weather and traffic reports, he suggests also making it a habit to check the Atlantic White Shark Conservancy Sharktivity app "to see if there's any local shark action." The app, on which the aquarium collaborates, tracks shark sightings and pings from tagged white sharks picked up by the New England science community's network of offshore receivers from Massachusetts Bay to Nantucket and Vineyard sounds.

"A lot of people think of the ocean as their own personal recreation area, but you're going into the wilderness when you're going into the water," Chisholm said.

Evidence of sharks feeding on dead whale

While Chisholm's sighting of a seal with a fresh shark bite off Plymouth happened about a month ago, the dead minke whale was spotted on Tuesday by Capt. Damon Burden. of Pythias Sportfishing .

"It was about 10 miles east of Chatham," said Burden on Thursday.

He was hosting one of his fishing outfit's pelagic bird watching trips when they noticed a bunch of birds around a particular spot in the ocean, he said. When they went in to investigate, they didn't see any sharks, but did see bites taken out of the whale's carcass.

"There was still some blood trickling out" of one of the bites, Burden said, which made him believe the whale had died recently.

Chisholm said "the sharks were feeding off it," but "it definitely wasn't killed by the sharks."

Burden, who's seen plenty of white sharks on fishing outings, was surprised to see evidence of the sharks at this time of year. "I wouldn't think a great white would be out there that early," he said.

Is it early for white sharks to be showing up?

Gregory Skomal, a leading shark researcher with the state  Division of Marine Fisheries  who collaborates with the Chatham-based white shark conservancy, said scientists expect to see the sharks returning as the waters start warming up. The recent evidence of their presence is not a surprise to him.

"The timing is pretty typical," he said.

"The bulk of the sharks have yet to come," he said. Depending on how warm June is, white shark activity could ramp up as soon as mid to late June and early July, he said. The season usually peaks between August and October.

Cape Cod research about Atlantic white sharks

Over the last decade,  Cape Cod has emerged as a world-renowned hotspot  for  Atlantic white sharks  visiting during the summer and fall. Researchers have been taking advantage of the chance to study the sharks' behavior to understand what motivates them and to guide public safety policies.

Skomal works closely with shark scientist Megan Winton and other researchers from the conservancy to tag sharks during the season and collect underwater video footage of white sharks around Cape Cod. They use multiple tools, including satellite, acoustic, accelerometer, and camera tags to track the sharks’ habitat use.

Last summer, 80 individual  sharks  were recorded in local waters over the course of five months — not counting any that evaded the  scientists' underwater video cameras . More than 700 individual white sharks have been cataloged in the Northwest Atlantic in recent years. That's not to say there are hundreds of sharks present at any given time — the scientists emphasize there is a lot of coming and going during the season.

Skomal said plans for this season include continuing to tag as many new sharks as possible, and to deploy more tags with video capabilities to gain an understanding of how the sharks hunt. They will also continue using drones to sight sharks and study their behaviors.

Most of the standard acoustic receivers they use to detect previously tagged sharks have been put back into the ocean, he said, and the rest should be deployed by June. They're also preparing to return five live receivers to the waters off Outer Cape beaches — these devices pick up movements of tagged sharks in real time and transmit advisories to public safety personnel on shore.

Heather McCarron writes about climate change, environment, energy, science and the natural world. Reach her at [email protected], or follow her on X @HMcCarron_CCT .

The  Cape Cod Times is providing this coverage for free as a public service. Please take a moment to support local journalism by subscribing.  

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The Cornell Lab of Ornithology builds the eBird global platform for communities and partners around the world to advance data-driven science, education, and conservation.

Alaska eBird Checklist S175833553

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  • Hannah Clipp Checklist version by Hannah Clipp

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  • Observers:  3
  • Duration:  1 hr, 40 min
  • Distance:  5 mi

Checklist Comments

Pelagic trip to area west of Great Sitka Island, including parts of nearby straits. Does not include the few birds seen on the 20-mile trips from Adak Island to and from that area.

Observations

Common eider, breeding & behavior code:, harlequin duck, white-winged scoter, black oystercatcher, tufted puffin, horned puffin, whiskered auklet, crested auklet, pigeon guillemot, common murre, ancient murrelet, glaucous-winged gull, northern fulmar.

All dark morph.

Short-tailed Shearwater

Red-faced cormorant, pelagic cormorant, additional species seen by hannah clipp:, cassin's auklet, least auklet, parakeet auklet, exotic species.

Exotic species flags differentiate locally introduced species from native species.

Naturalized : Exotic population is self-sustaining, breeding in the wild, persisting for many years, and not maintained through ongoing releases (including vagrants from Naturalized populations). These count in official eBird totals and, where applicable, have been accepted by regional bird records committee(s).

Provisional : Either: 1) member of exotic population that is breeding in the wild, self-propagating, and has persisted for multiple years, but not yet Naturalized; 2) rarity of uncertain provenance, with natural vagrancy or captive provenance both considered plausible. When applicable, eBird generally defers to bird records committees for records formally considered to be of "uncertain provenance". Provisional species count in official eBird totals.

Escapee : Exotic species known or suspected to be escaped or released, including those that have bred but don't yet fulfill the criteria for Provisional. Escapee exotics do not count in official eBird totals.

Public information for Sensitive Species is restricted due to potential harmful impact to these birds. Site-specific information is visible only to the observer and eBird reviewer(s) for the region. We encourage you not to share specific location information about this sighting via social media, public websites, or email listservs. Learn more about Sensitive Species in eBird.

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Pelagic trip west of Great Sitka Island, Aleutians West Census Area, Alaska, US on Sun May 19, 2024

Pelagic trip west of Great Sitka Island, Aleutians West Census Area, Alaska, US

Another location near Pelagic trip west of Great Sitka Island, Aleutians West Census Area, Alaska, US on Sun May 19, 2024

Another location near Pelagic trip west of Great Sitka Island, Aleutians West Census Area, Alaska, US

Sun May 19, 2024

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IMAGES

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  2. The Vineyard Gazette

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  3. Half Day Pelagic Bird Tour

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  4. Birding Galleries of Pelagic Trips

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  6. Debi Shearwater's Journeys: PELAGIC BIRDING PHOTOGRAPHY TRIPS

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VIDEO

  1. Madeira Pelagic August 2010

  2. Stewart Island pelagic birding

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  4. Somewhere In Earth 🌍 Birding Trips At East Sikkim # Bird watching # Bird Photography # Sikkim Bird

  5. Pelagic Birding in Monterey Bay!

  6. Birding The Salton Sea in California. February 2021. 66 Bird Species!

COMMENTS

  1. Pelagic Bird Watching From Gloucester, MA

    PELAGIC BIRD WATCHING FROM GLOUCESTER. 7 Seas is proud of its reputation as being "the birder's whale watch" in Gloucester. While the whales are, of course, the main focus of our trips, many of our crew are also avid bird watchers and are always aware of any birds in the area. We make a special point to make sure that any birders on board ...

  2. Pelagic Trips

    The Brookline Bird Club will host two overnight pelagic trips in August 2024 from Hyannis MA to the Hydrographer Canyon area (August 24-25th and August 26-27th). We expect to reach warm Gulf Stream-influenced waters far offshore to see shearwaters, storm-petrels, jaegers and more! Possible targets include White-faced Storm-petrels, Band-rump ...

  3. Westport Seabirds

    The entire Westport Seabirds crew had such a great time with our valued customers during our 2023 season. Thanks to all our for making this our 47th year such a memorable one! Our 2024 schedule is now available - see 2024 schedule tab. We hope you will join us for one of our all day pelagic birdwatching trips to one of several deep water submarine canyons that are 30 nautical miles from the ...

  4. Massachusetts Pelagic Birding

    There are several different birding boat tours, whale watches, and pelagic trips that leave from Massachuestts ports. For pelagic trips, familiarize yourself with eBird's pelagic protocol and use the appropriate personal locations or eBird hotspots. The eBird pelagic protocol applies to checklists that are made farther than two miles offshore on oceans, seas, or large lakes.

  5. Seabirds and Pelagic Birding Boat Trip in Cape Ann, MA

    March 18, 2022 @ 10:00 AM - March 20, 2022 @ 3:00 PM. Cape Ann, Massachusetts, is a worldwide destination for winter birds and birders. This annual winter adventure is an outstanding opportunity to spend quality time with species rarely, if ever, seen inland. This trip is not only about discovering rare species by land and sea, but about ...

  6. Seabirding

    Thursday 23 May 2024 - Spring Blitz Day 2 May 24, 2024. Well, it was a different day out there today and the hundreds of shearwaters we found yesterday were not out there today. We did find a few on the shelf in addition to a distant Pomarine Jaeger, but overall numbers were lower for everything except for Black-capped Petrels and Band-rumped ...

  7. Cape Cod

    Trips dedicated to pelagic birds generally head fairly far offshore, so they take longer. The Brookline Bird Club offers the best trips. They have one in late September, but it is an overnight trip, so probably not to your liking. Second, there is a significant potential for traffic bottlenecks getting on and off the Cape, especially on the ...

  8. Overnight Pelagic Trip from Hyannis MA to Hydrographer Canyon Area

    Overnight pelagic trip to Hyrdrographer Canyon area. Join the BBC on the Helen H out of Hyannis, MA to search for pelagic birds. We expect to reach warm Gulf Stream influenced waters far offshore to see shearwaters, storm-petrels, jaegers and more! Possible targets include White-faced Storm-petrels, Band-rump Storm-petrel, Audubon's Shearwater. A fabulous chance to spend […]

  9. Summer 2024 pelagics: register today!

    Brookline Bird Club - America's most active bird club! Our 2024 overnight pelagic trips are now open for registration! This August, the Brookline Bird Club will be running two back-to-back trips on Saturday-Sunday August 24-25 and then Monday-Tuesday August 26-27. If you have the flexibility to sign up for the weekday August 26-27 trip ...

  10. Birdist Rule #55: Go on a Pelagic Birding Trip

    Pelagic birding—taking a boat way out into the ocean to find birds that can only be seen there—can be a real ordeal. a) You have to get up very early in the morning. Likely even earlier than regular birding *screams silently*. b) There's a chance you'll get seasick. c) You could be stuck on a boat from sunup to sundown.

  11. Birds, Birding Trips and Birdwatching Tours in Commonwealth of

    The popularity of whale-watching makes pelagic birding in Massachusetts more accessible than in many other coastal localities. Whale-watching boats leave daily in the summer from various ports, including Newburyport, Gloucester, Boston, Plymouth, & Provincetown, and occasionally there are dedicated birding trips sponsored by local birding clubs ...

  12. Chatham Pelagics

    These four-hour trips depart the Chatham Fish Pier aboard the seaworthy 32-foot "Kittiwake" with Captain Kenny Eldredge at the helm, a native Cape Codder with decades of experience on the local waters. The cost is currently $110/person. For more information on the boat see the captain's web site. The trips are run on an irregular basis ...

  13. Formerly 'Extinct' Bird Shows Up in Massachusetts Waters

    The Bermuda Petrel was given up for extinct by the time the pilgrims landed in Massachusetts. While the species once apparently numbered in the hundreds of thousands across the Bermuda archipelago ...

  14. 12Hr Marine Mammal & Pelagic Bird Watch

    Venture out 40-60 miles into the offshore waters of the Atlantic Ocean! This marine mammal and birding tour in Cape May, New Jersey is led by our team of experienced marine mammal naturalists and researchers, as well as a pelagic bird naturalist. While offshore, we chum for pelagic birds to get that perfect photo opportunity!

  15. How to pick a pelagic trip

    Choosing a pelagic trip. The Ports: We venture out from Half Moon Bay (Pillar Point Harbor), Monterey (Fisherman's Wharf), Morro Bay (Morro Bay Landing), and Bodega Bay (Porto Bodega). The majority of our trips are from Half Moon Bay and Monterey. Only one or two trips a season are from the southernmost port, Morro Bay, and the northernmost ...

  16. Webinar: Virtual Pelagic! with Naeem Yusuff

    Join the Brookline Bird Club for a virtual pelagic trip! In this webinar we will cover all the best offshore locations in Massachusetts, including the opportunities for seeing pelagic birds on whale watches. There will be identification tips, and an overview of common birds that can be expected offshore, as well a couple of rarities.

  17. Special Pelagic Bird Cruise

    Derek's Trip Report June 2022. July 10, 2023 1:30pm Click here to Book this Date! In the heat of summer, Derek will be onboard for this special Whale Watch & Birding Buffs Combo Cruise. The itinerary will include a visit to Eastern Egg Rock as well as whale feeding grounds. Nesting colonies and pelagic sightings will be highlighted.

  18. Tofino Pelagic Bird Watching Tours

    PELAGIC BIRD WATCHING TOUR. Embark on an exhilarating adventure with our Pelagic Bird Watching Tour, tailor-made for seasoned bird enthusiasts. Departing bright and early, this six-hour voyage takes you 25 km offshore to the breathtaking Clayoquot Canyon aboard our 30 ft Boston Whaler, the Big White, led by experienced guide John Forde.

  19. Pelagics

    When/Where. Be at the dock at 9pm on Saturday, August 10th for check-in & orientation. Please be on-time. We expect to return to the dock about 6 pm the following day. Fisherman's Wharf. 107 Anglers Road. Lewes, DE 19958. REGISTER at the LINK HERE. For questions regarding registration, call (302) 645.TUNA, or visit: https://www.fishlewes.com ...

  20. Watching seabirds on Scilly

    Scilly Pelagics is managed by Bob Flood and Joe Pender. We provide expert knowledge about seabirds, seabirding, seamanship and where to find seabirds and ocean wildlife in Scillonian waters. We offer an unsurpassable service in the British Isles for pelagic birding. Scheduled trips and private charters are available. In partnership with.

  21. Birding for Beginners

    Wildlife Sanctuaries: Mass Audubon's 60+ wildlife sanctuaries provide habitat for a wide variety of species.For elegant Great Blue Herons, check out the rookeries (communal nests) at Ipswich River, Rocky Hill, and Tracy Brook.Fish-hunting Ospreys can be seen scouting from their nest platforms at North River, Daniel Webster, and Allens Pond.At coastal sanctuaries like Long Pasture, Felix Neck ...

  22. Monterey Pelagic Seabird Cruises

    For details, please contact us at [email protected] . 2024 MONTEREY SEABIRD TRIPS. Note: A 6% Booking Processing fee will be added to each purchase. 8-hour trips - $160, starting at 7:30 a.m. 12-hour trips - $199, starting at 7:30 a.m. Sunday August 18 (8 hr) Sunday August 25 (8 hr) Monday August 26 (8 hr)

  23. Field Trips / Events from Tuesday, May 28

    Belle Isle Marsh and Vicinity. BBC field trips are open to all participants. Unless otherwise stated, all trips are free to attend and do not need preregistration. You do not need to be a club member to attend, though we hope you will join. See the for answers to general questions. Contact leaders for more details about specific trips.

  24. Great white sharks sighted off Cape Cod. Most return in June, July

    He was hosting one of his fishing outfit's pelagic bird watching trips when they noticed a bunch of birds around a particular spot in the ocean, he said.

  25. eBird Checklist

    Pelagic trip to area west of Great Sitka Island, including parts of nearby straits. Does not include the few birds seen on the 20-mile trips from Adak Island to and from that area. Submitted from eBird for Android, version 2.17. Totals. 17. Species Observed. 1,929 individuals. Observations.

  26. Birding in Massachusetts

    Birding in Massachusetts Massachusetts is the 44th state in the nation for land area, encompassing only 10,554 square miles. ... Out-of-state birders come for late summer pelagic trips to the deep offshore canyons, as these offer one of the most regular opportunities in the United States to see rarities like the White-faced Storm-Petrel ...

  27. Birding Ohau: A Hawai'i Report from Roger Kohn

    In a nine-day trip in which birding was only one of several priorities, I managed to see 31 species. Seventeen of those were Lifers, which far exceeded my expectations. With determination and a little help from my brothers, I had an excellent birding trip to Honolulu. Indeed, in the words of a wise blogger I know, every trip is a birding trip.