Tuesday, August 16, 2011

South Beach - Chatham Massachusetts

South Beach in Chatham Massachusetts is one of the outstanding birding areas. The beach was originally a portion of Nauset Beach but was broken off during a severe winter storm in January 1987. It reconnected to the mainland in Chatham light. South Beach is a barrier beach just like North and South Monomoy Islands which part of the Monomoy National Wildlife Refuge. The area is always changing due to the effects of the tide and weather. In fact this year South Beach has connected to South Monomoy Island and if you feel like it you can walk from Chatham light all out onto South Monomoy Island. The best way to get out to the tip of South Beach is to take one of the ferries that run out from Chatham.Monomy Ferry Boat D7K_3012 August 13, 2011 NIKON D7000
This year I joined the Lloyd Center for Environmental Studies birding trip out to South Beach. Getting ready D7K_3003 August 13, 2011 NIKON D7000Waiting for the Boat D7K_3005 August 13, 2011 NIKON D7000In total there was four of us birding, however on South Beach there were numerous  birding groups present.
We picked up our ferry at the foot of the stairs that come down from them Morris island portion of the Monomoy National Wildlife Refuge. Beach at Monomy Morris Island D7K_3011 August 13, 2011 NIKON D7000Stairs D7K_3009 August 13, 2011 NIKON D7000You need to wear shoes that can get wet because you must wade out to get on the boat. It is a shot trip over to South Beach and you land again into the water and walk onto the beach. We spent a total of around six hours on the on the beach slowly traveling northward toward the area on the beach where we get picked up. The West side of the beach is a channel and the East side of the beach abuts the Atlantic ocean. On the Atlantic side a little further North there is a large colony of gray seals and they swim all away down along South Beach. Because of the large colony of seals the area has attracted great white sharks.

American Oystercatcher family D7K_3284 August 13, 2011 NIKON D7000
American Oystercatcher

b Common and Forster's terns D7K_3372 August 13, 2011 NIKON D7000
Forster's and Common Terns

Greater Yellowlegs D7K_3149 August 13, 2011 NIKON D7000
Greater Yellowlegs

Hudsonian GodwitD7K_3228 August 13, 2011 NIKON D7000
Hudsonian Godwit

Juvenile American Oystercatcher
Ameican Oystercatcher Juvenile
We saw approximately 41 different species of birds including shorebirds, terns, gulls, wading birds and songbirds. The hardest part of the trip was identifying the juvenile birds and the differences in a lot of the shorebirds as some of them were changing from summer into winter plumage.

Least Sandpiper D7K_3070 August 13, 2011 NIKON D7000
Least Sandpiper
Least TernD7K_3419 August 13, 2011 NIKON D7000
Leaqst Tern
Marbled GodwitD7K_3241 August 13, 2011 NIKON D7000
Marbled Godwit
n Piping Plover JuvenileD7K_3197 August 13, 2011 NIKON D7000
Piping plover
n Ruddy Turnston feeding  horseshoe crabD7K_3161 August 13, 2011 NIKON D7000
Ruddy Turnstone feeding on horseshoe crab
n Semipalmated Sandpiper D7K_3117 August 13, 2011 NIKON D7000 - Copy
Semipalmated Sandpiper
n Semipalmated sandpiper D7K_3128 August 13, 2011 NIKON D7000
Semipalmated Sandpiper

n Tree Swallow female flightD7K_3089 August 13, 2011 NIKON D7000
Tree Swallow
n Whimbrel D7K_3064 August 13, 2011 NIKON D7000
n Willet flightD7K_3206 August 13, 2011 NIKON D7000 - Copy (2)

Grey Seal D7K_3432 August 13, 2011 NIKON D7000
Gray Seal
Great Black-backed Gull flight D7K_3460 August 13, 2011 NIKON D7000
Great Black-backed Gull
We spent the last three quarters of an hour sitting on the beach on the Atlantic side observing the seals and the bird flying over the ocean, but alas no great white sharks.

The best time to visit is from mid July and early September for shorebirds and terns and the raptors are most numerous September into early November.

So if you are a birder and/or a photographer this is a great place to visit. Best concentrations of birds are on the incoming tide and best at the periods of the full and new moons because of the height of the tides concentrates the birds more.

Map of the area from last year

So if you plan a visit, make sure you have sunscreen and insect repellent (the green flies can be very bothersome) and water. Also, you do need some food since there is no facilities to buy food on the beach and also there are no bathroom facilities.