Six Spots for Spectacular Cape Cod Birding

Gretchen Moran Towers

Cape Cod is a nature lover's paradise, and there are few better ways to enjoy the outdoors than birding. “Cape Cod is a spectacular place to find birds,” explains the Cape’s resident Bird Nerd, Gretchen Moran Towers. “It’s a relatively safe-haven for many different bird species, and there is so much conservation land. And you can’t beat that the whole east coast is protected by the National Seashore, which means it’s an excellent stopping-off resting point for migratory birds.” Unplug, unwind, and spot some new feathered friends at these can’t-miss spots for great Cape Cod birding.

1. Cape Cod Canal - Bourne and Sandwich

Great birding starts just over the Sagamore Bridge. The Cape Cod Canal stretches roughly seven miles from Cape Cod Bay to Buzzards Bay and separates the Cape from the mainland. Often a destination for commercial and recreational boating, the Canal is easily accessible by car and by foot year-round for fishing, ice-skating, and cycling. It is also a favorite stopping point for a wide range of birds, including ducks, loon, gulls, and heron.

2. The Knob - Woods Hole

The Knob in Woods Hole provides gorgeous trails for walking and birding. Visitors can experience breathtaking views of Quissett Harbor and Buzzards Bay from this one-of-a-kind conservation area maintained by Salt Pond Area Bird Sanctuaries. The Knob is an easy walk and is accessible year-round. Common sightings include common goldeneye, red-breasted merganser, and osprey. 

3. Sandy Neck - Barnstable

One of the most popular beaches on Cape Cod, the six-mile-long Sandy Neck features walking trails, camping areas, swimming, and plenty of great birding. Migrant shorebirds are abundant here, including tern, and in the winter, keep an eye out for snowy owls.

4. Monomoy National Wildlife Refuge - Chatham

The Monomoy National Wildlife Refuge protects the 2,500 acres of this fragile 9-mile-long beach-barrier area south of Chatham. Consisting of Morris Island and North and South Monomoy Island, this area is a favorite among birders for its diverse habitats, including saltwater and freshwater marshes, dunes, ocean, and ponds. Monomoy is a haven for migratory birds like tern, with peak season occurring in May and June. This is a great place to spot plovers, an elusive, small, and highly-endangered species that live among the sand dunes.

5. Fort Hill - Eastham

This set of trails along the National Seashore, Fort Hill in Eastham is right off Route 6 and provides a diverse array of habitats for birds, ranging from forest to swamplands to ocean. The trail is about one and a half miles long and is of intermediate difficulty, providing spectacular views Nauset Marsh and the Atlantic Ocean. Birders can count on seeing northern mockingbird here, as well as egret and blackbird. 

6. Beech Forest - Provincetown

For those who make it to the Outer Cape, Beech Forest is a must-see. Also protected by the National Seashore, these trails and boardwalks weave through marshlands and pristine forests and are great for inexperienced hikers at any time of year. Dogs and bicycles are not allowed on the trails, which adds a level of tranquility perfect for birding. Beech Forest is a great spot to see songbirds, including the official Massachusetts state bird, the black-capped chickadee.

All photographs by Gretchen Moran Towers. For more information, visit Gretchen's blog.