Find me on Substack »
Merlin / © Bryan Pfeiffer

Merlin / © Bryan Pfeiffer

In the gray dawn on Monhegan Island, Merlins were already on the hunt – Blue Jays in their sights. Like stunt jets, the falcons zoomed and twisted and swooped. The jays couldn’t decide whether to scold or scatter or both.

A young Cooper’s Hawk joined the fracas. No, it’s a Sharp-shinned Hawk. Wait, it’s a Cooper’s. Well, actually, it’s one of each. Two hawks, three falcons and a half-dozen Blue Jays somehow managing to elude deadly talons. That … and 14 warbler species in 24 hours.

Another day birding on Monhegan Island, Maine. The best place in the world in September (and most other months), Monhegan is nothing if not about change and rugged creativity. Change comes in migrant songbirds pouring from the skies at dawn. From falcons giving chase and taking life. And when you think you’ve seen it all on Monhegan – I’ve been visiting every fall for 16 years – now comes a film crew and a new brewery. Creativity embodied.

The film and the beer are unrelated – or so it seems. But, yeah, now on Monhegan, an island a mile and a half long and a half-mile wide 10 miles out to sea, is a brewery: Monhegan Brewing Co. It’s along the walk to Lobster Cove. I enjoyed one of Danny McGovern’s APAs yesterday. Ruth had the IPA. As for the film, consider George Clooney and Michelle Pfeiffer (no relation) on a tiny slab of rock off Maine’s Midcoast. Consider them because they’re not here. Nor are they in the movie. I don’t have a clue about the movie, other than that some crew members got drunk the other night and raced golf carts until 2am or so. One ended up wrecked near the Trailing Yew. Well, maybe the film and the beer are indeed related.

Anyway, I’m here for a week before guiding a couple of birding trips. I’m scouting for those trips. Yeah, that’s it – scouting. Real work. Actually, I’m not birding much. Ruth and I are reading, walking, thinking. She’s slipping into the church now and then to rehearse for violin performances back at home in Vermont. That’s when I write – or nap.

Noteworthy here yesterday afternoon and today: Peregrine Falcon, American Kestrel and those Merlins racing around the skies, good numbers of Philadelphia Vireos (I melt when I see them), the aforementioned warblers (I should see another 10 to 12 species before I leave), Dickcissel, Lark Sparrow and nice dragonfly diversity, including more Black Saddlebags than I’ve ever seen here and tons of Common Green Darners racing off in migration to who knows where. Below is a preliminary bird list. It’s sparse. Check back soon for updates.

  • Canada Goose
  • American Black Duck
  • Mallard
  • Common Eider
  • Ring-necked Pheasant
  • Common Loon
  • Northern Gannet
  • Double-crested Cormorant
  • Great Cormorant
  • Osprey
  • Sharp-shinned Hawk
  • Cooper’s Hawk
  • Bald Eagle
  • Semipalmated Plover
  • Black Guillemot
  • Laughing Gull
  • Ring-billed Gull
  • Herring Gull
  • Great Black-backed Gull
  • Mourning Dove
  • Ruby-throated Hummingbird (lots)
  • Belted Kingfisher
  • Downy Woodpecker
  • Northern Flicker
  • American Kestrel
  • Merlin
  • Peregrine Falcon
  • Eastern Wood-Pewee
  • Yellow-bellied Flycatcher
  • Alder/Willow Flycatcher (Traill’s Flycatcher)
  • Warbling Vireo
  • Philadelphia Vireo
  • Red-eyed Vireo
  • Blue Jay
  • American Crow
  • Black-capped Chickadee
  • Carolina Wren
  • Golden-crowned Kinglet
  • Ruby-crowned Kinglet
  • Gray Catbird
  • European Starling
  • Cedar Waxwing
  • Ovenbird
  • Black-and-white Warbler
  • Nashville Warbler
  • Common Yellowthroat
  • American Redstart
  • Northern Parula
  • Magnolia Warbler
  • Yellow Warbler
  • Chestnut-sided Warbler
  • Blackpoll Warbler
  • Yellow-rumped Warbler
  • Prairie Warbler
  • Black-throated Green Warbler
  • Wilson’s Warbler
  • Savannah Sparrow
  • Song Sparrow
  • Swamp Sparrow
  • Lark Sparrow
  • White-throated Sparrow
  • Scarlet Tanager
  • Northern Cardinal
  • Dickcissel
  • Rusty Blackbird
  • Common Grackle
  • Baltimore Oriole
  • American Goldfinch





  1. Erica says:

    I was rather hoping it was true about Michelle pfeiffer projected onto a rock. I’d watch that.
    Maybe you could add some recordings of sounds there to your blog?

  2. Tobey says:

    Welcome back! Hope our paths cross while you and Ruth are here…enjoy!

  3. Liz dyer says:

    Hi–Is the migratory pattern similar for block island?

  4. Carol Williams says:

    You certainly get around. Fascinating lifestyle! I wonder how you do it.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *