A group of Vineyard birders and biologists were saddened to hear that David (aka Pops) Masch had died. Many folks had met Dave while he was the naturalist, chief cook, father figure/counselor and instructor for the Penikese Island School. Dave was at Penikese for 29 years, and before that he was a biologist at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute. Dave was an excellent fisherman/shell fisherman and a superb cook. Since his retirement from the Penikese school, Dave had been writing a cooking column for On the Water, as well as producing two super cook books: Cooking the Catch I and II. Dave also could be heard on the Cape and Islands NPR radio station.
I first met Dave back in the 60s when I was the fair manager for the Martha’s Vineyard Agricultural Society. I was always looking for judges and Anne Hopkins, late of Indian Hill, suggested I contact Dave. The deal Dave cut was that I had to provide a place for him to stay during the fair on Tisbury Great Pond so he could check out the oysters, wet a line and dig some steamers between judging the vegetables. A fine exchange it was, as I was treated to a great seafood meal and the vegetables were fairly judged.
Later I started banding herring and black-backed gulls on Penikese Island. I took Vineyard kids to help me band and to teach them about colonial nesting birds. Dave Masch was always there to greet us and share great stories of natural history of Penikese. We shall miss Dave; he died way too young! Services will be private.
Another mystery solved! Stan and Marie Mercer called on Jan. 11 to ask help with the ID of “a strange sparrow.” They described it as having a red cap and a small black bib. I was thinking sparrow, so suggested tree sparrow, thinking they were calling the black central chest spot a bib. The Mercers looked in their field guide and said, “No, that was not the bird.” “I’ll be right up,” said I and off I went, field guides, binoculars and camera in hand. When I arrived I was ushered into the house and over to a bay window where there were several feeders. Not more than a minute later Stan said, “There it is, on the ground to the left of the feeders.” “Neat”, I said, “you have a common redpoll.”
Redpolls, both common and their cousins the hoary, are the songbirds that can tolerate colder temperatures than any other species. They usually are found from the edge of the Arctic tundra south to the coniferous forests. However, in years when food is scare to the north, the redpolls will move into the U.S. to feed. Smaller than sparrows and with a sharper bill, they usually move in flocks. There have been several sightings of common redpolls on the Vineyard this winter at feeders from Chilmark to Oak Bluffs.
My apologies, the Bird Hotline at 508-645-2913 has been troublesome lately. I have been in contact (for hours and hours) with Verizon and the problems seem to have been rectified. If I missed a report, blame Verizon!
A few sightings I was able to retrieve from the Bird Hotline included 11 eastern meadowlarks and one snow bunting seen by John Nelson at the Farm Institute on Jan. 2. Steve Spongberg pointed out a gray catbird to Happy on their Tea Lane property on Jan. 6; Claudia Rogers spotted the late-staying great egret at Crackatuxet Cove on Jan. 7; and Jeff Bernier photographed the same bird on Jan. 9. Susie Bowman found a yellow-crowned night heron at Duck Pond at the Felix Neck Wildlife Sanctuary on Jan. 8.
Gus Ben David had yet another dovekie brought to him on Jan. 8. This one had been attacked, probably by a dog, and didn’t survive. On Jan. 9 Gus had a yellow-breasted chat brought to him. It is alive at present and will be released. Happy Spongberg spotted a juvenile male yellow-bellied sapsucker by Whip-poor-will Farm on Old County Road on Jan. 9.
Rob Culbert found a Eurasian race of a green-winged teal at the head of the Lagoon on Jan. 10. Libby and David Fielder spotted a belted kingfisher at Tisissa on Tisbury Great Pond on Jan. 10.
On Jan. 12 Catherine Deese had four red-winged blackbirds at her feeder on the West Tisbury/Chilmark line. She has also had common redpolls at her feeder.
Matt Pelikan at the Wakeman Center, Contance Alexander at Tashmoo and Lanny McDowell on the east side of Tisbury Great Pond and Ripley Field all had red crossbills on Jan. 11, 12 and 13. Lanny and Contance also spotted and Lanny photographed white-winged crossbills.
Nelson Smith spotted green-winged teal at Duarte’s Pond and purple sandpipers on the Menemsha breakwater on Jan. 13.
Patsy Donavan spotted a greater yellowlegs in the marsh at Sengekontacket on Jan. 14.
Please report your bird sightings to the Martha’s Vineyard Bird Hotline at 508-645-2913 or email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Susan B. Whiting is the coauthor of Vineyard Birds and Vineyard Birds II. Her website is vineyardbirds2.com.
A previous version of the article included the date and time of a memorial service for David Masch. In fact, that service will be private.