It is fun to catch up on what has been seen on Island while we were away. I think this is the first time in years a rare bird didn’t show up while we were away. Maybe the jinx is broken.
Rob Culbert and I want to alert all that the Vineyard’s Christmas Bird count will be held on Jan. 5, 2008. Anyone interested should contact Rob or me by e-mail Rob at email@example.com or me at firstname.lastname@example.org. To volunteer you do not need to be an expert birder, but need to know how to use binoculars and be ready to stay in the field at least a half day, if not a full day. We can always use help and if you can’t join us in the field, please keep track of the birds that visit your feeder. We will publish a phone number that you may call with your feeder reports at a later date.
We have great news for Barbara Pesch and me. Our hard work of the last year and a half has come to an end. Vineyard Birds II is at the printer and is due to arrive on the Island any day now. We hope it will be in bookstores by Christmas. I can’t wait to see the finished product; Lanny McDowell, Karen Ogden and Matt Pelikan are also part of the combined effort.
Snow buntings have been seen at several locations on the Island. These sparrow-sized brown or black and white birds are common on the Island’s barrier beaches and fields. They love to snack on the seeds of beach grass, but will feed on grass seeds in the meadows and fields as well. They have been seen on South Beach between Katama and Squibnocket as well as at Lobsterville Beach. So watch for a flock of small white birds flashing against the beach sand or grass.
Wednesday morning, Nov. 28, Lanny McDowell and I met Porter Turnbull as he came off the fast ferry from Marion to bird with us. We headed for Oak Bluffs as Matt Pelikan had reported that the venerable Iceland gull had arrived by the ferry dock in Oak Bluffs for the winter. This same gull has been making the Bluffs its winter residence since November of 1997. Matt also spotted a second Iceland gull on Sarson’s Island on Nov. 26.
Lanny, Porter and I swung by the Bulkhead Lounge, next to where the Island Queen docks on our way to the Steamship dock. There is massive construction going on so we couldn’t bird from the dock, but there is a dumpster which had attracted three crows. The three of us all felt that these crows were smaller than the American crows that are the typical Island crow. We opened the car window in hope that the crows in the dumpster would call. No such luck. Finally Lanny and Proctor started cawing like an American crow and finally the dumpster crows called. The voice was different than the common crow’s caw, caw, but not the nasal uh,uh I am used to from hearing from the fish crows in Stuart, Fla. Lanny photographed the birds and I tried to get a voice recording, to no avail. The possible fish crows flew across the harbor entrance toward the osprey pole. Shortly thereafter they flew back with a fourth crow bringing up the rear. This fourth crow was larger than the other three. We figure that the fish crows were chased out of an American crow’s territory.
Lanny McDowell felt certain that the three crows we spotted were fish crows. Porter was committing and I am the doubting Thomas and want to get a recording of the crows’ voices for proof positive. The only positive method of identifying the American crow from the fish crow is by voice, or if you are lucky enough, having the two crows are sitting next to one another. The American crow is larger, has longer legs and a heavier bill. The fish crow is smaller, has shorter legs, lighter bills and its wing beat is faster than the American crow. Hard to tell if you don’t see them together. So anyone in the area, please check out the dumpster and environs and try to hear the crows or hopefully see both types of crows together. If these are indeed fish crows, it would be the first official sighting of this crow on the Vineyard.
Bert Fischer is back in good shape and reports that on Nov. 4 he spotted an eastern meadowlark around his place in Aquinnah; on Nov. 11 he had a brown creeper in his yard.
Warren Woessner reported spotting a lone American coot at the Oak Bluffs pumping station on Nov. 19.
On Nov. 14 Allan Keith watched an adult Kumlein (Iceland) gull feeding at the base of the Gay Head Cliffs with herring, ring-billed and black-backed gulls. He also spotted his first tree sparrows and a late American redstart at the Vanderhoop Homestead. The same day Paul Buckley who was birding with Allan, heard common redpolls flying over Gay Head. On Nov. 17 Allan Keith and Paul Buckley spotted 35 snow buntings at Cape Pogue. An adult snow goose flew in the Keith Fields in Chilmark on Nov. 22 and Tom Rivers reports that it was still there as of Tuesday.
On Nov. 22 Pat Hughes, Hal Minis and I walked Quansoo and our best birds were a flock of about 20 snow buntings.
Danny Bryant spotted a barn owl and three black-crowned night herons at Black Point in Chilmark on Nov. 23. The same day Pat Hughes, Eleanor Waldron, Hal Minis and I birded Squibnocket, Gay Head and Lobsterville. Our best birds were six American wigeon, harlequin ducks and a pied billed grebe at Squibnocket, a great blue heron and a flock of snow buntings at Lobsterville as well as the usual sea ducks off Squibnocket and Aquinnah.
Tom and Barbara Rivers and Liz Wilson were able to see almost all the waterfowl that are present on the Vineyard this time of year at Squibnocket on Nov. 25. These included: buffleheads, American wigeon, hooded and red-breasted mergansers, ruddy and black ducks, mallards, green-winged teal as well as harlequin ducks, all three species of scoters and both red-throated and common loons, horned grebes, great cormorants and northern gannets.
Allan Keith had a good feeder day on Nov. 24. He hosted four chipping sparrows, two field sparrows and a fox sparrow. In his fields were a mixed flock of eastern bluebirds, pine and palm warblers. On Nov. 25 Allan spotted three red knots at Norton’s Point and on Nov. 28 he watched an adult northern shrike hunting around the Vanderhoop Homestead in Aquinnah.
Lanny McDowell finally has tufted titmouse at his West Tisbury feeder and both Lanny and I had purple finches at our respective feeders on Nov. 24.