Cold weather brings our birds into feeders and bird baths. Please keep your feeders full, especially the suet feeders, and also try to provide some open water for our feathered friends.

Bird Sightings

The cold weather has brought in a collection of interesting birds. First and foremost are the white-winged crossbills that arrived at Luanne Johnson’s feeder in North Tisbury on Jan. 6. They were still around as of the Jan. 9. And, speaking of Luanne, everyone should turn on their TVs on Jan. 25 to PBS at 8 p.m. to watch the Nature program entitled Is That Skunk? Part of the program will include the research on skunks that Luanne has been conducting on the Vineyard for her PhD.

Happy and Steve Spongberg had a whopper of greeting to the New Year. They heard a crash in their den, went in and found the window smashed. Their feeders are just outside the den and they figured it must have been a Cooper’s hawk which was trying to catch breakfast and missed. The Spongbergs never found a feather from the hawk or his breakfast, but did have plenty of glass to clean up.

Bob Woodruff watched a hermit thrush bathing in his North Tisbury birdbath New Year’s Day.

Warren Woessner watched a very cooperative American pipit foraging on the beach and flying back and forth near the Fuller street entrance to Little Beach on Jan. 2.

Many people have noticed eastern bluebirds this year. Lanny McDowell spotted 16 at Misty Meadows in West Tisbury on Jan. 5 and Barbara Flynn had three at her bird bath on Indian Hill on Jan. 12. Barbara also had 12 American robins bathing at the same time.

Susie Bowman reported four pine siskins at her West Tisbury feeder on Jan. 7 — a first for her yard. Lanny McDowell also had pine siskins at his West Tisbury feeder for the first time on Jan. 13 — probably eight, although they moved around so much it was hard to count. Gus Ben David also watched a pine siskin at his feeder at the World of Reptiles and Birds in Edgartown on the 14th.

A great cooperative effort was witnessed at the duck pond at Felix Neck on Jan. 8. A group of 14 hooded mergansers were hunting as a flock and pushing small fish toward the shore where they could trap and catch them. A very clever great blue heron settled in on the edge of the pond and when the fish bunched up along the shore he snatched one for himself. Easy hunting technique, I’d say.

Donna Honig of Katama reported 10 red-winged blackbirds in her yard between Jan. 5 and 10.

Another hunter was cruising around Herring Creek in Aquinnah recently. Bert Fischer watched a beautiful peregrine crisscrossing the creek at least a dozen times on Jan. 12, looking for an unsuspecting duck, no doubt.

Sue Silva has the best feeders for fox sparrows. She has had two visit her every winter for five years. They were there as of Jan. 14. Other birds at Sue’s feeder the same day included two pine siskins, a male purple finch and 16 northern cardinals! She also has seen a yellow-bellied sapsucker this week.

Janet Norton has also found the cold weather has increased the activity around her feeders. In her Edgartown yard feeders she had counted 12 black-capped chickadees, two gray catbirds and four robins as well as a number of cardinals. She has had two odd ducks at her pond and we will try to identify them.

Rob Culbert also had a few goodies show up at his Tisbury feeder due to the cold weather. On Jan. 10 a northern flicker arrived and the next day, Jan. 11, three pine siskins joined the group of American goldfinches. Rob noticed that there were eight to ten goldfinches, instead of the normal three or four. Rob also has 10 dark-eyed juncos, three tufted titmice and two red-bellied woodpeckers at his feeder regularly to name a few. Rob will be sending the final numbers of birds seen on this year’s Christmas Bird Count to the Gazette on Monday, so look for the list in next week’s issue.

Marianne Thomas spotted six snow geese at Herring Creek Farm on Jan. 14.

John Nelson sent in a report from Jan. 10 which included 16 cedar waxwings in Edgartown, a red-necked grebe at Sylvia Beach in Oak Bluffs, 21 eastern bluebirds at Katama and 143 greater scaup off South Beach at Katama. These were probably frozen out of the ponds, so went to open water. On Jan. 11 John counted 200 black ducks and nine green-winged teal at the mouth of Herring Creek at Katama and, finally, he counted six razorbills off East Chop on Jan. 14.

Finally Phyllis and Bob Conway e-mailed me that they have a leucistic black-capped chickadee at their bird feeder-perhaps there are more than one on the Vineyard.


Please report your bird sightings to the Martha’s Vineyard Bird Hotline at 508-627-4922 or e-mail to

Susan B. Whiting is the co-author of Vineyard Birds and newly published Vineyard Birds II and led bird tours for Osprey Tours to Central and South America for 30 years.