The Christmas Bird Count is behind us and there have been many interesting birds seen since. So let’s catch up with several of the attention-grabbing sightings.
Dovekies have again caught people’s attention whether they are birders or not. In the recent easterly gales a number of these little alcids, which are about half the size of a football and weigh practically nothing, were blown onto the Island. Peter Huntington spotted a dovekie flying over Crab Creek at Quansoo on Jan. 26; Lanny McDowell received a report of a dovekie down on the road in the Lambert’s Cove area; Tara Whiting retrieved a dovekie from a driveway in West Tisbury and released it into Tisbury Great Pond; Flip Harrington and I found a dovekie on Takemmy Trail and released it into Eel Pond; Larry Hepler and Tom Mahoney spotted a dovekie on Huntington Way at Quansoo; and Wendy J. Palen, who was visiting the Browns on East Pasture Way in Aquinnah found a dovekie on the road — all on Jan. 31. Let us not forget that these little tykes cannot fly from land. They need to be on water to take off.
Vasha Brunelle sent a report on Jan. 28 that she had seen a Sabine’s gull around sunset in shallow water on Ralph Packer’s beach behind the gas station. Unfortunately, there was no photograph taken but her description sounded like a non-breeding adult Sabine’s gull.
“It was small, maybe a little larger than a tern, with a partial gray hood and a black bill with yellow tip. No brownish feathers.”
This is a very rare bird on the Vineyard; hopefully someone might find the gull again and photograph it.
Ruddy ducks have appeared in many areas on-Island. Peter Huntington spotted a small bunch on Tisbury Great Pond and Menemsha Creek the week of Jan. 21; Adrian Wright photographed a ruddy duck in Menemsha harbor on Jan. 28; Lanny McDowell counted 48 ruddies at the Head of the Lagoon the same day; on Jan. 31 Lanny photographed a single ruddy duck at Katama Bay; Constance Alexander found ruddy ducks back in Menemsha harbor; and two days later Jeff Bernier photographed the same flock.
The great egret made it through the hard freeze. Jeff Bernier photographed it alive and well at Cracktuxet Cove on Feb. 1. Jeff also found that the Baltimore oriole had survived at the Sheriff’s Meadow Sanctuary as of Jan. 26. William Waterway added another Baltimore oriole’s survival story as he spotted one in West Tisbury at Cynthia Riggs’s Cleaveland House on Jan. 23.
Allan Keith found the drake blue-winged teal at Squibnocket on Jan. 20 and has had a pine warbler at his feeder at Turtle Brook Farm on and off between Jan. 17 to 20.
Lanny McDowell found and photographed a drake canvasback at Cow Bay on Jan. 28.
Bert Fischer spotted a pair of killdeer at Red Sand Beach and an American kestrel both in Aquinnah on Jan. 27. The same day Mike Ditchfield spotted a Wilson’s snipe on Moshup Trail in Aquinnah.
Wendy Weldon reported that she has a lone northern bobwhite at her Squibnocket feeder along with the regulars including eastern towhee. She has a resident sharp-shinned hawk, as do many of us who have bird feeders.
Snow geese have been in the news. Mike Ditchfield and Tim Johnson spotted several at Morning Glory Farm. As of Feb. 4 Janet Norton has a flock of over 100 Canada geese and 10 snow geese at her Edgartown Sweetened Water Farm.
I have had many reports of eastern bluebirds. Fella Cecillio called to say he had the first-ever flock of bluebirds in his Tisbury yard on Jan. 27. Across the way, Margaret Curtin counted 12 bluebirds in her Tisbury yard. Janice Belisle counted six bluebirds feasting on either pineapple or insects in the window box of her Edgartown yard on Jan. 26. Bert Fischer had both eastern bluebirds and ruby-crowned kinglet in his Aquinnah yard on Jan. 27. Bob Green reported six eastern bluebirds at his Edgartown yard on Jan. 30. Tara Whiting sees eastern bluebirds frequently while running in the state forest. Tara also hears eastern screech owls by Priester’s Pond in West Tisbury on her runs.
Ellen Bunch spotted a yellow-bellied sapsucker and a gray catbird by Uncle Seth’s Pond in West Tisbury on Jan. 26. Lanny McDowell had a gray catbird at the Tashmoo feeder along with an American tree sparrow on Jan. 25. Adrian Wright had a gray catbird and hermit thrush in her Chilmark yard on Jan. 26 and Jim Harrison had a hermit thrush eating winter berries from his window box on Island Grove, Edgartown.
Flip Harrington and I had a field sparrow at our Quenames feeder on Jan. 26 and 28.
David and Libby Fielder watched a merlin being harassed by five blue jays at Waskosim’s Rock on Jan. 28. The Fielders then sent me the following e-mail. “My brother Evan Fielder spotted an apparently injured red-tailed hawk perched by the side of Dr. Fisher Road this afternoon (Feb. 4). The hawk was alert, but appeared to have blood on the right wing, which was partially extended. Evan stayed near the bird while I contacted animal control officer Joannie Jenkinson. Joannie, in turn, contacted Gus Ben David. Gus arrived and captured the beautiful animal by the talons with a quick expert lunge. After a brief examination, Gus reported that the hawk, an adult female, seemed well-fed and in excellent condition overall. He took the hawk for observation and expressed the hope that she would soon be back in action.
Rob Bierregaard is in Israel for a four-day workshop and brainstorming session with the European osprey mafia on how we can best use our satellite-tagged Ospreys for educational outreach. This is something that is near and dear to Rob’s heart. He is interested to hear from any of us who have used his website for educational purposes. Rob’s website is bioweb.uncc.edu/ bierregaard. Contact him at email@example.com.
Rob adds that the manufacturer of our telemetry transmitters has asked him to tag four adult males on the Chesapeake as part of an environmental education program being developed by the Chesapeake Bay Foundation. In return for my help on that project, they have agreed to provide two of the new cell-tower transmitters for adult males on Martha’s Vineyard. We’re targeting two birds that nest on properties owned and managed by The Trustees of Reservations. We will be installing motion-activated video cameras on feeding platforms near these nests, so we’ll have a fairly complete record of what fish are being delivered to the nests. We will also be able to match the times of arrivals with the GPS data to see exactly where the birds are hunting and what species of fish they’re bringing home. This should be really exciting. Later in the summer, we’ll tag a juvenile at each of these nests and follow their migrations.
Please report your bird sightings to the Martha’s Vineyard Bird hotline at 508-645-2913 or e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Susan B. Whiting is the co-author of Vineyard Birds and Vineyard Birds II. Her website is vineyardbirds2.com.