The question was, “How do you find places to bird watch and stay when you are traveling in the Bird Buggy?” It has been a challenge at times, but mainly a combination of word of mouth, internet research and dumb luck. Vineyard birders Tom Rivers and Lanny McDowell loaned us books entitled How to Find Birds in: Arizona, Texas and Southern California which give specific details on where to locate good birding areas in those states and also how to find information on the latest sightings in an area. After we choose a location from the books we go online and find a campground close at hand. When we check into the campground we ask for a bird list and if there are any bird walks scheduled. Next we check the local newspaper’s calendar of events and find out if there are any bird walks in the area, and finally we go online to the local Audubon Society’s website and check their field trips. Our license plate, which reads BIRDER, had been a boon. People come by, see the plate and either tell us about good birding areas or ask for help to ID a bird.
We have found that we tend to visit people with Vineyard ties and they know we are bird nuts. Bob Shriber of Aquinnah and Mamaroneck, N.Y. took us to his favorite birding sights around his New York home and provided us with a checklist of the birds of North America so we could record our sightings during our trip. Sue and Alan Parkes of Chilmark and Oro Valley, Ariz. have given us incredible local information of spots to bird and also steered us to one of the greatest state parks we have ever stayed and has the extra benefit of conducting three bird walks a week! Next we are off to Green Valley to visit Sue Carroll and Jerry Grant who live next to Madera Canyon, one of the hottest birding spots in Arizona.
Yes, Vineyard networking adds another important source of where the birds are and where to stay while on the road in the Bird Buggy.
I received an email from John and Dorothy Dropick that they spotted two ospreys on the nest near Mytoi. This is one of many early dates. We would like to hear if those birds are still there or if other ospreys have been seen. In the meantime I heard from Rob Bierregaard that several early nesting ospreys are set up in the Chesapeake Bay area. Rob figures these early birds were probably ospreys that did not migrate out of the United States during the winter, but stayed in southern states. Perhaps two of these southern states wintering ospreys are now on Chappaquiddick. Rob also added that he and The Trustees of Reservations are trying to raise money to purchase a transmitter for a young bird this summer. We now have the details worked out for those of you who have generously pledged to support a transmitter. Donations can be sent to: The Trustees of Reservations, Attention: MV Osprey Project, P.O. Box 2106, Vineyard Haven, Mass. 02568. Checks can be made out to The Trustees of Reservations, and please write MV Osprey Project in the memo line. When you send your check, please let Rob Bierregaard know at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
There have been many dead Razorbills and a few common loons found dead along the beaches of the Vineyard, and as Rob Culbert noted last week, all along the eastern seaboard. I sent out a call for help and received the following email from Sarah Courchesne of the Seabird Ecological Assessment Network. “I work for the Seabird Ecological Assessment Network, and got an email from a colleague saying someone at the Vineyard Gazette was looking for info on the recent razorbill die-offs? If I’ve reached the right person, let me know if I can help somehow. Within the month, we’ll be doing autopsies on both some of the razorbills and some of the puffins found dead on the Cape, so perhaps those results, when they become available, might be of interest to your readership.”
So, stay tuned. When I hear from Sarah I will relay the information in a future Bird News column.
Dave Nash and Robin Bray were on Chappaquiddick looking for the porpoise that have been visiting the area and spotted four dead razorbills and one common loon. They also spotted 10 male and one female long-tailed ducks off Cape Pogue.
Spring is being advertised in many ways on the Vineyard. Many of the duck species are courting, red-winged blackbirds and common grackles are arriving and songbirds are beginning to sing in earnest.
Bert Fischer has had a flock of male red-winged blackbirds at his Aquinnah home feeder all winter, but as of March 1 common grackles arrived and the number of male red-winged blackbirds had doubled. Bert expects the female red-wings will arrive any day now. On March 3 Bert saw a peregrine falcon fly over Squibnocket Pond and on March 5 he photographed purple sandpipers at Philbin Beach in Aquinnah.
Luanne Johnson also had a common grackle and red-winged blackbirds arrive on March 1. The common grackle was at Chappaquiddick and the red-winged blackbird in her Tisbury feeder. Luanne mentioned that she still has several red-breasted nuthatches at her feeder. At Tom’s Neck on Chappaquiddick, Luanne found a brown creeper, hermit thrush, eastern towhee singing, eastern towhee, northern flicker and American robin.
Adam DeBettencourt had his first red-winged blackbird of the spring at his Oak Bluffs feeder on Feb. 28 and a common grackle on March 1. Suzie Bowman reports that the first red-winged blackbirds arrived at the Felix Neck Wildlife Sanctuary on March 1.
Molly Peach reported a possible snowy owl by the Norton Point Gate House on March 5. She did not get a photo and no one has found this bird since. The owl could be anywhere on the south shore of the Vineyard or Chappaquiddick, so birders keep your eyes open and your cameras ready.
John Nelson was birding at Farm Neck on March 3 and found a single snow goose, three northern harriers, one merlin, and one red-tailed hawk. At the head of the Lagoon in Tisbury he found four American coots, 11 greater scaup and a noisy flock of red-winged blackbirds.
Joan Hawkes called about a heartwarming tale. On March 5 two red-crossbills hit her window and were stunned. She carefully placed them in a box away from her dogs in the bathroom with the windows wide open. The female recovered first and flew out the window. Joan then moved the box outside as she saw the male was beginning to recover and shortly thereafter the male flew off in the same direction the female had. All’s well that ends well!
Joannie Ames called to say she had three female hooded mergansers at her Seven Gates pond and one of them caught a fish that was so big it took her over 15 minutes to swallow it. An American crow was bugging the merganser as she tried to eat her meal. Joannie added that she still had red-breasted nuthatches at her feeder.
Jeff Bernier photographed the ivory gull on Feb. 25 on the same scallop pile in Menemsha where Lanny McDowell found the bird originally.
Please report your bird sightings to the Martha’s Vineyard Bird Hotline at 508-645-2913 or email to email@example.com.