The change of light in the fall is my cue to put up my feeders. I can remember the first of many feeders I have had over the years. It was a big pine cone stuffed with a mix of bacon fat, peanut butter and oatmeal. Those were the days when I was able to eat bacon frequently and there was a coffee tin full of fat next to the stove. Later I would cut out a “tray” from a plastic quart soda pop bottle, wax around the cap and hang it from a tree and fill it with striped sunflower seed. Next came the tray that someone built under the kitchen window onto which I scattered a mix of sunflower, millet and cracked corn. A newer version of that still exists.
Now after purchasing what seems like a zillion different types of feeders — from the cute little houses with plastic or glass sides and a trough on either side, to square cages into which you place blocks of suet, to mini huts with a spike on either side onto which you place half oranges, to tube feeders of all sizes (the most outrageous of these tube feeders are powered by electricity and throw squirrels off if they land on the perch!) — I have whittled my array of feeders down to a dull roar.
I have decided that after all is said and done the nonelectric tube feeders, a flat tray with a roof and open sides, a thistle seed sock and a couple of suet cages is the best combination for me and “my birds.” I have sent many other types of feeders to the Dumptique and see that some of them actually are hanging around same. They are welcome to my outcasts.
I have chosen the above feeders as they are easy to wash. Throw the thistle seed sock into the washing machine, the suet cages and smaller tube feeders can be run through the dishwasher and the flat tray and larger tube feeders can be easily hosed or put in the shower. It is very important to keep your feeders clean so no diseases are spread amongst our feathered friends.
Rob Bierregaard emailed that one of the osprey he fitted with a satellite transmitter, Captain Liz, has, as far as he can surmise, become a stowaway on a research vessel near Bermuda. Rob’s concern is that she may not be able to feed and although she is “getting a ride” and resting, the vessel is not heading south where Captain Liz needs to be. If she can’t feed, and she hasn’t for five days Rob figures, she will become so weak that a flight to land would be nearly impossible. She can only fish in the first three feet of water offshore and we doubt if there is much to munch on in that area at that depth. Rob did mention that an osprey survived riding a fishing vessel off Ecuador for quite a spell, but that bird was able to catch fish, bring the food back to the ship and continue stowing away.
Great horned owls are back! Penny Uhlendorf and Scott Stephens heard one outside their home at Pilot Hill and the next thing they knew the owl flew over their heads! Randy Rynd heard the first great horned owl in her Stony Hill Road neighborhood on Oct. 10 and then again on the 11th. Randy had been hearing barn owls earlier in the year and was concerned that perhaps the great horned owl had intimidated the barn owl right out of the area.
On Oct. 8 Penny Uhlendorf and Scott Stephens found the marbled godwit at Little Beach in Edgartown and a lone brant at Sarson’s Island in Sengekontacket Pond. The same day Ken Magnuson spotted and photographed a green-winged teal and solitary sandpiper at the Edgartown Golf Course.
Bob Shriber counted 15 sharp-shinned hawks and five merlins at Aquinnah on Oct. 9. At Squibnocket he found two blue-winged teal. The next day he counted 20 green-winged teal, one blue-winged teal and a peregrine falcon at Chilmark Pond. Bob Cassidy reports that the male northern harrier has been hunting the airport fields morning and evening almost daily.
Lanny McDowell, Bob Shriber and Pete Gilmore found a nice selection of birds on the Quansoo beach and in Black Point Pond on Oct. 11. The best birds were a juvenile golden plover, a short-billed dowitcher and four white-rumped sandpipers. They also spotted three gadwall, 30 American wigeon, one black duck and a male northern harrier.
At out Quenames home on Oct. 11 Hal Minis noticed that there was an adult white-crowned sparrow taking a splash in our bird bath. The sparrow returned the next day, but has not been back since then.
Pat and Sally Hughes and Hal Minis joined me at the Gay Head Cliffs on Oct. 13. We saw two sharp-shinned and one Cooper’s hawks, quite a number of yellow-rumped warblers, chipping sparrows and a Lincoln’s sparrow. The overlook had white-winged and black scoters, common eiders, common loon, incredible numbers of laughing gulls and two northern gannets. We met up with Rob Culbert, Greg Palermo and Steve Miller at the cliffs. We shared birds for a while and then went our separate ways. Rob and crew spotted two blue-gray gnatcatchers below the Gay Head Lighthouse. Our crew went on to Lobsterville where we counted nine great egrets still in the marsh.
Jeff Bernier took photos of a late-staying ruddy turnstone at Little Beach on Oct. 12 and the same day Lanny McDowell and Pete Gilmore spotted and Lanny photographed least sandpipers at the same Edgartown beach. Over on Edgartown Great Pond Rob Culbert spotted an osprey on Oct. 12.
Allan Keith and Bob Shriber at the Gay Head Cliffs also on the 12th had a Lincoln’s sparrow, two brown thrashers, a field sparrow and two sharp-shinned hawks. Allan Keith continued on to Tisbury Great Pond to try to find the white-rumped sandpipers, which he was unable to find. Instead he was treated to a flock of six Lapland longspurs that flew along the beach at about knee level. Allan also refound the juvenile golden plover.
The piping plover seen and photographed by Jeff Bernier at Little Beach is definitely a late staying plover. Vineyard Birds II has a record of one seen by Marian and Ester Hancock on Jan. 20, 1974. Lanny McDowell photographed one in January since then. One has to wonder if those were early arrivals or later stayers?
I went to Little Beach on Oct. 14 and spotted one semipalmated sandpiper, one dunlin, the marbled godwit, two American oystercatchers, 36 sanderlings, 13 black-bellied plovers and 16 semipalmated plovers. Lanny McDowell and Pete Gilmore birded the same area earlier in the day and found everything I did plus a Bonaparte’s gull, one least sandpiper, one greater yellowlegs, two additional semipalmated sandpipers and four additional dunlin. Lanny and Pete also spotted an osprey at Katama.
Allan Keith, also on Oct. 14 at Gay Head had one sharp-shinned hawk, one yellow-bellied sapsucker, a Lincoln’s sparrow, two palm and two orange-crowned warblers. At the Gay Head Moraine he spotted one blue-headed and two red-eyed vireos. At Little Beach Rob Culbert counted 15 greater yellowlegs, black-bellied plovers and dunlin.
Constance Alexander emailed me that she had been surrounded by yellow-rumped warblers in the bushes around Lake Tashmoo. She also spotted a great egret in the Lake Tashmoo marsh.
A female purple finch arrived at our Quenames, Chilmark feeder on Oct. 15 and Andrea Hartman and I birded Dogfish Bar and Oxcart Road the same day. Our best birds were one dark-eyed junco, a palm warbler, a swamp sparrow, several chipping sparrows and numerous yellow-rumped warblers.
On Moshup’s Trail in Aquinnah Bob Shriber picked up a Tennessee warbler, a winter wren and a Lincoln’s sparrow. At the Cliffs Bob found a yellow warbler and a common yellowthroat.
Please report your bird sightings to the Martha’s Vineyard Bird Hotline at 508-645-2913 or email to firstname.lastname@example.org.