The time is quickly approaching for the annual Christmas Bird Count. The Vineyard’s CBC, as it is abbreviated, is slated for Jan. 2, 2012, rain or shine. Rob Culbert is again the compiler for this event. I give him encouragement and help as the cocompiler.

The following is information from the National Audubon Web site: “The count period for the 112th Christmas Bird Count will begin on Dec. 14, 2011. From Dec. 14 through Jan. 5 tens of thousands of volunteers throughout the Americas take part in an adventure that has become a family tradition among generations. Families and students, birders and scientists, armed with binoculars, bird guides and checklists go out on an annual mission — often before dawn. For over one hundred years, the desire to both make a difference and to experience the beauty of nature has driven dedicated people to leave the comfort of a warm house during the Holiday season.

“Each of the citizen scientists who annually braves snow, wind or rain to take part in the Christmas Bird Count makes an enormous contribution to conservation. Audubon and other organizations use data collected in this longest-running wildlife census to assess the health of bird populations — and to help guide conservation action.

“From feeder-watchers and field observers to count compilers and regional editors, everyone who takes part in the Christmas Bird Count does it for love of birds and the excitement of friendly competition — and with the knowledge that their efforts are making a difference for science and bird conservation.”

We can always use help. If you are interested in joining a field team or reporting the birds that visit your feeder the day of the Vineyard’s CBC, please contact Rob Culbert at, or 508-693-4908.

One does not have to be an expert bird-watcher, but those joining a field team should own binoculars and know how to use them. We can use participants for full or partial days and hope you will join us as the CBC is great fun and always a learning experience.

Bird Sightings

A snowy owl was seen on Chappaquiddick on Nov. 26 by Sue and Will Geresy. It was spotted again on Nov. 30 by Paul Schultz and Will Geresy on East Beach, again on Chappaquiddick. There has been an invasion of these beautiful owls this winter, so keep your eyes open when you take a stroll on the beach as these elegant owls love to sit in the dune grass and hunt the mice and voles that make their homes there.

snowy owl grass
Snowy owls are starting to arrive on Vineyard. — Lanny McDowell

Bert Fischer reports on Dec. 2 that not only has he been seeing American woodcocks near his Aquinnah home, he also has watched woodcocks conducting their springtime mating ritual at dusk. It is not surprising to have this happen, as the temperatures on the Vineyard have been springlike and the light period is similar to that of spring. Many species of flowers are experiencing similar problems. Some azaleas and spring bulbs are blooming.

Keith Jackson reported seeing two belted kingfishers in Edgartown harbor on Dec. 2. The same day in Aquinnah, Saskia Vanderhoop spotted a female northern parula in her yard. This is a new late date; the previous record was Nov. 23, 1958. Another record was broken this week by Happy Spongberg, who reported seeing a blackpoll warbler in her yard at one of her water stations on Dec. 6. This beats the previous late date for blackpoll warblers of Nov. 26, 1958!

Flip Harrington and I were in Aquinnah on Dec. 4. On the way up we spotted a merlin chasing a flock of European starlings near the Allen Farm in Chilmark. As we approached the Gay Head Lighthouse there was a sharp-shinned hawk perched on the telephone lines. Offshore there was a nice show of northern gannets and several common eiders. Two turkey vultures were seen on the trip back down-Island.

And from Chappaquiddick, “Sue and Will Geresy and Paul Schultz were lucky to get an up-close sighting of a non-breeding adult dovekie Monday morning, Dec 5. The single bird was spotted in the calm pond water next to the Dike Bridge. Sue took several photos and the bird was observed for about 20 minutes until traffic spooked it away and over the dunes to the ocean side.”

Laurie Walkers had a female golden-crowned kinglet in her Abel’s Hill, Chilmark yard on Dec. 6 and spotted a Cooper’s hawk off South Road in Chilmark the same day.

Rob Bierregaard’s latest report from the world of ospreys shows the two Vineyard ospreys somewhat settled for the winter. Belle, banded in 2010, is in Brazil and will return in the spring. Snowy, banded in 2011 on Chappaquiddick, is in Venezuela. For more information on the ospreys go to


Please report your bird sightings to the Martha’s Vineyard Bird Hotline at 508-645-2913 or e-mail to Susan B. Whiting is the coauthor of Vineyard Birds and Vineyard Birds II. Her Web site is