Southbound shorebirds are confusing. We have been seeing adults for the past six weeks and their plumage has varied from bright brown breeding to dull gray/white winter and all shades in between. Every species is subtly different.

Now we are starting to see the youngsters that were hatched this year and they look different. Instead of the one-year old faded and worn feathers, the juveniles have fresh feathers with well-defined pale or spotted edges on their backs and wings that make bold striped, scaled or scalloped patterns. Nobody claims identifying shorebirds is easy. But knowing whether you are looking at an adult or an immature is the essential place to start!

Pectoral sandpiper — Lanny McDowell

Bob Shriber had a great day at the salt marsh in the west basin at Lobsterville on August 4. He spotted both a stilt sandpiper and a pectoral sandpiper, two rather uncommon species, as well as eight lesser yellowlegs, spotted sandpipers and both greater and lesser yellowlegs.

A white-rumped sandpiper showed up as David Padulo was birding the salt marshes along Sengekontacket Pond on August 3. Also present were least and semipalmated sandpipers, short-billed dowitchers and greater yellowlegs.

On Aug 1, Dahlia Rudavsky and Bob Jampol saw five lesser yellowlegs, oystercatchers, great egrets, semipalmated plovers and a green heron in the nearby marshes of the Tuthill Preserve.

Northern gannet — Lanny McDowell

Other shorebird news is from Norton Point, where Susan Whiting, Warren Woessner, Jeff Peters, Pete Gilmore, Lanny McDowell and a few unnamed others visited over the week. Their highlights include: 45 semipalmated plovers, black-bellied plovers, piping plovers, 260 sanderlings, six ruddy turnstones, 14 greater yellowlegs, lesser yellowlegs, least and semipalmated sandpipers, short-billed dowitchers, 173 common terns, roseate terns, 24 least terns, lesser black-backed gull and a northern harrier.

Other harriers were spotted by Rob Bierregaard at Sepiessa Point on August 3, Steve Allen at Felix Neck on August 6, and Allan Burrage at Cape Pogue on August 2.

The first tri-colored heron of the year flew over Edgartown Harbor on August 7 and was observed by Steve Rappaport. He also found spotted sandpiper, laughing gull, great blue heron, great egret and green heron.

Lisa Maxfield spotted two yellow-crowned night-herons; one was perched atop a flagpole near Brush Pond on August 5. They are still present as of August 9 and wander around in her yard, going from puddle to puddle in search of bugs. On August 2, Steve Allen spotted the one that has been hanging out at Felix Neck.

Dianne Rider spotted the first northern gannet of the season in the ocean off Lucy Vincent Beach on August 3. On August 2, Allan Burrage saw seven common eiders — small numbers of them spend the summer here — on Cape Pogue.

Virginia rail — Lanny McDowell

Alexandra Taylor reports an unexpected sighting in her yard on August 3. She investigated an unusual sound and spotted a Virginia rail with three youngsters following behind.

The songbird migration is gaining intensity. We had one spring sighting of a yellow-billed cuckoo (by Shea Fee at Katama on May 17) but suddenly this week there were five sightings. Will Turner reported a sighting at Buttonwood Farm Road on July 26, Merrily Fenner and Susan Whiting along Bluebarque Road in Chilmark on July 29, Jill Bouck on August 2 on Pine Hill Road in West Tisbury, Mari Ryan at Boldwater on August 4 and Francesca Zeta near Tiah’s Cove Road on August 7.

A black-billed cuckoo was heard by Caroline Heald at the Blackwater Pond Reservation on August 7. She also saw great blue heron, wood pewee, eastern kingbird, phoebe and great crested flycatcher.

Randy Rynd has observed a great blue heron at Little Duarte’s Pond for the past couple of weeks, and notes that adult and fledgling barn swallows have been swooping around Thimble Farm this week. On August 6, Clifton Stone spotted a yellow warbler at Peaked Hill and Cynthia Bloomquist and Thaw Malin had a brown creeper and a Baltimore oriole visit their yard.

Yellow-billed cuckoo — Lanny McDowell

We know that downy woodpeckers live in cavities but Kathy Shands was surprised to see one exploring a bluebird nest box and disappearing inside on the evening of August 7. Will Turner spotted cedar waxwing, turkey vulture and mockingbird at Buttonwood Farm Road on August 8.

My family does not see ruby-throated hummingbirds in our yard very often, so we were pleasantly surprised to observe one - undoubtedly a migrant - visiting a red snapdragon on our front porch. On August 8, my highlights at Cedar Tree Neck included a juvenile ovenbird, wood thrush, eastern wood-pewee, red-eyed vireo, yellowthroat, redstart, four spotted sandpipers, 25 laughing gulls and roseate terns.

Finally, there have been two sightings of bald eagles this week. Mari Ryan spotted one on August 2 at Wintucket Cove, and Susan Whiting had an adult fly overhead at Tisbury Great Pond on August 4.

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More bird pictures.

Robert Culbert is an ecological consultant with Nature Watch LLC living in Vineyard Haven.