The morning of Sept. 11 was ideal for finding migrating songbirds. The night before was pleasant and the winds were out of the northwest, so the nocturnal migrating songbirds had favorable tailwinds, as they come from their nesting grounds as far away as Alaska or the boreal forests of northern Canada.

To avoid flying over the Atlantic Ocean, migrants turn westward towards Aquinnah but. once there, they discover more ocean, so they may wait there for a day or two or three until there are more favorable weather (wind) conditions. So Aquinnah, and the Gay Head Cliffs area in particular, is a great place to find these migrants. In the early morning, they can be seen feeding in the shrubs and trees in that area, refueling after a nighttime migration of up to 300 miles.

Birders flock there too! On Sept. 11, Susan Whiting and Bob Shriber were there and they found great crested flycatcher, eastern kingbird, red-eyed vireo, red-breasted nuthatch, house wren, 30 cedar waxwings, five bobolinks, three common yellowthroat, Cape May warbler and northern parula.

American redstart immature male — Lanny McDowell

At a different time that morning, Andrew and Merrill Eppedio added northern harrier, merlin, peregrine falcon, eastern wood pewee, blue-headed vireo, blue-gray gnatcatcher, eastern meadowlark, indigo buntings, dickcissel, 674 cedar waxwings and 217 bobolinks. The latter two species were counted as they were flying westward high overhead!

Aquinnah can also be good during less favorable wind conditions. Pete Gilmore, Susan Whiting and Bob Shriber were there on Sept. 10 and their highlights were blue gray gnatcatcher, kestrel, merlin, house wren, American redstart, prairie warbler, chipping sparrow and a peregrine falcon strafing an immature great black-backed gull.

Ovenbird — Lanny McDowell

At the Gay Head Moraine on Sept. 8, Lanny McDowell’s highlight was an ovenbird. This property is a good place to look for birds since it includes some mature woodlands that are favored habitats for many of our woodlands birds.

Of course, migrating birds can show up anywhere on the Island. At the Edgartown Golf Club on Sept. 11, Ken Magnuson spotted a northern waterthrush and he had two common nighthawks flyng overhead in the past week. I spotted a nighthawk flying over Kanomika Neck on Edgartown Great Pond on the evening of Sept. 11. Dave Oster spotted a redstart at Felix Neck on Sept. 11.

The next day, Phil Edmundson found eastern wood pewee, eastern phoebe, Philadelphia vireo, red-eyed vireo, chipping sparrow, common yellowthroat and yellow-breasted chat in the woodlands near Watcha Pond. Also on Sept. 12, John Nelson was sitting on his deck and spotted a worm-eating warbler. These latter two species are only occasionally seen.

Hummingbirds are still hanging around. Sightings this week are from John Nelson, Heather Rynd, Wayne Smith, Betty Burton, Warren Morse, Mary Beth Baptiste, Kathy Landers, Sheilah Hughes, Lucy Sheldon, Tom Hodgson, Les Cutler, Bob Shriber, Penny Uhlendorf and Robin Bray.

Blue gray gnatcatcher — Lanny McDowell

Felix Neck has been a hotspot for wading birds this fall. There have been yellow-crowned night-herons and little blue herons there in addition to the more-expected great blue heron, green heron, great egret and snowy egret. There have been four little blues and as many as three yellow-crowned night-herons reported recently by Jeff Bernier, Amy Morganthau, Dan Cabot, Steve Allen, Shea Fee, and Brayden, Andrew, and Merrill Eppedio.

An immature yellow-crowned night-heron was at the Squibnocket Beach parking lot, seen by Lanny McDowell and Pete Gilmore. One was at Norton Point, spotted by Shea Fee on Sept. 10. Lisa Maxfield reported two lingering yellow-crowned night-herons at Brush Pond. This is a lot of night-herons for the Island! And she reports that there were 10 of the much more common black-crowned night-herons perched in the trees at Brush Pond on Sept. 6.

An osprey is hanging out at Felix Neck, observed on Sept. 10 by Steve Allen and the birding group he leads, and I spotted it on Sept. 13. They are becoming scarce as most of the more than 100 breeding pairs have already departed for their wintering grounds.

Yellow-breasted chat — Lanny McDowell

A couple of whimbrels are lingering at Norton Point Beach. Lisa Maxfield, Shea Fee, Susan Whiting, Warren Woessner and Bob Shriber have all seen one or two of them recently. On Sept. 12, the latter three birders also spotted American oystercatcher, 105 black-bellied plover, 26 semipalmated plover, three red knots, 145 sanderling, 1 least sandpiper, 8 semi sandpiper, five short-billed dowitchers, 1 lesser yellowlegs, 105 laughing gulls, 55 ring-billed gulls, an immature lesser black-backed gull, a barn swallow and two saltmarsh sparrows.

Perhaps the most unusual bird this week is the American bittern spotted by Shea Fee in the salt marsh at the western end of Norton Point on Sept. 10.

American bittern — Lanny McDowell

Phil Edmundson spotted a flock of seven lesser black-backed gulls along West Tisbury’s south shore.

Smaller numbers of our more common shorebirds have been seen at Little Beach this past week by Bob Shriber, Warren Woessner, Pete Gilmore, Susan Whiting, Lanny McDowell, Dave Oster, and Merril and Andrew Eppedio, Their highlights are three red knots, eastern willets and 150 common terns.

My Sept. 11 bird tour with the Edgartown Public Library spotted a feeding frenzy of 35 laughing gulls, 15 herring gulls, 2 ring-billed gulls, one great black-backed gull, one great egret and two double-crested cormorants hovering, swooping and diving to feast on the school of small fish.

Common nighthawk — Lanny McDowell

Lanny McDowell and Jeff Peters both spotted a large peregrine falcon near the Steamship Authority dock in Vineyard Haven on Sept. 1. Randy Rynd has been hearing and seeing eastern wood pewees near Thimble Farm in recent weeks. On Sept. 5, Pete Gilmore spotted a leucistic chipping sparrow at the West Tisbury Public Safety Building. And on Sept. 11, Dave Oster spotted a raven along Great Plains Road and Mary Beth Naron saw a bobwhite by Lagoon Pond.

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