The 62nd annual Martha’s Vineyard Christmas Bird Count will be held on Sunday, Jan. 2. It is a lot of fun and a great way to start off the new year.

Many of us will be out scouring our territories and counting all the birds we can find. Since the field teams cannot cover the entire island, we invite everyone to join the fun by becoming a feeder watcher and recording how many birds you see in your yard. Instructions and reporting forms are available on the Christmas Bird Count page of the BiodiversityWorks website. 

Tree sparrow — Lanny McDowell

Tracy Winn spotted a new arrival for the season on Dec. 13 along Lighthouse Road. An American tree sparrow is a little brown job (LBJ in birder’s lingo) but is really quite a distinctive sparrow. She also spotted a gannet and two lesser black-backed gulls.

On Dec. 19 Matt Pelikan spotted a male Barrow’s goldeneye in Vineyard Haven’s outer harbor across from the Lagoon Pond boat ramp. A Barrow’s is not easy to distinguish from a common goldeneye and it took a close look at his photograph to identify it. For the past few winters, a Barrow’s has been seen regularly in this area.

Bridget Dunnigan and Sea Williams were birding in Katama on Dec. 16 and spotted a short-eared owl. That species used to be a common year-round resident but now sightings are quite rare, maybe three or four per year. Their other highlights were seven palm warblers, a northern harrier and the single adult snow goose that has been hanging out with the large flock of Canada geese that frequent Katama Farm. On Dec. 19, I saw two adult snow geese with the Canadas at Muskoday Farm: one was the more common white phase and the other was a blue phase. Both are considered to be snow geese nowadays although they used to be separate species.

Allan Keith visited Squibnocket on Dec. 14 and once again found the vagrant western tanager that he first found on Nov. 18. He and Bob Shriber found the tanager again the next day in the same thicket.

Western tanager — Lanny McDowell

Allan Keith also spotted a yellow-breasted chat — a scarce but regular fall transient — as well as seven yellow-rumped warblers, five white-throated sparrows, three catbirds, one hermit thrush and two golden-crowned kinglets. The waterbirds that he saw included 60 hooded mergansers, two male American wigeon, six lesser scaup and three double-crested cormorants. A winter wren and a brown thrasher were seen in a dense thicket near his house, and four green-winged teal were on one of his farm ponds.

The Martha’s Vineyard Bird Club’s Dec. 18 field trip with Nancy Weaver, Lanny McDowell and Luanne Johnson visited Blackwater Pond and Lambert’s Cove Beach. At Blackwater Pond they spotted seven ring-necked ducks, an eastern phoebe, red-breasted nuthatch, robin and white-throated sparrow. At Lambert’s Cove Beach they found a common goldeneye, a lingering laughing gull and a lingering great egret.

On Dec. 19 I found a large flock of 102 dunlin who are winter residents at Sarson’s Island. An American oystercatcher was also still present.

Blue-headed vireo — Lanny McDowell

Bob Shriber has seen as many as three American woodcocks after dark this past week as they forage along the side of Moshup Trail in Aquinnah. I guess they do not know that we think they should be further south this late in the season. He also spotted 20 snow buntings and four gannets along the Aquinnah shoreline and a winter wren at Old South Road on Dec. 19.

Speaking of lingering species, Tracy Winn found two rather late species. The most unusual is a blue-headed vireo, which she found on Dec. 14 along Shubael Weeks Path in Vineyard Haven. On Dec. 18 she spotted a flock of 235 tree swallows at Chilmark Pond, where they were either resting on the beach or flying out over the pond.

The troika of Shea Fee, Margaret Curtin and Nancy Weaver birded Sanderson avenue in Oak Bluffs on Dec. 19. Their highlights were two field sparrows and three golden-crowned kinglets. On Dec. 14, Shea Fee spotted a horned grebe, two red-throated loons, gannet, Cooper’s hawk and a merlin at Wasque.

Barrow's goldeneye — Lanny McDowell

Tall and stately great blue herons are still around and some will attempt to stay through the winter. Lynn Fraker spotted one alongside Lake Tashmoo on Dec. 18, the same day that Lindsay Allison spotted one at Snow’s Point on Chappaquiddick. Suzan Bellincampi reports that one of them is hanging out at Felix Neck. Shea Fee spotted four at the right fork on Dec. 19.

And last but not least, Gus Ben David reports that a very dark male peregrine falcon visited his yard on Dec. 17. It hung around for a while and then took off. How exciting is it to be able to watch and study such a bird in your yard?

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