The sun is rising earlier and the days are getting longer, so I have some time before work to sit by my window and enjoy the birds.

Thick-billed murre — Lanny McDowell

I’ve been watching a flock of white-throated sparrows, song sparrows and a fox sparrow that are making use of a brush pile I created for them near the feeder. They have made a couple of entrance holes at the bottom where they all flit in and out when they wake up in the morning or whenever anything startles them. I’ve grown quite enamored with the fox sparrow and find myself lingering a little longer than usual hoping to catch a glimpse before I head to the office.

The birds have also noted the lengthening days. Matt Pelikan and others have reported singing northern cardinals, houses finches and Carolina wrens. I’ve been hearing woodpeckers drumming near the office. Soon the cavity-nesting nuthatches, chickadees and woodpeckers will begin courtship in earnest.

Lincoln's sparrow — Lanny McDowell

Bird news highlights this week include a rarity from Allan Keith’s feeder: a Lincoln’s sparrow, first seen on Jan. 20. These sparrows are typically much farther south and a rare fall migrant. The latest date in the season recorded for this rare species was Oct. 23, 1987 by Vern Laux, so this winter sighting is a record indeed. Bob Shriber has been able to see it but only after several hours of sitting in his car while staking out Allan’s feeder. The sparrow was still present on Jan. 23.

Another surprise was a Western tanager that has been visiting Brenda and Charles Smith’s feeder off Road to the Plains in Edgartown for the past two weeks. The bird looks to be a young male and has been seen daily. The final exciting bird this week was a thick-billed murre seen close to shore at Katama Point by Nelson Smith on Jan. 24.

Fox sparrow — Lanny McDowell

The deep freeze over the last 10 days has pushed a lot of birds to yards, in search of food and water. If you have a heated bird bath, the open water will attract many birds for you to enjoy. Karen Hjelm enjoyed the beauty of six northern flickers at her heated bird bath on Jan. 23, and Albert Fischer welcomed a flock of eastern bluebirds to his bird spa on Jan. 22. They dined on meal worms while also sipping from his heated bird bath.

Large flocks of American robins are still frequenting the Island. Lynn Buckmaster-Irwin and Jim Irwin have enjoyed seeing them in their neighborhood this past week. On Jan. 21, some were feeding on an eastern red cedar on their deck in Indian Hill. Wendy Briggs reported a flock of 50 on West Spring street in Vineyard Haven on Jan. 22. Surprisingly, tree swallows are still around. A flock was seen on Jan. 22 near Abel’s Hill by Beth Parker and Donald Nitchie.

Hermit thrush — Lanny McDowell

Where there are songbirds, there are also the birds that hunt them. Penny Uhlendorf and Scott Stephens experienced a shocking loss when a Cooper’s hawk flew in and took the fox sparrow that had been frequenting their yard. Speaking of Cooper’s hawks, Cyn McGrath sent photos of a bird that looked like one in her Oak Bluffs yard on Jan. 18. These hawks quickly locate areas where songbirds congregate, so consider adding a temporary brush pile near your water or food source to offer easy access to cover from hunting raptors.

On Jan. 21, Jeff Bernier photographed a lovely flock of purple sandpipers in Aquinnah. These winter birds are often seen foraging on seaweed- covered rocks near shore either at Squibnocket, in Aquinnah, or sometimes on the rocks off the seawall in Oak Bluffs.

Purple sandpipers — Lanny McDowell

The Martha’s Vineyard Bird Club held Birding 101 with Matt Pelikan on Jan. 22 at State Beach. About a dozen intrepid birdwatchers endured the cold and wind to learn tips on identifying gulls and other birds. The group observed 13 species but their highlight was a flock of 20 sanderlings along the beach shoreline. Cynthia Bloomquist and Thaw Malin continued their birding that morning in Oak Bluffs. They observed a bald eagle over Crystal Lake and the continuing Barrow’s goldeneye near the drawbridge.

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Luanne Johnson is the director and wildlife biologist for Biodiversity Works in Vineyard Haven.