Yellow-bellied sapsucker — Lanny McDowell

Snowy owls are stocky and pretty much control the area around them. At this time of the year they are starting to fatten up to prepare for their northward flight back to their nesting grounds in the Arctic. Because human disturbance can adversely affect their survival, this column does not reveal exact locations of these magnificent birds. Around midday on Feb. 20, I watched as one of two unleashed dogs on the Tisbury Great Pond barrier beach chased a male snowy owl, causing it to fly eastward and out of sight. Unfortunate actions to say the least!

More typical behavior is for this owl to alertly sit in one location for hours at a time. An anonymous person observed one doing at Norton Point on Feb. 21.

Eastern meadowlarks are still here. John Nelson spotted two at the Katama Airpark on Feb. 16 and Isaiah and John Freedman spotted a flock of 10 there on Feb. 20. Another mainly grassland species, a ring-necked pheasant, was spotted by Paul Leonard near his Bold Meadow feeders.

Brown-headed cowbird — Lanny McDowell

There has been a surge of red-winged blackbirds this week. Ned Casey had one at his feeder on Feb. 17. The next day Paul Leonard hosted five red-wings and six grackles as well as two field sparrows and four tree sparrows at his feeders. On Feb. 19, Kylee Karbe saw two red-wings at Crystal Lake and Allan Keith spotted six red-wings and his first brown-headed cowbird of the year, as well as 10 chipping sparrows. In Oak Bluffs that day, Matt Pelikan heard them near Farm Pond and had one visit his yard the next day. Isaiah and John Freedman spotted eight red-wings at Chilmark Pond on Feb. 19 and 12 red-wings at the Oak Bluffs pumping station on Feb. 20. Also that day, Allen Slater Jr. spotted his first red-winged blackbirds of the year — five rather hungry birds that fed without stop for quite a while — and Mary Baptiste saw her first red-wing at her feeder.

Gail Arnold reports that the fox sparrow she reported last week is still near Cedar Tree Neck. Thaw Malin and Cynthia Bloomquist saw their fox sparrow again — and a brown creeper — on Feb. 15. Isaiah and John Freedman spotted an American tree sparrow on Tilton Cove Way on Feb. 20, the same day that Nancy Weaver, Margaret Curtin and Luanne Johnson report a savannah sparrow at Long Point. Bob Shriber birded Aquinnah on Feb. 15 and reports a tree sparrow at Oxcart Path and 18 razorbills off Dogfish Bar. A few double-crested cormorants are still around: Dana Bangs saw one at Squibnocket Pond on Feb. 20 and Allan Keith and I spotted three on Tisbury Great Pond on Feb. 21.

The northern shoveler is still at Crystal Lake as of Feb. 17, as reported by Bridget Dunnigan and Sea William. They also spotted the lingering Barrow’s goldeneye that day at the drawbridge, which was also seen by Dana Banks on Feb. 16.

Common eider — Lanny McDowell

John Nelson reports that there were no common eiders in Menemsha Channel when he visited there on Feb. 20, although Isaiah Freedman found 15 there the day before. I found only four common eiders off Squibnocket Beach on Feb. 20, and they are scarce this winter in their former strongholds offshore of both Aquinnah and Chappaquiddick. Where have they gone? Quoth John Nelson: “Would you eat at a restaurant that does not have any food?” He also reports two snow geese at Katama Farm on Feb. 16 and a flock of 28 greater scaup in Oak Bluffs harbor on Feb. 22.

A few northern pintail are floating around the Island. Matt Pelikan reports a male at Duarte’s Pond in West Tisbury on Feb. 20, and a female pintail and about 60 American wigeon in Mud Creek on Feb. 16. On Feb. 18 Luanne Johnson also saw these ducks.

The Martha’s Vineyard Bird Club’s bi-weekly program visited Aquinnah and was led by Bob Shriber and Lanny McDowell. Their highlights included everybody getting great views of a snowy owl, 12 purple sandpipers and snow buntings.

Last week I wrote that Luanne Johnson spotted 14 yellow-rumped warblers at the headquarters of Biodiversity Works. Oops! The trio of Luanne Johnson, Margaret Curtin and Nancy Weaver found them at Crow Hollow instead.

Brown creeper — Lanny McDowell

On Feb. 20 my highlights included the snowy owl discussed above, a bald eagle at Tisbury Great Pond, great cormorants and a lone harlequin duck at Squibnocket Beach, and a pair of yellow-bellied sapsuckers calling — squeaking — back and forth to each other at Abel’s Hill Cemetery.

Finally, Lindsay and Blake Allison spotted a black-crowned night heron and a kingfisher, both fishing the small pond at Mytoi on Feb. 20. (Look out, goldfish!) Kira Shepherd spotted a red-breasted nuthatch along John Hoft Road on Feb. 20.

More Bird Photos

Please email your sightings to birds@mvgazette.com.

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