Savannah sparrow — Lanny McDowell

A snowbird is a northerner who choses to move to a warmer southern state in the winter. This snowbird migrated home on the April 10 and almost turned around and headed south again. However, the bird life here reminded me that it was the right time to return home.

The last birds I saw in Sarasota before I boarded the “big bird” to fly me home were anhinga and white ibis. Not birds I see in my home range. When I returned to Chilmark the two birds that greeted me were a black-capped chickadee and white-breasted nuthatch. Both are species I do not see and miss in my winter range.

The feeders went up on May 11 and that day I spotted 23 species in the yard, including a white throated sparrow, gray catbird, a pair of eastern towhees, both barn and tree swallows and two Baltimore orioles.

On May 12 at Quansoo I added a northern flicker, eastern phoebe and eastern kingbird.

Molting sandpiper — Lanny McDowell

The Felix Neck Bird-a-thon took place on May 13 starting at 6 p.m. and continued until midnight on May 14. I scouted several places during the daylight hours of May 13 and picked up my first ruby throated hummingbird in my yard. At the Lagoon I found a green heron and along the East Chop beach a spotted sandpiper. Great egrets and willets were along Beach Road. Finally, before the fog stopped me, I watched a pair of oystercatchers, 40 dunlin, black bellied plovers and two black skimmers at the Katama flats.

I joined Allan Keith on May 14 and we birded my yard, Waskosim’s Rock, Great Rock Bight, Fulling Mill and Menemsha Harbor. We ended up finding 56 species. The best birds being house wren, Eastern bluebird, white-throated sparrow, ovenbird, blue-winged, black and white and yellow warblers, American redstart and northern parula.

May 13 brought birders from off-Island for the Bird-a-thon. Lisa Schibley and Brian Vigorito found the following in Aquinnah: harlequin ducks, bobwhite, black skimmer, cliff swallow and palm warblers. The following day the couple found surf scoter and black duck at Norton Point flats, field sparrow, bank swallow, long tailed duck, purple sandpiper and great cormorant in Aquinnah, and a red-breasted merganser at Lobsterville.

Suzan Bellincampi informed me that the total number of species seen during the Bird-a-thon was 82. Well done! She also reminded me that donations are still welcome.

Lesser black-backed gull — Lanny McDowell

Back on May 8, Rob Culbert spotted his first-of-the-year great crested flycatcher at West Chop. Susan Straight had a first-of-the-season gray catbird and Baltimore oriole at her Chilmark feeder the same day.

An older record is a grainy but recognizable photo of a red-headed woodpecker taken on May 5 by Kayla Smith. This might be the bird Margaret Curtin saw in the same location earlier on.

This reminds me that a picture, no matter how grainy, even from a cell phone, is worth a thousand words. It really helps us determine the identity of a mystery bird and to verify unusual sightings.

May 8 also included a Virginia rail seen by Bob Shriber at Aquinnah and a snowy egret by Richard Price.

On May 11, Sarah Mayhew photographed a Bonaparte’s gull at Quansoo. On May 12, Sarah took a lovely photo of a great crested flycatcher on Otis Bassett Road and Lisa Maxfield reported that she finally has a Baltimore oriole in her yard.

Saltmarsh sparrow — Lanny McDowell

Jerry Twomey took some great shots of two screech owls peering out of the nest box in his yard on May 13. Lindsay Patterson Allison had a female rose-breasted grosbeak at her feeder on the same day. Timothy Rush had his first eastern kingbird at his yard, also on May 13.

In a role reversal Sarah Mayhew watched a great blue heron harassing a great black backed gull at Lucy Vincent Beach on May 15 and Frank Amazon watched an osprey fishing Sheriff’s Meadow Pond.

The fun sighting of the week was on May 15: Holly Mercier, using a hose as a squirrel deterrent by her feeders, was surprised to find a male ruby throated hummingbird taking the opportunity to grab a shower.

Determining the age and life span of birds is difficult. Bird banding gives some information but, as Matt Pelican pointed out, if one has excellent hearing and knows bird songs well, one can recognize birds from year to year by their song variations. Matt had a sparrow who returned to his yard year after year. He also had a sparrow with a bum foot who returned to his yard for four years. I have a morning dove with one white outer tail feather that has returned to my yard five years in a row.

Shea Fee had a whip-poor-will calling in her Wasque yard on May 13. The next day Shea had a red-breasted nuthatch in her yard and a magnolia warbler at Mytoi on Chappaquiddick.

Margaret Curtin spotted a belted kingfisher and a chimney swift in Vineyard Haven on May 14 and on North Road she found a hooded warbler and scarlet tanager. Rumor has it that there is a hooded warbler off Lighthouse Road. I hope to try to find it.

Surf scoters — Lanny McDowell

Lanny McDowell and Pete Gilmore went out to Norton Point on May 16 and counted 32 dunlin, four semipalmated sandpipers, 11 ruddy turnstones, eight black-bellied plovers, two laughing gulls, flock of sanderlings, roseate, least and common terns. Lanny photographed his first-of-the-year saltmarsh sparrow. At West Chop Lanny photographed prairie and yellow warblers, and back at Katama Farm a photo of a savannah sparrow bathing in a puddle. His red-breasted nuthatches are still at the suet in his yard.

Rick Karney is pleased to announce that his great crested flycatchers have moved into their nest box.

Finally, on May 16 Jeffrey Santos fond a green heron on East Chop and Judith Schubert spotted a bald eagle at the state forest.

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Susan B. Whiting is the past Bird News and All Outdoors columnist and the co-author, with Barbara Pesch, of Vineyard Birds and Vineyard Birds II.