Brown-headed cowbirds in harmony with cows. — Lanny McDowell

An estimated 2,800 birds were migrating over the Vineyard on the night of August 14, with a peak of 800 birds flying at dawn on August 15. This data comes from an analysis of Doppler radar and are published every day during migration on the dashboard page of the website They also list some of the expected migrants, dominated by sandpipers and plovers at this time of the year but also including snowy egret, little blue heron, Forster’s and common tern, great crested flycatcher, prairie warbler and common yellowthroat.

They also have a nationwide video showing where migration was heaviest and they predict, based on the weather forecasts, how intense the migration will be for the next three nights. 

Laughing gulls. — Lanny McDowell

The flock of terns on Norton Point is impressive. On August 8, Shea Fee counted 365 least terns, 3,091 roseate terns, 747 common terns, four laughing gulls and nine black skimmers. Those are the highest counts so far this season. More typical are Makenzie Luce’s estimates of 500 least terns, 1 black tern, 800 roseate terns, 400 common terns and 26 skimmers. The numbers of roosting birds changes as terns are constantly arriving and departing.

Shorebirds are widespread on tidal flats across the Island. Highlights of Richard Couse’s visit to Eastville Point Beach on August 9 were three least sandpipers and two greater and one lesser yellowlegs. Shea Fee visited Cape Pogue on August 10 and found 10 American oystercatchers, 12 black-bellied plovers, 46 semipalmated plovers, two piping plovers, three whimbrel, 78 ruddy turnstones, 55 least sandpipers, 37 semipalmated sandpipers, two white-rumped sandpipers, 46 sanderling, seven spotted sandpipers, 12 greater yellowlegs and 9 willets.

A merlin surveys the scene. — Lanny McDowell

Leanne Cowley and Steven Galante spotted a ruddy turnstone at Squibnocket Beach on August 12. At the Tashmoo Inlet that day, Heidi Macy saw 20 semipalmated plovers. On August 13, Warren Woessner found small flocks of ruddy turnstones, semipalmated and black-bellied plovers, sanderlings, and a whimbrel at the western end of Norton Point.

Phil Edmundson observed four American oystercatchers, five black-bellied plovers, one semipalmated plover, 55 sanderlings, and one of both least and spotted sandpipers on August 13 along West Tisbury’s south shore. And on August 14, Susan Whiting visited Long Point and found two American oystercatchers, 10 black-bellied plovers, 20 semipalmated plovers, 55 sanderling, two ruddy turnstones, 150 sanderlings and one greater yellowlegs.

A merlin was observed by Richard Couse at Eastville Point Beach on August 9. It was also seen actively hunting near the drawbridge and the nearby marshes as part of the August 10 Martha’s Vineyard Bird Club trip.

A molting juvenile brown-headed cowbird. — Lanny McDowell

Adam Markham spotted a northern harrier along Moshup Trail on August 9, Shea Fee spotted one at Cape Pogue on August 10 and Heidi Macy spotted another at the Tashmoo Inlet on August 11. The barn owls nesting in the box near the solar panels at Felix Neck have become more active and easier to spot; they were seen by the August 11 Felix Neck’s Early Birders Program and again by Heidi Macy on August 13.

Rob Bierregaard has completed the 25th year of osprey surveys and reports 112 active nests, twice as many as in 2006. He notes that it was clearly a great year as he saw 19 nests with 3 young fledged. By comparison, there were only two pairs in 1969.

There have been three reports of ravens this week. Makenzie Luce spotted one at Wasque on August 11 and two at Felix Neck on August 14. Francesca Zeta heard one at the Martha’s Vineyard Airport on August 10.

A northern harrier in flight. — Lanny McDowell

On August 11, Sharon Simonin spotted a green heron at Farm Pond, the same day that Felix Neck’s Early Birders had another great walk and found a juvenile little blue heron, three green herons, both great and snowy egrets and a belted kingfisher. The little blue heron hung around; Steve Allen saw it on both August 12 and 13th. Heidi Macy observed a snowy egret and the little blue heron on August 13. At the Tashmoo Inlet, active birder Heidi Macy saw one great blue heron, two green heron, and one great egret on August 12.

Other waterbirds include 10 white-winged scoters, two killdeer and six laughing gulls observed by Josh Meisel on August 13 at Lucy Vincent Beach, and Peter Schmidt’s two black scoters off Seven Gates Farm on Aug. 10. On August 14 at Squibnocket, Allan Keith found 4 Cory’s shearwaters, several great shearwaters, two Manx and 25 large unidentifiable shearwaters amongst the distant fishing boats.

There are songbirds around too. Will Turner spotted two eastern wood-pewees, two great crested flycatchers, three red-eyed vireos, two cedar waxwings and a yellow warbler on August 8 along Buttonwood Farm Road. At the Tashmoo inlet on August 11, Heidi Macy observed a phoebe and a yellow warbler.

Allan Keith recently spotted a yellow warbler, probably a migrant since it was seen where they do not nest. Susan McCoy has been watching eastern kingbirds fluttering over the lillypads at Duarte’s Pond and comments that “it’s a beautiful sight.” Phillip Edmundson reports five eastern kingbirds on August 13 along the southern shore of West Tisbury. At Sheriff’s Meadow Sanctuary on August 14, Greg Kunkel’s highlights were two eastern kingbirds and a chimney swift. Carolyn Ware got a close up look at a fledgling brown-headed cowbird at her home on August 14.

Prairie warbler. — Lanny McDowell

Two yellow-billed cuckoos were spotted on August 13; one by Susan Whiting along Quenames Rd and one by Phillip Edmundson near the south shore of West Tisbury. Richard Couse saw a fish crow at Eastville Point Beach on August 9.

More Bird Photos

Please email your sightings to

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