Autumn is the season for finding species that stray outside of their normal ranges. Many birds are carried here by the northwest winds, or maybe their navigation is defective, or maybe it is just that they have wings and they use them!

Without further ado, here are some unexpected sightings from this week.

Painted buntings — Lanny McDowell

Some birds have appeared at the Gay Head Cliffs. A juvenile painted bunting showed up on Sept. 24; Richard Couse saw it for about one minute as it foraged in bushes alongside the road, enabling careful observation of its rather drab greenish plumage. The book Vineyard Birds II by Susan Whiting and Barbara Pesch classifies it as a rare vagrant, with the three sightings prior to 2005 all taking place in spring.

On Sept. 25 John Banks emailed me about a western kingbird at Waterview Farms in Oak Bluffs. He watched it as it perched on a cherry tree right outside a window of his house.

Amazingly, Wendy Culbert and I were just a few houses away. Our first visit produced nothing but on the second visit an hour later, I caught a glimpse of a grayish bird with yellow on the lower belly fly out of the shrubs right by the house. It was likely the kingbird. A catbird and a robin also flew out of that same thicket and there were about five pine warblers in some nearby pines.

Western kingbird — Lanny McDowell

On Sept. 26 Strickland Wheelock and his MassAudubon trip to Aquinnah also found a western kingbird. This is likely the second individual but it is possible that this later sighting is the same bird. The distance from Oak Bluffs to Aquinnah is minor compared to the distance it traveled to get here from its breeding range west of the north-south line from Texas to the Dakotas. One western kingbird is good, but two are even better!

Allan Keith found an European whimbrel at Norton Point on Sept. 20. According to Allan’s records, this is only the second time he has seen this European subspecies here. It differs from the North American subspecies of whimbrel since it has a white triangle pointing from the base of its tail up its back. The North American subspecies is seen here regularly. In fact, there have been one or two of them at Norton Point for most of September.

An immature common gallinule showed up at the Oak Bluffs pumping station on Sept. 24. It was first reported by Katherine Oscar and later spotted by Luanne Johnson and Christine Kaczmarczyk. Though this species is not observed every year, Luanne recalls that an immature was also there last fall.

Strickland Wheelock’s MassAudubon trip hit the jackpot at the Gay Head Cliffs on the morning of Sept. 26. Winds were blowing 15 to 20 miles per hour out of the southwest and gusting up to 30 miles per hour. In addition to the western kingbird mentioned above, they found seabirds amidst the heavy swells. While this summer’s shearwater show has abated, they were able to find three great and two Cory’s shearwaters, a parasitic jaeger and six northern gannets.

Ruby-crowned kinglet — Lanny McDowell

That is a good show by itself but their highlights were even better: six Wilson’s storm-petrels, two black guillemots and a common murre. Those last three species are more likely to be seen well offshore around the continental slope or up in the Gulf of Maine.

And these unusual species have all occurred in what amounts to the first week of peak southward migration!

On Sept. 16, Allan Keith spotted a broad-winged hawk three times at Squibnocket Point as it flew by and disappeared. Then he saw it two more times. Its strongly-banded black and white tail was easily observed when in flight.

We are finding this species more and more frequently and we wonder when it will finally be confirmed as a breeding species on the Island. It nests just about everywhere east of the Mississippi River.

Indigo bunting — Lanny McDowell

At Dogfish Bar on Sept. 25, Margaret Curtin spotted an indigo bunting, a common transient in the spring and fall that nests here in some years. Richard Couse also spotted one along Oxcart Road in Aquinnah the same day. Also on Sept. 25, they both spotted their first of the autumn dark-eyed juncos.

Lincoln’s sparrow is a species only observed during the southward migration. It summers in Canada and is found in small numbers pretty much every fall. They are perfectly described as little brown jobs that skulk around in thickets and underbrush. Two were spotted by Richard Couse and Bob Shriber on the MV Bird Club trip to the Gay Head Cliffs on Sept. 24.

Warblers, vireos and other insect-eating species are also on the move. Beth Biros starts off this list with a northern parula at her water bath — a good way to attract birds — on Sept. 20. Katherine Oscar visited Wasque on Sept. 22 and found pine warbler, palm warbler and ruby-crowned kinglets.

On Sept. 23 at Squibnocket Allan Keith found willow flycatcher, ruby-crowned kinglets red-eyed and blue-headed vireos, and the following warblers: black and white, yellowthroat, blackpoll, redstart, magnolia, northern parula, black-throated blue and bay-breasted. That same day, Nancy Nordin saw golden-crowned kinglet, blue-headed vireo, blackpoll, yellow and yellow-rumped warblers near the West Tisbury School. The MV Bird Club trip to the Gay Head Cliffs on Sept. 24 produced the following warblers: Cape May, black-throated green, northern parula, yellowthroat, yellow-rumped and palm. They also observed eastern phoebe, ruby-crowned kinglet, red-breasted nuthatch, rose-breasted grosbeak, dickcissel, red-eyed vireo and brown thrasher. To close out that day, Luanne Johnson spotted northern waterthrush and American redstarts at the Oak Bluffs pumping station.

European whimbrel — Lanny McDowell

Sept. 25 was a busy day. At Polly Hill Arboretum, Bridget Dunnigan and Sea Williams spotted eastern wood-pewee, Baltimore oriole and palm warblers. At Dogfish Bar Margaret Curtin found red-eyed vireo, ruby.crowned kinglets, red-breasted nuthatch, palm warbler and black-throated green and palm warbler.

Elsewhere in Aquinnah, Susan Whiting observed red-eyed vireo, red-breasted nuthatch, a house wren, a palm warbler and black-throated green warbler. At Donaldbin Close Charles Morano found ruby-crowned kinglet, American redstart and pine warbler. Marylyn Tillinghast was near the Chappaquiddick Beach Club where she found red-breasted nuthatch, magnolia warbler and yellow-rumped warbler.

And last but not least, Strickland Wheelock’s MassAudubon trip to Squibnocket Beach produced a white-eyed vireo on Sept. 26.

Please note that this column omits any reference to sightings of shorebirds, waterbirds or hawks. Next week!

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