Beetlebung Corner is really the center of Chilmark. The library, the school, the community center, the town hall, two banks, a restaurant, a general store, a real estate office and the post office are all within a few steps. This is all well and good for humans. However, for the birds, Beetlebung Farm, which provides fresh vegetables and flowers in the summer, is their main attraction. By now the vegetables have been harvested and most of the flowers gone. Luckily there are still a few hardy nasturtiums blooming and a very late visitor arrived on Nov. 2 to enjoy the nectar of these nasturtiums. Marie Scott and Suzie Bunker, both daughters of Ozzie and Rena Fischer, spotted the hummingbird and alerted their father and their brother, Bert.
I received an e-mail from Bert telling me about his sisters’ sighting and also that Marie had retrieved the hummingbird feeder from storage, filled it and put it up by her father’s seed and suet feeders. The sisters and brother Bert claimed it was a ruby-throated hummingbird. I had just returned from Florida and had enough e-mails to sink an army and had not read Bert’s.
Ozzie called me on Nov. 4 to say the hummingbird was at his feeder. The “bird police” went into action. I spoke to Lanny McDowell and said we need a photo of this hummingbird because it is way too late for a ruby-throated hummingbird. It is probably a black-chinned or other western hummingbird that has gone astray. We had to verify that it was indeed a ruby-throated hummingbird.
Flip Harrington, Lanny McDowell and I arrived at Ozzie’s house at Beetlebung Corner midafternoon on Nov. 5. Within minutes the hummer was at the feeder. I went inside and sat at the kitchen table with Ozzie, watching for the bird from a warm, dry roost. Ozzie proceeded to describe how the hummingbird came and hovered around his head while he was filling the feeder with fresh sugar water that morning. Ozzie stood still and the bird landed on the visor of his hat and briefly landed on his hand!
It was hard to get colors or markings on the fast moving hummingbird due to the gray and rainy weather. Thanks to Lanny’s persistence with a camera and Flip and I with binoculars, we were all able to see and Lanny to photograph the bird’s throat, bill length, tail and wing lengths. The key field mark which convinced us that the Fischer crew was “right on” consisted of a small patch of red under the bird’s chin. A first year, male ruby-throated hummingbird has just such a mark.
When I arrived home I had an e-mail from Molly Cournoyer, who works at the cornerway branch of the Martha’s Vineyard Savings Bank, saying that she had seen a hummingbird outside the bank window darting around the window boxes. Molly figured the bird was probably attracted to the red ornamental peppers. Molly added that she hadn’t seen any at her West Tisbury home since the end of September, so she was surprised to see this one.
Well, we were all astounded to see a hummingbird at this time of year. The Fischers’ and Molly Cournoyer’s hummingbird were undoubtedly the same bird. After a check with the Massachusetts records, we are pretty sure that the Beetlebung Corner ruby-throated hummingbird is probably a new late record for the state of Massachusetts!
I heard that Rena Fischer had been in the hospital. She was able to come home on Monday, Nov. 8 and within minutes she saw the hummingbird — what a great way to be welcomed home.
The Martha’s Vineyard Bird Hotline is changing its telephone number. Please now call 508-645-2913 to leave your bird sightings. You may also send us your bird sightings in an e-mail addressed to email@example.com.
Lanny McDowell hosted another surprise this week. A male and female evening grosbeak arrived at his West Tisbury feeder on Nov. 11. This species became very plentiful during the spruce budworm outbreaks of 20-odd years ago. Now the population is much lower, so it was a treat to have this pair visit the Vineyard. The last record I have prior to this was in 2005.
William Waterway watched a great blue heron hunting the shores of Katama Bay on Nov. 11 and two days later he had a flock of dark-eyed juncos feeding in his Edgartown yard.
Nov. 2 Lanny McDowell and Alan Keith watched an American golden plover try to make himself invisible by scrunching down into the sand on East Beach on Chappaquiddick. Why, they asked; because there was a peregrine falcon circling overhead. Luckily the plover wasn’t seen or the peregrine had already eaten and wasn’t interested.
Unfortunately the scissor-tailed flycatcher that Jeff Verner and Kathy Chaves spotted took off before I returned home. It always happens that the rare ones arrive when I leave.
Rob Bierregaard has new maps up for the ospreys. The most exciting move recently has been Thatch, a young bird from Delaware. He moseyed down the coast to Palm Beach. Flip and I were about to drive from Stuart down to Thatch’s most recent GPS location when the word came from Rob that he had taken off. Down through the Keys to Cuba in short order, Thatch then faced Hurricane Tomas and we hope he made it to the Dominican Republic before the blow. The Vineyard’s young osprey Belle is in Venezuela near Lake Maricaibo. To access more information go to bioweb.uncc.edu/Bierregaard/migration10.htm.
Pine siskins continue to pour onto the Vineyard. Ozzie Fischer had two at his feeder on Nov. 4 along with a brown-headed cowbird. Penny Uhlendorf and Scott Stephens had two at their Pilot Hill feeder and Gus Ben David had a flock at the World of Reptiles and Birds Nov. 3. Lanny McDowell continues to have a few at his feeder and we have had between two and four at Quenames as of Nov. 9.
Rob Culbert found several nice birds for his final bird tour on Oct. 30. At Deep Bottom he found a blue-headed vireo and many red-breasted nuthatches. At Sepiessa Rob was able to give a textbook comparison of Bonaparte, laughing, ring-billed and greater black-backed gulls. Their final stop was the Oak Bluffs Pumping Station, where they counted 25 American wigeon and two wood ducks.
Debbie Carter photographed an indigo bunting that was in her Katama yard on Nov. 8. During the previous week she had a variety of birds visiting including Carolina wrens, downy and hairy woodpeckers, tufted titmice, white-throated sparrows, pine siskins, dark-eyed juncos and both white and red-breasted nuthatches.
Larry Hepler was scraping the side of the Quansoo Road on Nov. 2 and several hermit thrushes and robins were picking up insects from the leaf litter. The next day Larry counted three first year snow buntings in the fields of Quansoo Farm.
An e-mail from Becky Harris of the Coastal Waterbird Program had great news: “It was a great season overall for piping plovers and oystercatchers protected by CWP this season. Two-hundred-fifty-four pairs of plovers fledged 330 chicks thanks to the hard work of CWP staff and volunteers.” These are the numbers for the whole state. Read the full report at massaudubon.org/cwp and click on 2010 CWP Highlights.
Susan B. Whiting is the coauthor of Vineyard Birds and Vineyard Birds II. Her Web site is vineyardbirds2.com.
Please report your bird sightings to the Martha’s Vineyard Bird Hotline at 508-645-2913 or e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.