The Space Coast Birding and Wildlife Festival has been going on for 14 years. It is based in Titusville, Fla., which is next door to Cape Kennedy/Canaveral, but more to the point is near several great birding areas including the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge. Flip Harrington and I have attended almost every one of the 14 festivals. It is a great chance to get together with other bird-watchers, participate in field trips to great birding areas in Florida and learn from workshops and classroom presentations. Flip also uses the festivals to check out all the new optics that the exhibitors are displaying. We enjoy dinners with other birders and the various field trips. This year’s keynote talks were by Chuck Hagner of Birder’s World and Lillian and Donald Stokes, authors of the Stokes Field Guides.
Last year Flip and I signed on for a gull identification course and thought that we had learned the method for distinguishing one immature gull from the other. A year later we realized that one course was not enough and signed on again for the gull identification workshop. The most educational section of the course was the field trip — the gull fly-in at Daytona Beach Shores. At around 3 p.m., hundreds of gulls start arriving and by dusk there are close to 30,000 gulls strung along the beach. The vast majority are laughing and ring-billed gulls, but herring, black-backed and lesser black-backed gulls were also present. The treat this year was being shown an immature Thayer’s gull. This gull is native to North America. It breeds in the Arctic islands of Canada and primarily winters on the Pacific coast, from southern Alaska to California, so to see it on a beach in central Florida was unusual. The Thayer’s gull was the only new species we saw, but it is always a treat to see southern species that we don’t find on the Vineyard. Yet one or two of many of these southern species seem to accidentally arrive on the Vineyard each year.
We liken the Space Coast Birding and Wildlife Festival to the Martha’s Vineyard Striped Bass and Bluefish Derby, a chance to see other fishermen, compare notes on gear and have a good time.
Eleanor Hubbard sent me a great photo of her cat resting on the photograph by Bert Fischer of the song sparrow in the scallop shell heap which was on the front page of the Gazette Jan. 28. The bird likes the scallops and the cat likes the bird!
Methinks many birders and non-birders are itching for spring. I have had several people sharing “spring is coming” events. Matt Pelikan heard a song sparrow singing on Feb. 11, and on Feb. 15 Saskia Vanderhoop heard an eastern towhee, known on the Island as chewinks, singing in Aquinnah. On Feb. 13 Shirley Miller, on her way to church on Cooke street in Edgartown, watched a huge flock of American robins join a flock of cedar waxwings in a nearby tree. Spring must be on its way!
On Jan. 30 Chris and Hope Murphy McCloud watched a male Cooper’s hawk capture an Eastern phoebe in their Chilmark yard. On Jan. 31 Andrea Hartman watched the bald eagle flying from the Martha’s Vineyard Airport headed toward Edgartown. This eagle certainly has been touring the Vineyard this winter!
Tara Whiting spotted six eastern bluebirds and cedar waxwings at Quenames on Feb. 8 and had two tufted titmice at the Dando residence in West Tisbury on Feb. 15.
John Nelson has now seen an American oystercatcher three times, first on Feb. 3, then on Feb. 4 and most recently at the Harthaven breakwater on Feb. 9. He also saw two horned larks on Feb. 9. Matt Pelikan noted that on Feb. 10 there were several purple sandpipers along the rocks across from Waban Park. They were mixed in with sanderlings and were easy to see as they were close at hand. These shorebirds have been there for quite a spell, so this is a good chance to get an up-close-and-personal view.
Tim and Laurisa Rich have had a common redpoll at their feeder on the Chilmark-Aquinnah line for the week of Feb. 7 to 14.
Allan Keith counted four killdeer in the fields at Turtle Brook Farm in Chilmark on Feb. 6.
Martha Moore watched a peregrine falcon perch on the Long Point osprey pole on Feb. 9; shortly thereafter a second peregrine arrived and was dive-bombing the first. She has red-breasted mergansers and buffleheads still wintering in the waters of Tisbury Great Pond near her house. Martha has also spotted a northern harrier hunting nearby twice recently.
Please report your bird sightings to the Martha’s Vineyard bird hotline at 508-645-2913 or e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Susan B. Whiting is coauthor of Vineyard Birds and Vineyard Birds II. Her Web site is vineyardbirds2.com.