Are they back? Captain Jen Clarke and her mother, Carol Miller, were coming through the Menemsha breakwaters on June 7 when they spotted a razorbill. You might remember that back in 2003, 2005 and 2006 several razorbills spent the summer in Menemsha Pond. These alcids are cousins to puffins and murres. All these species, including the razorbills, normally spend their summers breeding in the cooler waters off Maine, Newfoundland, Nova Scotia, Greenland and Iceland. Come winter they migrate south along the Atlantic Coast, including the Vineyard. A few have even been seen off the North Carolina coast. Their favorite foods are sand eels, herring and selected crustaceans.
Razorbills can live to be 13 years old, so is the bird Jen and Carol spotted one that visited here before? I hope the fishermen who ply the waters of Menemsha Pond and Quitsa will keep a sharp eye out and let us know if razorbills are seen in the pond again.
Luanne Johnson and Liz Baldwin are assisting in a study that is being conducted along the Atlantic Coast of the tidal marsh bird population. Various Vineyard birders are assisting Luanne and Liz and the findings are interesting.
The main species they are working on include piping plovers, American oystercatchers, willets, least, common and roseate terns, Virginia rails and saltmarsh sparrows. The best report in my mind was made on May 31 by Margaret Curtin and Luanne Johnson, who heard a strange call in the marshes by the Sheriff’s Meadow pond in Edgartown. They figured it was probably a rail and played a tape of the Virginia rail. The mystery bird answered in Virginia rail language! Hopefully it has a mate and is nesting. The least terns are scattered along the south shore. There are between 10 to 20 pair at Edgartown Great Pond, 17 pair at Chilmark Pond, 50 pair at Little Beach in Edgartown, and a few at Dogfish Bar in Aquinnah. One pair each of American oystercatchers is nesting at Edgartown Great Pond and Little Beach. Liz Baldwin added that the oystercatchers at Little Beach are to be given an award as they have produced three young for the second year in a row unlike other Vineyard oystercatchers that only raise one or two.
The piping plover count looks okay this season. There are four pairs near Edgartown Great Pond (one of which has already hatched three chicks), two on eggs and one just laying eggs. There is one pair of piping plovers at Little Beach on eggs. At Oyster Pond, there is one pair of piping plovers with chicks. Dogfish Bar wins the award for the highest number of plovers, weighing in at five!
Deborah Swanson found a willet nesting on Joseph Sylvia State Beach in Oak Bluffs and Luanne Johnson and Lanny McDowell found one nesting by Edgartown Great Pond. Luanne Johnson and Vineyard birders have found singing saltmarsh sparrows at Eel, Poucha and Sengekontacket Ponds, Little Beach, and Red Beach at Lobsterville.
Nat Woodruff sent me a nice photo of a green heron she took at the Mill Pond in West Tisbury on June 5. Roberta Hearn had a visit from the leucistic common grackle that has a white collar. Sounds like the same one Dick Jennings spotted last fall. Dick Jennings called to say he found another pair of housekeeping ospreys at the Lagoon, bringing the total to seven, or eight if you count the pair that tried to nest on the crane working on the Menemsha dock.
Susie Bowman watched a turkey vulture and red-tailed hawk playing in the thermals over the Panhandle Road in West Tisbury. She watched them circle higher and higher and noticed as they were about to go into the clouds that there were two more birds already up at the high altitude. Eventually they sailed down from the clouds headed to the southwest.
Larry Hepler reported an eastern phoebe and two great crested flycatchers around his Quansoo feeder on June 2. A bank swallow took a rest on a nearby scrub oak the same day. On June 5 Larry mentioned that he has a pair of brown thrashers nesting nearby and that the whippoorwills are still calling every evening. Larry had to chase house sparrows out of his eastern bluebird box so the bluebirds would return, and they did. Larry asked what bird made an all stick-nest; without seeing it, I can’t be sure, but probably it is a mourning dove.
On June 6 Lanny McDowell and Luanne Johnson spotted a peregrine falcon over the beach by Edgartown Great Pond. Allan Keith reports that he checked on the tern colony at Norton Point and found it had been abandoned. Allan spoke with Rick Dwyer, the tern intern for The Trustees of Reservations, and discovered that the tern colony had been abandoned on June 2. Rick noted that a peregrine falcon had been harassing the colony for several days prior to the abandonment. An American oystercatcher actually flew up and challenged the peregrine! Liz Baldwin was concerned that a number of least terns had left their nests on Little Beach; one wonders if that peregrine is harassing all the tern colonies on the Vineyard.
Warren Woessner counted 25 ruddy turnstones at Norton Point, two salt marsh sparrows at Katama, and a black scoter on Katama Bay on June 2. The same day Whit Manter counted 44 ruddy turnstones and two black-bellied plovers on Sarson’s Island. His best bird was an adult yellow-crowned night heron at Bluefish Point in Edgartown.
Allan Keith counted nine short-billed dowitchers at Katama on June 6. The same day he had two immature laughing gulls at Sarson’s Island and 10 by Farm Pond in Oak Bluffs. Allan also noted that there were some black scoters lingering off Squibnocket.
Whit Manter and I went to Squibnocket, Aquinnah and Lobsterville on June 4. We heard common yellowthroats, house sparrows, northern mockingbirds and American crows. We saw gray catbirds and American robins near the Aquinnah Cultural Center. Off the cliffs we spotted red-breasted mergansers and black scoters. At Red Beach we spotted a piping plover. Squibnocket gave us double-crested cormorants, black scoters and common eiders.
Chris Belain birded around the Aquinnah Cultural Center on June 5 and had gray catbirds, American goldfinches, three eastern kingbirds, and common yellowthroats. Chris’s best bird was a yellow-billed cuckoo that he saw on Jeffers Way. He enjoyed watching a Carolina wren snatch a moth and eat it there.
Eleanor Hubbard has a pair of Baltimore orioles by her house, which is next to the state forest in West Tisbury. Flip Harrington and I have seen Baltimore orioles in our bird bath at Quansoo and in the Quenames woods. I have to agree that there are areas on the Vineyard that still have plenty of Baltimore orioles.
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 email@example.com.