’Tis the time of year young birds are fledging from nests Islandwide. I have taken a section from the Massachusetts Audubon Society Newsletter to answer the many questions I have been asked recently. It is headlined, If You Care, Leave Them There:
“When cared for by well-meaning but inexperienced people, most young birds die, usually after needless and prolonged suffering. Those who do survive have missed important lessons learned from their parents: how to find food and water in the wild and how to avoid predators. Even though young birds raised by humans are able to fly when they are released, they lack the skills needed to survive.
“When baby birds are raised by inexperienced people, they become imprinted on humans. In order to determine whether or not a young bird is truly an orphan, the caller must watch the bird continually for at least two hours. Parent birds will take only seconds to feed a baby on the ground in order to avoid calling attention to it. Many people miss this activity and assume that the baby bird is an orphan.
“Cats are a problem for baby birds as well as adult birds, but wildlife cannot be taken from the wild for protection from predators. Birds belong outdoors, cats belong indoors!”
We have lost a great man and birder. Danny Bryant, aka Clumps, is gone. He was better at identifying ducks than anyone I knew. An excellent observer, if he saw a “weird dickie bird” Clumps would stop by and describe the bird to me. We would get out the field guides and look it up together. His descriptions were precise and we could always identify the bird he had seen. In 1981 when I became the Vineyard’s compiler for the Christmas Bird Count I decided we should invite off-Island hot shot birders to help local birders count our birds. I needed local birders to be captains of sections. These captains were the providers of local knowledge so the off-Islanders were directed to good birding habitats. I asked Clumps to be a captain and he said he would cover the section on the east side of Tisbury Great Pond if I would make sure he had someone who knew “dickie birds.” Over the years Danny entertained and led many an off-Island birder along the coves of Tisbury Great Pond. The off-Island birders who went on the CBC with Clumps still relate stories of their experiences, the ride down the dirt roads, the stories he told and the language, memorable to say the least!
In February of 1992 Danny joined Flip Harrington and me on a trip that Osprey Tours led to Cuba. It was Danny’s second trip. One of the other people on our trip was Dolly Minis, Clump’s next-door neighbor at the time. There were two incidents on that trip we will never forget. Dolly Minis’s room at the Zapata Swamp Motel was quite far from the dining area and on one occasion Clumps borrowed a small motor bike and escorted Dolly, then in her late 70s, to her room on the back of the bike. While we were walking through the Zapata Swamp, a gal who was a Canadian librarian stepped off the path and went down into the swamp almost over her head. Clumps reached down and rescued her virtually by yanking her up by her hair and set her on the path again. Clumps called the librarian “swamp thing” for the remainder of the trip.
Clumps would stop by frequently after duck hunting at Black Point. One night he came in all excited. “Soo, I just saw a brown duck.”
“Clumps.” I said, “there is no such thing.”
“Oh, yes, there is,” he said and proceeded, with a twinkle in his eye, to tell me an off-color joke with a brown duck as the punch line.
Danny loved the areas around Black Point known as the tullies and the super blind and his presence there and everywhere will be sorely missed.
Elaine Carroll and Pam Benjamin are sharing a totally albino sparrow at their Vineyard Haven feeders. Pam has the lion’s share of the sparrow’s presence as it is seen almost daily feeding in her yard. We are going to get a photo of the bird to determine what kind of sparrow. Stay tuned.
Scott Stephens saw a skua south of Noman’s Land on May 28 and has seen it twice more since. He also spotted a greater shearwater south of Noman’s on the May 28. Penny Uhlendorf and Scott Stephens counted eight ducklings with a pair of wood ducks on Wakeman Pond on June 11. They have been watching a female hummingbird coming to their feeder trailing a large amount of spider web. A hummingbird expert was called and as long as the bird is feeding there seems to be no danger.
David Tilton spotted a pomarine jaeger off Gay Head on May 28. Capt. Jen Clarke and her mother, Carol Miller, saw sooty shearwaters off Squibnocket on June 10.
Phil Spalding watched an American woodcock wander across his lawn followed by four youngsters on June 7. The young woodcocks look like a fluff ball with a huge bill!
Tim Simmons spotted a blue-gray gnatcher and a green heron by Lily Pond at Squibnocket on June 9.
Walt Looney spotted a bobwhite on Edgartown Bay Road on June 10. He also saw cedar waxwings and yellow warblers.
The same day Peter Luborsky spotted a Baltimore oriole on Quitsa Lane and watched crows hounding an osprey overhead. He saw both bright and pale American goldfinches, and yes the paler ones are the females.
Gabe Cohen-Goinick called on June 13 to say he had spotted a long-tailed duck in Katama Bay. We should keep our eyes open and see if the duck is still around.
Al Sgroi called to say the orchard oriole is still at the Oak Bluff pumping station as of June 11 and probably has been there since the birdathon. He also is still hearing ovenbirds in the state forest.
Rob Culbert on his Saturday morning bird walk on June 11 found some lingering shorebirds at Sarson’s Island including five redknots, a sanderling, a black-bellied plover, American oystercatchers, willets and two ruddy turnstones. Rob figures there are about 160 breeding pairs of double-crested cormorants on Sarson’s. There are resident least and common terns and a great black-backed gull with two-week-old chicks. Both Rob and others have mentioned a leucistic red-tailed hawk that is in residence around Katama. Finally Rob mentioned that the chimney swifts are abundant in the down-Island towns and in the Seth’s Pond area.
Don Hurley of Chilmark and his wife saw a pair of razorbills by Hariph’s Creek Bridge on June 10.
Lanny McDowell, Carol Miller and I went to Katama and Norton Point on June 11. Our best birds were three roseate terns, eight common terns and 30-plus least terns. We also spotted two piping plovers, two willets and two saltmarsh sparrows.
Andrea Hartman is sure she has Baltimore orioles nesting nearby as she watched a female strip a section off one of the grasses in her yard and carry it off across the street. Andrea also has a pair of red-bellied woodpeckers who are raising three fledglings in her yard. She watched the male taking seed to a youngster all day long on June 11 and the following day watched a female taking seeds and putting them into a crevice in the bark of a tree and then a different youngster take the seed out of the bark. A learning experience?
Flip Harrington and I watched two black-crowned night herons fly by our window on June 7 and 8. Although the crows got the first eggs our killdeer lay, they are back on two eggs trying again!
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.