It was a grueling eight-and-a-half-hour flight from Miami, but it was worth it. We landed in Sao Paulo, Brazil at 5 a.m. and proceeded to a local airline to fly to Curitiba. We chose to see the countryside between Curitiba and Florianopolis, our final destination, instead of flying.
A chalk-browed mockingbird watched us as we loaded our gear into the car. The next three birds were familiar to us, turkey and black vultures and rock pigeon. As we left the city, we spotted a black-collared hawk sitting on a utility line. Instead of mourning doves we watched white-tipped doves harvesting seeds. The pastures and fields were wet and two additional birds we were accustomed to observing were taking advantage of the watery situation. They were snowy and great egrets. An ibis which we identified as a bare-faced ibis was in with the egrets and in the drier areas we spotted cattle egrets.
Florianopolis is located on the island of Santa Catarina so it was not surprising to see gulls as we crossed the bridge. They had the dark backs of our black-backed gulls, but were a different species, a kelp gull. A tern which looked surprisingly like our common tern flew over. It was a South American tern. Magnificent frigate birds soared overhead and a large kingfisher (ringed kingfisher) flew off its perch to dive for its dinner. We were headed for a posada south of Florianopolis and both yellow-headed and crested caracaras were hunting the fields spooking southern lapwings as they flew over.
The grounds of our posada were fairly birdy. There were several families of southern house wrens that woke us every morning. Later in the morning the great kiskadees chimed in repeating their names over and over — “kiss ka dee, kiss ka dee.” We saw white-eyed parakeets fly over and identified a bird that looked somewhat like our brown-headed cowbird as a Chopi blackbird. However the strangest bird we saw was a long-legged, rich brown-colored bird about the size of an American robin that walked in a stiff and jerky manner. The bird was a rufous hornero.
It turns out the bird was picking up bits of mud and dung to use to build its weird nest. The nest looks like the clay oven that Orange Peel Bakery uses in Aquinnah. No wonder the common name for this bird is ovenbird and that honero means baker in Spanish.
The rufous honero’s nest is built up high, usually in a tree or on a utility pole. It consists of two chambers in order to accommodate the three chicks that are hatched and is built in September after the rains so there is sufficient mud available. The opening of the nest is away from the prevailing wind.
Later in the week we moved farther south to Imbituba to an interesting facility that combined rooms and villas. The reason for this move was to observe southern right whales and enjoy a beautiful beach.
Catching up with with Lanny McDowell and Pete Gilmore was fun. Back on Sept. 7 they flushed two Wilson’s snipe and a blue-winged teal on Lower Chilmark Pond. On Sept. 10 the same two counted four blue-winged teals on Little Black Point Pond and a golden plover, 8 to 10 white-rumped sandpipers and a merlin at Hancock Beach. Further east the duo spotted three pine and one palm warbler. On Sept. 8 Lanny and Pete had an immature little blue heron and 12 white-rumped sandpipers on Lower Chilmark Pond. Later in the day Pete and his wife, Cathi, found both Nashville and pine warblers at the Tiasquam tract. Pete Gilmore beat Lanny to Aquinnah on Sept. 9 and spotted a brown thrasher and with Lanny at West Basin they spotted a whimbrel. Later in the day Pete and wife, Cathi, spotted two golden plovers and two immature northern harriers at Katama.
Jim Rivard called to say the brown pelican was in the pond near Morning Glory Farm on Sept. 10. Phyllis and Bob Conroy had a large flock of chipping sparrows, a great crested flycatcher, a flock of tree swallow and both Carolina and house wrens in their Chilmark yard.
An e-mail from Mike Bradley from Sept. 16: “ This sounds wild, but I estimate there were between 2,000 and 3,000 tree swallows in the South Beach (right fork) parking area. The birds were skimming two large rain puddles, getting drinks of water.” Mike has sent me many great photos of the birds he saw at Edgartown Great Pond and Norton Point including Forster’s and common terns, plovers and sandpipers.
Peter Huntington reports that the flock of black terns was still at Quansoo as of Sept. 16. John Hughes called to say that he had not seen a rufous-sided towhee (now eastern) all summer but a male arrived in his Cat Hollow yard on Sept. 18.
Matt Pelikan’s report from Sept. 17: “This morning the Cliffs offered decent birding: two sharp-shins, a merlin, several flocks of bobolinks and cedar waxwings, perhaps five dickcissels (mostly fly-overs but one cooperative one), two rose-breasted grosbeaks, an eastern wood-pewee, a Swainson’s thrush, purple finch, and the following warblers: northern parula, Nashville, yellow-rumped, black-throated green, blackpoll, prairie, palm, common yellowthroat, yellow-breasted chat, mourning, and Wilson’s.”
Flip Harrington and I were still on another time when we returned so headed to Gay Head early on Sept. 20. Our best birds were three American kestrels, a hairy woodpecker, bobolinks and 25 blue jays. At Red Beach at Lobsterville we counted three great egrets, a belted kingfisher and a male northern harrier. There were two wood ducks at the pond at Turtle Brook Farm in Chilmark. On Sept. 21 Flip and I returned to Aquinnah and spotted one brown thrasher, one American kestrel, four or five red-eyed vireos, four blackpoll warblers, two common yellowthroats, and a Wilson’s warbler. The flock of blue jays had grown to 35.
Dick Jennings found a second Sandwich tern that had been banded. The first one he found right after Hurricane Irene and it had been banded on Wainright Island, N.C., on June 30, 2010. The second one he found on Sept. 14 at Aruda Point on Cape Pogue. This bird was banded on July 7, 2008 also in North Carolina. The same day Dick spotted two buff-breasted sandpipers on East Beach. The next day he observed a pectoral sandpiper by Poucha Pond and on Sept. 20 he saw a peregrine falcon at Cape Pogue.
Dick Jennings and Rob Bierregaard reported on the ospreys that were fitted with transmitters this summer; the one from Tashmoo and named Henrietta is now in the Bahamas, and the other, Snowy, from Chappaquiddick is presently hanging around Oyster Bay in New York. To watch their migration and the other ospreys that have been fitted with transmitters go to: bioweb.uncc.edu/bierregaard/migration11.htm.
Please report your bird sightings to the Martha’s Vineyard Bird Hotline at 508-645-2913 or e-mail to email@example.com.
Susan B. Whiting is the coauthor of Vineyard Birds and Vineyard Birds II. Her Web site is: http://www.vineyardbirds2.com.