Why do I have to be punished every time I go away? This time while I was in Brazil Lanny McDowell found and photographed a handsome yellow-throated warbler. This striking bird is considered a southern warbler and in the past was considered a rare vagrant on the Vineyard. As of 2007 it had been seen only 22 times on the Island and mostly during April to May or September to October. Things are changing, and with the weather warming we are seeing this southern belle almost annually. The yellow-throated warblers are wont to appear after storms as well, so this bird may have been a gift from Hurricane Irene.
The yellow-throated warbler is most commonly seen near water, along rivers and in swamps. They love sycamore trees, live oaks and pine trees in which they forage and nest. The material they desire for constructing their nests is Spanish moss, otherwise they use grasses lined with plant down. They raise four young and feed them almost entirely on insects. Watching these warblers during the Florida winters is fun as they usually are in amongst the palm fronds hanging upside down hawking insects. I guess I will have to wait and go to Florida to see the yellow-throated warbler this year.
First and foremost I owe Jeff Bernier an apology. I gave Mike Bradley credit for the bird sightings Jeff made and sent me on Sept. 16. Jeff sent the photos and text, not Mike. And speaking of Jeff, he kayaked out to the sandbar in Edgartown Great Pond on Sept. 17 and spotted 23 American oystercatchers. These were undoubtedly a group gathering for migration as there have been only one other report of this orange-billed devil (Sept. 16 by Deborah Forest Hart) and none since. Jeff sent superb photographs along with his sightings and they included juvenile ruddy turnstones, redknots, black-bellied plovers, and short-billed dowitchers. One dowitcher appeared to have a longer bill, but Vineyard birders decided that it was the angle of the photo which made the bill appear longer.
Cathy and Mike Minkiewicz joined Mass Audubon’s cruise to Penikese and Cuttyhunk islands with Wayne Peterson. The had a good list of birds; some of the highlights included white-winged scoter, merlin, Virginia rail, red-eyed vireo, palm warbler, American redstart, dark-eyed junco, and rose-breasted grosbeak.
Ruby-throated hummingbirds are in the news. John and Jan Wightman’s hummer was still checking out the impatiens flowers at their Aquinnah house as of Sept. 21 and Dan Waters photographed a ruby-throated hummingbird at his Indian Hill feeder. Ann Burt watched two ruby-throated hummingbirds at her West Tisbury garden on Sept. 22. Albion Alley 3rd called to say as of Sept. 24 he still had several hummers around his three feeders in Tisbury. One of his hummingbirds was hanging upside down on the feeder and not moving. Albion was afraid it had died so he went outside to fetch it, and off it flew. Probably drunk on too much sugar water! Albion also was surprised to watch the same hummingbird spend a healthy amount of time just flapping its wings and not feeding. We figured it was probably a youngster developing his muscles for the long migratory flight ahead. Tom and Barbara Rivers still had ruby-throated hummingbirds at their Chilmark feeder as of Sept. 26. Allan Keith had a ruby-throated hummingbird at Chilmark home on Sept. 27. and Tim and Sheila Baird had a ruby-throated hummingbird in their Edgartown yard trading between the trumpet vine and their feeder as of Sept. 28.
Fred Hotchkiss called to report that he watched a bobwhite quail feeding under his black sunflower seed feeder at Mink Meadows. He noted that this was the first time he recalls seeing a bobwhite in the area.
A few osprey are still around. Martha Moore watched one perch on a tree on a cove off of Tisbury Great Pond on Sept. 26 and Flip Harrington and I spotted an osprey fishing off Big Sandy on Sept. 28.
Sue Sellers called and imitated the call of an eastern screech owl on Sept. 26. It seems she has a pair hanging around her Edgartown home. She also has both red-bellied and downy woodpeckers in her yard.
Tom and Barbara Rivers off Tea Lane, Chilmark, counted six great-crested flycatchers in the chokecherry. The flycatchers were chasing each other around; probably the adults send the youngsters elsewhere to catch their own food. Tim and Sheila Baird observed snowy egrets along the shore at Sengekontacket Pond on Sept. 22. The same day a male eastern towhee arrived in their Edgartown yard along with a flock of chipping sparrows.
John Wightman watched an American kestrel hunting over the marsh at West Basin on Sept. 23. Flip Harrington and I spotted another American kestrel over the Quenames fields on Sept. 27.
Allan Keith joined Flip Harrington and me at Gay Head on Sept. 26; our best birds included several blackpoll and yellow-rumped warblers, common yellowthroats, house wrens and a flock of 75 blue jays. Allan continued on to Squibnocket where in the willows he added chestnut-sided, magnolia and blackpoll warblers, three American redstarts, a common yellow-throat and a northern waterthrush. Also seen was a Baltimore oriole. At the head of the Lagoon in Oak Bluffs Allan saw a black-crowned night heron, two American wigeon and two red-eyed vireos. At the state forest Allan added three wood ducks and a solitary sandpiper in the headquarters pond and in the spruce patch farther along into the forest he found a Cape May and yellow-rumped warbler. Norton Point was Allan’s next stop where he added a Forster’s tern and at the Farm Institute a golden plover. Sept. 27 found Allan back at Gay Head where he spotted a Nashville warbler and an American kestrel. At the Gay Head Moraine he added six northern parulas and a northern waterthrush. On Sept. 28 Allan again went to Gay Head and the blue jay flock had grown to 120 members. His best birds were a dickcissel, two indigo buntings, a merlin, a Cooper’s hawk, prairie and yellow-rumped warblers and two common yellowthroats. He found scaup species at Squibnocket.
Please report your bird sightings to the Martha’s Vineyard Bird Hotline at 508-645-2913 or e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.