We lucked out and had a beautiful day for Basil Welsh’s memorial service which was held at Abel’s Hill Cemetery. Basil loved birds and frequently called me when he had an unusual visitor to his pond or yard. He would have been pleased to see the pair of red-tailed hawks circling overhead during the graveside service. We have lost a true Island character and a lover of birds and all things wild. I would like to suggest that the town of Chilmark put up bird houses in appropriate locations around Abel’s Hill Cemetery. It is a very birdy area and this would encourage more birds to keep Basil and others company.
Lanny McDowell was at Katama looking at birds at the Farm Institute and the Nature Conservancy field when he spotted two large shorebirds overhead. He quickly identified them as Hudsonian godwits and took a couple of photos. This striking shorebird is seen in small numbers on the Vineyard annually — usually only one or two. The Hudsonian godwit is a long-distance migrant that spends the winter in South America after breeding in the tundra. Actually the breeding range of this godwit is not exactly clear. Small populations of Hudsonian godwits nest in parts of Alaska and northern Canada, but ornithologist aren’t sure they know all the breeding sites.
The Farm Institute and Nature Conservancy field at Katama have been the place to be this last week. Warren Woessner visited both locations on Sept. 30 and found a shorebird bonanza. The birds Warren saw included 100 black-bellied plovers, 20 American golden plovers, killdeer, semipalmated plovers, two pectoral sandpipers, a short-billed dowitcher and a buff-breasted sandpiper. Two days later Matt Pelikan birded the same two areas and found 120 black-bellied plovers, 12 American golden plovers, 20 semipalmated plovers, eight short-billed dowitchers, one buff-breasted sandpiper, one or two red knots, four least sandpipers and a few dunlin. Matt also spotted bobolinks sitting on grass stalks at the Farm Institute.
Lanny McDowell and Warren Woessner returned to Katama on Oct. 3 to bird the same areas and added four pectoral sandpipers, two ruddy turnstones, a whimbrel and a white-rumped sandpiper.
On Oct. 2 Allan Keith, Flip Harrington, Warren Woessner, Lanny McDowell, Pete Gilmore and friend Bob and yours truly were at Aquinnah. We spotted a huge flock of approximately 250 blue jays, a peregrine falcon, a Cooper’s hawk, yellow-rumped warblers, one Blackpoll warbler, one palm warbler, one female redstart, six bobolinks and a red-bellied woodpecker. Warren stayed on after we all left and picked up a Lincoln’s sparrow in the beach parking lot.
On the afternoon of Oct. 2, Pat Hughes and Hal Minis joined Flip Harrington and me at Quansoo. In the woods we found one northern parula, one palm warbler, one male redstart (Peter and Aden Huntington had reported the same earlier), a common yellowthroat, a yellow-rumped warbler, two ospreys, an immature northern harrier, two great blue herons and several flocks of sanderlings on the ocean beach.
Suzie Bowman of Felix Neck called to say she was leading a group Oct. 3 on the red trail and saw a yellow-billed cuckoo. On Oct. 4 Allan Keith spotted a Lincoln’s sparrow, blue grosbeak and yellow-rumped warblers at Aquinnah in the morning. At the Gay Head Moraine he added a scarlet tanager and a tufted titmouse. In the afternoon Allan, Flip Harrington and I converged at Katama and found the golden and black-bellied plovers, whimbrel, ruddy turnstones, pectoral sandpipers (nine), two buff-breasted sandpipers, semipalmated plovers, eight dunlin, three ruddy turnstones and two red knots. We also saw barn and tree swallows, a bobolink, a red-tailed hawk and a prairie warbler.
Earlier in the day Lanny McDowell had seen the same species plus the two Hudsonian godwits and a Wilson’s snipe.
Jeff Bernier was puzzled as to why there were no shorebirds on the flats in Edgartown Great Pond when he kayaked out on Oct. 4. Then he spotted not one, not two, but three peregrine falcons. Guess the shorebirds wanted to survive so went elsewhere. Jeff also counted three great blue herons and a turkey vulture.
On Sept. 30, Flip Harrington, Pete Gilmore, Lanny McDowell, Allan Keith and I were at Aquinnah and spotted two immature red-headed woodpeckers, a Nashville warbler, a female redstart, 10 yellow-rumped warblers, an Eastern phoebe, two merlins, a peregrine falcon, two dickcissels, three tufted titmice and a “river” of over 200 blue jays. Allan, Peter and Lanny continued on to Squibnocket where they added both blue and rose-breasted grosbeaks, another peregrine falcon and merlin. Tara Whiting spotted a Cooper’s hawk and an American kestrel at Quenames on the same day.
Dick Jennings called with an osprey update. It seems that Catbird, one of the two young ospreys from Chappaquiddick, is presently in Cuba enjoying a cigar and some good Cuban rum. Snowy, the other Chappaquiddick osprey, is still on Long Island and is close to being a couch potato. Henrietta, the young osprey from Tashmoo, has made it to the Gulf of Venezuela and chances are she will remain there for the next winter or two.
Please report your bird sightings to the Martha’s Vineyard Bird Hotline at 508-645-2913 or e-mail email@example.com.
Susan B. Whiting is the coauthor of Vineyard Birds and Vineyard Birds II. Her Web site is vineyardbirds2.com.