Once a boy met girl. They bought a sailboat and used it to do marine mammal, bird and lizard research between Maine and the Lesser Antilles. They made a pact when they met that they wouldn’t do the same thing for more than 10 years. Kiddingly, they also said when they reached a certain age — old folks — they would purchase an RV and travel around the United States. The same couple sold their sailboat and went to work running a small cruise ship that held 85 passengers. He was the captain and she the naturalist. They worked in the Bahamas, the Great and Lesser Antilles, Belize, Guatemala, Trinidad and Tobago and Panama.
The couple loved to bird watch, so they started a company called Osprey Tours and led trips to Costa Rica, Honduras, Venezuela, Brazil, Ecuador, Nicaragua, Paraguay and Salvador. Then they retired and went on other companies’ trips to China, Japan, Russia, South Africa, the Arctic, Antarctic, Australia, New Guinea, Tasmania and New Zealand.
The couple decided it was time to see the USA and fulfill the pact they made when they met. So they bought a 22-foot RV which has a name that suggests a house of ill repute, Pleasure Way Plateau. They plan to start their journey after the New Year. The couple named the RV Bird Buggy. They are keeping a list of the birds they see while in the vehicle. The first bird they spotted was a boat-tailed grackle in the RV sales lot. As of Oct. 19 they have added loggerhead shrike, American kestrel, bald eagle, royal tern, fish crow, wild turkey, great egret, pileated woodpecker, northern mockingbird, eastern bluebird, wood duck, black and turkey vultures, double-crested cormorant, American crow, rock pigeon, European starling and house sparrow.
Nat Woodruff photographed an osprey over the Lagoon in Vineyard Haven on Oct. 10. The same day, Tim Johnson e-mailed a fine photo of a red-tailed hawk flying through the trees.
Then Dan Waters posted a great photo of two northern flickers face to face doing what Dan called mirror dancing. Matt Pelikan noted that the ambient light was about the same as that of March, so the flickers figured it was spring and decided it was time to court and breed. The mimicking of each other’s moves is part of the courtship behavior of the northern flicker.
Lanny McDowell and Matt Pelikan have both visited the Whippoorwill Farm fields recently and found it to be an incredible location for fall sparrow migration — one that should be included along with Gay Head for fall migrants. On Oct. 13, Lanny photographed and saw song, savannah, swamp, chipping, white-throated and house sparrows. He also spotted many bobolinks and a blue grosbeak. Matt Pelikan visited the farm on Oct. 18 and added white-crowned sparrow, two dickcissel and two indigo buntings to Lanny’s list.
Jeff Bernier ventured to Menemsha on Oct. 17 and saw a great blue heron, a snowy egret and common eiders.
On Oct. 8, Mary Beth Norton watched with fascination as a flock of over 100 double-crested cormorants and a greater black-backed gull worked a large school of fish in Tisbury Great Pond. The cormorants teamed up to drive the fish into a tight pod and then harvested them. The black-backed gull took advantage of the work of the cormorants to get a free lunch.
Please report your bird sightings to the Martha’s Vineyard Bird Hotline at 508-645-2913, or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. Susan B. Whiting is coauthor of Vineyard Birds and Vineyard Birds II. Her Web site is vineyardbirds2.com.