The occurrence of a late hummingbird on the Vineyard is always exciting. Molly Cournoyer e-mailed that she spotted a hummingbird feeding on the pineapple sage around her Indian Hill home on Oct. 22. Molly said: “It did not look like a ruby-throated hummingbird. There was no red. It had a lot of brown on its sides and black splotches on its breast.” Island birders are always alert when late hummingbirds arrive. The “normal” hummingbird for the Vineyard is the ruby-throated, but it is possible to have stray black-chinned, rufous and other western hummingbirds. Molly’s description suggests a rufous hummingbird. We have no photo, so unfortunately we cannot make Molly’s hummingbird a new record.
This week saw the arrival of a selection of our wintering bird species. No doubt the northeaster was the instigator as the birds that arrived on our shores were from the north country.
On Oct. 26 Flip Harrington and I watched our first dark-eyed junco join the regulars at Quenames feeder.
On Oct. 27 Tim and Sheila Baird had their first dark-eyed juncos and a golden-crowned kinglet in their Edgartown yard. Phyllis and Bob Conway had a flock of approximately 25 dark-eyed juncos arrive in their Chilmark yard and they were still around as of Oct. 31. William Waterway’s dark-eyed juncos arrived in his Edgartown yard on Oct. 31. William discovered the juncos enjoyed the dried crabgrass seeds in his lawn.
A white-throated sparrow arrived at the Quenames feeder to Flip’s and my delight on Oct. 28.
Fascinating news is the arrival of a couple of rose-breasted grosbeaks at opposite sides of the Island, or is it the same bird? Ed and Maggie Siebert reported the arrival of a rose-breasted grosbeak at their Tisbury feeder on Oct. 23 and it stayed around until Oct. 31. Over in Edgartown, Tim and Sheila Baird had a female rose-breasted grosbeak arrive in their Edgartown yard on Oct. 29 and leave the next day.
Dan Waters was posed with a quandary. He moved a potted fern to his basement just before the northeaster. He was about to leave when a Carolina wren popped out of the fern and flew around the basement. Dan tried to encourage the wren to fly out of the cellar to no avail. He closed up for the storm and afterward opened up. It seems that the wren finally flew the coop as Dan didn’t find the bird after the cellar had been open for quite a spell.
On Oct. 30 Tim and Sheila Baird counted 16 brant mixed in with the Canada geese in Ocean Park in Oak Bluffs. They also spotted two hooded mergansers at Farm Pond and red-breasted mergansers in Katama Bay. The same day Pat Hughes, Hal Minis, Sue and Phil Linquist joined Flip and me to Black Point where we spotted northern gannet, black scoters, male northern harrier, common loons and laughing gulls. At Clam Cove we counted three Bonaparte’s gulls and more laughing gulls and at Squibnocket we saw all three species of scoters and red-throated loons.
On Oct. 31 during the calm after the storm, Bert Fischer counted three hooded mergansers and one pied-billed grebe on Squibnocket Pond. At Black Point Flip Harrington and I spotted hooded and red-breasted mergansers, one ruddy duck, three pied-billed grebes, three great blue herons, 25 tree swallows (that we tried to make into cave swallows to no avail), six green-winged teal, a white-throated sparrow, a surf scoter and six black ducks. Luanne Johnson and Megan Ottens-Sargent found the first snow buntings of the year on Dogfish Bar in Aquinnah. They counted 25 in the flock. They also spotted an immature northern harrier and a Cooper’s hawk. Allan Keith had two hooded mergansers and a green-winged teal in his pond at Turtle Brook Farm in Chilmark. He also had a western palm warbler. Down-Island Ann Lemenager and Helen Green found a glaucous gull between the 14th and 15th holes at Farm Neck. They counted three red-tailed hawks soaring overhead. The next day, Nov. 1, Ann returned to Farm Neck and found no glaucous gull but several laughing gulls. At Farm Pond Ann found buffleheads and red-breasted mergansers. Lanny McDowell counted four species of woodpeckers at Tashmoo on Oct. 31, yellow-bellied sapsucker, hairy, downy and red-bellied woodpeckers.
Rob Culbert called on Nov. 2 to say he had counted 15 Forster’s terns and one common tern as well as three Bonaparte’s gulls off the oyster rafts at Red Beach in Aquinnah. In the thickets along the shore near the oyster rafts he bumped what he felt was a Connecticut warbler. This is a rare warbler on the Vineyard but is usually seen in the late fall, so could be possible. This bird popped up quickly and then dropped so no photo was possible and no one else spotted it.
And this osprey tracking report just arrived by e-mail from Rob Bierregaard:
“Sad to report that we lost four of our eight migrating birds in the space of about nine days.
“Saco (New Hampshire juvenile) and Katbird (Vineyard adult male) both went down over the Caribbean. Henrietta (Vineyard juvenile) had safely crossed the Caribbean and was settled down for a while along the shore of the Gulf of Venezuela where Buck spent a lot of time. She then started moving inland and stopped moving in the middle of nowhere. Her loss is hard to figure out. It always might be that she lost the transmitter, but I think that’s unlikely. She stopped moving in an area with very little human presence (based on the Google Earth images) and wasn’t in a woodlot, so great-horned owls are not the likely suspect that they sometimes are. Sanford (adult male from the Westport River) stopped moving just east of Orlando. This one’s a real mystery. He was flying along heading south at 4 p.m. on Oct. 23 and then apparently fell out of the sky. He was cruising along about 25 miles per hour at the time. Then, an hour later, the next location is in the middle of a cattle pasture only three miles from the 4 p.m. location. I can’t come up with a scenario that fits the data. We should be able to get this transmitter back, so there may be some clues when we find the transmitter.
“Someone needs to tell Mother Nature that we don’t need any more ‘teachable moments’ about the dangers of fall migration. We get it.
“Of the survivors, Senor Bones is safely nestled into his mountain hideout in Colombia, North-Fork Bob is safely across the Caribbean in Colombia, Buck seems to be enjoying life on Cabo Beata in the Dominican Republic after two aborted crossings of the Caribbean, and Snowy has at least temporarily settled down in the D.R., which makes us nervous, given that all four juveniles that tried to overwinter in the D.R. were shot.
“Belle and Thatch, our teenagers on their ‘gap years’ down in Amazonian Brazil seem to be fine.”
All maps are pretty much up to date: 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 co-author of Vineyard Birds and Vineyard Birds II. Her Web site is: vineyardbirds2.com.