Two special birds were found on and around the Vineyard on Nov. 29. Anne Lemenager was walking around Farm Pond and what should appear but a sandhill crane! She watched it for a bit and then it flew off. We should keep our eyes peeled and check all open fields as the crane may stay around with this beautiful and weird warm weather. The second bird was a first winter Iceland gull that I found in with a flock of northern gannets, razorbills, red-breasted mergansers and gulls (Bonaparte’s, herring, black-backed and ring-billed) off Cape Pogue the same day.
Many people have noted the large numbers of species feeding just offshore around the Island and into its harbors. Razorbills, Bonaparte’s and other gulls, common and red-throated loons, horned grebes, all three species of scoters and a huge number of northern gannets are obviously enjoying the bait that is plentiful along our coasts and in our harbors presently.
Well, my fingers did it again. The Chilmark Ladies Movie Group’s best bird last week was a tree sparrow, not swallow. Also, my fingers flew right by black and surf and neglected to put scoters, so one reader thought we were seeing a couple of new grebe species. Not!
Laurie Walker, Meg Orlando and Katharine Colon checked out Crystal Lake, State Beach and the Oak Bluffs Pumping Station on Nov. 18. They spotted all three species of scoters (black, surf and white-winged) as well as Bonaparte’s gulls and horned grebes off East Chop. Hooded mergansers were in Crystal Lake and dark-eyed juncos in the bushes around the edges. The brant were at Ocean Park and pied-billed grebes at the Oak Bluffs Pumping Station.
On Nov. 19 Rob Culbert reported from a perch on the ferry: “There were oodles (100+) of Bonaparte’s gulls in Vineyard Haven outer harbor all the way out to off the West Chop Lighthouse. Maybe five laughing gulls ... Also there were 15 or so red-throated loons and only one common loon; and quite a few great cormorants.”
Rita Brown, who lives off Meeting House Way near Edgartown Great Pond, had a great blue heron fly over her house on Nov. 21.
Luanne Johnson spotted two flocks of snow buntings off East Beach on Chappaquiddick on Nov. 23. She also was stunned at the number of red-throated loons offshore. Luanne had asked me a couple of weeks ago why there were no birds at her feeder. I asked her how long the feeders had been up. She said just a couple of days. Luanne is in a new house and no feeders had been there before. I told her not to worry, the birds would find it eventually, and they did. Luanne not only has the regulars — chickadees, titmice, woodpeckers and nuthatches — but also a visiting Cooper’s hawk. How did she know? One morning she noticed the chickadees and titmice were frozen on the feeder. Luanne looked around and saw the hawk perched in a nearby tree.
Warren Woessner reported a late palm warbler at his house off Meeting House Way in Edgartown on Nov. 24. The next day Warren ventured out to Norton Point and found 60 black-bellied plovers, 100 sanderlings and 30 dunlin. Offshore were both red red-throated and common loons. Fifty Bonaparte’s gulls were feeding off Bluefish Point in Katama Bay and an immature northern harrier was soaring over the Farm Institute fields.
Bert Fischer spotted an American kestrel by Squibnocket Pond in Aquinnah on Nov. 20 and had the first fox sparrow of the season show up at his Aquinnah feeder on Nov. 24.
Lanny McDowell covered quite a bit of ground on Nov. 25. At Keith’s Farm field in Chilmark he counted 11 killdeer. Off the parking lot of the East Chop Beach Club Lanny spotted four species of gulls, including two laughing gulls and Bonaparte’s gulls. At Cape Pogue he added two black-legged kittiwakes, several razorbills and northern gannets and more Bonaparte’s gulls.
Ginny Jones found a handsome male ring-necked pheasant at Tississa that was so tame she practically had to shoo it out of the road. She also watched a couple of red-tailed hawks being chased by songbirds all on the east side of Tisbury Great Pond.
Rob Bierregaard writes “Snowy, our MVY juvenile from this year, spent about a month in the D.R. at a below-sea-level saline lake. It looked like he was going to stay there for the duration, when all of a sudden the migration switch turned on again and he made the perfect crossing of the Caribbean (taking the very shortest route possible) in about 22 hours. He’s now moving southeast through Venezuela. Stay tuned!” As usual, you can find more news at bioweb.uncc.edu/bierregaard/migration11.htm
Mike Zoll spotted two American oystercatchers perched on the Oak Bluffs seawall on Nov. 25.
Sally Cook reports that the turkeys came late for Thanksgiving at her Chilmark home. She counted 16 turkeys at her feeder on Nov. 26. Laura Wainwright watched both eastern bluebirds and cedar waxwings feeding around her Lambert’s Cove home the same day.
Nov. 27 Keith Jackson spotted a razorbill in Edgartown harbor and Roger Cook spotted two razorbills off Cedar Tree Neck. Lanny McDowell and I birded the Farm Institute at Katama and our best birds were a flock of 15 American pipits. We then went to Sengekontacket and found the tide so high there was no beach. In the shallow waters at the edge of the island two black ducks were head bobbing and going through a mating ritual and then they copulated. I called Gus Ben David to ask if this was due to the warm weather thinking the birds mistakenly thought it was spring. Gus informed me that any of the ducks that belong to the Anas family (the black ducks belong to that genus) will breed year-round. However, it is only in the spring that the female is fertile!
Allan Keith found a snow goose in with the Canada geese in the Keith Farm fields on Nov. 28. Lanny McDowell and Warren Woessner found Bonaparte’s gulls in Edgartown harbor, large numbers of northern gannets in Vineyard Sound and one American oystercatcher at Eel Pond the same day.
Tim Johnson sent a beautiful photograph of a harlequin duck he took off Squibnocket on Nov. 28 and Jeff Bernier sent a super photo of a common loon eating a lobster! The same day Warren Woessner birded the Oak Bluffs Pumping Station and found one female ring-necked duck, an American coot and two pied-billed grebes.
Margaret Curtin noted that the black-crowned night herons are back at the Pumping Station. Anne Lemenager watched a peregrine falcon fly over the 15th hole at Farm Neck on Nov. 28, noting that it had a full crop.
Lanny McDowell, Whit Manter, Warren Woessner and I birded Chappaquiddick on Nov. 29. Our two best birds were ruddy turnstones and an Iceland gull, but we also had pine warbler, horned larks, and sharp-shinned, Cooper’s and red-tailed hawks, plus close to 100 northern gannets feeding off East Beach, to name a few.
Flip Harrington, Prescott Walsh and Lynn Silva bumped two American woodcocks at Black Point in Chilmark on Nov. 28. The next day Lynn Silva bumped one. They also counted over 150 scaup, two hooded mergansers, 12 black ducks in Quenames Cove and numbers of northern gannets feeding offshore.
Gus Ben David spotted a merlin, a great blue heron, a belted kingfisher, a pied-billed grebe and several eastern bluebirds off North Road in Chilmark on Nov. 30.
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 vineyardbirds2.com.