The bird sightings have been fast and furious. Spring is definitely on its way.
Sally Williams of Oak Bluffs e-mailed to say that, in contrast to some Island birders’ findings that backyard feeder birds were more scarce than usual this year — possibly due to very warm weather — she has had the opposite experience. “It has been a busy year. Eighteen separate species showed up one day; most days I see about 10 to 11 species,” she said. Sally also discovered that there are two morphs of white-throated sparrows, one with white streaks on their wings and back and the other with tan streaks on same.
On March 20 Byron Garfinckle spotted his first of the year osprey over the Mill Pond in West Tisbury. Two days later Steve Rose noticed that the osprey had returned to the Oak Bluffs Pumping Station.
On March 25 Pat and Sally Hughes, Elaine Merritt and Hal Minis birded the Oak Bluffs Pumping Station. The highlights included six ruddy ducks, an eastern wood pewee, many yellow-rumped warblers and a Carolina wren. The same day Joan Ames of Seven Gates reported an interesting exchange between a hooded merganser and an American crow. The merganser had caught a fish and was having difficulty swallowing it. The crow noticed this and tried to steal the fish from the merganser that promptly dove and swam to the other side of the pond. The crow then flew across the pond to continue harassing the merganser, which just dove again. This continued for quite a spell and Joan said the merganser didn’t seem at all fazed by the crow’s harassment, and eventually finished its meal.
Peter Meleney reported a flock of cedar waxwings at his East Chop home in his bird bath on March 25.
Pine warblers are back. Gus Ben David had one at his suet feeder at the World of Reptiles and Birds in Oak Bluffs on March 27 and Tom Rivers had one at his suet feeder off Tea Lane in Chilmark on March 30. Tom called back to say as of April 1 his pine warbler was singing, as were the black-capped chickadees and eastern towhees.
On March 29 Constance Alexander observed wood ducks, ring-necked ducks and hooded mergansers at Cranberry Acres.
On April 3 Bret Benway spotted an adult bald eagle at Quansoo. The next day Andrew Fischer watched an adult bald eagle being harassed by an osprey by Blue Heron Farm.
Easter Sunday, April 8, Roy Riley his nine-year-old Libby and Susie went for a walk along the trail at the end of Waldron’s Bottom Road in West Tisbury. They saw an osprey. Shortly thereafter Libby said, “Look, there’s an eagle.” She was right. It stayed in the treetops ahead of them for several minutes and would fly a short distance to another tree as they walked closer. Good eyes, Libby! These sightings are undoubtedly the same adult eagle.
On April 3 John Nelson joined Jeffrey Bernier at the Farm Institute at Katama. They spotted a peregrine falcon and Jeffrey took several excellent photographs of the falcon. John added that his spotting scope is set up on the pair of ospreys on the regional high school’s football field light. They have some nest repairs to do as a result of last year’s hurricane.
John Nelson mentioned that there was a huge flock of northern gannets fishing off East Chop on April 3 and they were probably fishing for alewives (herring), which will have starting running by now. The same day Joan Ames mentioned that she watched 25 northern gannets diving off the North Shore west of Cedar Tree Neck. And Sally and Peter Cook watched northern gannets feeding at sunset off Menemsha. I used to use the blooming of the shad or wild pear to coincide with the running of the herring; it seems the northern gannets are probably a good indicator as well.
On April 4 Happy Spongberg watched a hermit thrush wander onto her porch off Tea Lane in Chilmark. The next day she, her husband, Steve, and house guests birded the West Chop Woods and heard and saw pine warblers. They also observed a northern gannet sitting on the water and preening, probably cleaning up after a feed on herring. April 6 the Spongbergs and guest went to Chappaquiddick, where they spotted two great egrets on Poucha Pond, as well as American oystercatchers and a ruby-crowned kinglet near the Dike Bridge.
Bob and Phyllis Conway saw a brown thrasher on April 7 and 8 close to the house. April 9 and 10 an ovenbird drank from their birdbath, allowing them to see all the pertinent field marks. The Conways also spotted northern flickers on April 2 to 4 and their tree swallows arrived the week of April 4. The same week they had one pair of red-breasted nuthatches, large flocks of American robins and dark-eyed juncos daily. Brown-headed cowbirds and common grackles are common at the Conways’ as well as many other Island feeders at this time of year.
Warren Woessner found a hermit thrush and tree swallows at Quansoo on April 7, and on April 8 he spotted a solitary sandpiper at Slough Cove at Katama along with an eastern phoebe, cedar waxwings, golden-crowned kinglet and large numbers of American robins.
Bob Shriber was on-Island over Easter weekend and reported the following in Aquinnah: a few early migrants including eastern towhee, tree swallow, eastern phoebe, pine warbler, and hermit thrush. Bob spent a good amount of time looking at the ocean around Aquinnah and observed lots of red-throated loons which have been around all winter and are still there. He also observed many northern gannets, three scoter species, although blacks outnumbered the others. Bob counted a few common eiders, and long-tailed ducks. He mentioned that two great cormorants were still on the Pilot’s Landing Rock and saw two razorbills on April 9.
Andrea Hartman counted a flock of nine meadowlarks in flight between the two large fields that at Quenames on April 6. She also spotted two tree swallows investigating the old American kestrel box — no doubt looking for a place to build a nest. A pair of ospreys was copulating on the Weinstock nest on the Quenames field and Andrea commented that the ospreys “had better get busy and repair that nest before the eggs come or they will just fall out of the nest and smash on the ground.”
Wendy Weldon and James Langlois spotted nine northern bobwhites (quail) in early April at their Chilmark Hills feeder. James took several great photos of same. On March 28 Martha Moore counted four bobwhites by the Red Pony Farm in West Tisbury. It is great to hear that more than one of these upland game birds are being seen, and in different Island locations.
Mike Ditchfield e-mailed a photo of an Iceland gull (which I mistook for a glaucous gull until I studied the photos more carefully and took some grief from Matt Pelikan) that he took on April 8 on the Menemsha jetties.
Please report your bird sightings to the Martha’s Vineyard Bird Hotline at 508-645-2913 or e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. Susan B. Whiting is the coauthor of Vineyard Birds and Vineyard Birds II. Her Web site is vineyardbirds2.com.