One would think the birds that return from their winter haunts in the south are mimicking our summer residents. One group of bird species arrives and immediately checks out last year’s nest, tidies it up, and proceeds to start a new family. This group is similar to our summer human residents who own a home here. Another flight of birds returns to the Island and looks for a fresh nest site and proceeds to build a new nest. These are akin to summer renters who often have to find a new house each season. And finally there is the bird species that drop in to visit the Island briefly and then fly north. These birds migrate through the Vineyard on their way to nesting areas elsewhere, mirroring the ways of the day trippers.
Last week the Island experienced a visitation by indigo buntings. A very few, if any, indigo buntings nest on the Island so they would be considered day trippers. This week the day trippers were rose-breasted grosbeaks. We also welcomed back several summer residents, eastern towhees, chipping sparrows, house wrens and yellow warblers. Vineyard birders are always curious to know which species use the Island for nesting, so if you find an indigo bunting, a rose-breasted grosbeak or bird species that you haven’t seen nesting in your neighborhood before, let us know.
Thanks to the Bird Hotline the appearance of an unusual bird was reported on April 25. Steve Rose called to say he had observed a magnificent frigatebird chasing an osprey over the Martha’s Vineyard Shipyard, in Vineyard Haven around 11 a.m. Shortly thereafter Christina Pereira spotted a magnificent frigatebird flying over Sengekontacket Pond and Phil Hale called Felix Neck to report the sighting. Jeremiah Trimble from the Harvard Museum of Comparative Zoology and eBird noted that a magnificent frigatebird had been seen off Long Island, N.Y. several days prior to the Vineyard’s observations; probably the same bird.
A few more indigo bunting sightings came in this week. Fran Clay had a pair at her Chappaquiddick feeder on April 25 and also reported that her eastern towhees, tree swallows and house wrens are back. Wes Cottle, who has been following the life of the leucistic song sparrow on South Road in Chilmark, reports it is no longer around. Wes also found an indigo bunting on his front steps that had probably hit a window on April 25. The same day Gus Ben David reported that his first of the season indigo bunting arrived at the World of Reptiles and Birds. On April 26 Andrea Hartman had a pair of indigo buntings at her West Tisbury feeder. The same day Ken Magnuson photographed indigo buntings at the Vineyard Golf Club. Sue Silva reported she had indigo buntings visiting her Indian Hill yard all through the day on May 1. At one time she counted eight. Sue also had a female rose-breasted grosbeak the same day.
Gus Ben David asked me to remind everyone to report any osprey pairs that are trying to nest on power lines. If reported, Gus can help prevent a disaster with power outages and unsuccessful osprey nesting. Call Gus at 508-627-5634.
Rose-breasted grosbeaks were passing through and hopefully a few stayed last week. Robert and Edo Potter reported two male rose-breasted grosbeaks at their Chappaquiddick feeder. Robert also mentioned he spotted a blue grosbeak in the Pimpneymouse hay fields on April 25. The Potters’ chipping sparrows and eastern towhees have arrived for the summer. The Potters’ most exciting news, however, was watching two black skimmers flying over the Wasque Plains on April 25. We should keep an eye out and see if the skimmers try to nest on Norton’s Point.
Happy and Steve Spongberg watched a female rose-breasted grosbeak at their Tea Lane, Chilmark home on May 1. At the other end of the Island, Janet Sigler reported a male rose-breasted grosbeak at her Edgartown Great Pond home the same day. Sally Williams had a rose-breasted grosbeak visit her Oak Bluffs yard on April 26.
Brant were reported by several people last week. Happy Spongberg counted eight off East Chop on April 25. John Nelson counted eighteen brant off Oak Bluffs and Ken Shea counted nine off East Chop on April 26.
John Nelson reported the arrival of three willets, three great blue heron and two great egrets in the marshes of Sengekontacket Pond on April 25. At the regional high school, Otto and Olive, the pair of ospreys that are viewed from the science room through John’s scope, are on eggs and are being monitored daily by the students. John also commented that the chipping sparrows and pine warblers are back around the high school.
Rob Culbert spotted two willets and four greater yellowlegs at the marsh at the Bend in the Road at Sengekontacket Pond, probably the same willets John Nelson spotted the day before.
Tom Rivers called to say he was awakened at 5 a.m. on April 26 by an eastern screech owl, and that his ruby-throated hummingbird arrived on April 27 to the River’s Tea Lane yard.
Matt Born reports tufted titmice have joined the regulars at his East Pasture, Aquinnah yard feeders. Matt’s eastern towhees are back and he is hearing Baltimore orioles, but in his own words, “they remain elusive.” Matt added that the ospreys at Lobsterville are back and busy and that the pair of American oystercatchers at Lobsterville is very vocal. Peter Meleney of Oak Bluffs noted the arrival of an eastern towhee to his yard on April 26.
Andrea Hartman reports indigo buntings and a female rose-breasted grosbeak arrived at her feeder on April 26.
Laurie Clements reported a male rose-breasted grosbeaks at her father’s house in Chilmark, and Bert Fischer had a female rose-breasted grosbeak and indigo bunting in his Aquinnah yard on April 27.
Rob Culbert watched, up close and personal, the courtship of an American woodcock at the State Forest frisbee course. He also heard a whip-poor-will and spotted a wood thrush.
Matt Pelikan counted close to 400 terns on a ferry ride from Woods Hole to the Vineyard on April 28. Most were off West Chop and the majority was common terns although there were some roseate terns in the mix. Matt spotted an eastern kingbird at Katama the day before.
Lanny McDowell photographed a yellow warbler at Squibnocket on April 26. He saw a spotted sandpiper at Tashmoo on April 27, his first of the season. Lanny photographed rough winged swallows at Squibnocket on April 29 and on the April 30 Lanny heard gray catbirds, ovenbirds and house wrens at Waskosim’s Rock.
April 30 Sally Williams had a black and white warbler at her Oak Bluffs home. Andrea Hartman spotted a rose-breasted grosbeak at Quenames the same day.
Bob and Phyllis Conway saw in their Chilmark yard the week of April 23, flocks of white-throated and chipping sparrows, ovenbirds and brown thrashers.
Scott Stephens observed a sparrow fall out at Phillips Preserve on May 1. He counted over 100 white-throated sparrows and Penny Uhlendorf added that there were more than the usual number of white-throats in the yard and also a white-crowned sparrow was spotted on May 1 and 2.
Rob Culbert had a rose-breasted grosbeak and a black and white warbler in his Tisbury yard on May 2.
Martina Mastromonaco sent in an interesting photo of a cattle egret greeting a lamb at the Allen Farm in Chilmark.
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 website is vineyardbirds2.com.