Migration produces new arrivals weekly. Warblers are the star attractions this week. Who knows what next week will bring? We can hope for western rarities such as Western kingbird or even better a Western tanager, although we would be happy with the arrival of a selection of our winter ducks or various hawks as they make their way south. Most birders learn to identify warblers in the spring time when the birds sport their fancy plumages to help attract a mate. Many birders who grew up on the Vineyard are at a disadvantage as we rarely see warblers, which don’t nest here, in spring plumage. Warblers migrate north to their breeding grounds inland. The result is that Vineyard birders learned about their warblers in the confusing fall plumages. These are entirely different and much duller than the spring finery. In the fall it is really important to check carefully for field marks such as eye-rings, wing bars, back and flank streaking, leg color, demarcation between breast, belly and under-tail colors, to name a few. This is the time of year, more than ever, to carry a camera along with your binoculars. The old adage, a picture is worth a thousand words, is true! A photo gives you extra time to study these field marks and be sure of your identification. Aquinnah (or Gay Head) is still the best location for fall migrants, although the land bank might want to plant another tree where they removed the old pine to give migrants a place to rest. Bird Sightings
Kate Greer was curious about a strange northern cardinal she spotted on Chappaquiddick. It had a black bill, not the normal red bill. This is an immature bird and the youngster’s bill will change slowly to red.
Dave Kinney and his son Dave found a whimbrel in the marshes at Cape Pogue on August 31 and son Dave took a series of photographs of same.
On August 31, I saw a blackpoll warbler in our bird bath in the company of black-capped chickadees and Baltimore orioles. The appearance of the blackpoll warbler worried me a bit as these warblers are usually the last to move through the Vineyard and they mark the end of warbler migration. Luckily, this does not seem to be the case! On Sept. 1 Flip Harrington and I walked the west side of Tisbury Great Pond and were amazed at the number of immature least sandpipers feeding along the rack line. We also saw two spotted sandpipers and a pair of American oystercatchers and their two offspring on Big Sandy.
On August 31, Larry Hepler saw both green and blue-winged teal at Black Point Pond and had a peregrine falcon fly over his head in the same location.
Lanny McDowell saw both teals again at Black Point Pond on Sept. 1, as well as many juvenile least sandpipers and a common yellowthroat. His best bird was a Western willet hanging out with four Eastern willets.
Tom and Barbara Rivers were aroused at 5:30 a.m. by three whip-poor-wills near their Tea Lane home. Tom mentioned that one bird had a slightly different cadence and we guessed it might be a young bird.
Alex Greene has been celebrating the end of summer by birding galore. At Felix Neck on August 29 he spotted a northern waterthrush in the Butterfly garden. August 30 at the Farm Institute, Alex spotted around 30 bobolinks, an immature Cooper’s hawk and a male northern harrier. On August 31 and again on Sept. 1, Alex spotted a red-breasted nuthatch and a warbler, although he was not entirely sure of its ID, at his home on the West Tisbury/Tisbury line. The description sounded like either a Nashville warbler or a mourning warbler. We would all like it to be a Mourning warbler as this is a rare find on the Island. Hopefully, it will remain in the area so a photo can be taken. Even a cell phone photo or a “throw away” camera can help with a final ID. The more images, the better!
The following morning, Sept. 2, Alex birded Gay Head and ran into fellow birder Bob Shriber, who showed him a dickcissel. Bob also spotted many red-breasted nuthatches and American goldfinches as well as a few bobolinks. At the Gay Head Morraine Bob found three Nashville warblers and a Swainson’s thrush. Alex Greene added to his list an ovenbird and a chestnut-sided warbler and perhaps a yellow-throated vireo from the Gay Head Morraine.
Craig Gibson, along with Hugh and Don Carey, came over from Woods Hole by boat on Sept. 2 and off-loaded kayaks to get a glimpse of the black skimmers at Katama. They searched high and low and finally found the flock being harassed by herring and black-backed gulls while loafing on a sandbar.
Jeff Bernier found and photographed several red-breasted nuthatches off Meetinghouse Way in Edgartown on Sept. 2. The next day he photographed several juvenile ruddy turnstones at Katama.
Ken Magnuson was at Felix Neck on August 30 and Sept. 2. On August 30 he photographed an adult yellow-crowned night heron and on Sept. 2 an immature. Maybe we will find the nest next summer! Also on Sept. 2, Ken photographed a northern waterthrush, probably the same bird Alex Greene spotted on August 29. Paula McFarland sent me a list of the birds she spotted around Caleb’s Pond on Chappaquiddick on Sept. 2 and 3. Highlights included a merlin, two great egrets, green and black-crowed night herons, belted kingfisher, tufted titmouse, both red-breasted and white nuthatches, pine warbler and Baltimore oriole. At Norton Point she observed 15 black skimmers trying to loaf on the small island in Katama Bay. She counted eight immatures and seven adults. Rob Culbert birded the land bank property off Tea Lane known as Middle Ridge on Sept. 3. He said the property now has a fabulous overview and would be a good spot to do a hawk watch during the hawk migration. Rob spotted two red-breasted nuthatches while at Middle Ridge. Flip Harrington and I spotted two blue-winged teal at Middle Combs off Tisbury Great Pond on Sept. 3 and the next day a chestnut-sided warbler at our home on Tisbury Great Pond. Warren Woessner found a female Lapland longspur feeding with sparrows near the Homestead at Gay Head on Sept. 4. According to Matt Pelikan, this may be a new early record for this species.
Please report your bird sightings to the Martha’s Vineyard Bird Hotline at 508-645-2913 or email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Susan B. Whiting is the coauthor of Vineyard Birds and Vineyard Birds II. Her website is vineyardbirds2.com.