We had a beautiful day on Saturday, Jan. 5 for the Vineyard’s forty-eighth consecutive Christmas Bird Count. We beat Nantucket, sort of, but more on that later. It was a day of fair weather with a bit of wind, but no rain or fog to dampen the birds’ or birders’ spirit. We had a great turnout with 69 field participants including six from Nantucket, a couple from Cape Cod and a couple from the Boston area.

We were really pleased with our feeder count. Thirty-five people called in to report the birds that had visited their feeders on Jan. 5. Thank you all and also thanks to Wendy and Anne Culbert and Suzan Bellincampi for taking the feeder calls at Felix Neck. And while we are passing out thanks, Felix Neck Wildlife Trust gets a big one for providing the field teams with a fabulous feed at the Tropical Restaurant. Thank you, Penny Uhlendorf, for arranging the meal and Antonio Silva and crew for cooking, serving and cleaning up after us.

The tally started at the Tropical at around 5:30 p.m. Rob Culbert, the co-compiler of the count, wielded the computer while team leaders reeled off the numbers of each species their team had seen. At one point Anne Culbert, age five and a half, after looking around at the 69 people telling her father numbers of birds, turned to her mother and said “Is Daddy running this?” Wendy said yes, but I’ll bet Rob felt the count was running him. It takes a great deal of work for us to put together field teams, coordinating pick-ups at boats and planes, finding housing and transportation and tallying the results to send to Audubon. All this aside, the count is great fun, a great way to meet other birders and very rewarding.

Eastern bluebird overlooking fields at Captain Flanders house. — Lanny McDowell

Now to the good part: at the end of the wrap-up we had tallied 130 species of birds that day by either one of the 13 field teams or the feeder watchers. There are two species that have to be verified before we, hopefully, add them. If those feeder birds pass muster, we will be at 132 species. Nantucket had only 129 so we beat them, sort of, because they had an unprecedented 19 species added during count period (the day before and the day after the actual count day) for a grand total of 148.

Out of the 130 bird species that were seen on the Vineyard’s count there were a couple of bad misses: bobwhite and killdeer (also missed on count day in Nantucket). Our best birds included rusty blackbird, American bittern, Bohemian waxwing, dickcissel, snowy owl, yellow-breasted chat and brown thrasher.

Our thanks again to all the field birders and feeder watchers. Hope to see you next year.


Susan B. Whiting is co-author of Vineyard Birds II and the co-compiler of Martha’s Vineyard Christmas Bird Count.