Those mighty mites are back and a few days early at that. Ruby-throated hummingbirds have been reported in Chilmark and Ocean Heights so wash your feeders well, fill them with sugar water and hang them up! Don’t forget that the feeders should be cleaned frequently, especially in warm weather.
The weekend of May 16 is the annual birdathon, a competition that Massachusetts Audubon has been conducting for 25 years. Felix Neck will be involved this year for the second time and we need birders and sponsors to help out.
The birdathon is a way that the Neck can raise money to help fund their programs that teach young and old alike how to protect wildlife, as well as educate Island children about their environment. Here is how it works. The sponsors pledge an amount per bird seen and the birders try to spot as many birds as they can from 6 p.m. May 16 to 6 p.m. May 17. We would welcome many sponsors at a small donation (if 20 people collected 10 pledges, each at 10 cents a species, and if the Felix Neck Team sees 200 species, the sanctuary raises $4,000.) Higher value pledges also can add a good deal to the Neck’s resources.
The birdathon was started across Massachusetts in 1983. If you volunteer to bird, you don’t have to participate the whole 24 hours. Rotating shifts among teammates is the way to go. Watching your feeder and reporting to Felix Neck is also helpful.
Massachusetts Audubon will award numerous prizes, including trophies to three teams in the following categories: most money raised, most species recorded and largest percentage increase of money raised (compared to the previous year.) We have a good chance to win this as we didn’t have many pledges last year. So make a pledge or just a donation by calling Felix Neck at 508-627-4850 or by visiting massaudubon.org.
April 25 was the magic day for the ruby-throated hummingbirds to return to the Island. The first was seen on Tea Lane by Steve Spongberg and Allan Keith. Then Tom and Barbara Rivers noticed one at their Tea Lane property on April 26. The same day in Oak Bluffs Leslie Baynes and Mike Colaneri watched two ruby-throated hummingbirds seeking nectar at the Baynes’s peach trees in Ocean Heights. Later the same day Tom Rivers had a female indigo bunting at his feeder and an immature bald eagle flew over his house.
Sally Anderson has had two great birds in the last week. First she spotted a yellow-throated warbler at the Oak Bluffs pumping station on April 25. This is the 23rd sighting of this southern warbler since 1983. Then on April 29, Sally had a colorful summer tanager come to her feeder at her West Tisbury house. At Waskosims Rock on April 20, Sally had a black and white warbler, a brown creeper and two American kestrels. Good birding!
Laura Murphy called to report that she had heard a whippoorwill at her Chilmark home on the evening of April 29.
A glossy ibis was sighted on April 23, but the spotter’s name was garbled on the bird hot line so I can’t give him credit.
The Sowizral family was birding on the Island this weekend. On April 22, they watched a red-bellied woodpecker working on a tree by their Edgartown house. They mentioned, as did Tim and Sheila Baird and Gus Ben David, that the harlequin ducks are still at Squibnocket.
Canada geese goslings are appearing. Both Felix Neck and Bert Fischer at Squibnocket reported seeing the first of the year on April 23. This is early for Squibnocket as Bert usually doesn’t see the youngsters until the first of May and usually Felix Neck’s geese hatch before the up-Island geese do.
Eastern towhees are back and have been reported by many. Tim and Sheila Baird had their first of the season in their Edgartown yard on April 24. Felix Neck had their first male towhee on April 24 and the female arrived on April 30. Marianne Thomas had her first towhee at her Ocean Heights feeder on April 27. She also spotted a yellow-bellied sapsucker on April 11.
Tim and Sheila Baird, Gus Ben David and guest Alli Lubbock birded much of Chappaquiddick and the Vineyard the weekend of the 25th. Their best birds were an eastern kingbird at Squibnocket, a pair of breeding plumage long-tailed ducks in Poucha Pond and a pair of gadwall and greater scaup on Squibnocket. They watched four different northern harriers hunting Wasque and also spotted a great egret, dunlin and black-bellied plovers on Norton’s Point. This crew also mentioned that the brant still were off Oak Bluffs as of April 30.
Penny Uhlendorf and Scott Stephens spotted a greater yellowlegs at West Chop on April 20 and Tim and Sheila Baird spotted one at Sengekontacket Pond on April 25 and Rob Culbert spotted one at Maciel Marine on April 27. Penny and Scott also report three pairs of piping plovers are at the Lagoon.
Rob Culbert spotted a broad-winged hawk briefly flying over his house in the rain on April 28.
Ozzie Fischer has had a Baltimore oriole at his feeder since just after Christmas. It is unusual for an oriole to winter over on the Vineyard. Ozzie must have some great food to keep the oriole around.
Finally Gus Ben David has had several calls from the utility companies that new pairs of osprey are building nests on their poles. Gus is madly erecting new poles to try to entice the osprey off the utility poles. Gus is guessing that there will be quite an increase in nesting pair of ospreys on the Island by the end of May when all the nests are tallied; he predicts there will be at least 70 osprey nesting on the Island and maybe more.
Rob Bierregaard had already counted 62 in mid-April, so it will be fun to see what the final count is.