Burning Noman’s Land in May? What is that all about? This is nesting season. There are birds on eggs and some with young over there already. Did the Navy want scrambled eggs for breakfast or perhaps squab? And doesn’t Massachusetts Fish and Wildlife have control over Noman’s? It seems they should know better than to burn in May.

My real concern is about the Leach’s Storm-petrels. They nest on Noman’s Land and Penikese Island, which are the furthest south this species chooses to breed in the North Atlantic. These pelagic species feed on surface plankton and small fish that are brought to the ocean surface by upwelling. These Leach’s Storm-petrels come ashore only to rear their young.

The Leach’s Storm-petrels usually head north to breed in mid-March to mid-June, but the earliest record in New Brunswick, Canada, is April 17 and the early record for the Vineyard is May 8. They start constructing their burrows as early as April, according to The Birds of North America.

The Leach’s Storm-petrel constructs a burrow or uses crevices in stone walls or rocks for its nest. They usually come to the islands where they nest just before dark and leave the next morning just before sunrise.

The only thing that might have saved wiping out the Leach’s Storm-petrels during the Noman’s fire is that most of their breeding activities occur during the night. However, research shows that the Leach’s storm-petrels will sometimes spend the day in their burrows up to nine weeks before laying their eggs.

So, the person who made the decision on the timing for this burn should have done more homework. Although Fish and Wildlife didn’t do the burning, it should be an advocate for wildlife, and last time I checked, birds were wildlife.

Bird Sightings

On May 1, Allan Keith had great egrets at both Squibnocket Pond and Menemsha. Sally Anderson had an Eastern phoebe at the Oak Bluffs pumping station and both Sally and Pete Gilmore commented that Black-crowned night herons were building nests in the trees at the edge of the lagoon at the pumping station.

Larry Hepler counted 30 brant feeding on the grass in Ocean Park in Oak Bluffs on May 2. Scott Stephens and Penny Uhlendorf still had white-throated sparrows on May 2, but their dark-eyed juncos had moved north.

On May 3, Gus and Deb Ben David’s ruby-throated hummingbird showed up for the summer. They also have six barn owlets in their box at the World of Reptiles and Birds as well as their two Eurasian eagle owlets. Felix Neck has five barn owlets. It certainly looks like the Vineyard is getting repopulated by barn owls.

On May 5, Scott Stephens and Penny Uhlendorf had their ruby-throated hummingbirds arrive at Pilot Hill as well as Baltimore orioles and great crested flycatchers and an ovenbird at Tisbury Meadows. Andrea Hartman had a similar visitation at her West Tisbury house, plus an eastern phoebe.

Warblers continued to arrive May 6. Sally Anderson had a yellow warbler at the Oak Bluffs pumping station, an ovenbird, black and white and prairie warblers as well as great crested flycatcher at Waskosim’s Rock.

On May 7, Eleanor Waldron spotted a Wilson’s warbler on Brandy Brow in West Tisbury and Bob Green had two male and two female rose-breasted grosbeaks at his home on Watcha Path. Ann Burt picked up on the grape jelly trick for attracting sugar-loving birds. She had two pair of Baltimore orioles and an orchard oriole drawn to her grape jelly. The following day a scarlet tanager visited Ann Burt’s jelly.

On May 8, Charlie Finnerty not only got his pair of rose-breasted grosbeaks back but also his ruby-throated hummingbird and Baltimore oriole. He also commented that he had an overly exuberant hairy woodpecker that was trying to get into his bathroom window. Actually the bird was undoubtedly trying to chase away his rival, the reflection in the window.

Joan Ames called May 9 to report that she had identified, with the help of Allan Keith, a black-throated green warbler that was feeding on her blueberries at Seven Gates. She also has had rose-breasted grosbeaks and Baltimore orioles at her feeders. The male orioles had been chasing the females away from the oranges Joan had put out until recently.

The bird of the week was a beautiful blue grosbeak that showed up at Lanny McDowell’s feeder on May 10. He also had an evening grosbeak the same day. The next day Lanny photographed a lovely black and white warbler and an ovenbird at Waskosim’s. The same day Emily Wilmerding had a pair of white-throated sparrow show up at her West Chop house. They were on their way north, no doubt.

Peter Kramer was pleased to spot a scarlet tanager at his Quansoo house on May 11.

On May 12, Donna Honig had an indigo bunting arrive at her Katama feeder. She also had a pair of Baltimore orioles all weekend as well as a pair of Eastern towhees.

And speaking of indigo buntings, Rick Karney had one feeding on the dandelion seeds in his law. The moral to this story is don’t use pesky herbicides in your lawn as indigo buntings and other birds enjoy the seeds. Rick also has a pair of bluebirds on eggs and a pair of Baltimore orioles.

Felix Neck reported a northern bobwhite May 13 at their feeder, which is great news. Tom Rivers has also been inundated with Baltimore orioles and had a young orchard oriole and scarlet tanager.

Please call in your sightings to the bird hot line at 508-627-4922.


Susan B. Whiting is the coauthor of Vineyard Birds II.